Spare The Rod, Spoil The Child

I genuinely hate it when groups and communities become cheerleading squads.  In the online world, this happens way more than it should.  A Facebook group or private forum starts allowing or encouraging “accountability threads” and then everyone chimes in to tell the people posting how awesome they are for trying.

Before long, even the stupidest ideas that people have started getting adulation and kudos from the cheerleaders.

It gets worse.

If you then decide to be the voice of sanity and point out that the person’s idea to set up a food truck business online is pretty stupid for a whole bunch of valid reasons, you immediately become “Negative Nancy” for poo-pooing someone’s dream.

For the most part, when I see communities starting to head down the cheerleader path I just check out and move on, but occasionally I stay.  Normally, I just ignore the “rah rah, every idea is awesome” rubbish, but every so often there’s something inside me that forces me to speak out.  Maybe I’m broken or damaged, but I just can’t allow stupidity to go unchecked or worse, applauded and encouraged.

When those moments occur, it’s like a scene out of Sons of Anarchy.  I’m riding on a Harley, there’s loud music playing in the background and I’m heading into the inevitable shootout with Los Stupidos because they started to sell Hopium inside my territory.

I’m obviously a real badass in my own internal narratives.

Over the years I’ve been involved in online business I’ve seen so many people embark on stupid ideas that it’s really quite sad.  Many times the reason these people have the confidence to undertake these acts of idiocy is that there’s a peanut gallery of folks cheering them on in some group their in telling them how special they are and how they’ll defy the odds and make it work.

The fact is, you occasionally just have to call out the elephant in the room and say, “Hey look, I know you think that’s a great idea, but seriously, writing an app to share photos of your pet gerbil isn’t going to work out.”

Will you hurt some feelings along the way?

Are some people going to think you’re a dream killer?

Of course!  But that’s the risk of putting yourself out there and inviting opinion – sometimes you’re going to have someone tell you that your ideas are bad and you shouldn’t pursue them.  I think it’s better to point out constructively what’s wrong with an idea someone has in advance of them investing heavily in terms of time and/or money with a few to giving them a balanced perspective.

Now don’t get me wrong, you can be a total douchenozzle about how you offer your opinion and really your approach is down to you.  I know personally on more than one occasion when the muppet brigade have been swooning over some stupid idea that someone has offered up as something they’d like feedback on that I’ve gone in a bit harder than I normally would.  I tend to think of it like cooking, when the sauce is too sweet, you need to balance it out with a bit of salt and spice.  When the crowd is telling you that your crappy idea smells like rose petals, then I tend to want to dive in and tell them it’s actually manure.

The reality is, when people ask you for your opinion about something they’re working on in their business or whatever in a forum, think long and hard about what you really think.  The default position of “go team” is easy to offer, but sometimes, you have to be cruel to be kind.

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