Here’s Why You Should Stop Trying to Go Viral

(Photo by NAUSHIL ANSARI from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/jet-plane-show-672664/)

After walking to the stage, pumping his fist, and yelling ecstatically, Chancelor Bennett gives a nervous chuckle when he finally gets behind the microphone.

The crowd is on edge, waiting to see what this first-time Grammy winner will say. Every musical celebrity is packed into an enormous room which, somehow, actually seems too small for the amount of collective influence. Everyone is dressed to the nines, even Chancellor, despite the grey hat perched on his head. It boasts a single number — 3.

Clearing his throat, the winner speaks:

“I want to thank God and for my mother and my father who supported me since I was young. For Kirsten. For Kinsely. For all of Chicago.”

When he says the word “Chicago,” a roar bursts out of the crowd. There is applause, as if Chicago is more than just some town, as if Chancelor is more than Best New Artist of 2017. Why did this happen? Is Chicago merely a cool town? Or is there something more going on here?

Chancelor Bennett won his first Grammy in 2017 for an album titled “Coloring Book.” Coloring Book was considered to be a masterpiece by most experts in his genre. It was filled with innovative ideas. Superstars pitched in to help write each of the pieces, and the output what was some called “simply genius.”

During the final three months before the album was finished, Chancelor and nearly 20 of his friends — other musicians, family members, show promoters, etc. — lived in the studio. Typically this is an expression. For Chancelor, he meant it literally. His daughter slept next to him on the floor most nights as they sacrificed as much as they could for the music.

“There was a lot of fatigue and tension,” he said in an interview. “But the last time we played [the record] before we sent it in, we knew it was perfect.”

It was perfect. At least, the whole of the musical world thought so. On May 13, 2016, Chancelor Bennett — more commonly known as Chance the Rapper — delivered Coloring Book to Apple, and his world changed forever.


Here are a few questions which deserve an answer:

Why is Chance the Rapper still selling out shows all over the world?

Why has he become a massive brand who is turning down label offers left and right?

Why do people know his name, even though his album does not have as many views as other “viral” stars?

Why does he continue to dominate in a highly competitive field (music), in a genre which might be the most competitive of the options (hip-hop).

My best guess? Chance tapped into a secret. Before clutching a trophy in front of an audience of millions, he grabbed a microphone in front of tens. Chance had to become king of Chicago before he could be seen worldwide.

He unlocked The Law of Early Diffusion.

The Law of Early Diffusion is simply a theory of how fast new technologies and ideas take hold. Originally conceived in the 1960s, this premise has been tweaked, stretched, pulled, and updated even to this day.

The Law of Early Diffusion focuses on the 2 segments on the left.

A popular article is Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans. In the premise of 1,000 True Fans, Kelly suggests if you were to ignore the allure of worldwide fame and set a goal to gain 1,000 true fans, your career would flourish, as they would carry you on to victory through their own social connections.

I would reduce the scale even more. If you are just getting started, 10 true fans is plenty.

There’s a problem with that, though. It is boring to sell your art to 10 people. It is sexy to sell your art to 10 MILLION people. Therefore, The Law of Early Diffusion is often ignored, momentum is never gained, a dream dies quietly, and another creative goes back to sit in a grey office surrounded by grey walls and grey desks and grey people, chained to someone else’s vision.

What if you weren’t worried about selling a massive amount of work right now?

Hold on, let me say that again with better formatting so you don’t miss it.

What if you weren’t worried about selling a massive amount of work right now?

Instead, what if you focused now on making the small decisions which would enable you to do exactly whatever you want the rest of your life? What if you gave it all to your early adopters, even if there are only a few of them?

The Law of Early Diffusion is critical to building a career that lasts as opposed to being another flash-in-the-pan internet sensation. Think of the waves crashing onto the shore from the ocean. They don’t just pop up spontaneously. The currents build and move, aligning themselves together. Water swells in a current over and over until enough momentum is built to tip the wave. What was one thousands of individual drops of water now becomes a powerful force, crashing into the coast and dragging dirt, sand, and people with it.

“Going viral,” is more like a freak thunderstorm. It gets a lot of attention in a moment, but is quickly forgotten.

We like to think something magical happens just at that moment when we “make it.” When we’re retweeted by an influencer. When a post goes viral. When we cross the first million views.

But what if that isn’t the case?

What if one post doesn’t change your life? What if it’s the act of posting that changes you?

What if one retweet doesn’t change your life? What if it’s the making a point to go on Twitter and reply to everyone who likes what you do no matter what their status?

What if a degree doesn’t change your life? What if going to classes, paying attention, and meeting new people makes the difference?

Few transitions happen in one jaw-dropping, caterpillar-to-butterfly moment.

Instead, true transformation occurs so gradually one barely even notices it.

Keep the faith.

Stick to the path.

You got this.


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— TB