Before I ask you this question, I need to give you a little background information. One of my gifts from God is crunching numbers and analyzing investments. I model my approach after the master himself, Warren Buffett.

I’ve done well enough that I will be able to retire a few years sooner than most. I had a triple on one stock and a double on some others. I also pulled a one year quadruple out of the Canadian medical marijuana stocks. I pass word along to friends and family.

My mom’s older sister pulled out of her investment group because they would not take my picks. She now invests on her own based on my advice. She will call and ask, “What have you got for me, son?” My aunt said the pot stocks made for interesting conversation at her bridge tournaments.

Now for my question. My cousin asks for advice. I give it to him. He will tell me he bought some pot stocks, but not the ones I told him about, and lost money. I will be like, “Too bad. The ones I gave you are up 24% this year.”

Why are there people who ask for advice, but don’t want to take it? Why would losing but doing it his way be better than making money from my picks?

~ Cameron

Cameron, there’s a short video on YouTube called It’s Not About the Nail. A man and a woman are sitting on a couch. We see a close-up of the lower part of the woman’s face as she talks about the pressure she is under. She despairs that it will never stop.

As the camera pans to the man’s face, he says, “You have a nail in your head.” And she does. The camera shows a nail sticking out of her forehead. But the woman replies, “It’s not about the nail. Stop trying to fix it. You always try to fix things when all I need you to do is just listen.”

The woman then explains she’s not sleeping very well and all her sweaters are snagged. At that point the man stops trying to fix things and empathizes with her. They go to kiss and she recoils in pain when the nail in her forehead bangs into his forehead.

The video is about gender differences, but it raises an interesting question. What makes you think people asking for advice are asking for advice?

The two biggest reasons for seeking advice we see are: people wanting to confirm their own opinion and people collecting advice about a problem they will do nothing about.

Some people simply want a sounding board. Others are just making conversation or schmoozing. And some people want a shoulder to cry on. A woman with a cheating husband may not want to hear, “Kick him to the curb.” She wants someone to tell her, “Oh, you poor dear. Everyone has their troubles.”

Don’t be angry with your aunt’s investment club. It’s about deciding as a group. And your cousin? For him, it may be about proving he has more talent, brains and acumen than you do. Unfortunately for him, it’s not working out.

Often when people ask for advice they are a little desperate. They are not in the frame of mind where they can take it in. Like suggesting a fire safety plan to someone whose house is on fire.

People need to hear advice with the right example, the right metaphor, at the right time for it to register. Until that happens, it’s not about the nail.

~ Wayne & Tamara

Direct Answers Column for the week of February 12, 2018

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