January 18, 2021

Can You Trust Productivity Creators to Try to Give Good Advice?

A lot of productivity creators tell people things like:

  • Unsubscribe from newsletters
  • Consume less content
  • Get off social media

Which is interesting, since many of these creators make money from their audiences through these very channels.

A useful thing to do when someone gives you advice is to think: Why are they telling me to do this? Hopefully, it’s because they genuinely care about your wellbeing and want to see you succeed. But it’s also possible that they might somehow benefit from you following their suggestions. That’s not necessarily a reason to disregard the advice, but it’s something to factor in.

So what’s going on with all the productivity creators apparently giving advice that goes against their own interests? Why are they giving away their secrets? Can I trust them to genuinely try to give me good advice? A few considerations I’ve been musing on in each direction:

Reasons a creator might be tempted to give bad advice:

  • In a zero-sum mindset, the more productive everyone else becomes, the more competition they themselves face.
  • If their advice works and their audience gets super productive, they might no longer need the creator and so will stop paying for their stuff.

Reasons a creator might want to give true advice:

  • In a positive-sum mindset, if the creator helps their audience become more productive, their audience can make more money which they can then spend on the creator, creating a positive feedback loop.
  • If the creator gives bad advice, people might notice and stop paying for it.
  • If there are creators out there giving suboptimal advice, a new individual can beat the market by giving genuinely helpful advice, so there’s a race to the top.
  • It feels rewarding to help people, and this outweighs any temptation to sabotage people for your own benefit (I suspect this is a big part of it for most people).

What have I missed?

Of course, many of these considerations aren’t unique to productivity creators - they likely apply in any teaching or coaching dynamic.