Beyond the Spotlight: The True Work Behind Influencer Success

By Paul Yung

Have you ever looked at influencers, content creators or TikToker’s and think, how in the world is this person so popular? I can pose, dance, smile or talk like that.

What makes them so special?

I used to have the same thoughts, that pretty girls or people spewing nonsense go viral for doing things that I thought were ridiculous. The reality is though, it takes a ton of effort to make something look effortless.

This is an example of what’s known as the fluency effect. Woo-kyoung Ahn, a psychologist and professor at Yale University, conducted an experiment showing her class a snippet from a music video of BTS, a popular South Korean boy band dancing.

When she asked her class who could replicate the 8 second clip, many of them raised their hands. She gave them some time to practice the dance and invited a few of them to the front of class to repeat the dance moves. None of them got it right, and one of them even started making up his own moves.

The fluency effect is a form of cognitive bias where our confidence in performing tasks is inflated by how fluently we can imagine doing them or how fluently someone else performs them. This leads to a serious underestimation of the time and effort required, a phenomenon also linked to the planning fallacy, where detailed and specific plans seem more feasible than they are.

Back to influencer, It takes hundreds upon hundreds of photos taken to find the perfect one, hours spent editing content and captions and constant scrolling to find out what’s trending to be on the top of mind of your audience is real work.

In today’s attention economy, the battle to stay relevant is brutal, and if I’m perfectly honest, I was jealous of the attention they were having. Not until I helped my wife take videos and photos did I realize the amount of effort, consistency and discipline it takes to be an influencer.

What I’m getting at here is that it’s easy to hate on those who have achieved a certain level of success by dismissing it as “anyone could do it”. Instead, we should celebrate their successes, and respect the amount of effort it takes to master their craft to the point that they make it look effortless to the rest of us.

That level of mastery is something that we should strive for. Be it cooking, gardening, dancing, being a youtuber or for me, public speaking, repeat it to the point where when someone looks at us at our craft, they think we make it look easy.

I have just concluded a leadership training in Bali for 37 people from 6 countries. After the training, participants walked up to me and said, “Wow, Paul, you’ve got a talent for this!”

I thanked them and told them that it’s the 51st time I am conducing this training over the last 10 years. I didn’t really have talent for it, I had a passion for it and had the privilege of practicing it multiple times.

The fluency effect works the other way as well, maybe you are excellent at something and when you try to teach someone what you’re doing and they don’t get it, we get frustrated. It’s so easy la, why can’t you do it?

We have mastered our craft; we have made the mistakes and understand “in our gut” when something is going right and when something isn’t. This new person is trying it for the first time, they have no idea what’s going on and hasn’t developed the intuition like you have.

I remind myself this every time I’m teaching an employee, a trainee, or a friend something that I’m good at.

Encourage the newbies, respect the masters, cheer on those who are on the way to mastery and strive for mastery ourselves. You will feel fulfilled when you make something look so easy that someone comes up to you and says “Wow, you’ve got a talent for this!”

Happy May everyone, Happy Mother’s Day to all mummy’s out there!

You are certainly a master at your craft. Thank you for what you’re doing everyday!