by Seth Godin
A fever is a symptom. There’s an underlying disease that causes it. Giving you a fever (sitting in a sauna) doesn’t make you sick, and getting rid of the fever (in a cold bath, for example) doesn’t always get rid of the illness.
The New York Times bestseller list used to be a symptom, the symptom that a book was really popular. Now, it’s so easy to game and fake that some people have confused themselves into thinking that being on the list can actually cause your book to be popular.
It’s easy to be fooled into paying a lot to hire a salesperson who is leaving a fast-growing company. After all, it seems like hot-shot gifted salespeople are often the cause of a company growing fast. In fact, we often see that a fast-growing company seems to produce hot-shot salespeople (or programmers or whatever).
Does the really buzzy launch party make the movie good, or does a good movie get a better party?
Sometimes cause and effect can be flipped (enthusiastic people can become happy, or happy people become enthusiastic) but it’s often worth keeping track of which part of the process you’re trying to invest in and which part you’re working to create.
Spending time and money gaming symptoms and effects is common and urgent, but it’s often true that you’d be better off focusing on the disease (the cause) instead.