8 for 8: Ask yourself, what good can come of this? 

The purpose of the “8 for 8” series is to share the wisdom I’ve received from past generations. It draws upon the conclusion of a study citing “advice” as the thing Millennials most want from their elders.

As described in the series’ initial posts, I’ve learned how to get back up after a fall. In my short career, I’ve been fortunate to receive a hand up from people with deeper experience and wider perspective. It is through these acts of kindness — albeit sometimes in the form of tough love — that I’ve achieved grace through humility. This is a story about my early steps on that path.

I once believed there was a good explanation for virtually everything; even the worst decisions possessed an ounce of good intent. However, a former colleague, a member of Gen X,  once taught me about the value of reticence. They shared this simple yet compelling question, “Ask yourself, what good can come of this?”

Hard working, competitive, and committed to work-life balance, this person exuded the common attributes of their generation — right down to the occasional mix of double-pleated khakis with Doc Martins. While we contrasted each other in style, we shared a mutual liking for healthy debate.

As I would later learn, there is very limited time for debate in the real world. The exercise of defending something with little intent of yielding to others’ vantage points sucks up valuable time and energy. Before investing such resources into what would surely lead to debate, they encouraged me to consider the effect of both my words and actions.

In subsequent years, this question served as a sort of litmus test that allowed me to preemptively assess the short- and long-term impacts of an idea. In some ways, it influenced me to temporarily pull back entirely from sharing unsolicited opinions.

However, today the question now serves as a catalyst for collaboration. What was once a warning sign now serves as a jumping-off point for discovery and exploration. It leads me to create space and invite others into the discussion. With those aims in mind, the return on investment is immeasurable–novel approaches, people reaching for new potential, and the ability to see others and their experiences through a different lens.

And “what good can come of this?” So much good.


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