Frames of reference


In a spate of recent blog posts, other bloggers have written about how to hire people for various jobs, and they suggest questions to ask to help determine whether that person will be able to help you.  The trend I’m noticing is that these bloggers want to know a great deal of personal information about someone before hiring them.


For example, on a personal finance website, the blogger suggests asking potential financial advisors what kind of cars they drive and if they’re married, the idea being, I guess, that if someone drives an SUV and I despise SUVs, then this is not the person for me, or if I’m married and my advisor isn’t, s/he won’t have the first clue how to help me get buy-in from my partner.


On another website, someone posted about how she would never hire a life coach who had a lot of money and didn’t really “need” the job – in other words, how could anyone understand her problems if that person had never had to make a choice between, say, attending a kid’s school play and making a client meeting?


To which I say, you have got to be kidding me.  Frames of reference are all well and good – you’re probably never really going to understand how it feels to be punched in the nose until someone punches you in the nose – but creativity, imagination, empathy, experience and education are way more important than “my advisor is a carbon copy of me.”


In fact, I would suggest it’s a terrible idea to have advisors who are just like you.  When you’re trying to solve problems, you need to get outside of your own little brain and get a bigger picture.  You can’t do that if you’re only willing to consider valid those lifestyles and experiences that are just like yours.


A case in point:  I have a special needs daughter.  You would think that I would get my best ideas for coping with my situation by connecting with single moms who live in small Kansas towns and have preteen daughters with special needs.  You would be wrong.  My very best coping strategies come from a friend in Brooklyn who is childless.  She is imaginative, sympathetic and she listens. 


This relates to writing, I swear.  In order to write well, we don’t have to have “be” what we’re writing about.  We just have to be able to use our imaginations, think creatively, and listen.  We sell ourselves short if we think the only way we can authentically tell a story is to have lived it ourselves. 


And just a note: if you’re going to hire someone to clean your house (for example) you don’t need to know what that person’s house looks like.  You only need to know how clean his or her clients’ houses are afterwards.   


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