In defense of the offensive against “content”
Ben Belser

Not Great Men

Anything you can do, 150 people are also doing right now

(quick note 1 — this is a response to Ben Belser’s response to my response to his article)

(quick note 2 — for maximum effect, play this before/after reading)

There’s no need for apology here, and I certainly wasn’t asking for one — this is just discussion. Thanks for taking the time to respond — some further thoughts below.

I fully agree with your point on this odd genre of self-help/inspirational thinking that pervades the startup world. In fact, I made this last week as a nice inspirational reminder:

Full disclosure: I’ve read too much Burroughs and Gysin to dismiss the utility of magical thinking (not in service of wish fulfillment, and only in very specific and non-work-related scenarios). Different wheelhouse, but it bears mention.

Much of the “inspirational” writing on Medium, however, can be reduced to snake oil a la The Secret. Given that we’re both marketers, I’m sure we’ve both grown weary of the “crush it, brah” types — the prime target audience for these pieces.

As a side note: the pressure for relentless homogenous optimism (essentially, living one’s life like a GoPro ad) is a significant force pushing through the platitude parties. In that sense — and I get the feeling you agree with me here — the issue is much larger than Medium.

With that out of the way, I’d further contest your idea of “originality” — even as a term of convenience. In dismissing the din of articles making similar points on Medium, you’ve run in the opposite direction to Great Man theory. The two historically original figures you mention both existed pre-Internet, in an age when samizdat meant obscurity or a slow build to notoriety — now it can mean instant microframe, as your original article demonstrates. It’s entirely possible — probable, in fact — that other artists created art on par with Picasso. But he was a great brand, well funded, connected, and better marketed. Also, he was apparently never called an asshole.

It’s harder and harder to justify the idea that “mouth-watering, earth-shattering, mind-blowing works of creativity” come from a small, universally agreed-upon, set of people. Feel free to throw some examples of such people forward, and I guarantee you there are critics (armchair, professional, or that nebulous in-between that exists on sites like Medium) who will tell you why they’re overrated or just plain wrong. Sincere or just contrarian, those dissenting voices are loud and well-circulated.

While the Medium staff do curate articles, I’ve found the more charming nature here to be the small pockets of interest that manifest specifically in our personal feeds. Think of it as Medium’s ABM strategy for getting us all to write more.

As to you as a marketer — I assumed that was your position outright. I guess the mask is off? I wouldn’t worry so much about concealing yourself — we all have a personal brand to maintain, and I’m sure your employer is pleased to see your ideas gain such a wide reach.