[October 20, 2019] Some time ago, when I was a very young teenager and working at a firework stand. I had some trouble getting all the different kinds of pyrotechnics on the stand properly and asked Mr. Mike Browder, the owner, to give me some help. His advice was simple and straightforward, “Doug” he said, “just do it.”
Usually, it’s not a good idea to provide such advice to teenagers (those with short attention spans and minds that frequently stray to girls, cars, and music). As I was cutting open the boxes with a box cutter, I also cut through the tops of several Roman Candles. Not that it was dangerous – it was – but the problem was that it cost my boss, Mr. Browder, some of his profits. He was not a happy camper that day.
Mr. Browder had given me some great advice in the past. Ten of the best things I learned as a teenager were from him. These lessons are here (see link). Like most folks, Mr. Browder was not always careful, and giving me advice to just do it was unwise and could have been dangerous. Fortunately, incorrectly opening a few boxes was all that I managed to do.
Generally speaking, ‘just do it’ is bad advice. The basic problem is that the person is saying it is making a litany of assumptions that may or may not be correct. More often than not, these assumptions turn out to be incorrect. My first Battalion Commander once advised me to ‘just do it’ when my unit was preparing for an annual IG inspection. Fortunately, I ignored his advice and methodically and painstakingly put together a get-well plan that got us through the inspection. If I’d followed his guidance, we would have failed.
A piece of advice that Mr. Browder had given me was, “Don’t pretend to know things you don’t.” That is one reason I’d asked him about helping me in the first place. Boys and men are notorious for refusing to admit they don’t know something. My wife can attest to that sentiment. Mr. Browder, like other guys, was not always careful, and his fireworks stand burnt to the ground a few days after I’d gone back to school.
Did Mr. Browder just do it? Was he careful in disassembling his stand after selling most of the fireworks? I’ll never know, but I did learn something that was not part of his 10-pieces of good advice. Never tell people to ‘just do it.’