Jordan Peterson on the power of writing

Jordan Peterson on the power of writing:

He says “if you can think and speak and write, you are absolutely deadly…It’s the most powerful weapon you provide someone with…those people you don’t want to have an argument with, they will slash you into pieces…”

But the problem is this is one of those videos where reality doesn’t quite align with Dr. Peterson’s advice. It sounds good in theory and it’s an inspiring idea, but unsupported by reality.

If power is measured by Bitcoin wallet size, ability to predict stuff, stock market gains, etc., then yeah, I should be powerful, but those things have little to do with being a skilled writer. But I think I’m an okay writer, not a great one, but competent enough to articulate my thoughts into writing to share with others. But am I powerful in terms of influence? Hardly.

If Patreon donations are a proxy for influence and power–with Jordan Peterosn, who is pulling in a cool 60-grand a month, being the apex or pinnacle of such power–many bloggers and writers probably, who are likely as smart and competent as Dr. Peterson, would be lucky to only make a few hundred a month. [He says speaking is deadly, but then says writing is the most powerful weapon one can possess, but I think the emphasis is on writing more so than speaking.]

Over 400,000 manuscripts are uploaded every year to Amazon’s self-publishing platform, yet half of self-published authors earn less than $500, and only 40 authors are considered to be ‘successful,’ which by Amazon’s definition means selling 1 million ebooks over a five-year period. No doubt some of these manuscripts are bilge, but I’m sure most demonstrate at least some writing ability, but then why are so few competent writers successful, powerful, and changing the world?

Obviously, I don’t think his advice is to be taken literally; he is not promising that everyone who writes well will be successful, but then what can account for the huge variability of success and influence among writers of relatively equal competence and skill.

Writing ability, unfortunately, just a single component. One needs:

1. An idea or thought that resonates with that public or intended audience
2. Ability to articulate such thoughts cogently into written or spoken form
3. Fans, supporters to share such thoughts and to ‘get the ball rolling’
4. A helping of luck

Dr. Peterson’s videos cover #2, but ignore #1, #3, and #4, which are much harder and more important. Given how so many books are published on Amazon every year, good writing is not that unique or special of a skill, and without the other components, won’t make you powerful.

To get better at #1 requires one read a lot and be perceptive of new trends. Dr. Peterson has been making videos for years, and some of his earliest lectures date back to 1996, but it was his very vocal and very public opposition to the C-16 bill that got things going, and the timing was especially fortuitous because it coincided with the greater post-2013 SJW backlash and the post-2015 rise of the alt-right and the post-2013 centrism/classical liberalism resurgence, so Dr. Peterson found himself with a sudden avalanche of online support that he likely would have not gotten had the C-16 bill been in 2011 or so instead of 2016, and the timing of which is related to #4. Regarding #2, Dr. Peterson is extremely articulate verbally. He regularly uses multi-clausal sentences and speaks in full paragraphs with ease, and he doesn’t mumble or slur his words. Everything is spoken forcefully and with conviction. Pertaining to #3, before the C-16 bill, he had a small but loyal following, and then after the testimony aired it went viral because not only was the general public, both the ‘classical liberal left’ and the ‘right’, overwhelmingly opposed to the bill (related to #1), but his extremely loyal fans spread the message. Without #3, however, the rest are useless, which makes it one of the most difficult but important criteria. Brands and politicians collectively spend billions of dollars annually in PR merely to get people to be aware they exist, let alone ‘like’ them.