Monday, March 7, 2011

All You Have To Do Is...

Today’s post is a cautionary tale.

Several years ago, I went on a family reunion cruise. At dinner one evening, I was seated with my father and step mother, two of my aunts and their husbands. The conversation soon turned to a CNN special that had aired the night before on the difficulty professional black women face in finding husbands.

My Uncle Johnny, of course, had a solution. You see, Uncle Johnny always has a solution. From dating to the national deficit, there is no problem my uncle can’t solve. So he gave me some of his sage advice, “All you have to do is go to the prisons. There are a lot of good men in prison; they just need a good woman.” My father almost choked on his chicken.

One nugget of knowledge I’ve gained in my 42 years on this planet is to be very weary of people who dole out advice that begins with “All you have to do is…” Normally, I’ve found, these people have no idea what they are talking about.

Allow me to give you a few examples.

A few days ago, I happened to be in the car when I came across one of my least favorite talk show host. While he has no background in finance, he was urging his listeners to invest in the stock market. He said, “All you have to do is buy low and sell high.” Really? Is that all I have to do. If that’s all anyone needs to do, wouldn’t all investors be making money all of the time?

A friend was asking me about my coaching business. She didn’t understand why I wasn’t coaching full-time (which assumes I want to coach full-time). She said, “All you have to do is find a few clients.” Really? Is that all I have to do. As any business owner can tell you, there is an art and a science to finding ‘a few clients’.

I had a blind date a while back with a man who is naturally thin (and that definitely isn’t my type), when I told him that I struggle with my weight, he said, “You look fine to me but if you need to lose weight, all you have to do is go on a diet.” Really? Is that all I have to do. Would there be a multi-billion dollar industry in diet and weight loss if it were that simple.

People who know, and I mean, really know what they are talking about know that it is never that simple. Even if the concept is easy to understand - like buy low and sell high or eat less and move more - it’s often more difficult to put into practice. Experts became experts for a reason. They put in the time to get the knowledge and the experience to know that what you have to do is always a lot more complicated than it seems.

I know people who have lost marriages, homes, jobs and life savings listening to advice that started with “All you have to do is…”If you need advice on selling your house, talk to a realtor. If you want advice on investing, talk to a financial professional (or two).

If it’s a personal situation, seek out people who experience in what you want to do. I have two friends who planned big interstate moves, both of them called me because I’ve made those moves more than a handful of times. Because I’ve done it, I was able to bring up a few things that they hadn’t even thought of.

I want to start painting and landscaping my house and I don't have a clue as to where to start, but I have several friends who have gorgeous homes, who can help me.

So the next time you hear an “All you have to do is…” you know what you need to do. Be nice. Be polite. But get your advice elsewhere. The Uncle Johnnys of the world are always more entertaining than they are informative.

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