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No One Ever Told Us That | John Spooner

John D. Spooner, American’s only investment advisor/novelist, took to the TEDxBeaconStreet stage to share his thoughts on relationships and human nature and how they guide everything we do. His insights come from the pages of his new book No One Ever Told Us That, a book that hit #1 on the Boston Globe bestseller list, made the Washington Post book of the month selection and hit #2 in Amazon business books.

We had a chance to catch up with Mr. Spooner for a quick Q&A and this exceptional man shared even more of his exceptional insights into life’s curiosities.

You recommended in your TEDxBeaconStreet talk in November that a young lady go buy a red rubber stamp that says “I can sell anything.”  What advice do you have for those who are not looking to go into marketing or advertising? Should we all go buy stamps and if so, what does this look like in the digital age?

It was 20 years ago that I told her to get that rubber stamp and it would still work in some careers. There are 360 million Americans, in a fast-paced high-tech world, so what I like to see is something that jumps off the page. There are infinite careers and jobs within those careers. In running people’s money, I don’t a have one size fits all answer because everyone and everything is tailored individually, just as each resume and job hunt should be tailored individually.  You have to find what’s special about you. What differentiates you? Unless you’re a Rhodes Scholar a boring, vanilla resume isn’t going to differentiate you from the crowd. And as for the digital age, one of my major themes is life: real life. The virtual life has its place and time, but face-to-face relationships are the most important.

TEDx is about ideas in action. You encourage people to ask the unusual question.  What is the most unusual use of this advice you’ve seen in action? Has anyone taken your advice and gone too far? Is there such thing as too far?

That is an excellent question.  My answer is to dare to be different but, sometimes, being different can offend people or rub them the wrong way. Not everybody buys our act and not everyone falls in love with us. You can’t be risqué, for example. And, sometimes asking the unusual question turns out to be a stupid question. Years ago a lady interviewed me to watch over her family money and she said “I’d like you to answer this one question: Why are manhole covers round?” I thought about it and said “I have no idea.”  It turns out they’re round because they cannot fall into the hole and, since they’re so heavy, they can be easily rolled away by one person. Well, I flunked that one and didn’t get the job. When I asked her why she asked this question she said to me “Microsoft asks that of prospective employees.” My response was that I’m not looking to be an engineer. Why not ask me a question about managing money? This was one situation where asking an unusual question turned out to be a stupid question. So you want to be smart about it, too.

The Grant Study in 1946: A loving relationship is the most important factor in a long, happy life. Do you think the findings of this study are still applicable even though our world has changed so much since the 1940’s?

This is the key point in life and in my book. Technologically we’ve come a long way and we’re involved in many revolutions all at once. But what never, ever changes, not in thousands of years, is human nature. Human greed and anger are immutable. Whether you’re reading the bible or the news, human emotion remains the same. The world has always been going to hell and whichever administration is in power is always the worst, according to the media. No matter the technology — the internet, computers, mobile phones — human nature drives everything and nothing has changed. That’s the biggest message from my book. All life is relationships. Real face-to-face relationships are the most important thing in life.

What’s in your future after your TEDxBeaconStreet talk? 

As long as the book is selling I’ll stay on book tour. I don’t seek speaking engagements but they do come to me. I’m also running my financial management business. So, I’m out on the road, full time working two jobs. I’ll keep on keeping on, working both sides of the brain. I can say my next project is about women, it’s a book project and I’m meeting with my publisher this afternoon. I’m putting a different wrinkle on a broad category of women. There’s very seldom a book about women written by a man. It is NOT telling you what to do and how you are; it’s putting a new wrinkle on it completely.