too-many-choicesFrom the Ask Naomi mailbag:

Hi Naomi,

You don’t know me, but my boyfriend is a reader of yours and he suggested I reach out to you. I’m overwhelmed and I need help.

He said you have some posts on how to manage all the things you’re supposed to be doing. Not like, productivity. More like, all the directions you’re supposed to be going in at once. I have all these people telling me I need to do ALL THE THINGS (FB, Instagram, Twitter, blogging, paid traffic, list, content marketing, etc, etc) in order to succeed and I don’t know how you manage to do all that and sleep.

In short, “argh argh, there are too many things, all the things, all the people say I should do everything argh thud wibble”

I’ve Googled and my Google Fu has come up empty. Can you help?

RJ

Hi RJ!

Ahh. Well, good question. Hmm. Your boyfriend is quite correct. That is the sort of thing I talk about.

However!

I have looked through 6 pages (aka 60 posts) of my own website and even I cannot find anything that meets this description. Therefore, I now give up in defeat. Apparently both he and I believe I have said things on this topic, and neither you nor I can find them. I shall therefore channel my inner W.C. Fields and say, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”

Having said that, I do have some thoughts.

Stop listening.

Simply stop listening.

You see, there are three types of people who give out free, tactical advice on the internet.

Camp Number 1: “I succeeded this way, therefore this is the way to succeed.”

These people achieved whatever they have achieved via one means only (Instagram, say) and therefore are going around saying, “Instagram is the way!”

These people are not simply wrong, but stupid and blind to boot.

They either think the other ways don’t work, or only work as auxiliary strategies, or they don’t even think about them at all because, well, Instagram. It’s the way.

Their cognitive bias is so overwhelming that they ignore all evidence that suggests there are those who have succeeded via any other means.

Camp Number 2: “I will gain something by telling you this is the way to succeed.”

These people may or may not have achieved anything, via this means or any other. But there’s some financial (or social) gain they receive from promoting an ideology. Let’s pretend it’s Instagram again.

There are many ways to gain from promoting a method.

There’s the most direct financial compensation, which might be selling their own product about how Instagram is the grooviest.

There’s indirect financial compensation, which might be making affiliate money promoting somebody else’s product about how Instagram is the grooviest.

There’s future financial compensation, through the law of reciprocity. If I promote Suzie’s product, Instagram Is My Homegirl, Suzie may repay my kindness later.

There’s even the social gain from being an affiliate or advocate of a product or ideology. I promote Suzie’s product and gain standing in her little tribe of disciples.

People in this camp may or may not be malevolent. They may or may not also be in camp number 1. Regardless, they’re too biased to listen to.

Camp 3. “I get there are many roads to Rome, but I will happily teach you the road I know.”

These people are the ones you want to listen to.

They’re not saying Instagram is the way. They’re saying that Instagram is a way, and they’ll teach you if you want it.

This is how most online guru types start out. They really just want to help. But over the years, many come to the conclusion that if they’re not loud and obnoxious and channeling their inner Donald Trump, nobody pays attention. So gradually, nice people who just want to help become irrational, camp number 1 screamers.

(If you find a teacher you like in camp 3, give them money and good feedback. Hopefully they’ll stay nice.)

The first two camps make up the overwhelming majority.

Your experience is a common one. You’re not alone. This comes up a lot.

The thing to realize is that your experience says “all the people say I should do everything”, and I validate that experience. You’re right. That’s what it feels like. There are a lot of people, and they’re all shouting and cajoling, and you’re hearing 100 different things you should be doing.

This is true. But if we look a little closer, we realize that each individual person is generally only shouting about one or two things. This person’s yammering about FB ads and webinars, and this person’s on Instagram, and this one says search, and so on.

If, instead of looking at them as “all the things you should be doing”, you look at them as salespeople selling you their food at a carnival, it becomes a very different situation.

What you actually have is a large group of people shouting, “Buy funnel cakes!” “Buy cotton candy!” “But a corn dog!” “Join PETA!”

Nobody’s saying you have to eat all of them. Each of them just wants you to choose their thing.

It’s the same with marketing strategies, tactics, and ideologies.

In that situation, you go away to a quiet place and narrow down your options. Narrow your options to one or two or three palatable ones that feel like they might be fun and won’t make you go thud.

Then, if you want, go to the people who are shouting about those things and listen to them, or possibly buy their products.

Ignore everything else.

There are some exceptions, certainly. Depending on your line of work, being utterly pathetic at something may be conspicuous, and you may want to remedy that, but that can usually be achieved by hiring something out. But that’s usually just an appearance issue. You won’t actually lose money because you’re not on Twitter. You might look like an idiot if you haven’t been there for three years, or you only show up when you’re launching your latest WhizBangTM. But if you don’t want to do Twitter, don’t do Twitter.

And don’t listen to people who are so blind they honestly think they know the only way. Throw eggs at these people.

Hopefully that helps a little. If nothing else, it gave you something to read in the midst of the thudding.

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