Image for Letters to my grandchildren (24)

Dear Chilliwops,

The American actor, Michael Douglas, once said, “If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

One day you may read my memoirs.  I have written them for your parents to give to you when you are much older.  Your parents haven’t yet read them either.  You will see that my journey of life committed to a written form has consisted of so many “deals” I cannot possibly describe here.  Some have been very successful but some of those that failed were too good to be true.

As you know, I don’t like to express negative thoughts or repeat negative comments but I have to be realistic too.  It saddens me to say this but there are people in this world that might take advantage of your good nature, your willingness to help others, your trust in human nature or your lack of detailed knowledge about the particular project in which they seek your involvement.

My reference to a ‘project’ in this letter is a reference to any type of activity; whether it be a business deal, a work-related arrangement or even a too good to be true sporting or social activity, deal or opportunity.

Even family and close friends may be so excited about a project they encourage your participation.  They would certainly not be intending to cause problems for you but they may be caught up in the excitement of the moment.

Another famous saying is “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”  I understand that expression comes from the United States in the 1800’s.  Apparently some American saloons or bars would offer a free lunch but only on the basis the customer would buy at least one alcoholic drink.  It was a marketing tool, the theory being that the customer would almost certainly buy more than one drink and the cost of the lunch would be more than compensated for in the purchase of the drinks.

The expression, “if it is too good to be true it usually is” can be glaringly seen in the free lunch story.  At the end of lunch you have spent much more than you expected.  The promotion or advertising was too good to be true.

The most successful projects - whether they are business deals, sponsorships, sports or any of the variety of deals that may be presented to you - don’t promise too much to begin with.  Success comes from focus and hard work.  Sure there might also be a measure of good luck but don’t expect it.

You should never rush into a project.  Always take your time to weigh up the pros and cons.  To make it clear, ‘pros and cons’ is derived from the Latin term ‘pro et contra’ which means ‘for and against.’  It is a process of decision-making.

Consider the good aspects of the project; what are the best things ‘for’ participating in the project?  Do the best things outweigh the worst or potentially negative things about the project?  What can go wrong?  What will the cost be?

Start with considering the free lunch story.  Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch – there are usually ‘strings attached.’  Is it possible being part of this project might actually cost me more; cost me too much?

When I refer to ‘cost’, Chilliwops, I am not just referring to a financial cost.  There may be emotional costs (for example, too much stress or even risking a friendship).  There may be an opportunity cost, or the cost of focusing on the wrong project.  You may have achieved greater success if your focus had been elsewhere or you looked at alternative opportunities.

Most importantly don’t turn your back on an opportunity because it looks like you might have to get your hands dirty, metaphorically speaking (check the meaning of ‘metaphor’).  Every successful project requires application and hard work.  If you are told success or reward will come to you with ease then double the time you spend in considering the project.

Don’t just accept the promotional activity - the advertising, the convincing verbal presentations.  Question every aspect of the presentation.  Carefully weigh up the pro et contra.

On this matter Michael Douglas was one hundred percent right: if a deal looks too good to be true it probably is.

Love always,
Your Popple.

*Anton Clever is well into his seventh decade ... a former teacher, soldier, farm hand, lawyer and businessman (not in that order).  He has travelled extensively for business and for international clients.  More recently he has started writing ... currently a thriller (which will probably not be worthy of publication, he says) and has written but not published a series of “postcards” from various places (including, but not limited to, Victoria, Papua New Guinea, England, France, USA, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Iran) referring to experiences in those places.  He has also written for several magazines on unusual subjects but matters worthy of debate.