Explanations in the Form of Instructions

Today, I stumbled across a Frank Zappa quote that discourages people from listening to those who give bad advice, so I was thinking about the benefits of following instructions and applying great advice.

My fiancée and I tutor students from the elementary to high school level every week. Tonight, we were tutoring two very smart students, one in third grade and one in seventh grade. As I was helping the third grader with a fourth grade spectrum writing book, I noticed a passage that summarizes why I liked the Frank Zappa quote I had read earlier in the day. The following is an excerpt from his workbook:

Explanations, in the form of instructions, are all around. Some of them are simple, such as a door with ‘push’ written on it. You follow the instructions, open the door, and go through. Some of them are not simple. Bicycles, bookshelves, wheelbarrows, and vacuums all come in surprisingly small boxes that are labeled ‘some assembly required.’ Your teacher might explain how the early settlers of your state applied for statehood. Your parent might explain a math problem.

The point I think Zappa was trying to make is to be discerning when it comes to taking a person’s advice or reading instructions. Additional research of a topic is usually beneficial when you learn something from a teacher or book you’re reading. Blindly believing people can be dangerous.

“If you end up with a boring, miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your sh&*, then you deserve it.” – Frank Zappa

The Zappa quote above sounded negative to me when I first read it. At first, it sounded like he was discouraging people from taking any advice from anyone. But he is simply discouraging people from following advice that doesn’t work for them. If you develop your own practical solutions while also following great advice and instructions, you may still be bored from time to time, but you will probably be more successful and have a happier life.


Spectrum. Writing: Grade 4. Red Upd Edition. Columbus, Ohio: Frank Schaffer Publications, 2007. 98-99. Print.


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