An old baseball coach of mine once wrote on a blackboard, “Never ASSUME anything because it makes an ‘ASS’ out of ‘U’ and ‘ME’.” I always remembered that line. Partially because I was in eighth grade and laughed when a grown man said “ass.” But more importantly, I immediately knew what he meant. No “ifs,” “ands,” or “butts.” I didn’t assume what he meant to say. Coach was just telling us that you shouldn’t jump to conclusions, especially if there’s nothing concrete to back it up. An assumption is defined thusly; a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.
For example, I’d always assumed that Coach was the author of that great quote, but I was wrong. According to Quote Investigator, it first appeared in an advertisement. Yes, this great quote was written by a copywriter at an ad agency. Go figure.
It appeared first in the Espanola, New Mexico weekly newspaper Rio Grande Sun in 1957. The ad was for the Horace DeVargo Agency, a car insurance company, and said:
“… I urge you, as a driver, to observe the rules of traffic and highway safety in the operation of your car. Don’t ass-u-me anything when you drive because you’ll make an ass of u and me — ass-u-me.”
Assumptions can cause damage, literally and figuratively, especially in business. It’s a lesson I’ve always remembered, but occasionally I have to remind myself….and others.
So now, as a seasoned AdMan, I find myself dropping knowledge bombs on younger colleagues quite frequently. I pulled this one out of my bag of tricks the other day. My only hope is that the advice sticks. I assume it will.
What’s one piece of advice you give to younger colleagues? Email me here. I’d love to know.