Back to Obscurity
I think and talk a lot about the rise and fall of digital creators, and why that’s the case. What makes someone — who was once beloved by the masses — eventually lose relevance?
There’s this obscure political science theory called the spiral of insecurity that I think explains a great deal of it. Learn and remember it, and you’ll never see the world, people, or businesses in the same way.
It goes like this: value creation and extraction are the seeds of world domination. And when you plant enough of them over generations — via education, healthcare, innovation, industry — things start to work. Your people get healthier, wealthier, and smarter, and GDP grows.
But eventually you hit the tipping point. It starts with this thought: “Holy cow. Look at us — we’re the greatest country in the world. Oh, shit. Omg. Wtf, do we do now?” (Real quote from Marcus Aurelius.)
You have something to lose now. So, you divest from what created the rise to power in the first place, and start investing excessive amounts of money in defense. The game then becomes about maintaining, not growing. And as a result, things start to fall apart. Education reflects the past, healthcare dwindles, GDP growth slows, and innovation declines.
This trend isn’t exclusive to nations. The spiral of insecurity also explains the downfall of businesses, relationships, and for the case of our discussion — creators.
With creators, it goes like this: at the start, all she’s trying to do is just get something going. She’s investing every iota of time, energy, and money into making her channel successful. Eventually, it works. She hits a threshold of success — a million subscribers or dollars.
But as she stops to breathe, she freaks out. She starts to fight with business partners over who should be paid more. Starts playing it safe with video ideas — repurposing old formats or fast-following trends. And eventually tries to cash in. The audience who used to love her is down in the comments like, “is it just me, or did she used to be so great?”
It’s here that we discover one of the fundamental lessons of life: maintaining success, happiness, and relevance is ironically about continuing to grow, develop, and innovate. Not standing still.
It’s about continuing to create and extract value, innovate and iterate, and invest in the fundamentals.
Because look, the energy you spend defending what once was is energy you don’t have to create the future.
And it was creating the future, not defending the past, that got you here…