The Truth About Advice


Ever since I found my way into the wine business, I've tried to fully understand the significance and meaning of advice. Not the meaning of how advise from experts on wine affects the marketplace. This was all too clear. This was and is formulaic. What I've tried to understand is the meaning of either accepting advice or dismissing it or, worse yet, wanting to embrace and follow the advice of an expert but seemingly not being able to.

I always was willing and able to accept the advice of experts, including wine experts. I figured experience is that which separates good advice from average advice. So, where wine is concerned, I've always been more inclined to trust the advice of those who have been at it longer than others.

Experience seems important because, I believe, the world works in very specific ways. There are things that are right. Things that are wrong. Things that are good. Things that are bad. It's that simple, I think. And this applies to wine as well as to work, family and love. The problem is discovering the specific ways things work, what is good, what is bad, what is right, what is wrong. That's the hard part. Experience seems the only sure fire way to obtain this information.

I've been very lucky.

People have given me advice. Experienced people. My problem is that I've not always taken the advice to heart when I should have. I often ignored it for the very same reason most people ignore advice from voices of experience: I was prepared to go it alone and figure it out alone.

Big mistake!!

By the time I entered the wine industry I had at least realized that my knowledge of wine paled before those with experience. All you had to do was listen to them and talk to them to know they were in another league. I was smart enough to know my choices were to listen and take their advice about wine or, in the alternative, look incredibly stupid working it all out on my own or, worse, talking out my ass about things I did not know.

Recently I came across a piece of advice given to me very early in my life. It was wasted on me at the time because I did not then know the value of experience and so ignored this valuable offering.

This advice was meant specifically for me. Among the advisories was this: "Die in love with a woman."

At the time this advice was given to me, at the time I first read this advice, I didn't understand that in that simple suggestion "die" was the operating idea. I thought that simply  be "in love with a woman" was the most important. I didn't understand that the verb "die" was meant to suggest that I find the right woman with whom to live an entire life in love.

Today my entire life is half way over. I wonder how it would have been different had I read this piece of advice correctly early on. So, it occurs to me that while this advice I got was good and sound and worthy of embracing, today it must mean something different. It must mean that more than ever, the chore is to be 100% sure about my choices, lest possibility of rendering the advise meaningless and its truth unobtainable.

Embracing the sound advice of wine experts shouldn't be too difficult. The fact they know more than you should be obvious. So take their advice. And have the good sense to look to the most experienced of them first. They probably know more than others. More importantly, seeking the advice of those more experienced than you where wine, love, life, and family is concerned reveals those hard-to-nail-down truths.

Posted In: Uncategorized


5 Responses

  1. Charlie Olken - September 21, 2009

    I recently wrote a very long treatise about credibility as regards Matt Kramer and his standing relative to something dubbed by a writer as “Joe Blogger down the street”. I never posted it because it was too argumentative, and it would not have advanced the cause.
    In simplest terms, the question was asked, what gives Kramer any more credibility than Joe?
    To say that I was surprised would be an understatement. I happen to like the fella who wrote that comment, and I understand that he was reacting to Kramer’s direct questions about the blogosphere, but what I just do not get is why it is necessary to try to diminish knowledge, experience, an entire body of work in order to build up one’s own credibility.
    Maybe this is what you are talking about, Tom, and maybe not, but it seems to me that your comments apply. Knowledge is hard won. Perspective is hard won.
    At this point, I am one of the older writers around–and glad to be around. I don’t think I am the most acute taster or the most insightful writer or the best story teller. But, I do have perspective and an understanding of wine and its place that comes from years of experience, travel, study, conversations, learning from my elders, and from everyone else.
    I wrote a book about thirty years ago, and parts of it were like looking for hen’s teeth for me. I spoke with everyone I could get my hands on. I just submitted an update of that book, and it was a lot easier to write and is, in my opinion, a lot better book simply because I know more now.
    Thanks for saying something nice about us old guys. Tom P and I appreciate it. Morton Leslie might also–even if we don’t know who he is.

  2. Jeff - September 21, 2009

    At the risk of sounding like I want to bear a cross for ignoring and disrespecting elders, which I don’t, I think advice is always best received when it is given in a manner that is welcoming and in the vein of mentoring.
    Too often, the advice given, especially in regards to wine media is that of a cautionary tale, a “be wary” and really, truth be told, not in the spirit of cooperation or a win-win.
    That said, I resemble the writer who said ‘Joe Blogger down the street …’ and my point, while valid, wasn’t presented clearly or substantiated to a point that was sufficient. So, the writer has to take the lumps for saying something that, at the least, is somewhat dubious and more importantly causes a lack of credibility for lack of explanation.
    As somebody who has always made career decisions based on what new I could learn and who I could learn it from, I don’t forsake wisdom. I seek it out, but if people are more interested in winning for themselves, than helping other people win, I beat a hasty retreat to an opportunity that seems more equitable.
    This post and this comment are reasonably opaque in nature, but I think it’s important to note that ego is in my vocabulary, but self-serving isn’t.

  3. Thomas Pellechia - September 21, 2009

    I was under the impression that Morton is your alter-ego. You are sly by keeping up the mist 😉
    Re, advice: If I had taken advice, I would never have spent eight years trying to build a small winery without enough capital. I also would have never had the experience of producing wine. You win some, you lose some.
    It occurred to me that to give advice about wine writing and the wine world in general to young bloggers who haven’t ask for it gets you the same result as you get by giving advice to anyone who isn’t in the market for it.
    The young are invincible and they are pretty good at knowing just what they need to know. The old are vulnerable and damned good at understanding that they don’t know enough yet. That’s my advice for the day.
    Me also thinks that Jeff protests too much…

  4. Marcia - September 21, 2009

    When I was younger and “accepting” (or so I thought) of experienced advice, I duly filed away much life and business advice hoping to reap the wisdom of those who had gone before me. When I was younger I had a certain sense that if I earned a fair amount of knowledge and/or expertise in my field that I would feel confident in the answers I provided to others – for business and life events. The amount of knowledge and expertise was estimated to be..oh, yay big. ***gesturing so wide*** But as I’ve gotten older, and also somewhere around the halfway mark, I’ve come to the conclusion that I know a lot less about…well, just about everything…than I thought I would at this stage. And while I never thought there was an outer-edge of knowledge and expertise one could learn on any given subject (the ‘Earth is flat and has a finite edge’ perspective), I did think I would acquire *enough* expertise to feel completely and unquestioningly confident in the results of my actions or advice. ***Insert loud laugh and gaffaw here.***
    The more I study the wine business, the more I conclude the body of knowledge necessary to provide clients with ‘expert advice’ is something I’m unlikely to acquire at a satisfactory level – at least to me. It’s the ‘Big Bang theory’ — that I can never keep up with the ever-expanding body of knowledge that’s actually out there! The more I learn about the business of wine – the specifics and details, as you put it, Tom, the more finely nuanced it reveals itself to be. The more wine I taste, the more I’m certain my previous sense of tasting knowledge was…a complete joke! I am less certain now than I was in the past of what is right and wrong or good and bad – in life and in wine. What I can be completely certain of, however, is my unwavering sense of enjoyment in wine…the business, the experience, the connection it provides to events in life with friends and family. Each bottle can be as unique, surprising, gratifying, mystifying and exhilarating as a new friend or lover. …Just don’t ask me for advice on what to buy or how to build your wine business. (That’s why I visit here and other blogs and resources to build up that Sisyphean pile of knowledge.)
    The truth about advice (nodding in agreement to all of the above comments) is that you never know who’s going to take it, who’s going to get it, and even when you do ‘get it,’ you often find that the advice you’ve taken has now evolved into something more or something different than you originally thought possible. You’ve all made excellent points.

  5. The Wine Mule - September 23, 2009

    My favorite piece of advice came from Mark Twain: “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” This has worked well for me in the wine business, if not always in my personal life.
    Like Marcia, I have been seeking advice in the wine business since Day One, and it seems the more I know the more I realize how much I don’t know, and the more advice I seek.
    Giving advice is another matter. For me, it is only worth giving when asked for. Not everything that is important to me is important to others. A hard lesson that took a long time to learn!

Leave a Reply