The curse of caveats

A woman arguing with her iPhone

I’ve been writing this blog and uploading podcasts since 2019. Since then, I’ve said a lot of things that pissed people off.

Perhaps not as many things as Kanye. But I’ve learned a lot about expressing oneself on the internet.

Back in the day, you had to be an author, politician, or activist to be able to spread your ideas to the masses. Now, you just need wifi. There are obvious pros and cons to this.

On the upside, more people have more freedom to exercise their basic human right to free speech. Individuals can go on social media or build a simple website, type out their thoughts, and criticize their own government if they want. That’s a beautiful thing. There are dozens of countries where this is unthinkable.

On the flip side, any shmuck can log on and build a community around the idea that the earth is flat. Anyone’s aunt can go on Facebook and start a comment war with her political opinions. With more access to ideas comes more energy needed to sift through the shitty and divisive ones.

Every single one of us has easy access to something that only a few people had 20 years ago: an audience.

Social media, algorithms, blogs…The internet is designed to spread ideas that get clicks and keep people on the platforms. What awesome power.

When I started writing this blog, it took months to get any sort of traction. I wanted badly to have a voice and share my philosophies and strategies for living a good life.

But once people started actually tuning in, I watered down my writing.

Since I’m a fairly agreeable person at heart, I tend to avoid rubbing people the wrong way (agreeable: wanting others to be safe and comfortable). That meant I was super hesitant to share any sociopolitical opinions, especially ones I knew my friends would disagree with. I also muzzled my more tough love and hardline approaches to self-improvement.

Even when I did write about these things, I would caveat and qualify every single point I tried to make. I read one of my old blogs a few days ago and counted five justifications.

At the time, I thought this made me a strong thinker and arguer. I believed it would broaden my scope and allow me to reach more people.

But it just made my writing stale and lifeless.

There’s a great quote I try to remind myself when I type these blogs and produce my podcasts: “When you create for everyone, you create for no one.”

Thus is the curse of caveats. If you walk on eggshells to avoid anyone’s disapproval or disagreement, your perspective has no meat to its bones.

Let’s look at two examples.

1) “Cats are terrible pets.”

2) “A lot of people think cats are terrible pets. Obviously, not everybody thinks this. And it must be said that even those who prefer dogs can enjoy petting a cat from time to time. I’m not trying to insult any cat owners. I just want to get to the truth.”

(Genuine caveat: I love cats. It was just an example lol.)

#2 will reach no one. It reads like a boring academic essay and makes no one feel anything. It proves I don’t have any conviction in what I’m saying.

#1 on the other hand is bound to be polarizing. It’s guaranteed to invoke emotion.

Readers who have a cat will likely get pissed and baffled by my making an objective statement from a subjective feeling. Readers who hate cats might bask in the mutual humor of benign hatred.

In summary, I’m looking for one of two possible results. The first is someone reading my stuff and it really resonating. They see their own thoughts and experiences in my words. The second is someone challenging what I say and offering their own perspective.

I’ve had countless emails where people send me one of these two reactions. And I love it every time. It leads to deeper connections and fruitful conversations. I always come away with a clearer picture once I’m forced to think even more about whatever it is I wrote.

That said, I encourage any of you to reply to any of these emails. I respond to all of them.

Almost every topic is nuanced and complex. But that doesn’t mean we have to caveat and qualify every minute point. When someone calls that stuff out, we can just continue to explain our meaning or begin to have our minds changed.

That’s called conversation.