Presumptuous Advice

The Insufferable Insolence of Presumptuous Advice

This post is dedicated to the people who said we shouldn’t go.

There are a lot of forms of advice, many of them positive. There is asked for advice, which whether sound or not was asked for, and is therefore naturally appropriate. There is good and useful advice proffered in a constructive way, which is beneficial even when unasked for. And then there is what I call presumptuous advice, which is advice that is universally unhelpful because the giver presumes to know what is best for the receiver, despite his or her own ignorance.

The presumption may be that the receiving party doesn’t already know whatever the giver is suggesting; this just comes off as condescending. The presumption may be that the giver actually knows what the heck they are talking about even though they don’t; this is awkwardly embarrassing for the giver, who would have been better off to hold their tongue. The presumption may be that what is right for the giver is right for the receiver; imagine if I, a consummate omnivore wasted my breath on a dedicated vegetarian on the best dishes at a restaurant; not particularly helpful.

So, to all the people who told us not to go because it was the wrong time of year, or because the up wind sailing in our route to difficult, do us all a favor and don’t assume that the rest of us share your lack of will and fortitude. To the people who told us not to go because we lacked experience, I say to you that there are only two kinds of sailors, novices and the dead. Hiding behind your fear and calling it prudence won’t get you very far in life. To those who told us not to go because we lacked the financial assets necessary, keep your priggish snobbery to yourself and accept the fact that some of us are capable of adapting our wants to our means instead of growing old trying to do it the other way around. To those who told us so many things we already knew, thanks, but you could have saved us both a lot of time by listening more and blabbing less. I don’t even have time for those handing out advice that is just ignorant and wrong.

Lastly to those who shared their genuine experiences with us, in a way that acknowledged that it worked for them but may not be right for everyone, and did so in the spirit of mutual benefit through the exchange of ideas, I thank you heartily.

You know what they say about free advice… it’s worth every penny.

P.S. This essay was authored in the midst of a journey from San Francisco to Hawaii to the Marquesas by a first time blue water sailor with six years of on and off experience. The passage certainly wasn’t the easiest of undertakings, but it was a singular adventure and well worth any pains it took. If I had to do it again I wouldn’t do it any differently.

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