Sage Advice From Not-So-Ordinary People


I am usually in such a hurry to get to my To Do list items, that if I am not careful, I miss something really valuable. This weekend, my wife and I went down Redlands, Florida way to buy some fresh produce, orchids (lovely and fragrant), “sticky” (cinnamon) buns and milk shakes (mine was wonderful mango) from Knaus Berry Farm (treats that most South Floridians will recognize), and ground corn (maiz criollo) to make tamales.

We went to a place we had been going to for years., where a spry old man grows the best corn and sells ears, ground corn, and other produce, right from the back of his house. So, as usual, we drove down the private road to the old man’s house, and turned into the driveway. His wife came out to greet us, and much to our chagrin, directed us to the spiffy looking building we had passed on the main road. So, back we went, to buy the ground corn, and sure enough, there he was, wearing a cowboy hat, with his sun-browned leathery skin and wide smile.

If I had been my usual self, I would have just picked up the ground corn, paid the young clerk for it, and been on my way. But the man’s infectious smile caught my attention, and he came over to talk. Twenty minutes later, he had shared such a treasure trove of valuable lessons, that I realized how foolish we are that we miss out on so much when we are in such a hurry. The old man, let’s call him Herman to respect his privacy, had so much to offer, as might many of the people we come into contact with if we would only stop to LISTEN. Here is what he said, in no apparent order:

  • When we complimented him on his new building, he  said, “Some people ask me why I didn’t do this before, and kept selling my corn out of the back of the house. It just wasn’t the right time to do this, that’s all. Everything has a time. This younger generation gets impatient, and I wasn’t ready, it wasn’t time. Now, I did it, I paid cash for it, don’t owe anyone a dime. And nearly every dime I get out of here is profit.”
  • When we asked how he was doing in these tough economic times, he responded, “What tough economic times? Life is a series of cycles. Up, down, then back up again. I’ve been through many of them now. Twenty two years growing and selling corn here, and when I started I was in it for the long run, and still am. I wasn’t thinking of getting rich in 6 months. This is what I do, and I do it well. How long have you been coming here? I have people who have been buying corn here for over twenty years. If you eat good tamales in Miami, you are probably eating my corn.”
  • On things he had seen that surprised him in twenty plus years, he said, “Nothing surprises me. I have a good friend that struck it rich in construction 15 years ago. I used to do all the landscaping for the houses he built. Fancy cars, luxury mansions, he was leveraged to the hilt. Now, he drives a $300 pickup truck. The banks took it all. He has nothing. Does his tale surprise me? No. It’s sad, but not surprising. You reap what you sow. He was reaping more than what he sowed. Look around you. This is what I sowed.”
  • On why he thought he had been successful, he told us that “whenever I had an extra $500, or $1,000, I put it away and then used it on an option to buy the farm land I leased to grow my corn. Now I own it free and clear. And I always paid my debts. Own the house I live in that you saw, free and clear, and waited until I could afford to build this building. There are no foreclosures in my past or future”.

Quite a conversation for twenty minutes! If you missed it, these were the secrets of his success, plain and simple:

  1. Patience
  2. Long term outlook
  3. Hard work
  4. Fiscal responsibility

And aside from these valuable bits of counsel, I am reminded to continually LISTEN, and don’t talk so much. For out of the mouths of not-so-ordinary people, comes wisdom and sage  advice. What has been your experience in meeting unassuming people who went on to share incredibly rich and valuable stories? Did you take advantage of these encounters? Or were you too busy to stop and LISTEN? I’d like to LISTEN to you!

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About Enrique Fiallo

I am a Life Coach, Author, Lecturer, Speaker and Blogger. My life experience includes roles as a Life Coach and Mentor, CEO, CIO, COO, Chief Technologist, Teacher, Program Manager, Product Manager and Scrum Master.
This entry was posted in Empowerment, Inspiration, Personal Development and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Sage Advice From Not-So-Ordinary People

  1. Terri Kopec says:

    On the airplane back from Baltimore last month I sat next to a charming gentleman in his 50s. He had been an electrical engineer for Bethleham Steel for 30 years until he was laid off several months ago. I asked him how he got into doing that job, and why he stayed there so long. He said when I was a young man and I had worked there for a little while, Bethleham gave me a test to see what I would be good at. Then, they trained me in that skill and I stayed for as long as they let me. They treated me very well until they had to let me go.

    This makes we think about our unemployment rate here in the US and what we are doing to address it. Is there a chance that we are expecting people to have the exact skill set that we need at that exact moment for the lowest salary possible? That we are not training people any more to get the skill set needed, and that employees don’t have loyalty to the corporations because they don’t invest in the people any more?

    This is particularly interesting to me when thinking about IT. We appears to be getting more short sighted than ever in this respect – expecting to find a contractor with that skill set who will then leave to the next job that needs that skill set when completed with this assignment. Is that the right way to get the IT job done? Sometimes yes…. and then again sometimes no.

  2. Pingback: 5 Indications That You Have Tuned In to a Voice of Value | The Way – Purposeful and Deliberate Leadership a blog by henry fiallo

  3. My teacher always tells us, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason!”

  4. Thanks John! I realize that I learn much more from listening, but I have to shut my trap before anything I am hearing makes sense and sinks in!

  5. We live in a world where people are all to willing to just talk, and not listen. Thanks for commenting and sharing your insights John!

  6. Dr J says:

    Thanks Henry, I enjoyed reading it.

  7. James E says:

    Great blog Henry. I couldn’t agree more. There are no real shortcuts in life that deliver value. They only lead to deadends.

    • Our society has become use to shortcuts. It’s in many things we do everyday, ATMs, drive-thrus, microwave food, fast track processes, and then it starts to bleed over into other parts of our lives. There is no short cutting the law of the farm: till, sow, water, care for, then reap. Thanks for your comments James.

  8. Dennis Snow says:

    Henry, your post is a reminder for us on several levels. I especially like the comment about what he would do when he had an extra $500 or $1,000. If more people implemented this practice, we wouldn’t have many of the current challenges we face. Great post!

  9. Cheryl Brown says:

    Henry, Thank you for sharing this column and such sage advice. I must admit that the longer I live, the more I realize just how little I actually know. What a blessing to live long enough to grow in grace and the wisdom of God…as evidenced by the “hoary head” Proverbs 16:31, 20:29. Looking forward to reading more sage advice from not-so-ordinary people.

  10. Beth Richardson says:

    Amazing, isn’t it, how our culture has made these attributes almost faults. Patience means insecurity. Long term outlook means ignoring short term gains. Hard work means lack of sophistication. Fiscal responsibility means not CONSUMING, which is the hallmark of success. As a society, we so need to re-capture these 4 critical values. Thanks for the important reminder.

  11. Rick Petty says:

    Greetings Henry! I find that every person has a story worth listening to … it just takes a little bit of encouragement sometimes before the storyteller feels safe enough to share it. Your post, though, has spurred me to seek opportunities to listen well for the rest of this week. Thanks, for fulfilling the truth found in Hebrews 10:24,25 in my life today!

    • Hi Rick! You are so right. There is value everywhere. We should take a page from Jesus’ book, “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions”. – Luke 2:46

  12. Stephanie says:

    nice article. My dad always said to talk to anyone who talks to you and your life will be forever enriched. This is a great example of that and I have numerous tales of getting great advice because I stopped to listen.

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