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The Age of Disinformation

The Age of Disinformation

Energy or Noise?

Noise. And I say that with a degree of love. I’m from New York, originally, and I appreciate and miss the palpable energy of Manhattan. Tourism-worthy for sure, and I think I could even live there, especially were I not now 45, married with child, and in love with Palm Bay, Florida. But please understand, especially as a younger man, I was infatuated with large cities, and proud to have visited at one time or another the likes of New York City, Los Angeles (remind me to tell you that story sometime!), Chicago, and others. My personal chain of residences includes Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, too.

But I’ve grown to appreciate the relative solitude of my little slice of southeast Palm Bay. The lots are larger and the neighbors friendly. Sure, we have to drive 30 minutes to get almost anywhere, but I don’t even mind that too much anymore. Suburbanite, I guess.

And I’ve become a suburbanite in mental and administrative terms as well. I’m not now talking about what Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind exposed so many years ago, or how there are ads on everything from fuel pumps to urinals nowadays. No, I’m just talking about general noise as indicated by (and I wish I could remember who I first heard say this) the Disinformation Age.


I’ve always marveled that we were amidst our own stage of civilization, a revolution to rival the recent agricultural and industrial ones; that most couldn’t see it because they were in it—seeing trees and unaware of forest—that here we pass into the Age of Information. And there certainly must be predictions by better, more informed minds about how long this might last. When will the Age of Information pass the torch to something else? What will mark the “end” of this current revolution? What might be next? (If you know or have thoughts, write me!)

And then I heard some commentator quizzically comment (that’s what they do) on the “Age of Disinformation.” Aha! Sooth! So this is some later, in ways undesirable phase of the Age of Information. Too much info! And this is no more easily seen than with a simple Google search, especially when we self-diagnose some manifest physical symptom. You quickly find that spot could be something simple or melanoma. There is usually some perhaps unwarranted comfort found in such searches, as they often mislead and in fact lead one to more possibilities than one thought possible.
Try to decide on a project management platform. For us, without an “industry standard” we spent countless hours on this until realizing a simple Google Sheet would do all we needed for certain collaborations.

Or go right now to your grocery store and buy some vitamins. How many of us have given up on designing our own regimen of supplements thanks to so many that sound great? And even if we whittle it down to a short list, our appearance in the supplements aisle at Publix often does nothing but overwhelm and discourage. Go to a health food shop and it can be worse, although there is a bettered sense of trust, that these will at least be more likely good vitamins (yes, there are worthless ones, packed too tightly, overly processed, non-whole food, and so on) but the real encouragement comes when a knowledgeable employee comes to your aid, or even an unknowledgeable one who offers to “check with Tony.”

Give it Away, Give it Away Now

An age of abundance has consequences and lest we lead haggard, dispersed lives and businesses, we need find the proverbial needles amongst the hay. This takes awareness and often, a method. Professionals today, are then not obsolete but they are in fact even more important, if their roles have changed somewhat. So how can you embrace that in your line of work? Does getting annoyed with some know-it-all “I read it on the internet” client now seem like perhaps a wrong approach? That’s what we got, nowadays. We’d better embrace it.

People, even more than needing information, need direction and good information. That’s exactly where, in my business, having a book can make a huge and immediate difference. Your own printed, professionally published book can change you from an apple to an orange. I’ll use my business (publishing) but differentiation applies to any business, any individual professional. What makes you stand out or even stand alone? In some cases you’re the brother-in-law or child and hence, get the business, but we only have so many familial relations we can bother with business before we’re accused of network marketing.

People, even more than needing information, need direction and good information.

By analogy, go back to standing in front of all those vitamins at the grocery store. Now imagine a person there to help you. Imagine it’s a clerk. Well, a clerk might not know any more than you do. So let’s imagine there are five people around you, and when you ask aloud, “Say, anybody know about these vitamins?” all five respond in the positive and have slightly different advice—a fairly real example, actually. Now let’s say all five show you certificates claiming to be nutritionists. Not too bad, but still noisy. Now let’s say one reaches into her purse and hands you a book and says, “Here, dear, it’s all discussed in my book.” Now who are you going to listen to?

I say that if you’re passionate about what you do you owe it to yourself to make your message that clear for your prospects and your clients—show them how devoted you are to your profession. And you can give it away—in the age of attraction marketing we all have to give stuff away—preferably really good stuff and lots of it over and over—to attract the right (and appreciative as a result) clientele.

And it works! In fact we pride ourselves, Jessica and I, on servicing clients who want to author books they might never sell! Factually, the financial rewards of having a book can be much greater if done as a boost to your business in other ways than book sales. And if anyone tells you there’s a shortcut or that your book upon publication will bring bags of cash right away (unless they have a fan base already), run don’t walk. (We can assist with both approaches of course, books for sales and books for massive credibility.)

It’s the whole basis of social media and content marketing, that the consumer will decide who wins on the quality and often the generosity of your available content, and also the quality with which it is presented. This is why my company, Maven Publishing, sought out the best marketing expertise we could find (and found it in Modmacro!), because that’s the type of client we want to work with. Jessica and I have a great corporate self image and we’re being true to it. The converse is that old Woody Allen joke, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have someone like me as a member.”

Eyes on the Prize

I guess the point is that it’s easy to see how the preponderance of information and other content out there is irrelevant, but recognizing this, you can proceed with a quiet mind and a peaceful business, if you define what you want to offer for free, what you will charge for, groove all of this in to your business model, move forward accordingly, and prosper.

We writer/publishers give away a lot for free, and as we get going in our careers, most of us hit a common point of decision: Do I give this client my best or save it for myself? The ones who continue past such a point are those who come to see quality content creation and thought as infinite, and recognize that they, too, will evolve and grow; that good writing begets more good writing, and skimping anywhere leads to going back to that day job of drudgery.

If I’ve learned one thing I’d like to pass on to my daughter and perhaps kids everywhere it’s that you can and should do what you love. It’s easier than ever before—we need not all be farmers—thanks to the seemingly infinite availability of audiences. The difference today is it can take more defining or more vigilant attention to which opportunities that bloom ahead of and around you align with someplace you’d love to be. It’s too easy to go down roads that seem interesting but lead away from your highest, best use as a person or professional.

It’s a privilege our forefathers bought for us with their fortunes and blood. Soldiers buy it for us non-soldiers even today. They studied war so their sons and daughters could study business, and we, today, can study whatever the heck we want. But rather than feel spoiled or effete, we should see this as a mandate, that self-actualization is a duty and not a luxury anymore. No matter where you are right now, you can end up where you’d love to be, as long as you look and actually make and follow a plan and some self-adjudicated policy. It can be hard, to hold on to a—let’s just call it a dream—not only when things are tough but often just as much when other things are good. Because as Jim Collins so wonderfully put it, good is the enemy of great.

So what will your great business look like? Once you have that, it’s so much easier to see what’s superfluous din and what’s music.

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by Rodney Taber // Guest Contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.