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Who are you stealing from?

Photo by Sebas Ribas on Unsplash

iPhone stole customers from camera companies as well as phone manufacturers. Netflix stole customers from cable subscribers. The Internet stole customers from traditional libraries.

When creating something, no matter how unique our product or book or article or music album or movie is, we are competing with the same amount of time the audience previously had and previously used on something else.

Everything we create competes for one or more of the following - the time, attention and money of the audience. And all of these are very limited resources.

If I want someone to read my article, I'm competing for the reader's attention with everything else she could be doing instead - so writing something better than similar articles in the same genre isn't enough.

The same applies to the things we say yes to. Every time we say yes to that notification that pops up on our phone, or that text message or email that calls for our response, or that phone call that we pick up, or that video we sit and watch on Facebook or Youtube just because it auto-played, we are stealing time away from something else.

Many a time, we may not have anything better to do and this might indeed be the best use of our time. But, we are programmed to do it even when it isn't the case.

Having worked in Internet companies all my life, I know that these notifications and auto-play of videos and infinite scrolling news feeds win in drawing our attention away from other things and keeping it. Because that is the one job they are designed to do and if they had been failing at it, they would have been killed by now.

We need to be aware who we're stealing from, both when we are creating something new and when we are consuming something ourselves. 

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