I came home from getting coffee with the dogs and took off my baseball cap to settle down to read the newspapers. But I realized that Maria has come kind of superstition about hats on tables, so I was going to place the hat on a chair. But then I wasn’t sure whether it was hats or shoes that were bad luck on chairs.

As I began to toss the hat on the floor, I noticed Buddy Beagle lurking, with a glint in his eye, and I knew he’d grab the hat and take off before I could catch him. So, I did the only thing I could.

I left the hat on my head. I think that’s all right (unless there are clergy present—I forget the rule).

In my insane association habit, this prompted me to remember a visit to a Jaguar dealership when Maria owned the Jag roadster. I was looking at Jaguar umbrellas, and began to open one up to assess the size. The owner of the dealership began to scream at me from across the room. Now, we were good customers (ANY customer in a Jag dealership is a good customer).

“Don’t you know,” she aggressively inquired, “that it’s bad luck to open an umbrella indoors!?”

“You’re selling $85,000 cars, and you’re superstitious?” I meekly responded.

“CLOSE, AND STEP AWAY FROM, THE UMBRELLA!” she suggested. I beat a retreat.

I don’t mind adhering to some of these rules since it makes others happy and I don’t really need to put my hat on the table or open umbrellas in car dealerships. Fair enough.

But how many of these quaint dicta inform our own business behavior? Do you believe and act upon beliefs such as:

• The customer is always right.
• As long as you’re there, you should do what the client requires.
• Time is money.
• You sell through your web site.
• Meeting planners are important for speaking opportunities.
• You can’t mix social and business objectives.
• If you are delivering you can’t market, and vice versa.
• You can only handle a limited number of clients.
• You’re a fool to turn down business.
• You can’t fire a client.
• Intermediaries and “brokers” can provide you with leads.
• The loud guy next to you at a consultant chapter meeting is smarter than you.
• If it’s a published management book, it must be right.
• The client doesn’t owe you the full amount until the project is completed.

I could go on and on. It helps to challenge your basic premises, because some of them are nothing more than superstitions and folly, as is every single bullet point above.

Be rational. Expand your horizons. Break paradigms. Follow a black cat under a ladder. Just don’t put your hat on the cat.

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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