Hitting The Wall.
Last night I was invited to dinner by my friend, Henrik; and we met Jan, Henrik’s cousin and erstwhile business owner.
I stated to him the simple truth of economics: “The customer values your product more than you value your money; the businessman values your money more than he values his products.”
Jan asked me to shorten it, so I did: “The customer values your product more than you value your money; for you, it’s the other way around.”
But that was as far as I got with his understanding of this, I mean he heard the words all right, he just couldn’t comprehend them. It took me three minutes to realize I’d hit a wall.
By this time he was spouting on about how he’d had a factory and another two in planning.
I asked him who his best customers were, and he hadn’t a clue. What he did say was that he was able to bring in money to his business, with ease. I asked him how many of his products he’d sold, and he said 600. This is a shockingly small amount to base two new factories on! But then, Jan is Jan.
In other words, he couldn’t know who his best customers were, even if he could imagine them… because the data simply wasn’t there. Yet at the time, he had two factories in planning, based on thinking that pleased him.
I spoke of ways to determine a company’s potential, and he then spoke of how I was adding salt to his egg, but only after he’d eaten it. I then said that the things I could do were offered whilst the egg was still on the plate, but he really didn’t want to know. Because after the last crisis bit home in Europe, the venture capitalist had pulled the plug on him and Jan had lost his house.
He wasn’t very happy to be reminded about his past. It shouldn’t stretch the imagination too far to realize why.
Jan’s Business Strategy.
So instead of speaking about this, he repeated the fact that he could bring in money to the business to expand it. Which is when my doubts were first raised: expand what, precisely? I would only fully digest the impact of this as I cycled to the station later that night.
It was as I was speaking to Henrik on the telephone later, thanking him for dinner, I spoke of Jan’s business strategy. I said that he was able to convince people of the potential for his business, but without actually having any proof of this… in fact, and I used words to which Henrik responded, “that’s not very kind”.
Because I said that in American parlance, such a business model is known as a ‘con’. Henrik was not very pleased to hear this; after all, this is his cousin we were discussing. What’s more, he’s a nice person.
So I said, “do you want to know what I really think of his business model?”
He said okay.
“It was outright fraud,” was my response.
I did mention that Jan would be perfect for selling securities to Dutch bankers, as they would love him. The likes of Goldman Sachs would make a massive profit from a person such as him, because Jan would be too dim to know what he was actually peddling…
The point of writing this is to show just how difficult it is for a person to come to terms with their own confusion. Jan couldn’t tell the difference between the income from sales and the income from money trusted to him by his investors. I will add that this is far from uncommon, only Jan had the ‘gift of the gab’ as the Irish say. In other words, Jan could sell refrigerators to an Eskimo, but neither of them would know why. All Jan would be interested in was selling it, and the Eskimo would be charmed – that is to say, under the spell Jan cast.
Jan simply couldn’t see it, and in not being able to see it, started blaming me for talking about things that had nothing to do with business. Irrespective of the fact that he’d agreed to the statements I made at the beginning of this post – but then, he only heard the words and didn’t actually comprehend what I’d meant. To him, what I said was only words, and he could agree to words because words are just words. The concept was totally beyond him.
This is what I call ‘The Wall’, it is where you speak to a person, but you hit a wall as far as meeting the person’s ability to understand. It’s like dropping a pebble down a hole and never hearing the splash. You cannot know what was understood, and what not.
Recognizing The Wall When You Meet It.
When someone doesn’t understand you, they will start to dissemble.
1) They will start to dissemble, that is to say, they retreat behind their wall and say something that they think has meaning to them, but is in fact just confused thinking.
2) They will tell you that you are wrong. They will tell you that they are the experts, and usually this is enough to cow anybody to their way of thinking. Only they are the kind of expert that cannot tell you anything about their expertise. It is at this is where they start dissembling.
Usually there are three identifying issues, here one of the issues has been taken by that person and hidden behind their Wall. It is their doing this which means you cannot communicate with them effectively; nor can they because their thinking is not clear in this area.
Dealing With The Wall.
One can only deal with one’s own Wall. In others, this is part of their own make-up and is their responsibility. If one wishes to change them, all they will do is retreat behind their Wall and, metaphorically speaking, will put their fingers in their ears. The proverbial tin-foil-helmet. Any persistence on your part will lead to your becoming frustrated because of their lack of response, and will only annoy them the more.
I will warn you that any attempt to change this state of affairs will have them accusing you of putting your fingers in your ears and not listening… or in common parlance, “putting your tin-foil helmet on”. If you are aware that you are listening to them, and forming your responses to the things they said, then their accusations are baseless. The first step in dealing with one’s own Wall is to understand what is going on when someone accuses you of the very things they are doing!
I’ll put it another way: if you can see what is going on, then learn from it. Because I guarantee this to you: they won’t. This one step will lead you out of a world that can seem very confusing! Believe me, the world we live in is perfectly straightforward, but only when you have a handle on how other people behave.
So, the only reasonable thing one can do is to learn from that situation and leave them to live out their life in the balmy happiness that is the result of ignorance. If you have the not uncommon misfortune to be married to such a person (as I was), take the best bits and leave the rest; it’s all one can do in such a situation. There is also divorce, which was my solution when things got too oppressive.
Taking It Further.
This is where matters get personal. Well, this is your Wall, and yours alone. There is no other way to deal with it than getting personal. Either you’re up to the challenge or you’re going to have to wait for another opportunity to pass your way.
I have been through this the hard way, without any help save people blaming me for being too ignorant to understand 😉
If you are interested, you can leave a comment and deal with it publicly – or ask for the comment to remain unmoderated and we can discuss the issue in private, or by email. There is no charge, now or later: this issue is far too serious to be worried over trivia like being paid.