Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Buying Cred

Many years ago as a high school student, I gave piano lessons to my little brother for a few weeks. It was a big mistake. I’m surprised that we still talk to each other after all these years.

When it came time for my son to take piano lessons, I wisely opted myself out of candidates to be his teacher. There was no way that I was going to put my fatherhood on the line by trying to assume the role of piano teacher.

And the reason why? In my son’s eyes, I lacked credibility, or “cred” as it’s known on the street. (With the bro’s in the ’hood, why should one use five syllables when one will do?)

The funny thing about cred is that you first have to earn  it. Then, after it’s earned, it must be purchased  to be effective.

Consider this. If you have some problem — personal, financial, professional, whatever — the last person you should go to for advice is a close friend or family member. You need to go to someone who has earned  cred. That’s probably somebody with a degree, with appropriate experience or training, or somebody that is recognized as an expert in his field.

Even if you’re fortunate to have an expert in your family who has earned cred, they probably aren’t a good candidate to help you because of the other requirement — you have to buy  the cred from them. It doesn’t do any good to get advice from somebody unless you have some “skin” in the game. And the way you get “skin” is to pay for it.

Countries with socialized health care systems are learning this the hard way. When you have to pay for your medical advice, you tend to ration your need for it. The system balances itself naturally.

But when health care is free, the patient has nothing at risk. Even though the doctor has earned  his cred by going to medical school, the patient isn’t required to buy  his cred. With nothing to lose, there is nothing stopping the patient from consuming the product (in this case, health care advice) with aimless abandon. Soon the health care system is overloaded and would collapse if not for some sort of mandatory rationing.

Ask any doctor in Canada and they will tell you that their day is filled seeing perfectly healthy people that just want to have somebody to talk to. And nothing is stopping them from doing it because they have nothing to lose. They aren’t required to buy the “cred” from the doctor, so the system is imploding.

Back to the piano lessons. I may have earned my cred with my brother and my son, but neither of them had to buy it from me. So I was irrelevant and ineffective.

“Son, I think you should practice each hand separately on that song and then put them together only after you have mastered each one.”

“No, Dad. That’s not the right way to practice piano.”

See? No cred.

A couple of months later...

“Son, I’m glad to see that you are practicing your hands separately now.”

“Yeah, that’s the way my piano teacher told me to practice. It works so much better than trying to learn them both at the same time. I’ll put them together after I have learned them separate from each other.”

Same advice, different results. His piano teacher has cred. His dad — me — well, my cred might as well be crud for all it’s worth.

1 comment:

Pastordeshon said...

Hey! Did you have a signed release from your little brother to share that story?