“Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot masturbate.”
– Dave Barry
Over the summer I had to sit through a company presentation. Because I’d went out and partied the night before I ended up falling asleep. The meeting lasted two hours. Fifteen minutes before it was over I woke up.
Do you know what I missed?
A guy telling a story about the executive’s corporate retreat, someone else name dropping about a luncheon that he had, and a third guy telling a story about how he had gotten his vice president position. For an hour and forty five minutes three grown men aimlessly meandered through a presentation. At the very end a forth guy got up and said something to the effect of “the company is on track and we just wanted to let everyone know that.”
Two hours of blathering for a five minute message.
Recently I got to watch some freelancing webinar conference. The whole thing lasted a little over an hour and was all about time management and creating high end articles. The entire event consisted of jargon and name dropping. Posts that didn’t involve the sale of anything were referred to as “trust content,” someone else saw so-and-so in the bathroom. It took 60 minutes for a meeting that could be boiled down to “write quality content and make sure that it is delivered on time.”
I know that everyone complains about Twitter and Buzzfeed ruining attention spans, but there are certain things that can be condensed. You could read 1,000 books on writing, attend every writers workshop, and watch every video about the English language and still never pick up a pen and make something of your own.
This is one of my major beefs with these “cult of activities.” The biggest zealots are usually dorks who don’t practice any of they’re theory. If you go on Reddit or a forum, you’ll find thousands of people who are theoretical practitioners of a hobby. Blogging forums are, quite often, filled with people who talk about blogging but never actually do it. They’ll argue over some article about WordPress themes instead of actually sit down and write a post.
The many subreddits about dating and girls are another great example. There are countless threads where dudes debate things like “the best OKCupid opener” or “the most alpha body language,” but they’ll never try any of it out. While everyone might be well versed in what their favorite guru or book had to say, they have zero actual experience to back it up.
How to tell if something is a waste of time
While it might sound like I’m being harsh or a hater, I do actually read quite a few forums and usually have more than a few favorite posters. In general I have a very simple metric for judging who I should listen to and who I should gloss over.
Everyone has grievances. However most people who are worth listening to aren’t going to be whining all the time. People who lament the death of an industry or constantly cry about how no one can succeed in some broad field are probably just broadcasting their own failures and insecurities.
With a few exceptions, most things that people regularly do can be explained in simplistic terms. If you’re good at something you can usually explain your method. People who try and make things sound overly complex tend to do so because they don’t actually know how to do them. I blog a lot, if I had to give advice I’d say “write about something that interests you, share your work with people who like the same things, and spend an hour a day working on your site for the first six months.” I lived it and I can explain it in terms that everyone can understand.
Someone with no clue as to how they should make a blog will rely entirely on theory. They’ll say “cultivate an untapped niche and develop high quality content, then test your consumer responsiveness…” If something sounds like it’s from a textbook it probably is.
3. Ability to back up statements.
I’ve Tweeted pictures of myself, hung out with readers, showed my online earnings, and shared a lot of personal information. If someone is good at something they aren’t going to hide it. Even serial killers like to leave calling cards and brag about their handiwork.
While I wouldn’t write off webinars or forums, I would be wary about what they have to offer. There are a lot of people who get caught up in the thrill of buying the latest eBook, posting on the hottest thread, and engaging in the latest group debate. They get so wrapped up in this that they actually forget to do the real activity that drew them to the scene in the first place.