The Absolutes of Subjective Advice

Since I took my first philosophy course as a freshman in college, I have been a fan. In the many years since, I still enjoy studying philosophy and can say that doing so has done much more for me than being able to answer a few more questions on Jeopardy than I normally would have other wise.

Bear with me here as I promise to quickly get beyond the ‘school lesson’. If you read my post on ‘Magic and Sushi’ then you may remember that my passion for magic (Illusions) has helped me in business in that it has taught me to look at situations differently as far as coming up with solutions that may not be so obvious at first; the same is true with philosophy.

That said, let me take you to what I have learned watching some of the home repair/fix-it shows on cable. I am not a handy man but I do enjoy watching the work of those who are. In watching these shows, and I admit I speak from an understanding that I know very little about interior design, I could not help but notice how much of what is suggested as a solution seems to be subjective.

Here are a few examples:

  1. We want to add this color to the baseboards because it will anchor the theme throughout.
  2. If we place this bowl on the table, it will serve as a focal point helping to distract the buyer from the fact that the ceiling is not that high.
  3. If you are going for Zen, then nothing says Zen like river rock and textures.

Now, these claims may in fact be absolutes. I could query 1,000 designers and they may all be in total agreement and if so, fine. The point I am making is that as you are trying to grow your business, be careful of what may be subjective advice passing for an absolute.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Cold calling is for the stone age, no one cold calls any more.
  2. If your business card does not make someone do a back flip, get rid of it and get one that does.
  3. If you are not subscribing to a lead service, you are dead in the water.

In my, admittedly, subjective opinion, there are elements of truth in each of those sayings but one should not accept or discard each as something ‘either/or’ (Either true or false). I would ‘translate’ the three bits of advice as follows:

  1. There may be better options for you than cold calling.
  2. A great looking business card is better than a dull or amateurish looking one.
  3. Subscribing to a lead service could give you an advantage.

If you are still reading, allow me to jump back to the ‘classroom’ briefly and what is known as the ‘fallacy of appeal’. This is common form of fallacy in that, rather than present an objective argument that stands on its own merit, presents some form of appeal, prompting the listener to accept a point without further questioning.

As you grow your business remember that there are lots of free advice out there, mine included. I encourage you not to fully discount or embrace what you read but rather see how it can apply to your business and take what truth from each that will help. Sometimes, the value may be nothing more than hearing or reading something that almost immediately you reject as ‘crazy’ but, after some thought, may prompt you to, as Apple says, ‘think different’.

In answering emails and my involvement in discussions on industry related online forums; it is easy to see/read so much advice that is pure opinion. In these tough economic times, are there any absolutes a company can focus upon? I believe there are, the good ole P&L statement comes to mind.

However, the path one takes to go about making productive changes will be paved with subjectivity which is why I am such a big proponent of doing all you can to not just ‘shoot from the hip’ as you try to build your business but document your changes, tweaks, adjustments. (See: ‘”Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.” – Bumper Sticker (Business) Theology –Thursday, November 6, 2008)

Bottom line, keep what works, toss what doesn’t but make sure you formulate the difference on absolutes as opposed to whether or not you find it personally appealing.

OK, next time I will be less ‘philosophical’…that is, unless I happen to write my blog just after being in a thoughtful discussion on the writings of Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein and how his Vienna Circle promoted the believe that logical analysis performed with the help of symbolic logic is the preferred method for solving philosophical problems. (Talk about exciting!)

 As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line via email…I love talking shop.


Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com


About the Author

Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc., An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in CRM, Business Development, Sales, Marketing as well as Executive Placement and Recruiting for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.