How To Know When You’re About To Make A MistakePosted: August 20, 2012
We all make mistakes. Perhaps opening with a throwaway cliché is a mistake. If it is, I’ve proven the thesis in my first sentence. Sadly, it is too soon to stop writing.
Yes, everyone makes mistakes. You, me, them, everybody does it.
Most of us learn from our mistakes. Some learn from the mistakes of others. Some learn nothing from their mistakes; their lives are a series of successive disasters. If you pay attention, you can learn a lot from folks who never get smarter from their own errors.
Certain mistakes are hard to miss. Though I am not gifted with the power to see into the future, I can spot some of those mistakes before they happen. The problem is, I usually can’t stop people from making these unfortunate choices. Poor choices are just so…tempting.
As a public service, I’m going to lay out two elements that are usually good, until they’re combined. Together, they are a sign of an impending mistake.
It is hard for people to walk away from something with the magic word, free, attached to it. Getting something new is nice. Receiving that something for nothing is better.
Unfortunately, some people accept anything that is free, without thinking. Even when something costs nothing, it is important to carefully consider whether that thing is worth having. No cost can mean no value. In fact, free can also mean it will cost you later.
Mixed with permanent, free can cost you for the rest of your life.
It is hard not to love permanence.
Imagine finding the perfect place to live – great location, house and neighbors. It would be great to have that situation forever. Permanence in that circumstance is a good thing. When I had surgery, my doctor told me the repair he did was permanent. That was good too.
Forever is wonderful, until it isn’t. One of the times forever is not so wonderful is when it mixes with free.
No Cost + Permanence = A Mistake
I was driving home not long ago and saw a sign outside of a new business. The sign was simple, home-made using a piece of cardboard and some spray paint.
Speaking of indicators of a potential mistake, the hand-made sign is another clue that one should stay away. Despite the amateurish hand-made sign, I am sure that people just couldn’t help but take the business owner up on his offer, because the sign had the magic word free on it.
The sign said free, and it offered something very permanent. Free tattoos.
In the interest of fairness, I’ll admit that I did not go in to the shop, nor have I ever seen one of the tattoos created there. Perhaps they are some of the finest tattoos ever created in the history of that art form. I’m not betting on it.
Most likely, there are people running around town with free tattoos. I think those free tattoos came with an extra dose of shabby.
If we look at the offer of a free tattoo as a math word problem, we realize that it is very likely a mistake to accept that offer:
Something for nothing (free) + Something is a tattoo (tattoos are permanent) x home-made sign (spray painted at that) =
I don’t have a tattoo. If I ever get one, it won’t be from someone who is just handing them out. My tattoo artist will be so revered it will cost money just to speak his name. I will have The Sistine Arm, and I will pay big for it.
Say it with me:
free + permanent = a mistake
Cutting corners on something permanent is a bad choice. Always.