For the love of proverbs

Proverbs often contradict each other. ‘Look before you leap’ they say. Sound stuff huh? We all know from experience that there are dangers in making decisions or not thinking things through. But we also know (from equally persuasive experience) that ‘He who hesitates is lost’.




Most self help books tell us that procrastination is our enemy. (I’m not sure about this procrastination thing – isn’t procrastination the time you take to make any decision? In which case does that mean that there are no problems in life where we are allowed to carefully weigh up the pros and cons?).


So which of the proverbs quoted above reflects the truth?


Or perhaps a better question, which offers the best advice? I am drawing your attention to this dilemma for two reasons. Firstly, to put you on Proverb Alert (so that the next time you hear a proverb – which is just a chunk of conventional wisdom – you at least pause and do yourself the service of asking whether what has been uttered is actually the any help at all). Secondly, I am trying to get you to consider investing in a copy of Design for Life Lite. I’ll come back to that later.


The point is that both sayings reflect real experience and the truth. To quote yet another proverb (is this getting tedious?), proverbs are the children of experience.


There are of course benefits in looking before leaping and not hesitating so long that you lose out. But there are also dangers spending too long looking before you leap and not hesitating when leaping. Weighing things up can result in both a positive and a negative outcome.


My problem in writing Design for Life was to try and avoid giving readers what I call ‘non-advice’. Mark my words, there’s a lot of it about. One of my favourites is ‘You need to strike a balance’. Maybe, but where? For me, ‘non-advice’ is advice that looks like advice but, when you pick at it, it is actually not very helpful. Design for Life does better by only providing advice and tools that have worked for me; the fruits of around 30 years spent taking a keen interest in this arena. That’s one good reason why you should invest in a copy.


Just to be very clever about this, even proverbs sometimes recognise that they do let us down. So before you buy the wapping proverbial generalisation ‘Old saws speak truth’ (by the way, I have a large number of saws in my toolbox and they never talk to me), remember, ‘wise men make proverbs – fools repeat them’.


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