News flash: If you are neither on, nor in need of, attention-deficit medication… you’re probably at a serious disadvantage marketing your business online.
I’m not judging anyone here — I’m just making an observation.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting at a big sloppy banquet hosted by one of the top online entrepreneurs. Very nice restaurant, and we had a back room all to ourselves.
Seated around me were a dozen other rich, respected online entrepreneurs — mostly men in their thirties, and one or two women in the same age group. Everywhere you turned, there was another fun and invigorating conversation going on.
I really like my colleagues in the online marketing world. And I appreciate the fact that, while I’m much older (and I’ve been around the block about a thousand more times), we all have so much in common that we treat each other like equals.
Which mostly means we engage freely in totally uncensored conversations that are hilarious, revealing, and often amazingly profitable.
At this particular dinner, however, I had a sudden realization… and was able to field-test it immediately with the people sitting around me.
That realization was this: While we have much in common as marketers and advertisers and just being cutting-edge creative types… we ALSO share another trait that I almost NEVER used to see in the pre-Web days of direct response advertising.
Once I tell you what this trait is, it will seem obvious.
But few of us have ever put a finger on it before.
Wanna guess what this trait is that so many online entrepreneurs share?
… being a misfit.
And not just a run-of-the-mill misfit, either.
I started asking my table-mates, point blank, if they had ever been diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), OCD (obsessive/compulsive disorder), or any of the other less common “social outsider” categories that doctors seem to love using to catalog people.
Everyone started sharing their private histories… and it was eye-opening.
I’m not gonna name names here. (Insiders will probably be able to guess who I’m talking about… but then, they probably also share the same diagnosis.)
I just think this is an important insight to online marketing success.
There were brilliant people at this table… and at least one honest genius, IQ-wise. There were technical wizards, stunningly talented thinkers, writers with breathtaking talent, and lots of super-savvy guys who had learned to “game” the online system so massive quantities of moolah flowed in their direction.
Often with little extra work.
And yet, in the offline world, nearly all of them would be STRUGGLING to hold down a regular job… or, in some cases, possibly forced out of “polite” socieity altogether.
These people were misfits. Literally, they didn’t FIT in the mainstream world very well at all.
Some of the brightest ones had common memories of being forced into “special needs” classes in school. Many were dropouts, because their intelligence was overlooked and understimulated.
For the ones who were most successful… the birth of the Web presented SALVATION.
Many started online as gamers — staying up late (or for days at a time) dodging dragons and shooting aliens, sharing the new fantasy worlds with an ever-growing community of other misfits. They got to know each other, started exploring the capitalist possibilities of the Web, and traded in games for marketing.
While the Web frightened and confused traditional businesses, these younger guys were fearless about code, software, building sites and everything else in the new virtual world-wide city center.
I got into freelance copywriting because I was a notoriously bad fit in the corporate world. I can’t stand wearing ties (they literally chafe my neck), and I’m a flagrant night owl — which, I have now discovered, is something else I share with many of the best online entrepreneurs out there.
As far as I know, I do not have any attention deficit problems… yet, I can enjoy long and chaotic conversations with the worst of them, and I even enjoy the non-linear thinking.
So, I dunno, maybe I’m ADHD, too. Can you have a mild case of it?
Actually, I kinda doubt it really exists. Getting to know these brilliant, wacky online entrepreneurs leads me to believe that — in the bad old pre-Web days — there simply wasn’t a place for them.
“Normal” society hates misfits, cuz we make uptight people uncomfortable. (I’ve been fired from almost every “real” job I’ve ever had.) (With good reason, too — I refused to play by stupid rules, and I still consider the REAL insane people to be the ones who surrender their individuality to The Man for a paycheck.)
The Web has nurtured a fabulous explosion of entrepreneurial opportunity… and now smart misfits can work their own hours, dressed however they like, from chaotic home offices, doing whatever funky project they dream up.
You can make your own rules, and change them daily. You can obsess to your heart’s content, or be as lazy and distracted as you like (once you’ve set your systems in place) and still rake it in.
The entire playing field has changed, drastically. In traditional corporate environments, the people who rise to positions of authority and power (and high salaries) are often the jerks who know how to play “the game” at work. Kiss ass, take credit for other people’s efforts, avoid responsibility for failure, stab co-workers in the back, etc.
The biz-as-usual soap opera.
Online, however, you’re essentially naked except for your brain. There’s no corporate game to play… and none of the skills that normally shoot a person up the ladder are relevant.
Online, being good looking, or suave, or a good worker, or even likeable won’t win you any victories.
Online, the misfits have the advantage. They can create their own attention paradigms, set their own standards, and take their biz directly to people who want what they offer… with nary an intervening newspaper, magazine, television standards and practices attorney, politician, store shelf position, billboard or sweet talking salesman to harsh anyone’s mellow.
I don’t know if anyone else has fully understood the implications here. Maybe I’m slow getting on the band wagon… but the other entrepreneurs I’ve talked to have all agreed that no one’s really noticed how many true misfits there are at the top of the online world.
There’s room for everybody, of course.
But I think I now see why so many wannabe entrepreneurs I counsel are having trouble getting traction onine — they need to get in touch with their Inner Misfit.
It’s a brave new world… and I, for one, welcome it.
Misfits of the world, unite!
And stay frosty,
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