Originators vs Distributors

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The one and only Martin Berkhan stopped by Stockholm and we hung out.

Then he got drunk for two days straight, woke up in the morning and won first prize in two separate fitness competitions (seal rows and deadlift).

For those who don’t know, Berkhan originated the 16:8 variation of intermittent fasting (which is now the most common type).

Been doing it for 5 years+ and don’t think I’ll ever stop.

Sometimes I do 24 hour fasts (1 meal per day) or 2-day fasts (as a way to Break out of Homeostasis), but probably 5 days out of the week I do the standard 16:8 (which means skipping breakfast).

But that’s not what I came here to say…

I want to expand on an idea Martin told me several months ago.

Originators vs Distributors:

Rarely the originator, the profiteer. 

The person who originates an idea will rarely be the one to capitalize on it. The money is made by popularizing the idea to the mainstream.

Originating and distributing are two different skills.

I can think of many examples where this is true. I can’t think of an example where it’s not true. (Please enlighten me)

Consider the following:

  • “The Secret” —> dumbed down Napoleon Hill’s Law of Attraction
  • Malcolm Gladwell —> Anders Ericsson’s deliberate practice
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy –> packaging of basic psychology

What Does it Mean?

Don’t confuse popularity or fame with real skill and knowledge.

There’s talkers and there’s walkers.

Some are charismatic, some have domain expertise.

Many people you see & hear about (in the mainstream) are talented at self-promotion (sitting in the TV couch talk show). This is common in fitness and finance. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the paradigm we’re in.

But don’t confuse the two.

Now, Martin didn’t invent the idea that fasting is healthy. That’s been around forever as an ascetic practice (in spiritual communities and religions).

What Martin did do, was that he was the first guy to seriously delve into all the scientific material and written content about fasting. Then he was able to relate it to fitness and strength training in a way that no one had thought of.

It took fanatic zeal to do that.

If it didn’t, someone else would’ve done it already.

Unfortunately, Martin did not write a definitive book about his findings. And, unfortunately, Martin is not an expert at advertising and online marketing. So, more opportunistic people saw a market and appropriated Martin’s work and got rich off of it. There’s more to this story, but that’s the gist of it. . .

I was concerned this could happen to me too, before I got BOOH out. Maybe I overreacted. Breaking out of Homeostasis is a hard idea to “sell”.

My experience from blogging is that it’s a polarizing concept 1. Only highly motivated people take action on it. When they do, they experience the results first-hand.

Now that the book is out–even if someone appropriates my stuff–I was officially first. And it is easy to verify. This makes it harder for devious characters to do to me what they did to Berkhan.

What can we learn from this?

The Curse of Knowledge & Communication Barriers

The originator is on such a high level that it’s hard for him to communicate the concept in an emotionally visceral way to a complete novice. Especially if the idea requires effort or is uncomfortable.

When I spoke to Martin last week I asked him about this again.

What did he think about originators vs distributors? He said that, in his experience, the people who spend their time and energy into inventing and innovating are usually too busy with that to have mental energy left for refining the message (via meme-creation, for example).

This sounds about right to me.

But I think there’s an added component. The person who originates has so much commitment, the curse of knowledge seeps in.

It’s hard for the body to shift between emotional states, and even harder to change your physiological state. . .

. . . like switching between the Creative process and the Practical process.

I can feel it’s true in my own case.

For those who’ve read this site or followed me in some other way over the last years, I could easily jump into an in-depth conversation about almost any aspect of psychology, physiology, the human brain, and the BOOH-way of life. But I feel close to retarded when people (who have no idea of what homeostasis is) ask me about it.

When I do podcasts and speeches, I will struggle to overcome this.

Practical Takeaways:

Assume we have Originators vs Distributors:

  • These are two different skills.
  • It could be they are different personality types.
  • It’s hard and time-consuming to shift between the two roles.

What to do about it:

  • Don’t confuse domain expertise with attention-getting abilities.
  • Figure out if you are more of an originator or a distributor. (Think mad scientist vs populist marketer | Wozniak vs Jobs)
  • If you’re an originator, maybe partner with a distributor?

If it comes to you naturally, it makes sense to do more of it and refine it.

*  *  * 

Do you recognize this phenomenon?

*  *  * 

If you haven’t got my book Breaking out of Homeostasis yet, you should.

Because Berkhan scored 135 on my Homeostasis Breaker test in chapter 1.

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  1. in my old ebook “75 Practical Tips” I recommended skipping breakfast lots of times. I would get angry emails from people telling me I was an idiot and that I didn’t know what I was talking about.

Ludvig’s Letter



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Comments

  1. This can be sunmarized as the saying that just b/c you invent a better mousetrap does not mean the world will suddenly come knocking on the door

  2. I remember stumbling on Martin’s site a few years ago when it had a simple black and white design. I’m feeling the new look and looking forward to his book. I remember devouring his articles and I still use the supplement brands he’s recommended. I’ll admit, I have not visited his site in a while. I’m glad he’s finally coming out with a book, I don’t know him personally but from his instagram posts you can tell he’s a fun person to be around. I wish him the best and I hope more people learn about him. Martin’s articles have positively impacted my life but because of all the marketing hype, famous podcasters etc I almost forgot that he did.

  3. I would not say cognitive behavioral therapy is a packaging of basic psychology, whatever that may be, but it is a modernization of Stoicism (which has been gaining popularity these days).

    • Quite so. “Basic Psychology” implies some theoretical explanation for actions and/or emotions, e.g. psychodynamics or behavioral conditioning. Cognitive “psychology” presupposes that individuals can understand and modify their self-experience by mere thinking and direct observation – it returns responsibility to the individual, while traditional psychology assumes that professional training is needed to identify abstruse underlying influences.

    • Yes, I think the founders of cognitive psychotherapy were partially inspired by Stoicism and other ancient writings (including Cicero) when coming up with their method. I find it amazing how many smart things were already invented in ancient times.

      That said, I agree with Ludvig about the importance of “selling” your product. Many great thinkers are often really bad at selling their ideas. So they need distributors to help them out. This is one of the greatest lessons that I have learned throughout my studies of “great” ideas, inventions and stuff like that.

      However, I have to add a caveat, that often there is no one single inventor of an idea. Many people come up with ideas in parallel, often independent of each other. Another thing is that ideas are usually built on top of other ideas, so you cannot really figure out who came up with what.

      For example intermittent fasting is not a new concept, but has ancient roots as well. All the main world’s religions have a tradition of fasting, some even mandatory. Since I started this discussion talking about the ancients, if you go back to the writings of people like Hippocrates and others, you will find that some of them prescribed fasting as well.

  4. Good post and good site. You got some solid tips for improvement and career here

  5. Ludvig,

    This came perfect timing for me, as I often wrestle with this fact. I am more an originator, and have often had people literally steal ideas, quotes, etc. from me throughout life, even without me “going big.” I’ve contemplated if it should even matter, b/c what I share, I do so to help others. This has helped me understand the mindset of those who open-source their inventions, discoveries, etc.

    HOWEVER, I’m also passionate about protecting the “light” in the world – what makes goodness, humanity, etc., thrive. So it seems to let people steal is to do a disservice in that arena. Part of what encourages people to keep being dishonest and/or hurtful is that there are often little to no repercussions for such behaviors. And originators, from my experience, really want to get back to their thoughts, their connections of ideas and the possibilities there from, which often means letting the IP thief go. It’s a tough decision on where we should put our energies.

    I know that the desirable solution, as you’ve suggested, would be to pair up w/the yang to one’s yin, to make a dynamic duo where each can do what they do best. Sometimes that endeavor becomes a Catch-22 in itself, though.

  6. Here’s a well known example – Thomas Edison. He was very famous for being an inventor, and is still known today, but almost all his inventions were really created by other people, working for him. He got rich while his contemporary Nikola Tesla, who was a far better inventor than Edison, died poor.

  7. Dude way to go with the book and so forth. I knew about Berkhan already but not that he’d know stuff outside of fitness and fasting, I guess that goes to show that to make it, you need to be skilled in more than one area?

    • Thanks!

      Berkhan knows several disciplines/domains.

      I think there are two sides to this: You either are a specialist (best for the majority of people) or you pursue a comprehensivist path, by combining skills that overlap or amplify each other. You can guess which one requires more thinking.

  8. Great post Ludvig. I’m definitely a distributor. Bought the book, looking forward to starting it.

    Nicklas

  9. Berkhan is the best. The only one who keeps it real in fitness/BB. Good thing you meet him.

  10. Hey congrats on publishing the book finally. Got it two days ago and reading it slowly :)

    As far as this article goes, I believe the underlying issues has to do with the problem and limitations of patent law. This goes way beyond Internet. It is considered by various VCs that the reason biotech has been a bad field to invest in is because of patent problems also.

  11. Distributor here, always combining concepts and constantly updating my “systems”.

    About selling BOOH try this:

    3 page summary > 1 page summary > 3 paragraph summary > 1 paragraph summary > 1 page summary.

    Google “The Writing Class I’d like to teach” by Jason Fried

    Hope that helps!!!!!

  12. This definitely hits a tune. I think you can see this happening in a lot of places, perhaps one might even go so far as to say that it is one of the defining trends of the Internet? That it enables this phenomenon to happen on a global scale.

    You can see this in the music industry where it is very “winner-takes-all” (and a fair amount of luck or randomness involved). There it is all about the brand and the distribution. The “quality” (as perceived by the average consumer) needed to make a hit song is different from if you were making music for yourself or to a connoisseur of your genre.

    To use one of your terms, this produces a mismatch between what the Pro musicians want to do and create, versus what is demanded by the wider audience (and therefore of selling their songs and making money). I think it takes a very peculiar person to become a famous pop star and be able to enjoy it over the long-term.

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