5 Pieces of Unconventional Life Advice You’ve Probably Never Heard Before
My Grandpa Morty grew up in a low-income household in Queens, New York. He fought in the Korean War. He sold various items at flea markets for a living afterward. He was tough. But he was loving. He provided the kind of tough love we all need. His advice was brief, but he always said it with a smile on his face.
I visited my grandpa in the hospital before he passed in 2012. When I told the nurse who I was visiting, she walked me to Morty’s room. Upon arriving, she said to me, “Your grandfather is quite the character. Make sure you two don’t get into any trouble.” “Ah, you know you love me!” My grandpa replied. The nurse walked out with a huge grin on her face.
Grandpa Morty had this kind of effect on people. He could rub you the wrong way with his radical candor, but in the end, he always made you smile. Below are some bits of advice I got from him that will always make me smile.
1. Make Sure You Take a Smoke Break
My grandparents came over to babysit long ago on a Sunday night. I had a major exam on Monday, so I spent most of the night studying as I panicked and mumbled words under my breath. Picking up on my stress, Grandpa Morty ripped the papers out from underneath me. He put his arm around me, and he said, “Get up kid, we’re going to take a little smoke break.” I was 12…
What he really meant: Grandpa Morty was a cigarette smoker all his life. He never smoked when I was around, but he still carried his pack of cigarettes in his back pocket. But when he took me outside for this smoke break, there were no cigarettes involved. Instead, we just looked at the stars as he told me a story about the war.
Morty never explicitly revealed his advice. He wanted you to learn for yourself. In this scenario, I now know exactly what he was trying to tell me.
Taking a smoke break is about taking a pause. It’s about relinquishing the worry associated with whatever is bringing you stress. So, the next time you find yourself bogged down by an overpowering external force, think about taking a smoke break and clearing your mind.
2. Rub Some More Dirt on It
Grandpa Morty came to one of my Little League baseball games when I was a kid. I was playing in the outfield, and a ball came my way. I ran to it and stretched out my body as long as I could, diving on the ground for the ball. But I didn’t make the catch. And I also ripped my pants and cut my knee in the process. As I came over to the bench after the inning was over, visibly upset, my coach told me to ‘rub some dirt on it.’ Then Grandpa Morty walked over to the dugout with a pile of dirt in his hand and said, “here kid, rub some more dirt on it.”
What he really meant: Rub some dirt on it is a popular phrase that basically means you need to toughen up. When something doesn’t go your way, don’t let it bother you. But when Morty told me to rub some more dirt on it, he alluded to something else. He meant that I had failed, and that it wouldn’t be the last time I would fail. By rubbing even more dirt on the wound, he wanted me to realize that failure is impermanent. There are new and different ways to solve problems and get what you want.
Not to mention, by bringing me an actual pile of dirt in his hands, he added humor to the situation. Looking at a setback with humor is one of the healthiest things we can do to put it behind us and move on.
3. Leave Your Floaties at Home
Grandpa Morty taught me how to swim. When we arrived at the local pool, my grandma nervously asked him where the floaties were. He looked around and shrugged his shoulders. She asked him again. “I guess I left the floaties at home.” He said with a smirk on his face.
What he really meant: With no floaties to save me, I learned how to swim that day. Grandpa Morty believed in learning by doing. He believed in experience and figuring things out as you go. By not bringing the floaties, he was teaching me about approaching fear. He was showing me how to learn by fully immersing myself in an experience and having to figure out how to solve a problem on my own.
Grandpa Morty literally threw me in the deep end. Sure, he was there to make sure I didn’t drown, but by the end of the day, I had learned to tread on my own.
4. If the Shoe Fits, then Leave the Store
Most people use the expression, ‘if the shoe fits, wear it’ to insist that someone take ownership of something. While I’m sure Morty would not disagree, he had another idea when it came to this phrase.
Grandpa Morty took me sneaker shopping once. Shopping was not one of his favorite activities, and I would guess he is the reason why it is not one of mine either. When I finally tried on a sneaker, walked around in it, and told my grandpa that it fit, he said, “Good. If the shoe fits, then let’s get out of here.”
What he really meant: Grandpa Morty was a simple man, and he lived a simple life. He didn’t get bogged down by materialism, and he certainly was not one to obsess over having too many choices. When something was a fit, he committed to it. He didn’t worry about what he was forgoing, and he didn’t care how something looked to other people. He made a choice and he didn’t look back. He didn’t let insignificant matters influence his happiness.
5. Only Run When It’s Raining
My grandpa was strong. He was built like an ox. He had broad shoulders and a wide chest. But I never saw him go to the gym, and I definitely never saw him go for a run. When I asked him once if he wanted to go for a run with me, he smiled and replied, “I only run when it’s raining.”
What he really meant: Grandpa Morty believed in standing out. He believed that in order to get ahead in life, you had to be willing to do what nobody else was willing to do.
Whenever it’s raining outside, you rarely see people running. It’s an excuse. The majority will not run. But Grandpa Morty believed this was the best time to get after it. He decided to think and act differently when it felt easy and normal not to. This is how you stand out from the rest of the crowd.
Grandpa Morty was unconventional. He was contrarian. He epitomized not caring about what other people think.
If Grandpa Morty were still here today and he read this article, he’d probably say one of his popular phrases. “Just do what you gotta do.” In other words, live your life the way you see best. You’ll figure it out. With grandpa’s guidance, I made it out of the deep end unharmed. So will you.