Dopamine is a hell of a drug
Why creators become worse over time
Ever notice that most of the top creators seem to post about things like:
Living a better life
And say things like “Steal this” or “I’ll teach you more in 4 minutes than a 4-year marketing degree.”
Yet various smallish ones seem to post about:
DTC email marketing
And often have nuanced opinions and in-depth posts?
There are a few reasons for this, all centered around dopamine addiction.
#1. It’s impossible not to get addicted
Let’s be honest: most of us hate social media in one way or another.
We, at least, all know it’s probably not good for us to use it all the time.
Yet when you decide to become a creator, you’re signing up to be on these platforms for what could be a couple of hours per day.
That means whether you want to or not, you’re opening the app when:
You’re on the toilet
You’re supposed to be spending quality time with your partner/family
It’s hard not to get hooked on the dopamine hits from using it.
#2. Once you go viral, it’s hard to go back
Likes, comments, and followers are exciting.
Especially when you get a TON of them at once.
And when you have a bunch of your friends reach out to say, “damn, that flew!”
So when you bust your ass daily to write content to grow your audience, have something pop off feels like the reward for all your hard work.
But here are two sad realities:
#1. You’ve now raised your bar.
Every post you do from now on, you’ll compare its performance to this viral hit. It’ll never feel good enough.
#2. Viral posts rarely lead to revenue.
That which goes viral is often broadly appealing and short (among other things).
Broadly appealing and short generally is not establishing yourself as a trustworthy expert in something important.
For example, a post about the top 10 free AI tools is/was interesting to everyone excited/scared about AI—but in no way is someone gonna pay you $10k for your marketing consulting because you share it.
The same goes for that hilarious meme you shared. Or a post talking about work-life balance and bad bosses.
Yet that heavily detailed, in-depth, nuanced guide or thought-provoking piece?
A lot aren’t gonna read it.
A lot aren’t gonna resonate.
A lot aren’t gonna even gonna understand why it’s good.
Yet the people that do are gonna start to appreciate and trust you.
And trust is what causes someone to open their wallet.
But guess what?
You’ll forever be chasing that high.
Every post you now do that even cracks hundreds of likes, you’ll think, “hmm, damn, could’ve been better.”
So you slowly stop doing the nuanced stuff because that won’t get you the highs.
Even if it got you more business.
Sadly: Likes and comments are more addictive than lead form submissions.
#3. Viral hits are viral hits until they’re not
A while ago, Sahil Bloom posted this, and it flew:
I understand why. It’s the perfect recipe for little dopamine hits from each purposely punchy and hard-hitting point.
Now, every creator under the sun posts a “harsh truths” post relevant to their niche. It turns out it’s well-tuned to go viral with humans.
Eventually, creators start filling their posts with:
“it’s so simple it’s scary”
“99% of people don’t know…”
“so good they feel illegal to know”
“I’ll teach you more in 10 slides than in a $75,000 MBA”
MASSIVELY UNDERRATED TACTIC (but actually it’s kinda basic)
Because guess what? All of these battle-tested little sentences work right now.
Particularly with occasional readers—the folks that open LinkedIn/X once a month for 10 minutes and haven’t seen one of the 1000 people post it yet.
They like, they comment, they even follow. And then disappear.
But they won’t work forever
Thanks to the Law of Shitty Clickthroughs, people stop responding to them over time because they’ve seen their 5000th harsh truths post.
Much like old clickbait titles on BuzzFeed, like “12 things doctors don’t want you to know (#9 is terrifying).” They worked, so everyone started doing them. Now, you will be laughed at for doing something so cringy.
Over time, creators who are still experimenting come up with new lines that work. Then everyone starts copying them.
It’s a never-ending cycle.
Which brings me back to where we started. What broadly appealing topics can most humans find valuable and interesting?
Living a better life
Thus, the person who started writing about DTC email marketing eventually throws in some productivity tips. After all, they must know about productivity to write daily AND run a business, right?
And, well, they saw a post from Sahil about productivity that did well.
“Oh wow, my productivity post did better than my others! I should do more of those.”
Then, eventually, they’re just posting about productivity because they’re getting more likes and followers that way.
“But wait, where are my email marketing clients going? Hmm, well, tbh, I hated selling my time anyway; maybe I should start a newsletter since I can monetize that with sponsors.”
“Hey, everyone! I’m starting a productivity-focused newsletter!”
“Oh wait, such a broad newsletter topic is not particularly valuable to sponsors since ‘everyone’ is not a great niche.”
Sure, this isn’t every creator.
But it happens to many.
And I 100% understand why.
Over the past year, I’ve grown to nearly 50,000 followers on LinkedIn.
Every so often, I have to reel myself in from the dopamine addiction and remind myself what my goals and priorities are.
The ego boost of cracking 100,000 followers would probably be nice on some level, but at the end of the day:
I’d rather have 1,000 people who love me and would buy anything I or my agency offered them, than 1,000,000 people who simply liked my memes.
And for that, I need to remind myself of my identity:
I’m not a creator.
I’m an entrepreneur.
I build companies that create products and services that solve people’s problems.
I create content because it’s effective for both distribution and trust-building. Not because that’s my job, identity, or product.
My content enhances my companies. It doesn’t define them.
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