Should You Embellish Your Success?

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Welcome to Arvid and Tyler Catch Up. I'm Arvid.

I'm Tyler. Let's catch up.

I'm good. I'm good. I'm much, much, much better.

If folks listened to last week, I was coming off of a pretty serious illness

and a whole bunch of dramatic changes in the business all at once.

Frantically trying to just tread water.

I've been spending most of the last week or so just heads down

reviewing applications, talking to founders, all the fun parts of my job.

I'm really good.

I'm happy to hear it. That was quite the week. You got everything at the same time.

It's really bad. I'm glad to see you smile again.

You always try to keep a smile on, I guess, but it comes from a deeper, more healthy place.

These are just our moments to practice being calm.

The universe is just giving us a couple of workouts for that.

There's always this time of year when my allergies start

kicking in. I always get a little bit frustrated with just breathing.

That is also a nice opportunity to just practice calmness because a calm breath

is a less agitated one and it keeps your body in a better mood as well.

I'm certainly glad to just know that

there is a way to deal with all these things. Not that my life was as stressful as yours

over the last couple of days, but it's nice to know.

Total tangent, but have you read the book Breath by James Nestor?

It's somewhat recent, last couple of years. Especially if you have allergies.

Definitely recommend it. Very, very cool book. Literally just all about the

science and practice of breathing. I just read it. It was super timely.

I was dealing with allergies and sinus infections and the whole thing.

It's very frustrating when you literally can't breathe. It's like, "Hey, breathing is super important.

Not doing it well is really bad for you." You're like, "Great. I can't breathe through my nose."

When you get back up and you can do it, there's a whole bunch of practices

and mindfulness around breathing correctly that I found super interesting.

And also just really easy to put in practice day to day.

I would definitely recommend it. Thanks so much. You know the problem with having some sort of disposable income?

Every time somebody recommends a book, I immediately have to buy it because I have no reason not to.

It's the worst. That's a champagne problem right here. Thanks for that suggestion.

I will definitely do this. I look into these kind of books in particular, just trying to

figure out the basic concepts of life. Like Why We Sleep by Walker was

another book like this. And even though a lot of scientists have a lot of opinions,

the specifics of what people in that field that try to make it more popular,

they kind of skim over certain things and certain things may not work as well as they want it to

for the cohesiveness of the argument. But I still love having some level of insight. So thanks for that.

I'm very much looking forward to doing this. I've been amplifying my reading schedule

since we're talking about what we're doing because I'm trying to get back into a writing habit

for the book that I want to write, not just for my weekly writing, which I also enjoy quite a lot. And I get a lot

of fun of. But you know, a more extensive project, my building public book project

essentially. And I've talked about this a lot over the last couple of weeks. There are little things happening here or there.

And I think last week I talked about how well should I self publish or should I go the

traditional route? We had that conversation. And Brendan Dunn has been really helpful

because he's publishing one right now the traditional way. And he's been trying to encourage me to

go the traditional way as well. It was really nice because it's hard to break into an industry

that has certain expectations that for us indie founders, indie creators, they feel

quite outlandish. But like the idea of trying to have mass appeal goes against anything

that we learn as indie hackers to niche down and be specific and have people that

it's for. And some people or a lot of people who it's not for the traditional industry is slightly

different. So the way you even talk to people about this is also different. Right. If you want to pitch your

project to somebody, you don't pitch a book that is for a couple hundred thousand people.

You say essentially this is what James Clear has done, but for a different audience,

right. Effectively be the most applicable way of looking at the thing you're writing

about. So I'm trying to deal with this like getting so much encouragement from people

that tell me that I should go bigger than what my aspirations are right now. So

can't really go into specifics here, but I'm talking to agents now like actual agents

to maybe help me find a deal somewhere. So that is exciting because it's again,

one of these things I have no idea how to even deal with the conversation that I have with an agent, which is supposedly

a win win situation. But I still don't even know how to approach that to not scare them away or

to not over promise. And we can talk about like being honest and not over

committing in the things that we promise in a minute or two. But

it's kind of hard. It's hard to get into a completely new field when you're so comfortable

in the field you're in right now. Right. By any people like I can I can write a book, I can self publish it. And I know that

there's thousands, if not tens of thousands of people who would support me immediately because they like what I write

anyway and they would just give it a try. But there is a level beyond that and it requires

a very different approach. And I'm as scared as I am excited to go into that world.

So I'm trying to grow, you know, like as a person.

Sure. Kind of. Yeah. Right. And even if you decide not to go

that route, having gone through the process and creating the option to

evaluate it is sound like a super valuable process. How did you

is the way you connect with agents still pretty much just through referrals from other

authors? Is it? Yeah. It's all back channel. And that's the thing that I find

kind of it's funny. I want to write a book about building in public the idea of

attracting attention and credibility through your work that you

present to people without going into DMs or behind

people's backs in a beneficial and positive way. And yet to be able to write

the book the way I want it to write, I have to employ these mechanisms. It's kind of it does

introduce a lot of doubt in me and into my capacity to both

hold the thoughts, you know, the cognitive dissonance of wanting to write about this thing, but having to do things that don't

really necessarily align with it to get to the point where I then can do it. It's

a very complicated way. But yes, there's a lot of back channel stuff, a lot of introductions, a lot of

referrals, a lot of asking people to do you a favor and then, you know, promising something in return

and people not even talking to you if you don't have a referral, that kind of stuff. That is very real.

And in the league that I'm trying to play, it is extremely hard to

get anywhere because I thought I might just as well go big. Go go to the people

who have been supporting these extremely popular books and making them real,

helping people that I've seen succeed incredibly. So I

want to be in that league if I even try. So why not? Because I might as well shoot for the stars. So, yeah,

I've been doing this. Yeah. And the other side of this is I still want to

talk to my self-published friends. So we talked a lot about Paul Miller last week. I think even the week

before. We've been mentioning that guy quite a bit. And I got him to commit

to a podcast interview with me, which is nice. I'm going to chat with him next week and then that'll be

on the show. I'm really looking forward to talking to him. He's been quite supportive of this show,

which I'm extremely grateful for. He put it into his newsletter as well and referenced our

conversation there. And from that alone, people have actually reached out to me.

I saw your thing in Paul's newsletter. So here's my opinion, which is one of the best feelings

for anybody who has friends. It's nice to have friends that help you with these kinds of things to reach

more people. So that was cool. So I'm very excited for that. If you have anything that you think I should ask

him, let me know. Like here or through back channels.

I just want to make this an extremely interesting conversation. And I remember that you've actually hung out

with him a couple weeks ago. So if you have anything nice and surprising

that would surprise him, let me know. I'd be super curious to hear you two riff

on maybe almost designing. So it's funny the parallels between

the traditional publishing industry and the traditional venture capital industry in terms

of you have to get everything through a warm intro and all this sort of stuff.

I'd be curious to hear you two riff on maybe designing

a calm fund for books. What would that look like? What would it have? What would it not have?

That sort of thing. How would you maybe have an open application process

for a publisher or something like that? I don't know. Maybe just

as both being prospective consumers of that, what would you want to see?

Not that I can promise that I'm going to do it, but somebody might do it and that would be great.

Any person that would at least be able to teach me how to do it, it would probably be you.

That is really cool. If you wanted to

be involved, obviously I prefer that because I'm the writer and you're the guy who

knows how to do fun stuff. Talk about fun stuff. What's happening in the

calm fund right now? Let me know how your week went with that.

We had a bunch of big changes that we had to work through the last couple weeks and now

I'm back to the good stuff. My calendar looks a lot more like your

calendar with lots of large blocks, no Zooms and no meetings for a while.

Just reviewing applications. Then I did do a ton of

founder meetings this week. My calendar is just with them.

I'm going to go down doing what is really the fun part of my job. I think it's just analyzing new businesses

and then talking to founders about what they need to get to the next level.

Super fun, super exciting.

It sounds so much better than what happened over the last couple weeks.

It's really cool.

I think we should talk about something.

I think so too.

You've been grappling with this much more directly.

I'm curious to ask you the question.

Maybe here's the back story.

Some people might know, way back in the day, I don't even know, maybe seven, eight years ago,

I started writing an ebook. I called it the MicroSaaS ebook. I learned a bunch of things about

bootstrapping these small SaaS businesses, micro SaaS's, etc.

Learned a bunch of stuff, got a bunch of good advice from a bunch of different people and just started aggregating it into this

ebook. I never finished it. The main reason why I didn't finish it,

I did publish each chapter by chapter, so a lot of people did get some value out of the chapters,

but I never finished it as a project.

The main thing that derailed me was this variation of imposter syndrome.

It's so hard to give advice in this space

without starting to feel like you're creeping into the whole nasty, get rich quick scheme online.

There's varying degrees from the super extreme,

obvious fraudster, huckster kind of crowd to people who have pretty good advice,

but are probably embellishing quite a lot and then still selling you stuff on it.

I just felt kind of icky as I started to wade more and more in there.

I just couldn't properly calibrate.

I'd write something and then I would add 17 caveats to it

because I didn't want to come across as a huckster, but then I'd be like, "Well, this is crap writing.

Nobody wants to read this. It's not to the point."

I just kind of got stuck there.

First question I'd like to hear is, you've been writing in a similar genre for a while and very consistently.

What do you think about and grapple with that or does that even resonate with you at all?

Oh, man, it resonates so much with me on so many levels.

From just writing anything that I write, I always have this feeling of,

"Am I even qualified to do this, to talk about this?" Not necessarily to do it because I've often

literally done the thing that I write about. I try to stay very close to my actual experience.

When it comes to making extrapolations from stuff, I always wonder,

"Is this just me trying to act like I know

something?" That's my imposter syndrome. Am I even capable of making

this claim? Not, "Is the claim true?" But, "Should I be making the

claim?" Very, very big problem that I have. I have this not just in writing. I have this in anything

that I do. On Twitter, when I talk about my work, biggest problem. I don't want

to promise the wrong thing. That's one of the biggest issues that I

run into when I market my course, my Twitter course. It's basically me

telling people how to not be inauthentic. That's the course. The course is

just be yourself. Here are the couple of ways that you can engage with people and still be honest.

That's what the course is. Here's a building in public schedule you can use that I've seen people

successfully use. That is real because it actually happened. Here's what an audience is. Here's what a

community is. This is how you can think about this. Where you can go and find people. There's no

promise in the course to like, within an hour, you make $10,000 or

anything like this. That is the Huxter level of stuff that they try to sell you on.

Every day you grow your Twitter following by 1000 people. You could probably do this if you

were to offer people a free MacBook if they

follow you and then never follow through. You could probably do this so you could get a lot of followers.

It just wouldn't last. Anything that sounds like this, even remotely

sounds like this. If you take this course, you will automatically

guaranteed grow your Twitter following. I can't say this. I cannot

for the life of me make the promise that this will help you because there's always a chance it

won't. And for that reason my mind is like, well, then you shouldn't ever promise anything at all.

It's a big problem. So I've learned to, like what you said, wrap

my strong statements into qualifiers where I say

from my own experience, this is what I think. Or this might not be

true for everybody, but. Or you still have to put in your own effort to make this happen

but this strategy usually tends to, you know, the stuff that makes it boring, I still put this in.

I then have an editorial step and most of the things I do, both on Twitter when I write

my tweets or in writing when I do my articles or my books or whatever, I still read through and

try to find the points where my imposter syndrome is very, very clearly showing and then

condense them into a phrase that may or may not be less intense

than the thing that I already have written in the draft. But yeah, I struggle with this all the time. Like even

now, talking about the things that we've been talking about, you notice like with me

in publishing and stuff, I still don't feel like a writer that even deserves to get this kind of attention

from agents that work with other writers that have made it. It is bizarre and I

have to actively learn vocabulary to talk about my own work that is

both optimistic and truthful. And that's one of the biggest problems. We can

talk about this later. But I want to be optimistic and promise up. Sorry, what did you say?

Yeah, I was just reiterating that. I like that. Optimistic and truthful. Because it's hard, right? Talking

about anything in the future that you want to do, you cannot be honest about it because it hasn't

happened yet. How are you supposed to make a bold claim about something that you're

probably going to achieve if you put the work into it, but that hasn't happened yet?

I may be overthinking this. I have a strong feeling I am. But

that's what keeps me. I have a lot of optimism in my life and I have a lot of

knowledge that I can do it. I have a lot of hope, maybe, that's the best word here, that I get there.

But since it's not a clear guaranteed thing, I would rather not talk about it than to promise

too much and then be shown or show in public that I didn't reach it.

Yeah. That makes sense. I think

that makes a lot of sense to be very, very careful about promising results or

essentially just don't promise results at all.

How do you think about stuff that is a little less

clear, which would be more extrapolating? And I think specifically

when you wrote the Wuschett founder,

I think grow your audience is

it doesn't quite deliver on maybe people, even though you're not making a promise of results,

people sort of expect that there's some promise of results. But if they don't grow their audience, it's not the end of the world.

Right? Okay. It's important. They did pay money for the thing. They should get some value. But it's not the end of the world.

But if we're talking about how to build a business or what kind of business

to build, it could be that people are going to sink a year of their life or they're going to quit their job

or they're going to put $100,000 of their savings at risk.

How do you think about the same question, but even just

advice? Even, "Hey, here's how to think about niching" or "here's the right way to test

and to know when you validated the product and when to double down. How do you know when to go full time on

a project?" That sort of thing. I don't know. How do you feel about writing around that?

I mean, it's hard, right? One of the reasons that I think my introduction

to the first book, To Zero, To Sold, has been that all of the things that I'm writing about

are drawn from my own experience. So you will find some of these things work for you

and some not. It really depends on the unique circumstances of your own experience. This is both

the book, a kind of a guidebook because it has topics and themes

and a narrative of something that has happened. It's an extrapolation of knowledge.

I've been writing about advice too. It's got meta. I've written two or three articles on my own blog

about how to take advice or not take advice because I struggle with this.

I wanted to have something in writing about my own thoughts that kind of say, "Yes, advice is

useful when deliberately applied to the unique context and circumstances of your

own life." You can look at what is the person doing that is giving that advice?

In what context has this advice been formulated? Where does it originate from?

Is that just a guess that they make or is there some data to back it up? And if so,

is that data applicable to my situation? Could that happen to me?

Context is a big thing. So I always try to give people at least a hint that this is not

a recipe. Even recipes come with phrases

that are quite wishy-washy because they cook the thing. What does that mean? What temperature

should I cook it at? And if you have a temperature range, should I go up or down depending on the size of

the whatever? Even recipes are unspecific and still should

get you to a certain result. And I feel with our advice that comes from

such unique and I guess a high

potential margin for error activities. Most of us, like you and I,

we run several but not dozens of businesses ourselves. But we're

exposed to many businesses, particularly you because you see the insights of all these bootstrap

businesses. Maybe for you it's even more than for me. I try to have a lot of mentees

and other people that I follow on their own journey. So I still have that level of insight that you have just through the fund.

But in many ways, our unique personal history of

entrepreneurial experience comes from a couple of events. I had a lot of things

that didn't work. Exactly. Quite constrained. I had a lot

of experiences where things didn't work out. So that is great. And a couple where it did. But

anything that comes and is extrapolated from that, I kind of have to give people the story of

how this experience came to be with the advice. I think that's how I do it. Which is

why you find in the things that I write about, unless it's about somebody else's story, I

always try to put my own experience in there so that people can, if they're interested in following this advice,

follow the trail of story back to where it came from. That's how I deal with it. It's kind of just

abstracting away this layer of "Oh, I'm great." Which does not

exist. That's where the Huxler thing comes in. Where people just say "I know, so

here is what you should do." And then you ask "Well, where do you know it from?" It doesn't matter.

This is the truth. I would never, ever argue anything like this about

my advice knowing that a lot of the advice that I took as a founder when I was building my business

didn't work out for me. It worked for others.

There is no factual truth to the advice. It is so contextual that

any advice that I take is contextualized, so I assume that people that read mine

have to recontextualize what I tell them as well.

Have you ever had a negative, but maybe just any interaction?

But let's just say negative first question. Along these lines, a negative interaction

with someone in your audience from anything that you've written. Your books, your newsletter, your podcast

recently where somebody says along this specific thing where they're like "Ah, this is

advice." Or "These guys don't know what they're talking about." Or anything like that.

Or do you think you've always given it enough of a rapper that

it just never comes up? Honestly, I couldn't give you a clear example that stuck in my mind.

So I think I've been successful enough in not over-promising

or maybe not even selling to the wrong people because most of the

time this kind of response comes from people who were looking for something else and then

are trying to force the thing that doesn't work for them into their life. It doesn't work and then they get mad.

If you look at most Amazon reviews, there is the saying that

a good book on Amazon can never have a five-star rating because it has to be wrong for somebody.

And those people then tend to give you a one-star review because it was wrong

and it's not their fault because why would it ever be their fault? So they have a good complaint that they pulled

out of somewhere and they put it on Amazon.

I strive for a 4.7 rating on Amazon. That's what I'm going for. I think both my

books are there at this point. I think around in that range. I'm getting responses

from people who it wasn't for because then I can see that the way I wrote it was actually for the

people that quite like it. That are smart enough to see that this is not a recipe.

This is a companion that you can reference and ask a question and they

might give you something back and then you have to still fit it into your reality.

I think I've been successful. I do remember something but you know what I remember about it?

It's not the thing that this person was complaining about. I think it was on Twitter about something that I said.

It was the incredibly strong community response of my followers who just argued

strongly against what that person was saying. It wasn't like a mob that descended on them.

It wasn't like a shitstorm or anything like it. But I think I have curated not only

a good way of talking about the things that I'm talking about but also curated a highly supportive and

positive group of people around my work that will defend it but in a nice and empowering way.

They actually try to teach instead of just hate which is the Twitter default I guess

and object. This kind of thing where people just listen to you to object.

They find something to object to. They were actually trying to convince that person that their perspective

was just undereducated in a certain way and they tried to educate them. It was really nice.

I think leading with kindness gets people that are kind into your boat

and then they start you know if the boat is rocking they try to balance it out.

It's been quite helpful for me. I think so. Yeah. I like what you said about

a good book shouldn't have a five star rating and I've been kind of wondering

if that's a pretty good lens to view

a lot of other media as well. Right. You know that

your tweets shouldn't have like not yours like one's tweets shouldn't have a five star rating.

Your advice shouldn't have a five star rating. Right. Like everything

should be maybe five percent controversial or something like that.

I don't know. I've been thinking about that like because I think I know for sure

for myself I'm like you know biologically sort of hardwired to

try to be as epistemologically correct as I possibly

can. Right. Like here's what I think I know. Here's what I'm pretty sure I know. Here's what I know I don't know.

Here's the area where unknown unknowns might be you know like really not

trying to say anything that I don't know and really calibrate it.

And like a while back I made a small change. I used to write

just tweets with all a lot of those caveats you know in my opinion this or that or the other. And it's kind of like

I think I cannot for the life of me remember who said it but somebody just told me like it's a tweet

like in my opinion is implied right. They know it's not a citation

in an academic journal you know or a line from the New York Times. It's a tweet.

So like just say the thing. And honestly that was good advice. Right.

I mean not only did it make the tweets you know perform better

in any objective sense but it also generated better conversation including

you know incentivizing the most insightful kind of critiques or counter replies

the ideas when you really make something seem like it has the

appropriate amount of uncertainty attached. People don't feel compelled to correct you. They're like oh well this guy's just saying

you know his opinion knowing that it's probably not right. I don't see that if you just assert something

as true you also get like the strongest pushback from the you know maybe the smartest or best counter

argument. So it's been a positive change. I wonder about applying that

to this domain specifically. Right. You know are

and basically I think you are very similar. I mean I don't know if I think you would agree like you're like

there's a whole spectrum you know going all the way from like I don't know who to call out like

Andrew Tate or some of these guys you know is on the far side of just like completely making up all kinds of

stuff. And then there's us like way over here. I think we're like very very very close

and I almost wonder like is that you know like is it actually imposter

syndrome right imposter syndrome is not is a thing that's like not like yeah you're correct you're not as good at this as you think

imposter syndrome is a syndrome where you're supposed to counteract it right. You're supposed to kind of do

like you know you're not you're not ready for this but you actually are

do we have a little bit of imposter syndrome around kind of business advice right.

Should we be trying to move that dial a little bit and

assert things with more less uncertainty bars around them.

What do you think. Well I think there's a good reason why

lawyers or non lawyers let's just say that whenever they talk about legal things put a

disclaimer I am not a lawyer in front of it right. Like if you're not a legal expert but you have a legal

opinion it can get tricky. So you put the disclaimer in front of it and that that is

one of the extremes because anything that has like a legal implication or financial advice

that kind of stuff. There are clear social rules to advise like this

and if it's given in a manipulative way or it's just plain wrong

then you can be held accountable for that advice. And I think we are

with our advice like any business building thing we're kind of in between these two right. Like we are stuck

between accountability right. There's no way that's held accountable for saying like

oh this sector is overrated don't build there and then somebody or vice versa

everybody should be building an X. Somebody goes and builds a business and loses a bunch of money like there's no

liability to me in the way there is like tax advice or legal

advice or whatever. But I don't think there should be either but it is

an interesting kind of opposing end right. Because like we

look at our advice and we try to be careful. We could both be very

like we could be like chat GPT and be very very convinced that what we

say is true. Because chat GPT as it writes it's super convincing.

It's very it feels like the chat GPT knows exactly what it's talking

about in the way that it writes. It's trying to be very clear in that way.

And I don't. So I think there is a level of imposter syndrome in there.

But I was just thinking you mentioning Tate and the kind of scammy

hustle university kind of group of people. People who are trying to sell the dream.

Get rich and actually. Yeah. Yeah. It's crap educators.

Crap educators. You know people who try to. You are

not a student. You are the product I guess in these kind of things. Or you are effectively

part of a pyramid scheme. Like a lot of these get rich

quick things are in their own nature. Schemes where you get

taught to invite more people into the course and you get a commission on every sale. Like

there's a lot of that going on. And I feel I don't want to be associated with that even in the slightest.

I probably wouldn't even want to be in the same industry as these people are. Which is unfortunately

entrepreneurship. So it feels I'm very actively trying

to deflect any association with people like this. To the extent that I

don't follow them on Twitter or social media. If they follow me I block them

or remove them. Like people like this are not welcome in my group. Not because they are

always wrong. Because they are often right. Like they will tell you essentially the

same thing. They will tell you to find people to sell stuff to and solve their problems. Which is kind

of a good thing. But they say this in a way that costs you $5,000.

My book is not that. You know it's a different. It's just they sell the dream. They sell you

on the dream of being like them. And they lie to you often. Like allegedly

about what their life is like. Not a fan. And don't want to be associated

with this in the slightest. But yeah I think that

pushes me into a corner that I also don't like to be in. Which is kind of a person that is always

super self-doubtful about anything I say and super defensive whenever somebody

pokes a hole in it. Yeah it's a tough problem for me. What I'm trying to

say is that when I look at this industry of

education around entrepreneurship. I have kind of made my peace with the fact that

it will always be something that I struggle with. To just find myself

be confident enough to talk about it. Confidence is the word. That's what JetGPT is. It sounds

confident. And that confidence is something that I would have to fake.

And since I don't want to be fake or be around people who like fake. I will

not be fake. And that's the thing. How we act. How we embellish or don't

attract people that are prone to resonate with things that are embellished or not.

And in my community that I think I've gathered or that has gathered

around me. People like honest. People like earnest. And people like

truthful. And those are the people that I want to attract into my world because

I just deal more easily with people who don't lie to me. Or who don't have an

incentive to lie to be on the same level as everybody around them. So

that is the part of our entrepreneurship community that I want to attract. And if there are people

in this community who would rather dream of the Lamborghini life. That is

wonderful for them. And it's unfortunate that the only people who they resonate with

are those hucksters that take their money and then buy themselves a Lamborghini. That's just the unfortunate

reality out there. But I think the audience that you want to serve. That is

how you should act. Be like them. Be appear to them. And if that means being honest and a little bit

doubtful whenever you say something that you think may or may not be perfect for them. Just preface it with

whatever you need. It won't be as shiny as selling somebody. Take this one hour

course and make $10,000. But I don't need to attract people who like

shiny. That's the truth that I've found for myself. I don't want to attract people

who would be attracted by that kind of stuff. That's a good lens. Okay.

So I like that answer. That ultimately it's a sort of selfish act.

In the sense that... Or not selfish is not the right word. But it's self-serving.

It's the idea that... It's self-preservational. That's what it is. You're building the community that you actually want to be

around versus attracting the wrong people. I want to throw

out a very interesting devil's advocate position here. Because I've been sort of

talking about this. I've just found it interesting. I've had a couple of in-person discussions about this

recently. So I think

one thing that you learn when you just get, I would say, like a

little more plugged in. You have a lot of

back channel visibility. Especially in the fund and investing world.

You see a lot of company data and stuff like that.

Also just having a peer network that has more visibility. You start to learn

that there is a lot of... You have the obvious hucksters

on one end where everybody can see this as kind of BS.

There is a very murky gray area where there are a lot of people

on social media who significantly embellish

either their own success or the performance of their

"playbook" or guides or masterminds or

whatever the product is. There's a lot of people out there that you know,

well I know for example, that's completely not true. Either the premise

that you're sort of selling this on or the performance metrics that you're asserting this

sort of strategy has. There's a lot of people out there that are doing to a

varying degree kind of like everywhere from light to heavy embellishment while

being still well clear of the outright fraud or just complete crap. They have pretty good ideas

but they are really nudging the needle in their favor in a lot

of slightly questionable ways. They're playing

fast and loose with the truth, let's put it that way. So here's the thing

which is looking at the

contour of the consequences for this. On the one hand, there seems to be

almost no downside to doing this in the sense that these folks are

still very accepted among professional peers even when people know they're doing this.

They're not shunned, they're not only associating with other hucksters, they're still welcome

to do whatever, speak at events, join groups, etc. Show up

at dinners, nobody's like, "Oh, that person is like, they embellish all the time on Twitter or wherever else."

There's just kind of no tangible downside to doing

this and there seems to be real meaningful upside which is that this kind

of embellishment tends to grow audiences very fast.

And you often see these folks that you know are just making stuff up left and right,

building kind of platforms, brands, for example something like the Calm MBA,

you know it's just very clear that doing this is a very effective growth tactic, right?

All things equal. If your content is good, shading the truth to make everything look

better just works on the internet because it's just impossible to verify

and like if you go and look at, sorry this is getting a little rambly but I'm going to wrap it up here,

which is there's a YouTube channel called We're the Coffeezilla and it's this guy

who just takes down these hucksters, right? He just goes and does this kind of pseudo-investigative

journalism where he kind of just calls out these people for being total frauds and

nothing happens. There's just no example of this YouTube actually

taking down one of these folks.

The kind of devil's advocate question here is, I mean obviously we're kind of,

we can't really do this because we're doing this on a podcast and people are going to know, right? But like

is it a good idea to do it a little bit? It just seems to be

only upside and almost no downside in a world of the

internet. What's our best argument for not doing it, I guess?

I mean there are great arguments to do it because there are immediate wins.

That's what you said, right? You built your audience more easily.

You're like underlying we think you have a good mission and good content.

It might just be self-delusional in some ways and in the way that we

dream. Most dreams that we have for our lives aren't delusions until they are either

true or proven wrong. So in many ways our entrepreneurial

mission and division that we have, they are just as

delusional as what these people do in embellishing their stories. It's just a different way

of being delusional. But I'm so happy you mentioned Coffee Silica

because that's one of the few things that I actually, or a few YouTube channels that I actively support on Patreon for example.

Because I think what this guy is doing is massively important journalism.

And that's the thing. There are traces of these things all over the place. And maybe YouTube has

an incentive to keep these channels with people like Logan Paul, with the whole crypto

zoo thing that is a debacle. You should

watch this. Coffee Silica did a trilogy on just that one guy

scamming a lot of people, allegedly. Not just allegedly. I think there is now a lawsuit.

There are legal actions to this, but they have to come

from somewhere beside the platforms that these people used to amplify their

or just even facilitate their scams or their questionable activities.

Let's just say that. So that's why I support Coffee Silica because he's a great

YouTuber. He just does it really well. And he's very outspoken about

not just truth, because that is always a questionable thing to begin with, but integrity.

And I feel that we are moving in the world of creators that I'm

part of and that you're also part of, we are moving to a much more trust-centric

even business world that we're in. Because these people, they get a lot of attention and in the attention

economy, that pays a lot of money. But I think particularly with the admin

of AI, generative AI and conversational AI, this will shift a little bit.

We're going to shift from just mere attention to intimacy. Intimacy

being like having actual relationships with people or with AIs. That's the thing.

I watched a video, I think I wrote about it last week, of AI researchers talking about

the big problems that we have with social media. Everything is attention focused.

Every metric is optimized for attention. Well, what's that going to be for an AI? For things that can

be like people and they can get into your mind. They can build a relationship with you. And that's going to be intimacy.

Who do I trust? Do I trust this thing that is just a virtual person? Is it real?

Is there a person behind this? Is there a Turing test somewhere?

A social shift from just mere attention to actual intimacy. Supposedly.

Who knows? That's an estimate, a guess somewhere. But I think it's true.

And I see this. I'm going to write about this this week because I see this in how

marketing happens for creators. There used to be a time where you could just get somebody's ad and run it on

your show and they would be happy with it and your audience would maybe click it, maybe listen to it, maybe do something about it.

But that is over. I think now we have so much like creator centric advertising

and sponsorships where the creators are acutely aware of the fact. I'm taking away from my own

podcast here by talking about this. That they are the

people who run sponsorships or ads on their podcasts or newsletters or whatever. They're not just purchasing

the eyes of the audience. They're actually purchasing a small part of that person's credibility.

Of that podcast host's credibility, newsletter author's credibility. And that is not new. Obviously

every advertising is kind of credibility based. But now people

know that there are coffee zillows out there that will look at them and they will be very

acutely aware if somebody is actually just running a perfectly fine ad like I don't know

Squarespace or something as a sponsor or if it's FTX. Something that has

the crypto world, a very questionable authority to begin

with and people just get a lot of money. There was this thing with these

Scottish titles. Do you remember? Do you have any idea about that? I think coffee zilla was talking about this too.

You can get a Lord or Lady title by purchasing a $50

certificate by some company from Hong Kong that owns a tiny

little parcel of land in Scotland because there's an old Scottish law. That's great. It's

bizarre. And it's actually not true. If you are

in your own land in Scotland, you're technically a Laird, which is the Scottish version of Lord

or a Lady of that place. If you own that for residential purposes, that is

kind of Scottish law. Everybody that owns a house is a Lord. Everybody who owns property

that is not just like novelty square meter or something or a

square foot of Scotland. But these companies sell a square foot of

Scotland so you can legally call yourself a Lord or Lady. It's kind of a novelty gift. But

the thing is in their advertising, which they paid a lot of money for, sometimes six figures

for a couple months of running it on popular podcasts and YouTube shows, they were talking

about as if, or they were giving those creators scripts and approval

of scripts as if it was actually a legal title. So they were technically

selling something that they would not be allowed to sell because there is a bylaw in Scotland about

these novelty titles not actually amounting to real titles in terms of Scotland.

So the coffee cellar and the field of YouTube

investigators, which is hilarious that that actually exists as a profession that people can make a living

from just from YouTube money that comes in. They discovered this and they called

out so many creators and so many creators were just taking

in those five figure deals, 20,000, 50,000 for running this for a couple months

looking at it saying, yeah, this is kind of weird, but I'll still say it. That's fine. I mean, it's a novelty

gift item. What are you going to do? And there were like hundreds of high profile YouTubers

who fell into this and were called out and had to cut ties with the advertiser, had to

publicly apologize on the YouTube channels, which is always hilarious to watch because you can kind of feel

how they kind of trying to save their reputation, but still not really commit to having

not done enough research. And that's the thing that now creators do more and more is actively

research. When I get a sponsor on my newsletter, my podcast, I'm now digging into them.

I'm doing due diligence for every single sponsor that goes

onto my podcast or my newsletter. And if there's anything that looks like a red flag, it's a no

for me because I know that my trust that I have with the people that I serve with my

content is so slowly earned but so quickly destroyed that one ad or

just running one little 20 second segment by the wrong people could

completely disrupt or destroy my reputation. And that's something that that is intimacy

because only somebody who actually cares about me would be disappointed when I give

them Scottish titles or whatever that was good. Nobody thing was called right. If I'm just some guy

peddling something talking about certain things, I'm kind of entertaining. Yeah, that would be different.

Yeah, he's just trying to sell this skip. But if they have a relationship with me, just like I want to have

a relationship with everybody that listens to me or watches me, then I cannot do this.

And this is why I will never even go into this territory because I feel I value

this potential intimacy with somebody that shares my brain for the hour that they

listen to me so much more than the hundreds or thousands of dollars that I could be making.

I still need to make money, but I will try to make it on the exact side of

like the exact opposite of where hucksters are. I want to be as clear, as transparent, and as

honest as I can. And if the people that want to sponsor my work are not, then they're not going to be on there.

Yeah, interesting.

Yeah, I think maybe the argument that you're the counter argument that you're making to my to be

clear, this is a devil's advocate. This is not what I actually think, but I just thought it was an interesting thing to sort

of spar with is that ultimately there are consequences, right?

The sort of like arc of Internet karma might be long, but

it sort of bends towards justice and eventually

eventually it comes back around to bite you. Although some people do seem to be very effective at just

continuously chasing the next audience and the next audience.

That's the thing, right? They burn bridges wherever they go. And at some point, I'm sorry for the background noise. I'm having people do some

work in my house at this point. So you are live with my basement being finished.

I have an example for this. When I started writing,

I was reaching out to a lot of authors that I really admire and had a chat with

one of them, obviously not going to name them, but they tried to kind of sell me

on maybe building some kind of MLM online education

system with them.

One of those moments was like, "Yeah, I love your books, but boy am I never going to talk to you

again." And they have since moved on to greener pastures, different fields

of writing. And I'm like, "Yeah, this kind of reputation, it's not just that you

burn your reputation with your potential customers, your prospects, which is bad enough.

And then you need to move to a different market and kind of rediscover that to begin with if you do these kinds of things. But you burn

reputation with people in your industry that could generate massive, hopefully, opportunities for you.

Like potential collaborators, partners, people who are also just as interested as you are

in making money, maybe not using the same methods, but they still try to build a business

in that field. And boy, every time somebody in private

talks to me about that author, they get the story. I will not shut up about the story because

this is just, "Don't meet your heroes." And they are obviously projecting to be somebody

completely different from who they actually are. And that is something that

in an industry, people will know. And if you want to be known as the person who

tries to scam their way around their audience, go for it. But I don't want

to be that. I don't want to close my opportunities. I don't want to make ten dollars today

if I can make a couple thousand a year from now. I don't think

of it as finite games. I don't want to play finite games. I don't want to scam. You don't see me

do giveaways or that kind of stuff because I know I could get a lot of followers, get a lot of

attention, get a lot of hype, but why would I? I was just going to try to get these people one at a time by just

having a nice interaction with them because that is what builds intimacy. I want to attract people

who want to respond to me on a personal basis, who want to build a relationship with me.

That's my rant and my story.

That seems really helpful. I feel like I'm coming to a sort of loose conclusion on this topic.

I'm going to try and summarize it and see what you think.

I do think probably you and I have a light version of imposter syndrome on this

in the sense that probably we are over-correcting

in terms of over-caviating, over-calibrating and saying

"I'm going to get a lot of information on this."

Just basically adding even more uncertainty in there than maybe there actually is.

Probably we could dial that back a little bit and just do a version of what I started doing

with my tweets by just saying, "Look,

it's assumed that entrepreneurship is a tricky domain. There's no correct

thing that we say is in my experience to the best of my understanding as far as I can tell,

blah, blah, blah, blah." I'm not going to repeat that over and over and over again.

I think maybe we're making the case for building public here as well, which is to have

a public conversation about the underlying epistemology of

what is knowable and what's not knowable and how we approach that and then just letting

folks understand that framework. Hopefully they consume

both of those things simultaneously. Maybe we clip this and it's

part of the common BA as Arvind and Tyler talk about what they know and don't know.

But yeah, build in public. Just say how we're thinking about it and put that out

there as well and then that maybe gives you license to not certainly not embellish

or anything but to not feel like you have to constantly caveat

and feel like, "Oh, well, can I really say this or not?"

You just say what you think as long as you've told people how you think about it.

I think that's one of the things that you've done so well over the last couple of weeks, with things not working out

as you expected in your own business there. Something you said a couple of weeks ago,

is you shared everything, you talked about everything in public, your decisions were out there,

your assumptions were out there. It's hard to fill in the blanks if there are no blanks.

And blanks usually are things where people put in the worst of them because they have their own

doubts and their own things internally that they project on others.

By us just talking about our own insecurity, I think we defeat some of the insecurity because we can always

reference this as us honestly sharing our opinion on the topic. There's no pretense here.

What's the pretense in being vulnerable? Can you fake vulnerability?

It's probably much, much harder to fake being vulnerable than it is to fake being invincible.

To cut only the finest things and show them, that is much easier than to show the whole thing

or make up things to represent that. Yeah, I think you're right. Building in public is a great

way out of there because it also invites not just a conversation, but empathy.

It invites empathy of the reader, the viewer, the person on the

other side to see that you are a human being trying to make something happen.

Most of the time when you read a book, you read thoughts. And if you don't think of them as just

something that comes out of somebody's mind, you take them as gospel.

Most of the time, unless you're reading the Bible or the Quran or whatever holy book you're reading,

you're not reading the words of God. You're reading the words of man. And the words of man are as fallible as

the person is behind them. And if you forget that, then you

have no empathy for the writer or for the author. So I guess maybe I'm asking for my

empathy by people who consume because

that also makes them less prone to take advice that was not meant for them in the first place. It's to understand

where this is coming from. Maybe I'm renting here, but I just want to teach people to

teach people to take less

advice differently. I just want people to see advice

and see, "Okay, here's an option." Not, "Here's a surefire way to do X in one hour." Or not, "Here

are 10 ways that are guaranteed to XYZ." I just hate these kinds of things because they are never true.

Literally, they can't be true because if they were, you wouldn't need to state them or you wouldn't

state them that way. You would be more elaborate in actually transporting the information.

Looking at anything as potential, not as a guaranteed

way, that would be a good start. I really like this topic. I could go on about this forever, but I don't think we


We got a little bit off track with the Calm MBA scheduling, the origin

of this podcast. That's my fault entirely.

I think what did we decide between now and the next episode of this?

The last thread we left it on was basically wanting to run some slightly

more experimental, more workshop versions of things. It might be either one day or a couple of days or

a weekend or something like that.

I think between now and the next one, we commit to doing the first one. Basically, how long is it going to be? What's the rough agenda?

Which exact dates are it?

That is a good topic for weeks of reflective work.

Most importantly, probably when are we going to start this? Because I thrive on deadlines and I

fear deadlines at the same time, so this is going to be fun.

We both need to shuffle around probably a couple of things or make sure that we overlap and are present for that.

Let's think about that. Let's reconvene here in a week and

have an extended conversation about this. Maybe cut our big

exploratory topic a bit short and get back into the Comm MBA a little bit.

It's so nice for us to be able to talk about whatever we want in whatever way we want to. It's really

enjoyable. But see if we can actually focus on the project that we are intentionally

building here again. Let's find a time,

a length and a really rough bullet point content

situation. Let's work on that and talk about it next week.

Do we have anybody to shout out? I don't want to shout out

Paul Millard again because we've been doing this forever. But I've been reading his work and it's been so

enjoyable. Do you have anybody you want to give a big shout out to?

Yeah, you know who comes to mind is Elizabeth Yin. She's an investor at the

Hustle Fund. Her Twitter handle is

very funny. It's dunkhippo33

D-U-N-K. Anyway, Elizabeth is at Hustle Fund.

I just refuted a thread that she had earlier today that was great. Just

basically on the state of fundraising.

More of a traditional VC, I would say.

Coming through things through that lens.

Also one of the few people on Twitter from that kind of perspective that really just says it like it is.

Very bluntly, doesn't embellish or anything like that.

She had a bunch of great advice for founders on how to think about fundraising this year.


I love her tweets as well. It's nice to have a view into the VC world through her.

That is both instructive and intriguing.

I don't have many people that I enjoy reading from that world as much.

That's a wonderful suggestion.

And work on the Com MBA because I really want to see this progress that we are about to

make over the next week. Well, I guess let's catch up again a week from now.

Talk to you later. See you. Bye.

Creators and Guests

Arvid Kahl
Arvid Kahl
Calmly building in public. Helping founders and creators to find their own way.I write, podcast, and make videos at kind.
Tyler Tringas
Tyler Tringas
Investing in and supporting calm companies at Bringing them together at
Should You Embellish Your Success?
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