Sometimes people insist on describing me as a guru.  I’ve just checked.  If you Google plain ‘Peter Honey’ there are approximately 86,300,000 entries (admittedly a few of these aren’t actually me) and if you search on ‘Peter Honey guru’ up come 6,210,000 entries.  This means that something like 7% of my Google entries – none of them, not a single one, put there by me – advertise me as a guru.

I have never described myself as a guru, and always wince when I hear anyone else doing so.  The guru label raises unrealistic expectations that I am some sort of expert who knows best, qualified to proffer advice that should be heeded without demure.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I have spent my life in a permanent state of uncertainty, racked with doubt, and being pulled in incompatible directions.  I’m reminded of a quote from ‘One of us’ by Hugo Young; ‘He had a mind, not so much open, as permanently vulnerable to a succession of opposing certainties’.  This is such a perfect description of me that I carry it around in my pocket notebook.

Apart from inflating expectations that are well beyond my reach (a damned nuisance; low expectations I have a chance of exceeding, realistic expectations I have a hope of meeting, unrealistic expectations and I’m on a hiding to nothing), gurus normally attract a bad press.  People are understandably sceptical – even cynical.  Sarah Vine in yesterday’s Times was typical.  She claimed that gurus ask too much of people and condemn them to feeling weak, stupid or helpless.  In other words, gurus, not the foolish people who attempt slavishly to follow them, are at fault. 

In my view, there are only two pieces of advice from so-called gurus worth following.  The first is, one size does not fit all.  The second is, it may sound simple, but it isn’t easy.

I’ll stop now before I start sounding like a guru.

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