Isn’t this all obvious?


I was talking about my seminar the other day to a friend of mine. I gave her an abbreviated spiel about budgeting, the Income, Bills, Expenses separation (or IBE, which I’ve been increasingly pronouncing as “Ebay” for some reason). She listened attentively and then said to me: “That’s great but, I don’t know, isn’t that all obvious?”

I am Captain Obvious

My impulsive response was one of indignation. In my mind I went, “What!? Of course it’s not obvious!” But it didn’t take a lot of soul searching to realize that my indignation was due to my own insecurity. Because deep down, I really do worry that I’m saying a lot of really obvious things that are not only transparent to everyone who’s reading, but also have been written almost identically in thousands of places by people much more eloquent than me. Who am I to be doing this?

Thankfully, I was able to put aside my indignation and say, “well, maybe, maybe not. Maybe to some people, I guess.” Because really, I think it can be a bit dangerous to assume what is obvious to other people, as you’re likely to be wrong at some point.

For example, I studied physics in college, and while I know that isn’t a very common field of study, I still have to catch myself from assuming that people know what I consider “basic” things. Things like: there would be no sound if an explosion happened in space; a brighter star is not necessarily bigger or closer than a fainter one; or even that heavier objects don’t fall faster than lighter ones.

So I’ll go on record and say that some of my budgeting money sign-out sheet advice, among much else I talk about here, is going to sound obvious to some people. If you have read some of my money posts and thought “Of course you have to keep track of your money, otherwise how do you know how much you have?” then great. Go fly somewhere cool, or help fight the lawn mower army with me. There are plenty of other topics to be interested in here.

But for the rest of you reading this, something might click with you, perhaps in a way that it hasn’t before. That’s certainly my hope.

Soon to be Admiral Obvious

I’ll go a step further, and state that even obvious ideas aren’t always easily internalized.

  • If you eat less and exercise more, you’ll lose weight…so why aren’t you?
  • If you’re feeling tired, you probably need more sleep…so why don’t you?
  • You’re beautiful…and yet you don’t feel this way why?

So yeah, knowing things are clearly not enough to get people to change behavior.

Making the obvious useful

So what is enough, then?

  • Repetition. If you keep hearing the same things, you’re more likely to internalize them. See also that great idea to hang out with positive, inspiring people.
  • Emotional appeal. When I say how I got out out of debt and felt freer, less stressed, and more optimistic than I had in my entire adult life, I’m not saying it to brag. I’m saying it to get you to do it and feel that for yourself.
  • Seeing the alternatives. Remember the burning building.
  • Repetition. Just saying.

So yeah, some of what I say is obvious. I’m okay with that, because that doesn’t mean that these things don’t still need to be said.

But enough about me. What’s obvious to you that you still aren’t taking to heart?


  1. saulofhearts

    Completely agree. Obviousness is all relative. Because I’m always reading about the Share Economy, or Burning Man, or some other interest — and because most of the people I follow share those interests as well — I assume everyone else is as up-to-date on these topics as I am. And then I realize that’s not the case, and that “being informed” is more about stumbling across the right information at the right time by the right person. There’s no tipping point at which something becomes so obvious it isn’t worth repeating.

    • Mike

      In particular, I think Burning Man is the perfect example of something that’s completely obvious to someone who’s been there, but totally alien to anyone else!

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