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Head Coach: Nothing works all the time

By By Lane Johnson
March 15, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 14, 2012 at 10:15 p.m.


On Valentine's Day I took my wife to dinner and dancing. The occasion was a fundraiser for a well-established nonprofit organization in Victoria.

There was also a silent auction. If you are not familiar with silent auctions, you browse through a selection of donated items and bid on the ones you want by silently writing your name on a list in front of the item with an offer higher than the previous bidder.

The bidding goes on for a few hours so you can always check back to see if you are still the high bidder and try again if you aren't. I like to see what's up for bid, but I don't do auctions. They scare me. I'm always afraid I will get caught in some crossfire bidding and accidentally buy something I either don't want or can't afford.

My wife, on the other hand, approaches fundraiser silent auctions from a whole different perspective. She takes it upon herself to see how high she can manipulate the bidding in order to raise more money for the sponsoring nonprofit.

She has no intention of buying anything. She just works the bidding higher. So she pulls me up there and tells me to write my name on this item, then that one, and that one, and so on.

"I don't want any of these things," I whined.

"That doesn't matter," she replied. "It's early in the bidding. Someone will raise you. This just makes more money for the fundraiser."

She showed me how to bid on items that already have four or five names on the list. That means several people are interested in the item and at least one will bid again if I raise the stakes.

By the time we worked our way through the auction goods I had placed my name and bid on five selections. I was nervous. How was I going to pay for all of this?

"Don't worry," she assured me. "You won't have to buy any of this. We're just raising money. Someone will outbid you. It works every time."

Well, nothing works every time. Something might work almost all of the time. But nothing works all of the time.

I know this because throughout life I seem to always end up as the designated exception to the rule. It seems that any time I do something because some one assures me it works every time that's the rare time it doesn't.

I'm the guy who plays a slot machine just before the next guy who comes along and with one pull of the arm wins a jackpot.

So, when my wife said it works every time I felt a shiver from deep within. It was a bad omen.

You know where this is going, don't you? My wife's clever little plan that works every time didn't work this time. Of the five bids I made, I won all but one of them. I was now the proud owner of several pieces of merchandise I didn't want and couldn't afford. What I was no longer the proud owner of was several hundred dollars.

I was, however, the not-so proud owner of another collection of lessons learned the hard way. Here's what I learned:

Nothing works all the time.

Auctions are for bidding, not raising.

Never offer to spend money you aren't willing to end up spending.

Nothing works all the time.

Follow your instincts. Not someone else's.

When in doubt, don't do it.

Nothing works all the time.

If you set out to philanthropically raise more money for a nonprofit it may be your money that gets raised.

Don't do auctions.

Nothing works all the time.

Did I mention nothing works all the time?

This is why I don't do auctions. Every time I do, I accidentally buy what I don't want and can't afford. You see, even the phrase "nothing works all the time" doesn't work all the time. Some things actually do.

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by email at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.

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