I realize that you may feel more comfortable with those who are of the same age as you. However, may I suggest to you that it is very important that you spend some quality time talking to and listening to every older black man past fifty that you possibly can? These men will not claim perfection, nor will they claim to have it all together. Many of them will not have the educational background that you may have. But it behooves you to be quiet and listen to them.
Dear friend, because of the light that you have received in this age of knowledge and information, you may know a little about the super highways of life; but you don’t know much, if anything, about the smaller back-roads and shortcuts of life. Also, even though you may know a little about the main highways of life, you do not know what lies ahead on those highways. These older gentlemen do, because they have passed this way before. There is a lot that you think you know that you don’t know. As you grow older you will become increasingly aware of how ignorant you really are. These dear older brothers, who have passed this way before, have been down both the super highways and the small back-roads and shortcuts. And they can really help you make a grand success of this life, if you would only listen to them. For as the Bible says:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7
“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” – Proverbs 11:14
Here are some of the wonderful and positive things that older men can impart to you if you are ready to hear a “word to the wise.”
1. They can help you avoid the pitfalls along the road of life.
2. They can outline for you the priorities in life that you need to concentrate on.
3. They can advise you as to which road is best for you to take at various junctions on the road of life.
4. The real good, older men will admit their mistakes and failures, and will genuinely try to help you to avoid them.
Listen, learn and live, dear brother.
Now most of these wise older brothers will let it be known that they do not have time to waste. Nor do they like to offer their valuable advice and time to just anybody — particularly one who is a fool. (i.e., one who will not listen to and heed sound advice.) So, these wise, old men are not called wise, old men for nothing. They can see right through you. They know if you are sincere or not. They will be slow and cautious in dealing with you until they are convinced you are for real. Now here are some ways to convince them that you are sincere:
1. Do not act in any way as though you already know the answer to all of the various issues of life. (Even if you do know, don’t act as though you do.) The fact of the matter is, YOU DO NOT KNOW ALL THAT YOU THINK YOU KNOW! So, don’t be a “know it all.” Shut up! while the man is talking, and please do not say stupid things like “I already know that.” Listen. Really listen. If these men detect that you are not really listening to them, they will not tell you anything.
2. Ask intelligent questions, and wait for the answer. If he does not give you the answer, then ask again. Re-phrase the question. Do what you have to do to get the answer. Bug them, bother them, annoy them. It is that important. Sometimes you have to dig for gold, son.
3. Don’t waste their time. Be very concerned about their time. They will appreciate it. Their time is more important than yours, not only because of their age, but because their time is shorter. Usually men, fifty and above, don’t play around anymore when it comes to their time. They are very serious about their time, and you had better be too, or they will abruptly cut you off.
Think your questions through. Write your questions down. Do not go in half-cocked.
4. Train yourself to spend more time around older, wise men, than young, foolish men. (There are some young, wise men too, by the way, but not many.) Young, foolish men can’t teach you anything; older, wise men can teach you a lot. If you want to become a better, wiser man, hang with the heavies.
Most of my close friends are at least ten years my senior. Their age, wisdom, advice and encouragement has been of great benefit and blessing to me. Through their wise counsel, I have avoided many pitfalls and have received some bread to pass on to my younger brothers. I hope that you will take my advice and start listening to the older, wiser brothers.
Hanging With The Heavies,
P.T. (Power Thoughts):
“A person completely wrapped up in himself makes a small package.” – Denzel Washington
“Truth is proper and beautiful in all times and in all places.” – Frederick Douglass
“A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.” – Arnold H. Glasgow
“Align yourself with powerful people. Align yourself with people that you can learn from, people who want more out of life, people who are stretching and searching and seeking some higher ground in life.” – Les Brown
“A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
This chapter is an excerpt from my book, Letters to Young Black Men. Click here to find out more or to purchase the book online.