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When Someone Guarantees Success Look the Other Way


Whenever I take on a new coaching client, I always give a spiel to dampen down expectations: “I can’t guarantee that I can help. I can’t make any promises as to whether you’ll improve or win some big race. All I can tell you is I’ll do the best that I can.” Am I hedging my bet, lacking confidence in myself as a coach? No, it’s because it’s the truth. I consider myself pretty darn good at this coaching thing, but even so, I’ve failed countless times. Sometimes with some really talented and good runners.

Human beings are complex. We all have our own deviations in physiology and psychology that throw wrenches into even the best-laid plans. Far too often in today’s instant gratification world, we over-promise. We think that we need to show confidence, tell people that we have the secret sauce, the answer to their woes. We tout our accomplishments before making grand promises. Humans love certainty. Our brains crave it.

So when we are met with promises of faster race times, dropping 10 pounds, improving our memory, or extending our lives, we grab hold of it. It’s the reason why despite our knowledge to the contrary, we gravitate towards all kinds of magic pills. It’s part of the reason why the “guarantee” is such a strong sales technique. It plays on our need for certainty, our need for reassurance.

Next time someone offers you a guarantee that their product, service, or whatever they’ve got will make you healthier, or that their proprietary training program will make you faster; stop and think for a second. Why do they need to make this guarantee? My rule of thumb is if someone guarantees me just about anything, it means they’re probably a salesperson not a craftsperson, and my skepticism antenna goes up. It means I should most likely turn away and find someone else. Someone who deals in reality. Performance, health, psychology, well-Being; it’s all way too complex for anyone to guarantee just about anything.

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