#21 - All Marketers Are Evil (And Other Lies) 🐍
China, M. Night Shyamalan, and The Power of Serendipity
Welcome to Long Way Home🏡, where I share thoughts on creativity, emotional intelligence, and happiness. Thanks to everybody who reached out after last week's post about things I miss from pre-pandemic life. Your virtual hugs are appreciated.
In this week's LWH🏡:
💫 - All Marketers Are Evil (And Other Lies) 🐍 by Vandan Jhaveri
🎙 - Jason Zweig - The Power of Serendipity on Invest Like the Best
🎥 - How to Design Impenetrable Airport Security by Wendover Productions
Let's get into this week's essay.
All Marketers Are Evil (And Other Lies) 🐍
A well-tailored suit hanging on a thin, tall frame. Pinstripe. Gelled back hair, maybe some grey streaks sprinkled throughout, showing age. A gold tooth and a trained smile to reveal it. This man, in a lot full of shiny, over-priced cars that have polish on the hood but unreliable junk underneath it.
This man is a master salesman because his livelihood depends on it. He's desperate, he's aggressive, and most of all, he's untrustworthy. His products' benefits are inversely proportionate to how much he talks about them. The louder he trumpets their stellar qualities, the further you should stand away from them. He'll say anything to get you to buy.
Last, this man is deeply annoying. He hovers, pouncing when he sees opportunity to offer unsolicited advice to close a deal. He's obsessed with the customer, but the customer is perpetually counting the minutes until the salesman leaves them alone.
We all know this man—the quintessential slimy salesman. Becoming him would be nightmare.
A series of self-limiting beliefs keep creatives from publicly sharing their work. For example, I imagine that I sound like the man I described each time I share my work. The harshness with which we judge him is the same harshness with which I imagine being judged.
Of course, this is ridiculous.
As creators, the better we understand how these self-limiting beliefs affect our decision-making, the better we can ignore our own sabotaging impulses and get our work in front of people who find it valuable. In today's article, I'll be talking about two core, loosely-related fallacy that hold me back on a daily basis: the Evil Marketing Fallacy and the Undiscovered Genius Fallacy.
Evil Marketing Fallacy
I reserve a healthy amount of skepticism when a corporation nudges me to buy something. A distrust for corporation and the immigrant's deeply embedded "too-good-to-be-true" hesitancy makes me immediately feel as though I'm being duped. I'm convinced that I'm being told all of the good and none of the bad and I'd be a sucker to purchase. And there's a sense of pride in resisting the allure of salaciously crafted marketing material.
After all, only chumps buy from ads, right?
This idea that the inherent function of a marketer is to trick you and steal your money is absurd. Poor products and immoral businesses surely have marketing budgets, but to say that all marketing is evil is demonstrably incorrect.
Unfortunately, this mentality extends from corporations to creators. As a creator, it's easy for me to feel like a fraud whenever sharing my work. Somehow, putting myself out there feels like attempting to trick others in some self-serving way. At the core of this feeling is a lack of confidence. I'm asking people to use their finite time to subscribe to my newsletter and read my writing knowing full well there are hundreds of thousands of more valuable things to read on the internet. It feels like self-promoting creators, myself included, are actively trying to divert precious attention away from more important uses for that attention—the master plan behind all marketing.
This, of course, isn't fair to the thousands of creators who are working each day to hone their craft, gather feedback from the market, and share valuable ideas. If everybody thought that their creative output was pulling people away from more valuable uses of time, the internet would be a barren landscape, traversed by only the most delusional, narcissistic creators.
It's possible to be humble and well-intentioned while also wanting to get your work in front of the people who would most likely enjoy it.
Undiscovered Genius Fallacy
Adjacent to the evil marketing fallacy is the idea that marketing is only necessary when the product/service can't sell itself. A tenacious but deeply flawed idea is that a great product or service will attract customers on its own merit—that marketing something is somehow cheating or admitting that the product or service isn't valuable enough to keep and hold customers on its own. In this twisted way, the fact that I need to share my work for it to get a reader's attention is a testament to its lack of worthiness for that very same attention.
As a creator, this illogical idea is encapsulated in the phrase "If you build it, they will come". But they won't, because they will have no clue where to go.
Creators, especially writers, are shackled by the romantic notion of "being discovered." We all dream of toiling away into the wee hours of the night in an unhygienic, dimly lit room and having a celebrity's retweet or a viral post relieving us of our have-not lifestyles. Deep down, we all fantasize about going from being relatively unknown to being thrusted into the limelight. We all want our lives changed, and it's easier to imagine a dramatic, film-inspired transformation than a drawn-out rags-to-riches story that takes place over years or decades.
In reality, people don't get luckily discovered. After listening, watching, and reading literally hundreds of origin stories by successful founders and creators, I can confidently say that nobody fell into fame and fortune by happenstance. None of them were creating in isolation, waiting on an email from a venture capital firm, record label, or publishing house out of the blue. They were in the arena for years, iterating based on feedback from their audiences or customers.
For successful creators, marketing and self-promotion isn't a slimy afterthought—it's a core competency. As creators, talking about ourselves doesn't need to be a dirty thing. It's the only way people will ever get value out of the creations into which we pour ourselves.
Like most things, it's not what we do, it's how we do it. And we've all seen tactful creators share their work in ways that engage and inspire. They humanize the creative process, admit the experimental nature of their work, and seemingly detach themselves from the end result. If you find value in their work, that's wonderful, but if not, that's okay too. It really is.
The Gumption to Share
More than anything, this is all a reminder to myself. Readers of this newsletter know that last week was my twentieth issue. Five months of weekly newsletters. I haven't missed a single Wednesday. If I had to account for how I split my energy, writing would account for 98% of it, and sharing my writing would account for the other 2%. For all the work I put into this thing, I spend an abysmally small amount of time getting in front of the eyes of people who might find valuable. The ickiness I feel when I think of self-promoting isn't doing me any favours.
Here's a long quote from the creator of The Onion, Scott Dikkers, talking about the importance of putting yourself out there:
There is a persistent myth in the entertainment business that it's the most talented people who become successful and get their work seen by everybody...but one of the things I realized is that it's not the funniest or the most talented or the most creative people who succeed. It's the people who work the hardest and put themselves out there, who produce and publish work, put work in front of people. There's a certain type of personality that can do that. You have to believe in yourself. You have to somehow, on some level, believe that what you have to say is worth seeing. For a lot of people, a lot of really funny, talented people, they're just not there. They don't have that feeling...they reject themselves before they ever give themselves a chance to be rejected by the wider audience...
The only people that succeed at anything in the creative space are the people who have that gumption, that persistence, that work ethic to put work together and put it out there. Among those people, a lot of them aren't talented, and they still do fine.
How sad, for an original creator to be written off as wasted potential because they didn't have the gumption to share.
Quality is table stakes, but in the words of Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States, unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Good writing and good ideas are a dime a dozen. Doing brilliant work alone will not get us noticed. Creators must get in the habit doing the best work we possibly can, and then feeling proud enough to share it. A lot. It's not tacky and it's not intrusive.
🎙 - The Lucky Investor
I first heard of Jason Zweig when I noticed a copy of The Intelligent Investor with commentary from him at a local thrift store. I figured that if Zweig was reputable enough to have his commentary on one of the most renowned investing books of all time published, he's certainly worth my time.
When I scrolled to the very beginning of the Invest like the Best feed and saw his name, I knew that I would start with that episode. Among much more, Zweig delves into:
Why critical thinking and self-control are the two most important principles for investors
His favourite (non-finance) books
His favourite investment journalists
The role that luck has played in his career
Listen here for the serendipitous story of how Zweig ended up getting the opportunity to get is name on The Intelligent Investor, the very book that exposed me to him in that thrift store.
🎙 - Into the Night
I'm obsessed with learning the origin stories of creators of colour. They always have stories of how they informed their parents that they wanted to pursue a less predictable career or study the arts. The creator of The Sixth Sense, Signs, and The Village was no different.
One of my favourite clips from the episode:
That's an immigrant mentality. The first time I told [my mom] this amazing thing, you know, that Bill Clinton asked for me to come to the White House to have dinner. My mom was like 'Oh, oh, my God, this is amazing. Maybe something good will come of this!' I'm like 'Mom, dad, that's the good thing. That was the good thing. He's not going to give me part of the country or an island.'
Shyamalan details how he was able to make 2020 his busiest professional year ever amidst a global pandemic and how anxiety over the success of his newest project is something that he always struggles with.
Listen here to learn the writing habits that allows Shyamalan to be one of the most original and prolific writers in Hollywood.
🎥 - Sir, Could You Please Stand Off To The Side For Me, Please?
Airport security is a nuisance for all of us (some of us more than others) no matter where in the world you are. But in 2015, the TSA let through 95% of weapons, drugs, explosives, and other prohibited materials that were intentionally planted to assess the efficacy of the organization. Clearly, they failed. A few years later, the number dropped to 70%. An improvement, but nothing to call home about.
If the TSA and other airport security agencies around the world aren't catching the majority of illegal materials crossing international borders, is it worth the hundreds of millions of dollars the US spends on airport security every year? Wendover Productions has something to say about this.
Watch here for how Israel employs highly questionable racial profiling methods to keep their airport one of the safest in the world.
🎥 - Never Enough
China, the world's most populous country, is forced to contend with a variety of geopolitical factors when planning for the future. And if there's anything China's good at, it's planning for the future. Enjoy this 10-minute look at some of the major factors China needs to consider when thinking about its militaristic vulnerabilities.
Watch here to learn why China is investing billions into their friendship with Tibet.