There’s a principle in psychology called illusory superiority, also sometimes called the Lake Wobegon effect, from Garrison Keillor’s fictional midwestern town where “all the children are above average.” Illusory superiority is the weird psychological wrinkle that allows the majority of people to have the sense that they are in some way better than average. Smarter than most, luckier than most, more ethical than most, more deserving than most. Mathematically it makes no sense. How can the majority be better than average? (I think it’s related to the idea that violence could never happen in one’s neighborhood also known as denial.)

I pay attention to the opposite principle, which I think of as the Law of Most. The Law of Most says that by definition most businesses are not exceptional. (If they were, the word “exceptional” would be meaningless.) Most marketers, consultants, realtors, lawyers, writers, most designers, are not at the top of their field. It’s just how things are. “Top” only means top when it stands in distinction to everything else.

This is why you should not believe everything you read. Because the Law of Most applies to experts, too. By definition, most experts are mediocre.

 

Learn From the Best

There are experts, and then there are experts. Just because someone wrote a book and sold a bunch of copies doesn’t mean he is right or that he knows what he’s talking about. Among all those books I’ve read on marketing, I’m sure there isn’t one in which I didn’t find something valuable I could take away from the reading. But I’ll go through 50 books before I find one that makes me go, “Okay — this guy has figured it out.”

How many books have I read on marketing? Two hundred, maybe three hundred; maybe more. How many do I rely on daily, considering my North Star, my 100 percent trusted go-to guides? I can count them on one hand.

This is the reason I eventually formed an advisory board for my business: to surround myself with people who can help me read the world. Experts whose experience, knowledge, and judgment I can trust absolutely. But in that first year, I didn’t have an advisory board. I barely had advisers.

A few months before launching SOFREP, I took out a VA loan and bought a little place in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, so I could get out of the insanely high tax burden of Southern California and start my new business in a no-tax state. It was a good move, but for much of that first year in business, I lived like a monk. I worked with my small team and stayed connected to friends I respected and could ask for advice when and if I needed it. Mostly, though, I was on my own.

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