Babies with the Bathwater
5 min read

The more I’ve come to understand about myself and the things that I like, the easier it is to find myself in an echo chamber.

I know what I like, and I stick to what I like. I know what I believe, and I naturally surround myself with people with the same views. I know my tastes, and I naturally stick to those tastes.

It plays out in the podcasts I listen to, the TV I watch, the accounts I follow, and the company I keep…the media and social media landscape is setup to help us find the things we like and satiate ourselves with it.

The inverse is also true.

The things we don’t like are easily avoided. At first with intention, and then the algorithms follow suit.

I’ve had enough tech bros pontificating about the future, so I don’t follow those accounts or listen to those podcasts.

A perfect example of this is the My First Million podcast. I know it’s wildly popular and people REALLY like it. But to me, it felt like a couple of alpha males flexing performative intelligence, and I don’t really need that energy.

Another example might be Good One – a podcast breaking down why and how specific jokes work. It’s not that I don’t like standup – but that show felt like it wouldn’t be “useful” to me because it’s deep into comedy, and I’ll never be THAT deep into comedy.

So what’s my point?

When we create these binary distinctions of “this is for me” and “this is not for me” and use that as a guiding light for what we consume and learn from, we build our echo chamber. And believe me, I love my echo chamber as much as the next guy.

But I’m realizing that echo chambers (surprise!) can be really constraining if not even destructive.

So I listened to My First Million. And, I was right – it felt like a couple of alpha males flexing performative intelligence.

But it also felt like a couple of friends having fun.

And while I listened, I picked up on a few production choices they make for their show – highlighting listener feedback or questions and using them as a jumping off point. Or running a friendly competition amongst their listeners and rewarding the winner.

I even like the way they go into and out of their ad breaks!

I listened to a roundtable episode of Good One breaking down Inside by Bo Burnham on Netflix. And sure, there were some explanations about why certain jokes worked, but there was also a lot I learned about planning the arc of a piece of long-form work, how certain bits were built from older material, and what made the work really connect with people.

Our categorical, binary brains love to rule things out. But when we do that, we often toss the baby out with the bathwater (one of my new favorite phrases).

And when we stick to our own echo chamber, everything starts to look and feel the same. Peoples’ work and ideas start to blend together…because everyone is finding inspiration from others within that same small circle.

Since I’ve started looking for babies to save from the bathwater, I see them everywhere.

I’ve long-held the belief that clickbait = bad. This evolved in my mind into, “Don’t construct headlines and subject lines to get people to click…because that’s clickbait.”

And as a result, I don’t always give myself the best chance to convince someone to OPEN my email and read my writing.

But there’s a baby in that bathwater – if you’ve made something that people will be GLAD they paid attention to, they won’t care what the subject line was.

Of course, if the person feels duped or like the promise of the subject line was not fulfilled, then yes, they’ll be upset.

I think that’s what makes something the “bad” clickbait – the promise made was not delivered on by the proceeding work. But if you can align your work with a subject line that captures attention…that’s magic for everyone involved.

Another “bad” word: hype. The way I’ve defined hype for so long is “empty, promotional excitement.” It’s almost as if ANY hype in my mind was over-hyped.

But things can be appropriately hyped. And hype can be fun and – this is critical – appreciated.

It’s the same story as “clickbait-y” titles – if the work delivers, I don’t care (and probably won’t even remember!) how I got to it. I’m just glad that I did.

There is some magic in creating hype around a project. And you should be happy to create hype around your project – you clearly believed in it enough to make it in the first place!

Which brings me to marketing. This week I was asked to define what I thought marketing was, and I explained it as ensuring that your message is seen by the people you intend to see it.

The specific tactics and strategies of marketing are super varied and wide-ranging from paid acquisition to being thoughtful about how you talk about your work in conversation.

We often think of “marketing” as this discrete activity that happens after a thing is made. People often think of it as advertising or interruption.

But the baby in the marketing bathwater is thoughtful intention. Marketing can happen before anything is even made! It’s all about being thoughtful about how your work is noticed by the people you want to notice it – and creating hype can be really effective marketing.

So I challenge you to take note of when your brain begins to categorize things in a binary way like right vs. wrong, good vs. bad, or for me vs. not for me. Things may not be as simple as they initially seem – and discovering the baby in the bathwater in the things you don’t think are for you may be just the thing to make your work truly stand out.