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The “I’m Better Than This” Phenomenon


I was older and more experienced than I care to admit in public when I had the above reaction to what-I-deemed-was a failed launch.

I’d drank the online business Koolaid and believed that I should have arrived by now at the point where you “make sales while you sleep” and “people are begging to buy your products.”

But no one was begging me for anything.

I ignored this glaring reality and instead focused on the more prescient issue: I’d been at this a while, therefore people should buy my things. I HAVE MANY LEATHER BOUND BOOKS.

This sense of moral superiority wasn’t something I arrived at all on my own. It was the culture I marinated in most of my life (and why I get testy when people accuse millennials of being entitled, ).

It wasn’t just the air I was breathing that suggested I was “above” certain business strategies, it was also very directly said to my face: You are better than marketing. You are above selling. This work is below you.

Anyone coming from an academic, science, or art background is nodding their head. I can’t recall exactly why or how we arrive at this consensus, but it is understood that if you are in a position that doesn’t require self-promotion or asking for money directly, your work is More Important than other types of work.

This is not true, but it’s the story we tell ourselves and the story we tell each other. And that story leads to what I call the “I’m Better Than This” Phenomenon: The belief that certain things in business are below you and therefore you cannot possibly subject yourself to doing them.

Which is how we arrived at my sending one email and declaring an entire launch a profound FAILURE.

Other places this comes up:

  • Feeling too good for SEO
  • Fear you’re going to annoy your audience with too many emails
  • Believing that your launch should be organic and casual

The I’m Better Than This Phenomena is born of the idea that if you’re just good enough, people will discover you and appreciate your work (I call this The Myth of Discovery). This is another misperception born of Academia and The Arts and So. Many. Movies. (“My work should speak for itself!”)

Any aspiring model who is walking through malls waiting to be “discovered” is going to find herself 57 and disappointed. No one is going to discover you without your putting yourself out there in deeply uncomfortable ways that will mostly feel “below” you.

>> This is not to be confused with doing things that are morally reprehensible and ethically not-ok. <<

There is a difference between tactics that are objectively morally reprehensible and the feeling that you’re above doing the work. Hillary and I dive deeper into that difference in in this week’s,

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PS: In the episode, we go deeper on the Myth of Discovery (and survivorship bias) and why it’s so toxic to your success. We also talk:

  • Why so many of us play “business armchair quarterback”
  • The real reason people are afraid of SEO
  • If you ever become “better than” speaking for free
  • The difference between generosity and needlessly exhausting yourself
  • Bro marketing vs Traditional marketing
  • Why you believe transactions around money are uncouth

ALL THIS AND MORE in this week’s #HAMYAW

​Watch the episode here 🙂