Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil Liniment

We can look back about 100 years or so and see simple people looking for simple solutions to complex problems. What fools they were!

Take for example, the 1916 advertisement for Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil Liniment. It advertised itself as “Is good for everything a liniment out to be good for.” It then listed some of the problems you might have.

  • Rheumatism
  • Neuralgia
  • Sciatica
  • Lame back
  • Lumbago
  • Contracted cords (huh?)
  • Toothache
  • Sprains
  • Swelling
  • (I’m sure you can fit that malady.”

Fortunately, in 1917 the U.S. District for Rhode Island got them on a “misbranding” charge and fined them a whole $20.00. (No, I did not miss a decimal place, they fine them 20 bucks.)

Fortunately, we are so much more sophisticated today.

Or are we?

I like to roam around bookstores and look at the titles of serious business books. Heck, I’ve even written a few. But I cringe when I see books with titles that include any of the following snake oil phrases:

  • “The Secret of …….” (Really, is there a secret I’ve missed and can now find for 30 bucks or so?)
  • “The One Skill You Need to ……..” (Wow! I can become rich and famous by picking up a single skill? I wonder if Tiger will ever write a ‘one skill’ golf book?)
  • The Leadership Secrets of ……” (Hmmm, I wonder why Jesus and Atilla the Hun are two titles I’ve seen. I never realized they had so much in common.)

Here’s the punchline – LIFE IS COMPLICATED, DEAL WITH IT. Think, dammit, think!

If you think life is so simple that it comes down to “one thing” improvement, you are a 21st-century version of a snake oil customer. You’re either desperate or looking for the easy way out.

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