John D. Spooner is an investment adviser, author and novelist. His most recent book is No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults. Here, he responds to queries from advice seekers of all ages. Send your conundrums to


Well, friendships are often difficult to navigate. So is actual love. And remember, like the title of this column, it’s all one big “dance,” the ebb and flow of relationships, somewhat like charting the movement of stock markets.

This is what you can do: Call your friend and tell her that you really need her advice and counsel, and that only a one-on-one will give you the answers you need. She, of course, will respond. She would never suggest that she bring her boyfriend to anything as personal as an airing of your problems.

When you meet, make up some family issue she can help you with. Then shoot the breeze about other things friends talk about. And when her new beau comes up, say something like, “I really enjoy hanging out with you two, and I know you guys are in love and want to be with each other all of the time. But a girls’ night out like this is good therapy once in a while. I’d love to get another one on the calendar soon.” A little absence will only make the heart grow fonder—for all three of you.


First, a story about one person’s solution to this. Then, advice that’s a little less dramatic.

A friend of mine who loves cars is also a hysterical comic, someone who was Borat long before Borat. Among other things, he claims he can get money back from deadbeats who owe you. In original ways. Some years ago, he did something he never thought he would do: He bought a Mercedes after promising he would never buy a German car. He couldn’t resist a certain model. But after driving his new purchase for a week, several problems occurred with various systems. He brought it back to the dealer for fixing, and they assured him that all was well. But again, after another few days, the problems came back. My friend tends to get hot under the collar, so he demanded a full refund or a new car. “This isn’t happening, sir,” he was told. “Depreciation. You drove it for weeks. Here’s what we’re prepared to do.”

My friend hit the roof, citing lemon laws, etc. “Sue us,” he was told.

“That’s your last word?”

The car manager pointed to the door. My friend went home. Then he headed for a costume store and bought the full regalia of a Hasidic Jewish observer: black coat, hat, fake side curls and beard. Then he painted a big sign, threw it in the backseat of the lemon and went back to the car agency. I might underscore that my friend is Jewish. He picketed in front of the dealership, carrying the sign that read, “Do you want to do business with anti-Semites?”

After 20 minutes, the owner of the dealership came out and told my friend, “I’m bringing you a check for your full purchase and a release to sign. And I hope I never lay eyes on you ever again.”

He probably could get you back your money, too. But he also told me about sites like, which may help you solve your car problem yourself. If you go to the site, you can virtually describe your own custom car and find out all the various price points at whatever dealers are available in your area. One of my assistants tried it recently with excellent success. The knowledge of the real inside scoop will make it difficult to screw us over. But people will always try.


Don’t panic. It’s like coming to a new school, and we’re all insecure in that environment. But you would not be on the board unless people in power thought you were worthy. Or rich. It’s a money game on nonprofit boards. Sad but true. And we have dozens, perhaps hundreds of worthy nonprofits in Boston that serve real needs. But the beasts have to be fed.

On any new board, I would suggest a few things. First, I’d reach out to individual board members you do not know and offer to take them to lunch. They will all respond with enthusiasm to that. Meeting one on one is a great way to really know your fellow members and get their impressions of the organization, the backstories you will never learn at board meetings.

These meetings will help you figure out the second stage of this new adventure: finding your niche. You cannot be great at everything. Discover how you can add value to the organization, and concentrate on that.

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