How could someone prepare an essay on "advice not taken"?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It seems to me that just about the only way, as well as the easiest way, to write an essay on the subject of "Advice not taken" would be to make it a personal essay. That way you would only have to refer to your own life experience and not get involved with a lot of research into some other person's life, such as that of Napoleon or Julius Caesar.

If you wrote a short personal essay about a certain specific piece of advice you were given and didn't take, you would probably want to start with a brief description of the person who offered you that advice. Then you would want to specify exactly what the advice consisted of. Next you would probably want to explain why you didn't follow the advice. And finally you would probably describe the consequences.

The consequences of not taking advice can be good or bad. You don't have to write an essay about how you ignored some good advice and suffered for it. If you didn't follow the advice and are glad you didn't, then your conclusion might be that it isn't always a good idea to follow other people's advice. If you didn't follow the advice and are sorry that you didn't, then your conclusion might be something along the lines that it is usually a good idea to listen to people who are older and more experienced. In fact, you might say that advice can be very helpful but that you should use your own judgment in whether or not to follow it.

Here is some famous advice from Polonius to his son Laertes in Shakespeare's Hamlet:

Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay'd for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

Notice that the old man says:

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.

You will get a lot of free advice in this world (including mine) but you should be the final judge of whether or not to follow it.

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