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Columns : In My Sights

Listen to Your Little Voice

Some people can give you great advice, but the best counsel comes from within.

December 01, 2007  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

"I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite." — G.K. Chesterson

Whenever I try to explain what I have done for a living over the years, I always get to a point where the conversation slows down and I have to give a chunk of background and explanation. Why did I leave the Tucson PD if I loved it so much and go to the Arizona Department of Public Safety? Why did I take a job with a police television network and move to Dallas if I loved Arizona so much? Why did I...well you get the message.

In reflecting on these life-choices I have to say in retrospect I have had a darn good adventure of a life. The one thing I do remember is the abundance of advice I got before each of my decisions. Even the things that I thought were going to be well received and advice-free like doing the Buck Savage videos brought a lot of interesting advice from some pretty powerful people in my chain of command. I even had a Lt. Colonel advise me that I had better get a different uniform to do them in or my career would be rather stunted. That was some scary advice.

I think one of the hardest things in life is deciding what advice to take and what to ignore. I like to think most people give you advice they honestly think will be of help...OK I may be a little naïve, but I like to think that anyway.

The dictionary defines advice as "counsel or a suggestion as to a course of action," which also sounds a lot like the definition of training. In other words, what you should do in the future. The problem is that most people doing the advising don't have anything to lose if the advice is wrong. In fact, in many instances I have discovered the right thing for me turned out to be doing the very thing I was counseled against.

I was warned not to change departments. I was told not to select the Navajo Reservation for my Highway Patrol assignment as it was too remote. I was told a lot of things over the years that would have eliminated a great part of the highlights of my life if I had followed the suggestions given. Conversely, there were times when I was standing in minus temperatures with the wind whipping across the roadway arresting a DUI with my nearest backup two hours away if the highway stayed open and reflecting on the now wise warning given me on the day we were prioritizing our assignment wishes.

I guess that is the thing about advice and all depends on how you use it. Ultimately, you need to be wise enough to know when and where to use the advice and when to ignore or even go against it.

As a fellow who makes a living giving advice to you, my brothers and sisters in law enforcement, I have to confess I am not going to be making your traffic stops for you or making a high-risk entry in your stead. I have done them and studied a great deal to give you advice, but you must always weigh such advice against what you know, what you can do, and where you are going to be doing it.

This holds true for all advice you get in life. I read a lot of articles by folks who make me wonder where they got the information or tactics they are writing about. Some seem wise and others foolish, but I challenge you to learn to listen to the one person you should absolutely listen to...yourself!

It is ignoring your conscience, your inner voice, that guarantees failure. When I have followed my inner voice, I have found great adventure and happiness. When I have ignored it, I have found myself later reflecting on what a fool I have been.

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