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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

The Joneses' Trap

Because trying to keep up with these bastards isn't already enough (of a challenge).<...>

It's been 23 days since the last article I published here.

And it's not for lack of ideas or words that I'm only getting around to publishing this now. Nope, instead I fell into a trap in the last couple of weeks that created ambivalence, limbo and perceived barriers to entry.

Rewind 23 days and I'd been on a great writing streak: since the beginning of the year, I had managed to publish at least one article every weekday. On top of that, I had even drafted a few articles in advance.

Words came easy.

But I soon fell into a trap that started to drain me. The trap I'm talking about is the one that wasn't even linked to my writing, but all about ensuring better distribution of my content and exponential growth of my mailing list.

This worked well. I could see the results, which was obviously rewarding. But the longer I did this, the more I felt that I needed to do it compared to just wanting to do it.

My mind soon started accumulating resentment and guilt about this and 23 days ago, I made the decision to step away from this obligation a bit.

Replacing one trap with another though (which I now know and understand), I decided that I'd focus on writing a minimum of one, high fidelity, 2000 to 3000 word article a week. This would be a well-researched article that inclues some "How To" advice. In short, I'd basically be writing the type of content that I absolutely hate writing.

But I had a plan... I'd write these articles and this would tie in perfectly with my greater mailing list strategy. Well, not even my mailing list strategy, but the strategy advocated by so many experts and idols that have had so much success doing just this.


Only problem is that I've not been compelled to even start on one article.

Every time I've had a potential idea to write about, I managed to rubbish it within minutes, because it wasn't gonna be good enough.

Every time that I opened my writing application to put words down, I stopped after a paragraph, because the words were lacking passion and interest.

I was trapped somewhere between my own perception of what I thought I needed to do and what I had actually wanted to do.

That's been the last 23 days for me.

"A trap is a trick by which someone is misled into acting contrary to their interests or intentions."

I'm a doer and I have a strong aversion to rules and structures. I also love writing. Yet I allowed my mind to get trapped between conflicting considerations.

That's the "Keeping up with the Joneses"-trap.

Instead of staying true to myself, my values, my interests and my passions, I tweak those to fit with best practice and social requirement set by the Joneses in the various aspects of my life.

Because all hell will break lose if I'm the outlier here that can't benchmark whatever I do against the Joneses' standards.


I feel embarrassed to even write those words. Here I hold up this bravado of not giving a shit and being my own man, yet for 23 days I couldn't publish a single word here, because I couldn't live up to a (perceived) standard. And a fucking standard that I didn't even want to live up to...

I do this so often though. I fall into a trap where some external force tricks (and traps) my mind into doing things that are contrary to my best interests or intentions.

Here's some of the traps that I fall into...

I need to work on a startup. The only measurements of success is the speed of my growth and the size of my revenue. I need to hire a team and build a company. I don't allow myself to just start working on something I'm passionate purely in the pursuit of creating something. Nope, I have to call it a startup and it has to grow fast, because that's what I need to tell my peers. If not, they'll see that I'm just a fraud.

I need to run more and I need to do that faster. Fuck the notion of accepting my limitations or just focusing on running my personal best. Instead I'll rather risk injury in the pursuit of a virtual gold medal that someone will hopefully reward me with once I'm that guy that "runs so well, so often".

This is super important and urgent, so I need to handle this today. Like, you know, that e-mail. Not getting to inbox zero today will be really bad for everyone involved. I mean, there's people waiting for responses for me and if I don't get to them today, their lives will fall apart.

And so that list can go on & on.

All of these things just creates such a high barrier to entry and friction to actually doing the things that I want and the things that I'm passionate about.

It's all down to perception of what I think people want from me. It's not like I get hundreds of e-mails every day where people are even asking me for certain things or making certain demands of the way I write or how I will eventually approach a new business.

Yet, I have these voices in my head that constantly draws me into a trap built on superficial requirements and demands.

The irony being that those voices manage to trick my mind in believing that by adhering to these requirements I'll actually avoid another trap: the trap of not being able to keep up with the Joneses.

Here's the thing though: I don't actually want to keep up with the Joneses, because I actually don't like what they stand for.

I'm also actually kinda selfish in the way that I value my own passions, emotions and specifically how the things I do influences those.

I know what makes me happy and I mostly know how to optimize for that happens too. Part of that optimization is not to fall into the Joneses' trap.

Heck, fuck the Joneses. I've not even met them.

Here's a new mantra that I'm adopting to help me stick it to the Joneses and optimize my life for my happiness.

Do good. Be present in the moment. Practice your craft. Create value. Be passionate. Appreciate more things and less of those things. Make decisions and take action.

Swing for the fences. Regret happens way too easily and quickly. The opportunity to really live life only comes by once.

(Oh, and if you're reading this and your surname is Jones, then I love you.)

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