My mother-in-law is a good, kind-hearted woman. But like so many people she often copies things from people she respects without understanding what she is copying.
The following is a true story: the tale of my mother-in-law and the 2 liter bottles.
My mother-in-law used to bury these sealed 2 liter bottles full of water around the perimeter of the house in the Philippines. Finally one day I asked her why. “To stop the cats from pooing in the yard” she said. (Stray cats are a BIG problem in the Philippines, like rats in 18th century London).
She got the idea from her well-to-do neighbors, who in turn got it from the Japanese.
The thing is: the idea never actually worked for anyone, although many, otherwise smart, people believed it did.
Nothing beats doing your own research
- If she had understood the intended purpose behind the buried bottles
- If she had done some research to verify whether the promised outcome was based in fact
She would have saved herself a lot of time and effort uselessly digging holes.
The practice stems from a myth, or rather several variations on a myth.
Take your pick:
- Cats being afraid of water
- Cats smelling the water and thinking it’s a watering hole
- Cats seeing their reflection in the water and being afraid of it
I’m not sure which, if any, of these myths my mother-in-law thought was at play or whether she simply copied the practice because of who she saw do it. Either way, if she had done just a bit of research she would have found it doesn’t work.
So after a lot of effort and a back-ache she ended up with a yard full of useless buried water bottles and cat poo.
The point of the story: well, there are a few.
- Research, research, research. Nothing beats doing your own research. Don’t just copy something, research the why and what and see if and how it meets your goals. Understand what you are copying – even if it is from a guru or someone your respect.
- Just because someone else is successful doesn’t mean that every idea they have contributed to that success. The only thing worse than a bad idea, is a bad idea blindly copied. Never act on advice without questioning and testing it for accuracy – as it applies to your situation – first.
- Expertise or success in one area doesn’t automatically translate to another. Just because her neighbor was a successful lawyer or accountant doesn’t mean they knew anything about pest control or were any less likely to operate on faulty assumptions. Even our heroes are human.