In 1521, the Conquistadores were besieging the Aztecs in their capital, Tenochtitlan.
One soldier kept complaining that he didn’t know why they didn’t just use a trebuchet to hurl rocks at the enemy and knock holes in the walls.
He kept bragging that he’d been in Italy at the siege of Garallano and the trebuchet used there destroyed the enemy defences.
Eventually the leader, Hernan Cortes, said he’d gladly use a trebuchet but they didn’t have any engineers who could build one.
The soldier said he’d seen them being built, it wasn’t difficult, just give him the carpenters and the material and he could build one.
So Cortes had his men collect the wood, the iron, the stone, the ropes, then he told his carpenters to build the trebuchet exactly to the soldier’s instructions.
The soldier knew what he was doing, he’d seen one being built, he knew it wasn’t difficult.
The carpenters spent weeks getting the trebuchet exactly as the soldier told them.
Eventually it was hauled up outside the walls of Tenochtitlan.
It took four days just to position it correctly and aim it exactly, while the Spaniards taunted the Aztecs inside the walls about the destruction they were about to face.
Eventually the soldier said everything was ready, just as he’d seen it.
A huge rock was placed in the sling and the arm was wound back to full tension.
The counter-balance was released, the arm swung and the sling released the stone, but the stone went straight up into the air.
Once it had gone as high as it could go it fell back down and smashed the trebuchet to bits.
There was rejoicing from the Aztecs but stunned silence from the Spaniards.
That’s what happens when someone watches someone else do a job and thinks: “That looks easy, I bet I could do that”.
Of course we see it a lot, a client looks at a commercial and thinks: “Is that all there is to it: Something bad is happening then my product saves the day and everyone dances. I could do that.”
Two recent-ish examples have been for Pepsi where, to much fanfare, the client took the creative work in-house and made a commercial starring Kendall Jenner: massive riot – model gives cop Pepsi – riot over, everyone dances.
Or the Gillette commercial, which ‘solves’ the problem of toxic masculinity.
In each case, the commercials the clients wrote created tons of negative publicity and had to be quickly pulled, costing millions.
Similar to the self-built trebuchet destroying itself.
Because what looked easy wasn’t quite so easy as it looked.
In any profession, there are many, many things that have to be considered that aren’t immediately apparent to someone watching.
We’ve all experienced the client saying they want more words in an ad, we advise against it but the client insists, so we put the extra words in.
But now the client looks at the ad and says the type is too small and hard to read.
Well yes, the size of the ad is finite so it’s a zero-sum game, if there are more words they’ll be smaller.
This is obvious to us because we’ve been doing it for years, but it’s not obvious to someone who’s only been watching us do it.
Which is true of any job.
What a plumber does, or a builder, or a mechanic, looks easy until you try to do it yourself.
That’s when you find out why you should hire a professional.
You hire someone because they’ve spent years learning from the mistakes you’re making.
Which is why you pay them.
They’ve learned from the mistakes so you don’t have to.