After watching the first few minutes of the disgraceful video about ‘Black Friday’ on Youtube last week coupled with an email from Nick Tart, the young co-author of What it Takes to Make More Money than Your Parents, describing the biggest complaint his readers had which was that his book didn’t give enough ‘how-to’ advice, I decided I’ve finally had enough.
Unofficially I have counted 519,730* ‘how-to’ books on solving the mystery of life, making money and everything in between; well something like that anyway. I think I lost count after a couple of hundred. From how to seek eternal bliss to how to build a rocket ship seemingly everything imaginable has been done and now passed on in the form of how I (or they) did it and how you too can do it like me (or them). Well guess what; you can’t and more importantly why would you want to?
When ‘How-To’ doesn’t Work and Why
I know, I know – I have no right to tell you what you can and can’t do or even what you are capable of doing. But hear me out for a second.
Marketers have used the ‘how-to’ hook for centuries with great success to lure the hungry consumers in search for the ‘secret sauce’. Unfortunately most of those people who embodied that new found ‘how to’ knowledge didn’t have a fraction of the success the marketers did.
The two main problems I have with ‘how-to’ is it’s based on the past and it tries to be applied to everything.
The first problem limits forward thinking, evolution and adaptation. How can anything new get created if we’re constantly looking to the results of the past to base our decisions for the present and the future? Worse yet, how can any problem get solved with the same kind of thinking that created the problem in the first place? Research today, for the most part, seems to be still inside the box – trying to come up with a better mouse trap instead of trying new and innovative ways to eliminate the mouse (my apologies to the Mickey lovers for using the mouse yet again as the prototype – but couldn’t think of a better one at the time and I don’t like editing at 1am in the morning). I believe this is why billions of dollars in research and development are wasted every year in healthcare, education and financial sectors.
The second problem, taking ‘how-to’ as the end all be all to everything hypnotizes us into believing, literally, that all future events, no matter who, what, when, where, why, will carry the same results as it did in the past if carried out in the same fashion. I just can’t imagine Shaquille O’Neill winning the Breeder’s Cup after reading a book on how to ride a horse by last year’s winning jockey.
Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?
Yet so many people set their expectations this way and wonder why things didn’t turn out the way they thought it would. Things that are subjective or self-measured like ‘how to be happy’, or, ‘how to be successful in business’ or even ‘how to make a million bucks selling the same widgets I did last year’, are extremely difficult to model from someone else’s achievements.
Success and achievement don’t come in the form of ‘how to’ it comes in the form of ‘how-do’. Knowledge and understanding is useless without application to it. That part is up to you.
To be continued…
Photo: Christopher Chan