The Cobbler’s Children Have No Shoes

April 22, 2013 § 1 Comment

Image Source: The Selby

Image Source: The Selby

Or the original version: “Who is worse shod than the shoemaker’s wife?” — an adage first cited in The Proverbs of John Heywood published in 1546.

You’re familiar with the concept: the shoemaker is so busy making shoes for his (or her) customers that he never finds the time to make them for his wife or his children and, thus, they remain shoeless.

Today we have Zappos (and Amazon and ShoeMint), so shoes, check.  However, the problem persists.  You may know someone like:

  • The doctor who never gets around to making her own appointments.
  • The visual design firm lacking a well-planned, compelling website.
  • The landscaper whose lawn could use a trim (and some plants).
  • The brand strategist whose own brand strategy is in need of some love.

But why?  What makes this adage dating back almost half a century as relevant today as when it was first recorded?  I believe three things:

Time – Of which, there is simply never enough.  We barely finish the day’s work – meeting deadlines, answering emails, tweeting, managing our to-do lists – to make a concerted effort on behalf of our own businesses/yards/health.  And, should we recognize this, and do the wise thing, the strategic thing, and actually set aside time on our calendar and to-do list for these very useful, potentially rewarding projects, they are the first to fall off when “something comes up” (a client emergency, a staff meeting, a party).

Money  – Which, as we know, is irrevocably linked to time.  It is much easier to justify our spending time doing work for paying clients than it is to use those never-to-be-regained hours (or days) to take care of our own business.  But this is short-term thinking.

Perspective – Oftentimes, it’s a case of lacking proper distance from our business and work to be be able to recognize our shortcomings and, when we do, to see them in a way that we can be our own practitioner (create the innovative marketing plan, identify a solid business development strategy, design the new logo).  Sometimes, it becomes necessary to hire someone who is us, but not us, to help us get our house in order.

To which I counter:

  • Make time – Once you begin, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.  Treat yourself as you would your best customer.
  • Make money – If done right, the time you invest in yourself and your business will provide a return in excess of what you would have experienced had you maintained the status quo.
  • Get perspective – Yes, I know, it’s ludicrous to think that you need to hire a someone to do for you what you do for others.  But you do.  You’ll gain unforeseen insights and ideas that you just can’t get to on your own.

Get some shoes.


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§ One Response to The Cobbler’s Children Have No Shoes

  • Oh I can relate very well to this old adage! I run my own public relations firm and so often I feel like it’s my company that’s lacking some good PR attention. It’s hard to do the work for yourself when you’ve just spent all day doing the same thing for others.

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