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Lynn Hummel: It’s all about who you know

There is an old expression, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

It’s most often expressed by folks who don’t know much and don’t know anybody of any influence. But, of course, there is some truth in the expression, and in today’s lecture we will explore the strengths and weaknesses of this “Who you know” belief.

If you happen to be a parent or grandparent baffled by the ever changing mysteries of the cell phone, who you know can be most important. Your own children or grandchildren with cell phones of their own are probably persons of interest. I, personally, have avoided most of those mysteries by minimizing my use of the phone as much as possible. I tell you this not as a boast, but as an embarrassing confession of ineptitude.

My wife, Eartha, however, is a person in tune with the times, but sometimes behind the technology curve. She turns mainly to our tech-savvy 14-year-old granddaughter, Maya, who regularly instructs her on the intricacies of that miracle device that Alexandria Graham Bell could never have imagined.

If some computer applications still confuse you, you should have a friend like Marny, who takes pictures where people gather, then turns them into birthday cards and Christmas cards on her own computer. She will come to your house and walk you through the most basic steps of computer use. Or you can hire a more qualified expert who will show you more for $100 an hour. In either case, it was who you knew.

I recently heard a talk by a nurseryman and learned I had been planting the wrong types of trees, using the wrong planting techniques, using the wrong fertilizers and that if you want to get your sluggish apple trees to start producing apples, sometimes banging it on the trunk with a shovel or mower will get their attention. I should have talked to this guy before I started planting trees, not after.

Warning: There are places where you should avoid advice at all costs. For example, never accept legal advice, though it will be freely offered to you, at the “loser” table of your favorite bar. Never follow dietary advice while standing in the dessert line of a buffet. Never ask for mechanical advice in a junk yard. And, finally, though this certainly is not an exhaustive list, never accept investment advice you get at a casino. 

We have all been advised to go to the highest level to resolve a difficulty. I have had such an experience myself. Without going into all the details, I can tell you there was a misunderstanding involving a passport. I was at an impasse with a clerk who insisted she was right and I was wrong. I decided I was going to hold my ground. No retreat for me. So, I played my trump card. I looked her straight in the eye and made a final demand. “I’d’ like to speak to your supervisor.” She looked me straight in the eye and said, “I AM the supervisor.” Case closed.

Once, to assist a friend with a government problem, I contacted a state representative I knew and asked for help he should have been able to provide. He promised he’d look into the problem and do what he could do. I never heard one more word from him. So much for “it’s who you know.”

The next time you hear, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” take it with a grain of salt. I can’t prove it from my own experience, but in the long run, it’s probably better to know someTHING than to know someBODY.