The Negativity Paradox

This might come as a shock to you, but apparently, there are some people in the online world who dislike me.

I know, I know… You’re probably sitting there thinking I’m making this up and that somehow it’s absolutely ridiculous to even say it, but truly some people find me utterly objectionable.

Their main criticism is that “I’m very negative”.  In fact, one person who I don’t even really know but somehow ended up friends with on Facebook would routinely make comments about it on things I would post.  I usually ignored him and because I’m a bit of sadist, I would sometimes go to his timeline on Facebook, see what he was doing and post really effusive positive comments on things he wrote.

Shutting Down Stupid People

Recently, he took exception to something else I posted and proceeded to take a crap on my Facebook timeline about how “negative” he thinks I am.  I simply responded with the comment that I found it odd how much time he’d obviously spent thinking about me when I didn’t really ever think about him at all.  I also pointed out the irony in that he consistently took the time to leave critical and negative comments about my negativity.

And that was that.  Haven’t heard from him since.

Recently, someone else went on a rant about it.  I just laughed it off because again, it was the perspective of someone whose opinion is more or less irrelevant to me.

Don’t Let Stupid People Question Your Sanity

But it got me thinking… “Are these people right and I’m somehow wrong?”


No, of course not.  I didn’t think that at all, I’m just messing with you.

Those people are muppets, they want to live in a world of shiny happy feel good vibes where everyone greets each other with a warm, “Namaste” and a slight, gentle touching of foreheads.

Good luck to them, they can go quietly sit in a corner and manifest positive thoughts or whatever makes them feel good about themselves.

Learning From Negativity

Someone whose opinion and point of view that I respect is the world-renowned copywriter, John Carlton.  I’ve heard Carlton described as a contrarian and also the world’s most ripped off copywriter.  Strange that someone called “negative” can be so successful at the same time.

Today I was listening to one of John’s audio products and something he said resonated with me and gave me the idea for this post.  He said, “Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do.”

That pretty much sums up the way I think about things.

When I look at something, I immediately can see what someone is doing well, but for the most part, there’s nothing unique or interesting about it.  On the other hand, the flaws in their effort are often more telling and for me at least, far more instructional.

Let me give you a couple examples.

Even The Best Make Mistakes

I’m a hockey fan as I’ve probably mentioned a zillion times.  At the game’s highest level professionally, the NHL, the difference in skill and talent between the very best players in the world and the average guys in the league is unbelievably small for the most part.  To get to that level, you have to be extremely talented, in excellent shape and make the right decisions on the ice 95% of the time.

When you watch hockey, you occasionally see absolute brilliance.  The best players seem to be able to be brilliant more than most, but every now and then an average guy does something exceptional.

As a keen observer of the game, what I notice more are the bad plays and turnovers.  When guys make 95 out of 100 passes perfectly, it’s the five stinkers that stand out.

Another example is listening to great singers.  I’m not a huge fan of her music, but Adele is unbelievably talented.  I was in a taxi the other day and one of her songs that I recognised came on the radio.  It was from a live performance she’d done a few years back before her most recent album.  She has such incredible range and wonderful pitch, but then suddenly she hit one note and she was flat.  It stuck out like dog’s balls.

Now let’s bring this back to marketing and building your business.

Rise Above Being Average

Most people are average and do things reasonably well – at least passable.  It may not be great or bad, it’s somewhere in the middle.  When you’re reading that sales letter or whatever they’ve just produced, it’s the stupid mistakes that stick out at you.

Likewise, when someone does something incredibly well (which is much rarer than dumb mistakes) you may take note of that.  Truth be told, myself included, most of us just aren’t good enough to spot someone doing something really amazing in their marketing at first glance.  It takes us a couple looks.

Which takes me back to the subject of this email, “The Negativity Paradox.”

If you’re so busy looking only at the positives in things, you’ll simply miss out on the lessons from the negative stuff.  It’s entirely flawed.

I learn best by seeing what other people are doing wrong in practice.  Getting access on what to do right is easy, there’s tons of books and instructions on how to do things properly.  What interests me is when people do it wrong, that’s the insight that I think is valuable and worth understanding.

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