⭐️ No more Insight Porn

Here’s how anyone can make six figures:

Offer a service for a business, something marketing or sales related, get 10 clients for $1000 per month and BOOM, you’re making six figures in a year. Easy right?

Okay maybe you don’t care about making six figures. But surely everyone would love to become more productive.

So here’s how you can easily triple your productivity:

Simply decide that your days are 6 hours long. This allows you to get three days of work done in just one day. Now if you do the math, in one month, you will get 90-days worth of work done. Amazing right?

These examples are obviously ridiculous. But at the same time, they are 100% real examples of pseudo-actionable advice proudly broadcasted into the world by insight porn artists. I’m not kidding.

My humble estimate is that 99% of advice and insights out there is exactly as useful as the two ridiculous examples just mentioned.

Now this wouldn’t be a problem if insight porn was always that easy to spot. Usually it isn’t. It’s usually expressed in more sophisticated language and sandwiched between engaging stories. And that’s what makes it so dangerous.

But the pattern is always the same.

It’s advice that sounds plausible and breaks down a goal many people dream about into actionable steps. This is extremely inspiring content. It’s insight porn par excellence.

Only once you actually try to do anything with the advice, do you notice it’s completely useless. Far too many essential details are missing.

This has happened time and time again to me, it’s no longer funny.

Want to come up with great startup ideas?

Just live in the future, then build what’s missing. Easy, right?

Even better, just send messages to executives and ask them what their biggest pain points are right now.

Or make a list of the dream outcomes that people have, write down common problems that stand in between people and their dream outcome, then write down solutions to them. The only thing then left to do, is decide if you want to deliver your solution using a done-for-your, done-with-you, or do-it-yourself model.

It’s so, so simple.

That is, of course, until you actually try to do any of that.

But why then does pseudo-actionable advice get recommended over and over again?

Two reasons:

  • Most people never do anything with the advice they receive. Since the advice sounds kind of plausible, people who never put it into practice believe they just received tremendous value. They click that like button and write glowing reviews for the book, article, or podcast they got it from.
  • When the few people who actually try to do something with the advice inevitably get stuck, they assume they themselves are the problem. Thousands of people gave the book five stars on Amazon, so it’s probably just me who is too dumb to apply the lessons, right?

This is the pattern that allows all insight porn artists to thrive.

And it truly makes me mad.

So many people give up because they tried and failed, not realizing that the real problem was that they followed useless pseudo-actionable advice.

It’s definitely not just fake gurus that lead people astray. I wish the case was always as easy as with Napoleon Hill.

Many people that truly accomplished amazing things, when asked for the key to their success come up with some framework or playbook that they, in fact, never used themselves.

This happens completely without bad intentions.

It’s just that people love to say things that make them look good.

Offering a step-by-step playbook or framework makes you look so much smarter than saying “I don’t know”, “I got lucky”, or explaining what you really did, including all the dirty little secrets.

It signals that you not just accomplished something amazing but also understand precisely how.

So while focusing on advice from people who’ve successfully done what you’re trying to do is a solid filter, it’s not enough.

Regardless of their background, most people giving advice simply come up with stuff that sounds cool, is kind of plausible, and fits into whatever image they want to publicly project.

So the best I can do is tell you what I do now.

  • When I’m consuming non-fiction content, I try to write down specific experiments I can try that put the things I “learned” into practice. For example, just this morning I read a chapter in Nick Winter’s Motivation Hacker and it gave me the idea to track my happiness in hourly intervals to get a more accurate picture of how much I enjoy certain activities without giving in to the peak-end effect.
  • If I’m not able to write down any specific experiments, I know the book, video, podcast, article, or thread is just fluff and I should stop reading, listening, watching as soon as possible. This is an incredibly useful tool. Many authors and speakers are extremely skilled at creating the illusion of powerful insights through engaging stories, fortune cookie wisdom, and the use of sophisticated language. Naval’s uber-popular thread “How to Get Rich (without getting lucky)” is a masterclass in this. It all sounds really smart and helpful until you actually try to do anything with it. If you’re not getting something actionable out of it, you’re probably wasting your time. The bar is really low here. I’m usually happy to find just one truly actionable nugget in hundreds of pages of text. (An obvious exception is content you consume purely for entertainment. As long as you’re aware that this is what you’re doing there’s definitely nothing wrong with it. But insight porn is dangerious since it makes you feel like you’re doing something productive even though there’s zero real substance.)
  • If there is an experiment that seems reasonably plausible and is aligned with my goals, I give it a shot. The biggest red flags that disqualify experiments before I try them are a lack of specificity and no real details on how the author has done it himself. I’m usually not judging any experiment using a single source. A tweet, essay or podcast interview might simply be too short to include all the details. But if even after reading someone’s book, I still have no idea how to conduct the experiment, it seems safe to discard it and label the author as an insight porn bullshitter. This was, for example, the case for Ed Mylett’s “6 hour day” idea mentioned above. Even in his books, there are far too few details to do anything with it.
  • If the experiment doesn’t work as promised or turns out to not be viable at all, I’m not assuming that I’m the problem, but the advice I got. Chances are very high that this is true. There is a true insight porn epidemic with hundreds of writers and speakers responding to the incentives of the social internet.

Should you try this or already doing something similar, I’d love to hear which books gave you the best ideas for experiments that really worked. I might compile a list at some point in the future.

Written on August 8, 2022

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