I don’t want to be famous, and this week is one reason why: providing famous-person ‘hot takes’ is a zero-sum game. Here’s a brief re-cap of the hot messes and the hot messes who love them.
Scott Adams made an idiot of himself after posting a racist ‘hot take’ rant about a racism poll. Subsequently dragged by everyone, his comic empire in ruins, Adams is defended by non other than Elon Musk, who takes this opportunity to insert himself into the discussion and tell everyone that ‘the media is racist against white people.’ Controversies popping like an overheated Jiffy Pop at this hour, we’ll see what the fall-out becomes later.
The point I want to draw out – beyond the obvious comment that it’s sad when you find out your heroes are villains – is that famous people providing media hot takes is a zero-sum game especially when you don’t have something to promote, and you don’t have a genuine point to make.
Nothing Good Comes from Having Nothing Good to Say
Scott Adams has had issues for years – so these consequences are a long-time coming. He killed his public speaking career by providing hot political takes in 2016. He got dragged for using a tweet about the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting to promote his app. If you look at the ‘views on race’ section of his Wikipedia entry (and the fact that he *has* a ‘views on race’ section in his Wikipedia article is a HUGE TELL), you can see Adams’ history of saying something racist or insensitive under the guise of being ‘edgy,’ and flushing ever-more valuable portions of his legacy down the toilet.
If anyone asked me, I’d say: “Seriously, Scott Adams – what are you getting out of all this? Are you a social psychologist who spent decades studying racism? Are you optimizing the dysfunctional ecosystem of social justice by learning from legitimate academic experts and using your platform to advocate for best practices? No, of course not – you’re a trained hypnotist and you bounce between health issues and bad relationships like a flea on a hot skillet. One would think your life experience would teach you that you don’t have it all figured out and maybe you should spend some time listening instead of talking but hey, it’s your life.”
That’s what I would say if Scott Adams asked me, but he isn’t asking me, and I’m all the happier for it. I’m using Adams’ example to make a point for me and for you, if you’re reading this to understand what ‘success as a creative person’ should look like. Scott Adams has done us all a favor, letting Main Character Syndrome kill his wildly-successful career, as a gold-plated example of what not to do.
“What does success look like?” you’ll ask. Then you’ll point to Scott Adams. “Not that.”
I’m an author, I’m not in the hot take business. I’m in the storytelling business. I don’t want to provide a hot take on Adams’ hot takes. I don’t consider hot takes part of my ‘success road map.’
One of the reasons I’m happy I don’t have a daily pod cast, v-log or other time-sensitive commitment is that I don’t feel pressured to speak up about controversial topics or ‘weigh in.’ Like anyone needs to hear what I think about current events, right? What do I know? I’m a walking, talking bundle of coping mechanisms. If Mesh or Mike.Sierra.Echo takes off, I’ll be happy if I can pay my expenses, take care of my cats, and help other people. That’s all I want for myself. That’s all Adams should have wanted for himself.
Nobody needs to know what I think about everything all the time.
We, the next generation of potentially-noteworthy people, have to be smarter than this. Nobody needs to know what we think about everything all the time. Making a career out of being ‘the hot take guy,’ worked for some people in the late 90s/early 00s.
Guys like Howard Stern tap-danced on that line between controversial and consequences for decades, and he made a career out of it. He could have easily made himself homeless – but nobody seems to care about that. Remember Don Imus? Yeah. Gina Carano? Yeah. Being ‘edgy’ cuts both ways.
Other people saw the attention and success and went ‘me, too!’ Famous people hot takes on current events provided endless sources of material for our 24 hour media cycle for the past thirty years. Hey, I get it: the associated dopamine rush of media attention feels good. But what happens when ‘diarrhea of the mouth’ turns your career into the proverbial ‘gas station bathroom?’ Well, you get guys like Scott Adams.
So the main point I want to make to you little creative woodland creatures is, famous hot takes are a zero-sum game. Seriously, learn to be okay without attention. Media attention feels good for a while, but eventually all that attention comes back around – especially when there are garbage parts of your personality that are better kept out of the limelight. Work on yourself, learn, say things like “I honestly don’t know enough about the topic yet” or “I don’t think I’m the person to comment on this.”
Honestly, it’s good to keep your mouth shut, mind your business, and live your life! If you find that your views and opinions contain things like racism, homophobia, or other forms of insensitivity, use those moments as a learning opportunity. Imagine how much better Scott Adams’ life would be right now if he said ‘I read something in the paper that disturbed me, but I wanted to learn more so I called the sociology department at a college and asked to speak to a professor – they taught me a few things, and here’s what I learned.’
Adams didn’t learn from his mistakes, so it’s up to us. We don’t have to give hot takes. We don’t have to open our mouths. ‘Keep your words soft and sweet, you never know which ones you’ll have to eat,’ right? Never skip an opportunity to shut up.
All we need to provide is what we’re here to provide – our best work, our best love, our best gifts. Anything else is a waste of time.
Just ask Scott.