I’m going through another maze of medical “opinions”… this time trying to find a vet who’ll give me some straight talk about the condition of my dog’s health.
I’ve sat down with dozens of vets over the years. Interesting breed of professional — they are, typically, the most educated and least paid in the medical field. The best go through as much schooling as “human” physicians do… and though they aren’t officially sanctioned to work on people, I would not hesitate to seek care from one in an emergency.
There are bad ones, no doubt… but the good ones are really good. Maybe it’s because they love animals so much — if you hate fur, you’re not a good fit for the job. You gotta enjoy getting dirty.
At any rate, I’ve learned a ton of important stuff from hanging around vet’s offices. My little adventure this time through the system took me to the UC Davis vet teaching hosptial… where the head of oncology spent over three hours with us.
He wanted to make absolutely sure we had every question answered, and answered to our satisfaction.
Compare that with my friend who found himself in a Miami emergency room with a life-threatening condition last month. They saved his ass… but the doctor spent all of two minutes with him, and if my friend didn’t know how to Google for his own information, he would still be in the dark about what actually happened. And how to keep it from happening again.
So, over all, I’ve been very happy with my experiences with animal docs.
However, there is still one nagging, very bothersome complaint: Though I know some of these vets well… it was like pulling teeth to get the truth out of them.
They all have a natural tendency to want to “coat” bad news with jargon. They also downplay the bad side effects when they’re urging us to go with one treatment method. The only way I know this, is that by boning up on info ourselves, and playing “dumb” with each new vet we saw, a better picture of what was going on emerged.
The truth — defined as what the broad spectrum of possibilities were, rather than the narrow opinion of any one vet — was elusive. It was only at the university hospital… and only at the very end of a long and grueling discussion… that the head doc finally leaned back, actually threw up his hands… and told us the truth about what was going on.
Basically, he said “If this was my dog…” and then delivered his educated opinion. I won’t bore you with the details, because what’s important here is this delivery of straight talk.
The vets are very much like many marketers. When you’re steeped in the details of anything, it gets more and more difficult to nurture absolute opinions, and you start including all sorts of disclaimers. A rookie consultant — and I’ve been around a few — might say “You do this and then this… every single time.” After twenty years in the biz, though, I find myself starting every piece of advice with “It depends on what outcome you want…”.
I say this because I now know that “truth” is dependent on the variables of the situation. There’s is seldom just one answer.
There are no — or at least very few — absolutes in anything. Two plus two always equals four… unless you’re dealing with amoebas that merge and purge, and then you may end up with three, or one, or a dozen. Staying with math, pi can be described as a rather small, tidy number… or a monster several hundred numbers deep. Which answer is the “truth”? Depends on what the question is.
And, I’m sorry, but if your politics involve principles you consider absolute — no matter what — then you’re a deluded idealist. The current government is full of ’em… all trying desperately to stuff square complex problems into round simple holes. It doesn’t work so well.
In marketing, ask yourself which camp you fall into — either trying to convince your audience that the answers to their problems are simple and absolute, or that the answers are so complex they need a guide like you. And then step back, and re-examine that position as a prospect.
You know what I’ve found? Most folks just want the truth as it applies to their situation, no matter how brutal or unpleasant it may be. They distrust rosy pictures that deny anything could ever go wrong. They bristle not just when they’re lied to — which is unforgivable — but also when misled.
And yet, they are seldom treated with straight talk.
Long ago, I decided that when I critiqued a piece of copy — a service I offer my Insiders — I would do it the same way I critique my own copy. Which means, there’s no flattery involved. It’s just a straight-on “does it work” assault, run through my Bullshit Detector and my Innder Salesman. If the copy doesn’t meet my high standards, it most likely will not produce world class results.
And so I am not shy about trashing your effort if it’s bad. There’s money on the line. There are other places you can go if all you want is someone to stroke your ego. I won’t do it — if you’re gonna send an ad out into the bad old business world, it needs to be all grown up and ready to meet the skepticism and disbelief and outright hostility of the real market. Or it will bomb.
That’s all I’ve ever done, in my newsletters, my blog, and my teaching events: Just lay it out, and tell the truth, as precisely as I can.
Now, there are many markets where telling the truth will get you burned. Politics, for example. The diet market, for another. (There is and alwasys will be a niche for truth-telling in both examples… but the main part of each audience will never appreciate the truth. They want to be lied to.)
I was shocked when that one vet just opened up and spoke to me like I was a peer, minus the soft soothing tones he obviously used for most people. I wanted the straight dope, and was ready to hear the worst. Turned out, the worst wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d feared.
Now, finally, we can decide what to do… armed with good info.
In the movie “A Few Good Men”, Jack Nickolson (playing a Gitmo commanding officer) famously said “You can’t handle the truth.” It was a stunning moment. And his opinion, I’ve discovered, is shared by many people in positions of power.
But the Tom Cruise JAG lawyer disagreed. He didn’t say it, but his stance was “The truth will set you free.” That isn’t true across the board, because, as I said, there are many people who really don’t want to hear the truth, not ever.
Still, it’s worth spending some time figuring out what stance is best for your particular market.
I’ve always advised people to aspire to become the “Go To Guy” in their market… because few markets already have someone in that spot. And, being a Go To Guy means you must have a handle on the bottom line truth… and be willing to explain that truth in a way that informs and empowers your customers.
It’s not the easiest row to hoe. We’re not brought up to appreciate the value of the truth, and we’re not taught to respect it. (I haven’t gone through medical school, but I’ve spent enough time with doctors to know that they do NOT believe you — as the patient — deserve to know everything. Too many of them believe M.D. stands for “Medical Deity”, and that you should just take their advice and shut up. The only way to avoid nasty surprises is to get hip. You only get the “peer” treatment when you prove to him that you know nearly as much as he does.)
This is not a simple subject. I wish it were.
Do what you believe is right. In my experience, however, the truth is always better than delusion. If it’s bad news, you’re not going to shed more tears than if you were “protected”.
It’s funny, in a way — here we are, deep in the Information Age, and truth remains a rare thing.
Ah, the irony.