Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Why Many Successful People Become Jerks


Why Popular People May Seem Negative to Some

I was chatting with a friend today about one of our projects and he mentioned how he stopped liking a few other internet marketers recently due to their negativity. Him stating that gave me a bit of internal reflection, and I think it comes down to a few things…

  • When people get from a certain level of success to say 5x or 10x, many may feel guilty about making the money and become negative about others to justify their own behaviors (after all, in *many* cases, when you grow income beyond a certain level it can require either moral flexibility and/or the ability to sharply change your internal values).
  • Some people forget where they came from and become arrogant.
  • Market forces force you to value your time. If you don’t the market will set it at $0. And so (the people they used to help for free) they now tell to screw off simply because their time is valued more and they keep having less of it to spread around to a larger pool of people. This is also a learned behavior because the neediest people are often the laziest, rudest, and least appreciative. If a person is not willing to pay you for your time they simply DO NOT VALUE IT.

That third point is worth thinking through from an economic perspective. The law of marginal utility states that the first x is worth more than the second x (be it Dollars, hours of free time, video games, pieces of food, etc). But if you are becoming abundant in one resource (cash) and scarce in another (time) the impact on the required rate of conversion is multiplied…not only is your time worth more, but even at a higher price you still have less of it to spread around.

I look to pass off some consulting projects I would have loved to have done years ago just because I have no time. (Or perhaps I lack the creativity to be able to derive sufficient yield from those projects). And, at the same time, in spite of having plenty of money to hire them I have been rejected as a potential customer. Rejection sucks, but trying to please everyone is a sure path to failure.

What is Popularity?

In Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody he described popularity as basically being an imbalance between the attention you garner and the attention you can give the market. Sure you can reach out to a few dozen people. A few hundred? Maybe. Thousands? Not a chance.

You Can Never Give Enough

In this interview Bob Dylan talks about how he can never do enough, and how the media distorts a lot of what he does in a negative frame:

On a micro-level, consider how a person who suddenly became popular may have been happy (and excited) to do an interview or 2 felt after about a dozen AOL robo-reporters contacted them in a single day. Suddenly it doesn’t feel as exclusive, important, or exciting. Wait a week or 2 and see that 90% of the interviews they did never got published and it feels at best wasteful.

And people who are popular (even in small niches) have people try to give them false complements and try to goad them into doing free work. That is part of the reason I love our current business model. I can respond with “Great question. Feel free to ask that in the member forums!” It not so subtly tells them that if they value my time they are welcome to it, and if not then they are not.

Does the above always work out perfectly? Not always. I have been told I was rude from people who had questions about things with our site (and were alleged potential customers) but most of them were from people who were too lazy to read the publicly accessible information BEFORE trying to dip into my time. If someone needs a lot of your time to become a customer they are not likely to become a customer. And if you sell consulting then they are likely going to waste a lot of your time if/when they actually become a customer (as they will be the type of person who reads nothing, ignores responses, and has about 40 questions in their first day).

*(Perhaps the only exception to that is large slow moving corporations which need a sign off from many people. But even then I never do RFPs just because it means you are being shopped and they are not serious about hiring you).

Just a Quick Question … (or 10)

You have to filter or else you are valuing your time at nothing. This is especially true if you run a small company and have heavy load on yourself day in and day out.

The big issue with email (especially with non-customers) is that you can never give enough. Even if you give your time away for nothing many of them try to use the “just one more quick question” approach. A recent freeloader asked “what do you recommend for an internet business?” and my response was “sell your time and expertise to people who value it enough to pay for it, and forget the rest of em.”

And he got the message :D

But while mentioning the above about the perceived negativity of some other internet marketers to a friend, I wrote “the thing is, if we didn’t chat and you didn’t see me helping on the forums and just read my blog, sometimes I would sound quite negative right?”

A person who read the last dozen blog posts but didn’t know the background context on Mahalo would certainly think that way. But those posts were made out of love for the industry. You just need to share the love to understand it. ;)

Deciding what goes where bit is also where selling information becomes tricky. There are tips worth 3, 4, 5, or even 6 figures (based on results) that have been shared in our community. And I have also shared many such tips on the blog here too. But it is tricky to figure out what to post where. You want to post enough publicly to maintain relevancy and audience and awareness, but you want to keep a lot of your best tips private so the people who are paying you get far more than their money’s worth. That is the only way to keep subscribers happy. And it is far more efficient to keep current subscribers happy than it is to churn through a ton of members & hunt for more.

It is amazingly hard to have enough time to keep learning, come up with original stuff, and keep adding value in a saturated marketplace for a few months straight. And it is infinitely harder to do it for close to a decade. But we try our best, in spite of the fact that expectations from us and pressure on us never lower.

When Doing Charity Work…

Once you go from helping everyone because you think you have to & feel it is your duty … to a person who realizes 95% of people are useless (and won’t even listen to the advice they claim to NEED, but need for free) … well it makes you more cynical when helping the needy and resource-less, and keeps you focused on productively spending your time on the 5% who do matter :D

There is a large segment of people who think they can act like dirtbags just because you are a small business, but trying to help those types of people will just pull you down rather than lifting them up. Their lack of perceived value in others is a reflection of an internal perceived lack of value. The best techniques are often a reflection of the passion of a business owner. Its very hard to make a career out of providing services to people who lack self-esteem (unless perhaps you are selling a get rich quick package).

The fact that you cant help everyone forces you to filter. And if you want to do charity work you may as well monetize your time at market rate then use some of that income to feed a bunch of poor children in the third world, rather than give your time away to pikers who don’t value it.

Insecurity / Peter Principal

Many people who are successful are not any smarter or more gifted than everyone else. They are not superheros. In most cases they just work harder and are more focused. Timing helps too.

And in some cases if people become popular too quickly they may fear that their reputation has got ahead of them. Any time they interact with others is some level of risk of being exposed. And if they interact with people quickly and hastily then those people will be far more likely to misquote them or try to tear them apart…so sometimes it is better to be non-responsive than to respond, especially when the opportunity offers little to no upside to counterbalance the associated risks.

A relevant example:

Bullying Freetards

One time a guy on Twitter complained about our conversion flow and he was too lazy to click the “don’t show again” link on a pop up…while being too lazy to click that link he was willing to go to the length to write a feature attack post on his blog.

Another time on Twitter a girl threatened that she would no longer recommend our site because we require people to set up accounts to download our free tools. I explained that the email option is primarily so we could give the people who would potentially care to convert another path / chance to. But she stated that I needed to state what all promotions I intend to email for the next x months/years upfront to collect an email. Meanwhile you can’t buy a server from her company without going through multiple high pressure sales calls with multiple final offers, etc. Freetards *always* demand more transparency from you then they provide themselves (or offer at their place of employment).

After reading a post on why I thought making Google Chrome SEO extensions was a bad idea that would cost me money while providing 0 yield one guy wrote a blog post about how evil I am for only offering Firefox extensions. He then explained how he thought all SEO stuff should be free. Meanwhile he is a programmer who has done exactly nothing useful for the SEO industry and has already heavily wrapped his blog in cheesy ads, promoting some of the very paid tools he stated should be free … (and the ads were often promoting the scammiest end of the market, too).


Lots of great things are free. And its awesome that there are so many cheap or free options. But figuring out how to combine them all into something profitable is valuable. Having the courage to invest heavily (in marketing, in education, in content, etc.) is crucial in a market saturated by noise. Food and rent are not free, and neither is our time (when you consider that we all eventually perish). When some people filter out noise they may be seen as negative, but in most cases if you were in their shoes you would probably do the same things they do.* ;)

* Except for the cheesy mo-money rapper photos. Nobody likes that crap. NOBODY

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