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Bullshit Business Maxims

Wisdom needs context. A whole bunch of people are running around thinking that they know something, repeating adages, but there is a major difference in meaning when a statement is made by someone who has "walked the path" compared to someone who has not.

In the spirit of observation, I thought I would outline a few maxims. While I don't consider myself wise, I have considered these statements from a few vantages and would like to offer some thoughts:

Follow Your Passion

Given the option… Food, Alcohol, Drugs, Golf, Sex, Video Games, socializing, etc… tend to qualify to a greater degree as a person's "passions", than traditional occupations. Sure occasionally, some engineers just love solving problems, or a woodworker enjoys a tedious build... but generally people enjoy hedonistic/ epicurean passions to a greater degree than things we get paid for.

When people go on holiday rarely are they talking about going home and working on math equations- even people that enjoy that kind of work. Nor do Football players like taking a hard hit… it's not their passion to get a concussion. It's certainly not my passion to sit in front of a computer for 8 hours a day, even though I enjoy programming.

So when we talk to people "Follow Your Passion" isn't supposed to be super literal, but it is supposed to contain a level of truth. There is a balance between doing what you love, what you are good at, and what you can be paid for. The Japanese actually have a word for this: "Ikigai". Which is really a statement about balance.

Furthermore, having balance regarding your career/ occupation is a difficult thing to achieve. It is very much possible to get there, but it takes time to build yourself up to it. Which is why "follow your passion" is such a mixed piece of advice. Saying this to someone that is trying to figure out what to do with themselves is virtually worthless. They don't have the context to use it.

What I've ended up on (besides explaining Ikigai), is to tell people to start by getting something that pays the best that they can at this juncture and then just starting to do work in the area that they would like to (build a project, spend time with people currently doing that work, etc). It works surprisingly well to throw people in the fire and just let things happen to people until they've decided for themselves that they want to be the person that decides what happens to them.

You Need To Take Time to Rest

There's a big todo these days about famous people saying that "meditation" is the key to their success. ...Or in a similar expression, I've seen a trend towards taking a day off or Shabbat as the Hebrews would call it - where you do no work for an extended period of time. Other people do yoga... or some other ritual that is focused on rest.

For starters, all of these things are fine practices, and extremely useful. Rest is useful. But I think it's important to note that famous/wealthy/important persons arrived at using rest rituals as a result of their success. It was not a factor that created their success. In reality the "take away" should not be that you need to take time to rest... the take away should be that "energy management" or "attention management" is an important tool for high-performance human beings.

Intuitively this makes sense when you think about it. We all make poor decisions when we are tired... and for people in high impact positions their contributions largely are decisions... but (stating the obvious) important persons rarely start in high impact positions, and generally they had to hustle quite a bit to arrive where they are to the point of where their decisions are the most useful contributions that they can make.

Thus, instead of telling people they "need to take time to rest" we should really be telling people to use rest rituals as a tool AND you need to work your way up to the point of where the tool is actually impactful.

The Best Sales People Listen

I personally find explaining sales or sales skills to be incredibly difficult... so statements such as "the best salespeople listen" isn't a high crime in my book, but it's obviously about as useful as a turn signal on a BMW. , Of course, they listen, but they also talk. Listening is just one part of a feedback loop that is required to be a good communicator and to mutually accomplish something.

The maxim is designed to tell newer salespeople to shut the hell up and let the customer talk... which indeed is valuable advice. But it also gives a nod to a skill known as "active listening." Active listening has multiple aspects to it, but the meat and potatoes of the concept is that a salesperson will want to extract specific information from a conversation and use that information in a (hopefully mutually) advantageous way.

The dark side of this maxim creates sales people that try to focus too much on listening, or "probing questions". After all why the hell would someone meet with you if you don't have at least some opinions or useful information? As with all things there exists a balance, and a sales person's job is to find it.

The Customer is Always Right

Unless you only have one customer, and their name is literally "Right" the customer is not always right... And as far as the greatest perpetuated business lies this one is probably the king of the hill.

Why should the customer always be right? They're people just like any other people, and sometimes people are assholes. Sometimes getting a customer's business isn't worth what you have to go through for it. Sometimes a customer is plain asking too much... or any number of other possible scenarios where the customer could be wrong.

Now I don't want to ignore why this maxim exists... frankly service staff in certain industries (especially industries that are generally poorly paid and normally overworked) can get cranky and not choose to be sympathetic to customers. That's lame. But when it comes to customers, sometimes it doesn't make business sense to bend over backwards for them. Sometimes being too generous is bad business.


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