I occasionally see a bumper sticker that says “Question Everything”. It usually appears on cars with other bumper stickers that say things like “Coexist” and “Be the Change You Want to See” and “Bernie Sanders 2016”. I love those cars, by the way.
My takeaway on this somewhat ambiguous, yet overtly obvious statement had always been that we should take the words of so-called authority figures with a large grain of salt. People like politicians (especially), celebrities, news people, religious leaders, and even our parents.
As someone who grew up with heavy German Catholic influences, I was taught to follow the rules. I didn’t question anything and, with the exception of a few years in high school, I always did what I was told.
After high school, I got a job, bought a car, got a credit card (and immediately went into debt), eventually went to college (and went into even more debt), got a better job, started paying off my debt, and bought a house (so much for paying off my debt). Six years later when the recession hit, I was left standing with no house and the feeling that I was completely robbed by the system.
In a way, I was. But I like to take responsibility for my own decisions and learn from my mistakes. And what I learned is that, through all those years and all those decisions, I should have been questioning everything. Now, 10 years after the beginning of the recession that would eventually take my house away, I’m doing just that. And I’ve never felt more free.
Car dealers tell us we should be as comfortable in our cars as we are in our living rooms—I ride my bike instead; My bank tells me I should buy a house—I will when I can afford a 10-year mortgage; Magazines tell me I should brighten up my wardrobe because I’m over 50—I wear black almost every day; Our culture tells me my fiancé should buy me a diamond ring that costs the equivalent of two month’s salary—I can’t even begin to describe all the things that irk me about this “rule”. I could go on, but you get the point.
As a marketer, I realize I might contribute to some of the very things I’m questioning. I’ve written about this in a past blog and have come to terms with it. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with relevant, ethical marketing and I believe it serves an important purpose in helping companies communicate their value. I only ask that we as consumers and responsible members of society determine what’s best for us and not let someone else do it instead.