Best Advice Ever is a show on YouTube. Great people talk about the best advice they ever got. Guests share wisdom, personal stories, and life lessons.
I was fortunate to sit down and chat with Dr. David Kyle Johnson. He teaches at King’s College in Pennsylvania, and here is his bio.
David Kyle Johnson specializes in and has published on logic, critical thinking, metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of science for journals such as Sophia, Religious Studies, Think, Philo, Science, Religion and Culture, and SHERM (Socio-Historical Examination of Religion and Ministry). He also teaches for The Great Courses, edits and writes regularly for the Wiley/Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, and maintains two blogs for Psychology Today: Plato on Pop and A Logical Take. He is the author of The Myths That Stole Christmas and the editor of the Palgrave Handbook of Popular Culture as Philosophy. Johnson’s CV, along with all his works that are legally allowed to be shared for free, is available at academia.edu.
We talked for approximately fifteen minutes. What follows are the high points of our conversation. If you want to see the entire talk, it’s here.
Dr. Johnson is an atheist. His first piece of advice took me off guard. He also offered a second bit of wisdom that still resonates with me.
Dr. Johnson: I thought about this, and I have two definitions of advice in mind. One way to understand the term is someone giving advice that you can take with you and use every day. Another way to understand the word would be someone advising me to do this rather than that in a particular situation.
Andrew: One is general and the other specific.
Dr. Johnson: The best advice that I ever got when someone said, “Yeah don’t be with that person or don’t do something” would be a piece of advice from my former youth pastor. He advised me to become a philosopher.
Back in the day, I felt the calling to be a minister. This is how things are termed in the protestant community. I actually went to school to become a pastor, and I was going to a certain Nazarene University. It was a very conservative religious school.
In my sophomore year, I discovered philosophy and absolutely loved it. What the professor was doing was what I wanted to do. Pastors mostly deal with people and preaching is just 10% of what they do. I wanted to talk about philosophy. I wanted to talk about big questions.
I was torn. My young conservative self wondered if I pursued philosophy I’d be giving up my calling to be a minister.
I was home for summer, and I sat down with my youth pastor. He came to our house. I remember sitting at our kitchen table with him and laid it all out. I discovered philosophy and I kind of wanted to do that, but I didn’t want to forsake my calling.
He wisely said if you have a gift for philosophy, then it is a gift that should not be squandered. He added that he didn’t think I was doing anything wrong by rejecting going into pastoral ministry and wanting to do philosophy.
I switched majors and that’s part of the reason that I’m here today talking with you. I’m not sure if I would’ve switched if it wasn’t for him. His talk was a major factor.
Andrew: So, you said you had another piece of advice?
Dr. Johnson: The other piece comes from my mother. On her fridge is a handwritten note that has three words on it: Procrastination is bondage. What that means is the longer you put something off the longer it’s weighing on you. It’s distracting you. It’s keeping you from doing other things. The sooner you get it done and out of the way, the sooner you are free from that obligation.
I really try to live by that when something needs to be done I do it quickly, especially with my academic work. I’ve always found that useful, so thanks, mom.
Andrew: Thanks for coming on, Dr. Johnson. I think many will find value in what you said.