Are You Addicted to Business Porn?

How much time do you spend reading about what Richard Branson is doing vs. actually doing things?

I have a confession to make - several years ago, I used to read The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, The Economist, Entrepreneur, Inc, AdAge, and other business-related periodicals. I’d spend hours thumbing through stories of the wealthy and famous, studying photo after photo of older men in conservative ties and ladies in pantsuits, hoping to find some little tidbit of knowledge that would somehow make me more “successful.”

Looking back, it was a complete waste of time and energy - 99.9% of the useful things I’ve learned about how to live a productive and enjoyable life I learned via (1) reading great books, (2) conducting independent research and experiments, and (3) having lively discussions with interesting people.

I had been sucked in by business porn.

The Biological Roots of Business Porn

Business porn strongly appeals to the human drive to acquire immaterial “possessions” like status and influence and defend against potential competitors. These drives have extremely strong biological roots: a study conducted in 2005 showed that monkeys will “pay” for two types of images: (1) attractive female monkeys, and (2) more powerful, higher-status monkeys:

A new study found that male monkeys will give up their juice rewards in order to ogle pictures of female monkey’s bottoms. The way the experiment was set up, the act is akin to paying for the images, the researchers say. The rhesus macaque monkeys also splurged on photos of top-dog counterparts, the high-ranking primates. Maybe that’s like you or me buying People magazine. The research, which will be detailed in the March issue of Current Biology, gets more interesting. The scientists actually had to pay these guys, in the form of extra juice, to get them to look at images of lower-ranking monkeys.

Think of all of the business information sources you follow. How many of them actually teach you useful concepts or skills, and how many of them are simply thinly-veiled business porn?

Going Cold Turkey

Once I realized that “staying informed” about what was happening in the business world provided no real value, I decided to quit - cancelled my subscriptions, deleted my browser bookmarks, and never looked back. Once in a while, a useful, well-written article will make its way through my various filters, but other than that, I consume almost zero information from the “mainstream” business press.

As a result, here’s what I discovered:

  • It’s amazing how quickly you make progress once you decide to stop comparing yourself to / trying to be like other people. They aren’t you.

  • When you stop spending time and energy envying Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch, you have more time and energy to actually do something useful.

  • It’s easier to be creative when you’re not constantly exposed to what everyone else is doing.

  • You begin to understand that “success” is less about having a bazillion dollars and a private island in the Maldives than (1) figuring out what type of life you want to live, (2) making a plan to move toward that kind of life, and (3) making things happen.

Are you addicted to business porn? The first step in change is to admit you have a problem.


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