Paul Jarvis

The advice gold rush

We’re currently experiencing an advice gold rush. Everyone is buying up digital land and staking a claim on some expertise they’ve got that will quadruple your audience, monetize your passions and help you receive 104,355,974 visitors to your blog, all while riding a horse and eating a 7-course meal (the fifth course will truly shock you!).

The problem with this situation is much like the real Gold Rush: it’s mostly hype and bullshit, while a few people get rich off the misconceptions of the general public. You buy your own slice of land, pan for gold, and end up with a bunch of rocks, dirt as well as a hefty mortgage.

Advice isn’t inherently bad or evil. What I dislike is everyone’s rush to move away from doing things or making things and into peddling advice instead.

Advice is actually harder to sell than simply doing creative work anyway. Advice requires a critical mass of belief (otherwise known as domain expertise or authority). Yet we rush headlong towards it, hoping we’ll strike gold at any minute.

My friend Sean Blanda wrote a great piece about the Bullshit Industrial Complex and how too many people are pushing their opinions on topics, not because they know and understand the topics, but because they’ve read about them, from someone else, who was quoting someone else.

Sure, we can blame content marketing and a global push to create more and more content at any price for causing people to run out of topics they fully understand and move into topics they think are popular and write about those in a series of pseudo-motivational quotes and tired business parables.

Build your audience!
Grow your revenue!
Decrease bounce rates!
Double your mailing list!
Use Pinterest to drive Facebook to your Twitter account that’s full of SnapChats!!

Which could all be renamed as: I don’t know how to do these things, but I read about them one time in a Medium article with a quote from Richard Branson!

It’s a snake, made out of 💩 eating its own shitty tail, in the shape of an infinity sign. And collectively, we’re buying into the hype and clicking, reading, sharing.

I wonder how many people take into account the end person consuming their advice? Or if it’s just a game to build themselves up on the back of more clicks, follows and subscribes. How much advice is simply warped by time, opinions or quirks?

There’s no harm in fully immersing yourself in your craft – not just to further your knowledge, skills and experience, but to truly figure out your own personal take on what you do or the industry you’re a part of.

The worst part is sometimes we inadvertently end up in the Bullshit Industrial Complex ourselves. It’s a slow but slippery slope that typically starts with “If I could just reach more people, I’d be set” and ends up with teaching a webinar about The 10 vaguest ways to become successful with passive income and hoping it converts like hell. (Note: I’d sign up to watch that.) And then we start believing our own bullshit.

There is such a fine line between knowing enough to be ready to dole out advice en masse and doubting yourself as a person who’s worthy of sharing. (I’d actually rather continue to doubt myself and my authority than believe my own bullshit.)

I’m not nearly immune either—I’ve been on both sides of the line and had to reel myself back and reconsider why I really do what I do several times in my career.

Before taking or following any sort of advice, it’s important to consider a few things:

To be clear, this isn’t an attempt to vanquish BuzzFeed-style listicles forever or put business coaches out of business. I actually think that everyone has a voice worthy of sharing and that everyone has something they can teach another person. What I’m speaking about here is people moving away from their own voice, their own thoughts, their own expertise and into spewing words to get an “AS SEEN ON” logo for their homepage or make a quick buck or add “best-selling author” to their Twitter bio.

Write, speak, share. But think about why you’re doing those things. Is it because you want more authority for the sake of authority (or for the sake of higher speaking fees)? Or is it to help others with what you’ve actually learned? The former may net short-term gains, but I don’t see it working out over the span of a career. Not in terms of sustaining your business and definitely not in terms of being able to look at yourself in the mirror and not wanting to vomit a little.

So before you go out and buy up all the land you can’t afford, in the hopes that gold will be tucked away in a stream, consider working the land you’ve already got, even if it’s small and without gold, and perhaps grow something you can be proud of (like squash or celery).

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