The Worst Advice I Ever Received

Written by Daniel Waldman

When I was 17 I wanted to be a professional jazz guitarist. My guitar teacher, Joe, was a typical jazz guitarist: he had swagger, he had cojones, he had a dirty mouth (which was very entertaining). He smoked while he taught me. Constantly. He would even tell me how to spell his last name, which drove my mother nuts as she never knew what to write on the check for him (to this day, I still have no idea how to spell it–can’t even find him on Google).

I don’t recall much else of Joe, except for one key piece of advice that stuck with me for many years. He used to always say, “If they don’t call you back, fuck ’em.” I don’t remember why he said it, or who he was referring to, or why he said it so many times (he must’ve not gotten a lot of call backs).

This phrase really stuck with me. Sadly. It informed a lot of my own behavior over the years. I had taken that attitude about a lot of relationships in my life, not just my professional ones, and I’m probably the poorer for it. Ah well. Fuck ’em.

Except don’t.

Several years later, with my dreams of becoming a jazz guitarist a hazy memory (I gave it up when I realized I’d have to practice 11 hours/day), I chose to go into public relations, which is one career where if they don’t call back you need to pick up the phone and call. Again and Again.

If there was one piece of advice I wish I had forgotten it was that. But I didn’t. It had become ingrained into my personality, my thinking, my approach to people. It took me years to remember where that had come from–and then a few more years to shake myself of the habit of thinking like that.

And I’m so glad I did. Persistence is an essential ingredient for achieving anything–especially in our hyper-paced world where information flies at us like a swarm of killer bees. But if you give up because someone doesn’t call or email you back, you’ve given in too soon.

I’m not advocating that we become annoying, pestering people who call and email each other constantly. Hey, we’re all busy and we’re all very easily distracted. So give people a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. chance until you get through. You never know, it could end up in a big payoff.

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