Seduced by Characters



Who's going to spread your message the most?

Cut to chase, and that's the main question people in marketing and communications are asking about influence. The new fountain of youth, the Holy Grail. My kingdom for a horse, right?

The answer is somewhere out there, or to be extracted at the bottom of past glory. Either give me the silver bullet, or keep things just the way they were.

Both are improbable, because they're not solutions.

And the winner is…

Sunday night, we witnessed the spectacle of an era gone by — the Oscars. Even the beautifully coiffed people who where there seemed not to be enjoying themselves.

Everything down to the parade of gowns was a throwback to proven taste.

The New York Times headline alluded to it, even the jokes had wrinkles. Good SEO work there, by the way. Holding on to what used to work in mindset because that's what the whole system is built upon.

That's what happens when you make movies and shows about movie awards by algorithm. Why didn't the tired formula work anymore? It's not just about technology changing things. We have changed, too.

People are finding creative new ways to go to the movies, with or without marketers running around with their hair on fire while they plug the holes in the wall.

Entertainment is not what it used to be. We figure it out, eventually, that what goes with the movies and is sticky is a placebo, not the real thing. The newsification of business is like that popcorn — empty calories.

It's teaching people to judge exactly the wrong things. So the Academy hears it needs freshening and puts two young actors in front of the room. It changes nothing else. Just plops fresh flesh and blood center stage. That was last year. Wrong question.

Amateur viewers sum up and entire season into six minutes.

Algorithms don't necessarily tell you what someone's or something's true value is. I'll know it when I see it is not about some future formula — it's about learning to be human, in conversation, and in the moment to get the most out of creating opportunities.

It's about time — now.

Seduced by characters

Entertainment sells, we know that.

Proven entertainment sells even more.

"One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. A lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people," says Alain de Botton in his TED Talk.

"Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige," says Paul Graham in How to do what you love.

We're constantly seduced by characters.

Businesses, too. Preventive ROI is used as a measure of human worth by people with no imagination, creativity, or love. In that sense, we're all snobs in de Botton's definition as we keep taking one small part of of someone and come to a complete conclusion of who they are — influential.

It is the rewards we want, not the material goods. There's a misunderstanding about what "reward" means, though. It's not about recognition, although that's nice. It's about that feeling you get when you produce something that realizes your vision.

The true measure of influence resides in getting our own ideas done. True relationships play supporting roles in your quest, challenging you, and working with you along the way.

It's not about running errands or conferring titles, it's about creating something meaningful. Do that first.

By this measure, look around you and then ask yourself — am I successful?

The proper question is why you're doing what you're doing.


What are these characters that seduce us?

  • complacency
  • reductionism
  • desire to fit in
  • insecurity
  • compulsion to judge
  • power addiction
  • lazyness
  • … and so on


[hat tip Maria Popova]

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