I’m not a fan of one-size-fits-all guidance. I am, however, a fan of brevity in expression. So I was intrigued when I saw this hashtag trending the other day on Twitter: #LifeAdviceIn5Words.

Looking through a few responses got me thinking. What can be said in five words that perhaps can’t be said just as eloquently in four? Or three? I searched and found lots of those entries too. Well, how low can you go?

Sure enough, there are online troves of two-word pieces of sage life advice. Things like:

  • Love yourself
  • Be yourself
  • Don’t worry
  • Be active
  • Have faith
  • Keep learning
  • Be humble
  • Give respect
  • Accept criticism
  • Help others
  • Don’t judge

If you’d accept two words as a self-help guide, what about one? Can the world’s wisdom for leading a happy and meaningful life be boiled down not to a single sentence but to a single word?

Again, many forums online have taken a shot. Some suggestions I encountered during my search:

  • Grow
  • Give
  • Care
  • Love
  • Smile
  • Listen
  • Serve
  • Imagine
  • Thank

I admire the effort to be succinct, although I doubt that life advice ever comes down to just one word.

In fact, advice of any sort or depth is often overrated. In that it comes in the form of either an opinion that’s self-evident, or a platitude that’s meaningless. How does the thought become actionable?

What’s likely more valuable is offering or seeking reputable and clear information. With it, people can make the best possible informed decisions for themselves.

As for advice? If I can relay any, it would be Oscar Wilde’s. “I always pass on good advice,” he wrote. “It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”

Stuart Foxman is a Toronto-based freelance writer, who helps clients’ products, services, ideas and organizations to come alive. Follow me on Twitter @StuartFoxman, connect with me here on LinkedIn, or check me out at foxmancommunications.com. I would love to hear from you. More articles like this coming, with original posts every week about communications, writing, branding, creativity, media, marketing, persuasion, messages, etc., etc.

August 15, 2018


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