“…While the worse, are full of passionate intensity.” – William Butler Yeats
Hi, I’m John Johnston, and I sell firearms and firearms accessories (see what I did there?). I do some other things too, like running a nationally syndicated talk radio show that focuses on self-defense. I like training my oversized ass off with some of the absolute best people in the industry, product testing and consulting, aka “getting paid to have my opinion ignored.” Recently I even dipped my toe into the professional training arena with the release of the “Contextual Handgun: The Armed Parent/Guardian” curriculum Melody Lauer and I developed (spots available now, if you’d like to tell me I’m an ass in person). On top of all those things I also run a little Facebook page that, at the time I’m writing this, has 260,000+ followers and averages a seven figure reach each month. I’m kind of a big deal, if you judge such things by the hollow standards of the number of interactions with strangers you have each day online.
I’d like to take a moment to talk about something industry-related that many squared away people, especially those who have spent any time with me in person, already know. But it still might be of some interest to you. Wait for it…
The number of likes/subscribers/followers someone has does not make them an “expert” at anything. At best, a large social media following indicates a shrewd business mind coupled with a keen understanding of marketing and psychology. At worst it indicates a position burning so brightly with ignorance and derp that fools cannot help being drawn to it like flies to shit. I know, I just flew my X-wing deep into your Death Star and blew it the fuck up with that particular Proton Torpedo of knowledge, but stay with me a bit longer.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect happens when people are so inept that they assess themselves as knowledgeable, while the truly capable often under assess their own knowledge. The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger Club is that you don’t know you’re in the Dunning-Kruger Club. The issue is magnified by the fact that as more and more people begin asking for your opinion, it becomes more and more difficult not to offer it, whether you should or not. Additionally, the larger the number of people who value your opinion becomes, especially if you’re prone to arrogance (guilty), the harder it is to stop and say “I might be wrong”. It’s an internally initiated appeal to authority that is very difficult to spot unless you’re looking for it, and even then it’s easy to miss.
It’s a trap!
Unfortunately, the most successful traps are often those we set for ourselves without knowing any better.
Personally, and I’m trying not to speak ill of any one in particular here, the only thing that’s saved me from being the very thing I’m talking about was the influence of some incredibly knowledgeable people very early on in my career. I suppose you can have an unchecked ego around the likes of Tom Givens, Craig Douglas, Todd Green, Pat Rogers, Bob Vogel, Chuck Haggard, William Aprill, et al, I mean, anything is possible, but that takes a bigger fool than me, which is a pretty big damn fool indeed.
This issue becomes further exacerbated when someone who is incredibly knowledgeable in multiple fields weighs in on subject matter they have limited knowledge of/experience with. None of us *like* to acknowledge our weak areas, especially in front of peers, especially when we feel it shouldn’t be there in the first place. Example: “Clearly it is VITAL that I offer my opinion on this suddenly timely topic, gotta stay relevant after all. Whether or not I have put any work into developing my opinion past the knee jerk reaction stage is entirely besides the point.” See? Another easy trap to fall into, and one that is responsible for otherwise good people passing along a lot of really awful information.
So, what should you look for? People who can clearly articulate not only the context where what they’re promoting is useful, but also the why behind whatever it is they’re promoting. If they’re trying to sell you something, and most people are but don’t bother to disclose their industry affiliations (free shit counts too) as required by law, then maybe you should look for other sources of information. Do they acknowledge the work that others have done in their chosen field? Do they credit the sources of the information they’re repeating? There are very few new ideas after all. Do they show you or discuss their own personal failures? Can they defend their positions without resorting to https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com as an example of how to convince people of the merits of their argument?
As further, and final, evidence of how “likes” alone are not a measure of expertise, I need only point to myself as an example. Ballistic Radio, the page that I run for my radio show, has more than a quarter million fans. American Warrior Society, the page that Mike Seeklander runs for his podcast, has less than five thousand fans. I am not, never have been, and probably never will be anywhere near as capable or knowledgeable as Mike. Yet, if we were to judge based off of “likes” alone, it wouldn’t even be a contest, and that’s a fucking crime.
Learn to be a critical thinker. Learn to ask why. Learn to demand a higher standard. Most importantly, learn what good actually looks/sounds like. I’ll give you a hint, it rarely gets the attention it deserves. And it’s even rarer still to see good specifically LOOKING for attention for attention’s sake alone.