March 17, 2023

Last Word: Any good advice?

We asked Earlhamites to recall some of the best advice they’ve been given.


The best (and hardest) advice I received did, in fact, occur during my years at Earlham. It was received from my roomie and dear friend Lee Falke ’82. It was in Bundy basement in 1979 that Lee took me aside and told me, ‘Let me give you a piece of unsolicited advice. Shut up more of the time…it isn’t always about you. You’ll learn more by listening.’ It was advice that I took to heart and has served me through the years. The password to my computer to this day incorporates the concept of listening to others. Leo passed away from cancer in 1991, much too young. But that advice and his lingering presence in my life has been an ongoing signpost and touch-stone for me.


Never burn a bridge you might need to cross.” (First week of college, back in ’99.)


As a young physician, I sought divine assistance to find my vocation. Attending Louisville Friends Meeting I often prayed, ‘God tell me what to do.’ Once after that prayer was followed by many minutes of silence, I opened the Friends Journal copy I had brought with me. The randomly chosen page had a piece titled ‘From the Advices of Friends.’ It advised: The service to which we are called requires a healthy body, well trained mind, high ideals and a greater understanding. Of the meaning and purposes of God.’ I was told how to make the journey, not the destination.


John Owen significantly impacted my life in many ways. While as my group leader on Water Wilderness in 1975, John gave me advice that I carried throughout my life. I was carrying a canoe during a long portage. John recognized my frustration and fatigue. The advice he gave was very simple, but completely changed my experience that day and beyond: ‘Find your pace. Stick to your pace and you’ll always reach your goal.’


I keep the following Arthur Ashe quote in front of me at work attached to my computer. It was given to me from a Friend in the United Kingdom. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. And I remind myself that God expects nothing less.


No matter where you are living at any time in your life, whether temporary or unappealing, whether a short stop on your journey, put down roots. Get involved with the community, join a book club, get your library card, discover the local parks and trails, cultivate a friendship. You will be enriched even if you move on. And if you remain, you will be creating the foundation for a happy life.


Say ‘I love you’ to your friends.


In my first year at Earlham I would wander up to the 4th floor of Earlham Hall and talk to the seniors who lived there. I remember, late one night, that one of the seniors told me that the secret to success in college was to get up early in the morning regardless of how late you stay up. I took that to heart and made sure I always woke up and did my work regardless of the activities of the night before. Twenty-six years later, I still get up early, get focused and get to work. Best advice I ever received.


Don’t hope for the next phase of your life to come. It’s coming sooner than you expect, and you will miss enjoying your life today.

What the next Last Word? Your answer could be in an upcoming issue of the Earlhamite.

What valuable lesson did the outdoors teach you? Is there a bit of a story about it you can tell? Maybe it was something that happened while you were involved in an Earlham activity. (Can’t be too long, we’ve only got room for about 100 words for each response that is included in the Earlhamite.) What great/interesting thing happened to you while you were outdoors that you have remembered for a lifetime?

Let us know at [email protected]. In the subject line of your email, include “Last Word.”

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For Good.
Spark good—
For Good.