“Making good decisions comes from experience. And experience comes from bad decisions”.
No, that’s not an original saying. It is a valid one though I think. Nobody is born having all the knowledge and insight to be able to go through life without making mistakes and poor choices. Sure, there’s research and seeking the advice of people who have knowledge to help in deciding what needs to be done. But where did this research come from? Conclusions are drawn from studying others and the results of their choices. Being able to advise and recommend comes from some kind of experiences, and not all of them could be good ones.
And boy, do I have experience.
I’ve never been shy in offering opinions or giving guidance to others. I’m a quick study, and even at an early age felt like I had knowledge that would be valuable to share. There have been opportunities for growth that I’ve always jumped on; and have learned much from every opportunity. A lot of those opportunities I have created for myself; overreaching my abilities and taking on things that I have never done and have no qualifications for. Throughout my career I’ve been able to go from the very bottom entry level to top executive positions. I have been flat broke, and I have owned vacation homes and driven luxury automobiles. Little redneck bars and country club memberships are no stranger to me. I’ve been there.
My experience with relationships is ridiculous. Not only have I been married four times, there have been countless other involvements. Weddings? I’ve had everything from a justice of the peace to massive wedding parties and 100’s off guests to destination weddings in exotic places. My spouses and I have suffered through extremely difficult times and ridden the very top of life. Even the ends of relationships have been different every time. I’ve walked away with no more feelings than a bad date, and I’ve been emotionally destroyed. And of course I’ve destroyed others in the process.
And then there’s my illness.
Actually, a great deal of the circumstances that enabled changes and exposed me to so many different things were really a result of being bipolar. No, I’m not blaming anything on that. What I am saying is, as a result of my illness I’ve been put into situations that kind of forced me into positions where I had to adapt. And then there are the direct effects that have occurred because of being sick. Very few people have been hospitalized in mental institutions as many times as I have. I’ve been in therapy for over 30 years through more therapists than I can remember. I’ve been exposed to all kinds of methodologies and techniques to try to manage my symptoms. And I think I’ve been on pretty much every psychiatric medication available um until the most recent ones. Through it all I’ve studied and researched and worked as hard as I could to gain insight and understanding into the whys and how’s of not only bipolar disorder, but as many mental illnesses as I could.
If that doesn’t give me the right to give advice, what does?
I’m in a position at the moment where I have the chance to help someone through a particularly nasty divorce. And there’s no question that I’ve been through that before, and more than once. And from what I’ve seen, she’s in a great position to come out of the divorce with no financial worries the rest of her life. Her ex has done just about everything possible to make himself look like a total jerk, and provided her the opportunity to justify taking just about everything. So as she’s progressed through the process, I’ve been able to provide insight into what to expect and when to expect it. There are certain things that have to happen, and they need to be in a certain order. And I can give her a lot of insight into what her ex is thinking and how to anticipate what he’s going to do. After all, I’ve been in his shoes before myself. Most of all, I’ve been able to offer encouragement and allay her fears.
And I’ve been wrong a lot more than I’ve been right.
In fact, just because I’ve had all this experience, how’s it really turned out for me? Yes, I have a ton of experience in marriage, but never succeeded in one. I have enjoyed great success in my career regardless of industry or position. And I’ve lost it all. In fact, now I’m fortunate to have a job at all. I’ve gone from a BMW convertible to a 15 year old car that is worth less than one month’s living expenses. There’s no longer the home in that exclusive neighborhood with a vacation home at the shore. My house is rented, and I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford it if the landlord wasn’t a friend who gave me a great rate. I’m in my 50’s, and I don’t have a pot to piss in.
Yep. That’s the kind of person I’d go to help me make decisions.
I don’t believe that my experiences and insights are completely worthless. I have had successes and the failures have been affected by my bipolar actions and the paths I’ve taken to succeed haven’t always been wrong. I have developed many strong opinions and feel that they are logical and valid. I have had a great many different experiences and hopefully have learned much from each of them. My travels have exposed me to many different environments and lifestyles. There’s no question I understand what it’s like to be bipolar. But I think I need to be a lot more circumspect in the advice I offer. I’ve always tried to avoid telling people what they should do, but I have implied that what I did in a similar situation has been the right thing. “Based on my experience, I have done X.” Maybe it’s not spoken, but it is definitely an implication that anything different would be wrong. But based on my track record having done X hasn’t worked out very well in the end. I can and should help people the best I can. But I think that the way to really help people is to learn how to be a better listener. I do have a lot of experience, and experience can provide empathy and understanding. But as far as giving advice? I think that I need to quit trying to give any. Don’t imply that I have the answers, and certainly don’t try to tell anyone that I think they are making bad choices. Be as supportive and comforting as I can without judgment or direction.
That could be the best advice I’ve ever given.