When I See

When I see a restaurant with a flash heavy website, I see a web designer who tricked a company into paying for stuff they never needed. When I see roadblock ads and site takeovers and big network buys, I think about the lies the ad rep told the executive just trying to get people to hear about his product. I think about his 40% commission. When I read stories on blogs I can hear the few-thousand-dollars-a-month publicist breathlessly selling this inevitably defunct company he signed two days before. And every time someone calls themselves a ‘social media expert’ I know that what they really did was play some company’s genuine desire to stay on top of things into a bullshit job where they don’t do anything.

I see all sorts of web and PR companies that I could start and maybe turn into something. I know I understand the terrain better. But to do it, I’d have to traffic in the same deceptions and lies as everyone else. Fleecing real businesses out of their money for promises you can never deliver. Going door to to door rounding up clients you couldn’t care less about. Taking credit for things that happened on their own, pretending that what you read on a tech blog was “research.” Waking up each morning knowing that you’re trading off ignorance and the survivorship bias.

There is a lot of money in it, for sure. It’s seductive. You’re supposed to envy those people and their ambition. But it doesn’t matter about that. Or the coolness of doing your own thing. The cost of going down that path is enormous and you can only make the choice once. After it’s paid you can never earn enough to cash out.

So what I can’t see, when I look at myself, is ever becoming that person.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.