The Gut Punch
Cannabis is an industry of middle siblings desperate to be center stage. As if we all have the same mother, and we’re sick of being out-shown by our elders, we can’t stand when anyone’s got anything on us, and we wear it on our sleeves so ironically.
Acting like an army of also ran’s who think talking down on the current winners will push their lackluster results further, this is one of the most apparent things about the cannabis industry to newcomers and vets alike. And you don’t have to be a Chad to feel it. We just can’t stop talking shit.
I’m saying we because I’m including myself here, but what I mean by this are the self-proclaimed lifers. The soldiers of the plant. The trappers, heady boiz… the ones who can’t imagine doing anything else, yet are mad at everyone else that tries to. Whatever you want to call us, we’re a type, and this is our playground.
That said, our type DOES have a lot to learn, and that’s okay. We should all be growing daily. I want to be clear that while some of this sounds like talking down on something, I am, but I’m not talking down on YOU. These are all things I have been guilty of, and they are things I think we could ALL learn to be better at, to our own sole advantage. Though it will also probably make this whole thing more enjoyable for us all.
For clarity, this isn’t about any one example in particular, but things have obviously been bubbling up lately. I’ve had this same conversation a lot, and I’ve had to do some growing up myself, so allow me to explain in the most evergreen way I know how…
Look, I get it – it feels therapeutic in the moment to project your frustrations, but it’s important to distinguish here what you’re actually signaling when we project in this way. Not only is it loud and arrogant, but it’s most commonly an indicator of unhappiness with your own efforts, or results. It’s our subconscious projecting that we think we’re better than whoever else, typically despite results that prove otherwise. From an outside perspective it’s a sign of weakness, and it’s one you’re totally in control of the brightness on.
Potentially worse, sometimes it just plainly shows you don’t actually have the context or understanding of what it is you’re talking about. While it feels empowering to talk down on others from a holier than thou perspective, often you’re exposing that you don’t comprehend the mechanics of the situation you’re trying to comment on. I can’t imagine a worse signal to a potential business partner, or consumer, if they actually know better.
Worse than that even, if you DO manage to wrangle a bit of attention, it’s coming to you at the wrong time, and it’s almost always hurting your future potential. Before you start talking about ANYONE else’s business first ask yourself, are you even playing at the same level? If the answer isn’t a resounding yes across the board then you’re not even informed enough to make the decisions they are. That doesn’t make you stupid, it just means you’re not in their shoes. And you’re certainly not going to leave a good impression on whatever traffic you manage to pull from a Cookies or Glass House. After all, these are real brands, who have spent real money on their image. Have you?
Chock-full of Scholars
You see, one thing this industry far over-indexes in is experts. It’s a shame it’s just always an expertise in our own perspective. With no MBA, a self-proclaimed CEO title, and maybe 3 actual employees, you’re unaware how silly even the title looks to the larger world. You’re not the Chief if you don’t have any other Executive Officers, you’re just a founder – which is actually a better title, you just think you want to be C-Suite because you see them on TV. I made this very mistake when I was a teenager starting record labels and management companies to rep my friends’ brands. I had no idea how dumb a teenaged-CEO was even in theory, I was just stoked to be the boss. We’re all too old to make the same mistake today.
At the same time, we’ll also talk mad shit about the brands that have actually built a real experienced team & corporation around themselves, to not only ensure their long term success, but also manage the larger problems real major players have to tackle. We’ll get mad at them for growing their business, their success. Surely we’ve all heard ‘More Money, More Problems’, we don’t need a degree for that one. Did you think that was a lie? But we’re still mad at ‘corporate cannabis’ even though, despite what any of you want to believe, we will all be either directly involved with or a part of it before long. Sure there will be mom & pops, but put it this way: how many microbrews do you actually know? It’s because they mostly only exist regionally – which is TOTALLY fine, but do you think they’re competing with Budweiser? If you’re paying your bills off your passion you’re already successful. You just WANT the Bugatti. There’s a way to get there, but we don’t seem to like the path.
We’re also so sure that all of these businesses will fail due to a lack of profitability, neglecting to realize many of the brands we use everyday are still unprofitable thanks to VC investment. Uber doesn’t make money and yet they raise every year. Why will Big Canna be different in the end?
Living in Reality
I’m sure getting loud online and generating more engagement than usual is exciting – in fact, I KNOW it is, I do it all the time – but allow me to help you zoom out for a moment. The louder and more noticeable you are, the more response you’ll actually get. This seems like a win, but what’s happening on the other side is you’ve become a new motivator for those actually doing shit, when the equation should be the other way around. The louder you get, the harder they go to prove you wrong, and while that’s great for them, it’s slowing YOU down. When you’re actually busy you don’t have time to pocket watch your neighbor, let alone judge his decisions. You’ll have your own shit to worry about. Worse, don’t make an enemy out of someone you may well need in the future.
The focus on “who’s the best” (which by the way, is usually a very momentary thing at best – no one is ‘king’ forever) is your ego talking. It’s almost never going to be you, so striving for it, or even worse, expecting it, is silly. It’s basically the same thing for being morally superior – if it’s not affecting bottom lines it’s only hurting your efforts to increase yours. You can have morals without projecting them onto others – aren’t we ALL annoyed when a Jehovah’s Witness shows up at our door?
It’s important to also consider that sometimes we’re simply not the target audience for all things. Believing otherwise is called entitlement. Expecting everyone else’s operations to be up to imaginary standards only you have in your head is an impossible barrier to overcome, especially because the targets will move wildly and often. When commenting on things that have no bearing on your life first think of this comparison: is this like me bitching about RomComs existing simply because they’re not made for me? If the answer is yes, maybe it’s a better look, at least professionally, to think before you speak.
What you SHOULD be striving to do is your best, and to get better everyday. Compounded experience is a far better indicator of how good your shit is than how loud you are, or how well you can sell yourself. Flash hype doesn’t last long, and actual expertise is what keeps you on top of the mountain. This is true for all of us, even writers. You know how to get to Carnegie Hall, right? Practice, practice, practice. Remember, your consumers aren’t stupid – they may fall for the pretty branding once, but they don’t return for it. If your shit bangs the work will speak for you, and if it doesn’t the connection will be interrupted. Don’t let your attitude push away people who may love your product.
There’s Always An Exception
Now I know I’m going to have people coming out of the woodwork to attack this one, so I figure I should establish some rules for when it’s acceptable to flip out publicly, as there will undoubtedly be reasons to do so in the future. I know I’m self-appointing myself here, and I don’t actually expect anyone to adhere to rules I set, but I’ll call this my personal checklist for how I think best to operate in the future.
- If someone or something directly harms you, let the world know. This is the one instance in which being vulnerable is acceptable. Letting others know your story will help them, and therefore what you’re doing can be considered a therapeutic community service. Common examples of this are tweets expressing why Spirit (or any other airline) sucks, when people find weird shit in their DoorDash order, or when a company like Lyft steals money from you.
- If someone or something is directly harming their consumers, sound the alarm. If you know someone is taking advantage of their consumers, be it from a monetary or a quality of product perspective, this is another example of what I’d consider a community service. Keep in mind this is a pretty whistleblower-specific section – if you don’t have direct evidence, how you think things went down doesn’t actually matter. Accusations without merit are bullshit, bring receipts.
- If you are speaking up for someone who can’t speak for themselves, use your platform. This doesn’t mean white knight everything you consider to be fucked. The world is filled with shit. But if you see someone who can’t speak up, it’s not only acceptable, it’s your duty.
- Finally, and probably the most fun, when someone comes at you or yours personally – make ’em feel it. I encourage you to have a blast with these. You reap what you sow!
So let’s be clear about this, while sharing opinions may be fun, I don’t think it should ever be considered one of these ‘acceptable’ conditions. I say this because as stated extensively above, your opinion is likely irrelevant as you don’t have the context or expertise to make an informed decision. You’re of course welcome to ignore all this and spew your shit, but know the more evolved of us are shaking our heads. Love begets love, and you catch more flys with honey. Further, most of these ‘speaking up’ situations are far more effective in the real world than on social media, so let’s just make sure we’re checking boxes before we fly off the handle…
To the Subject of Scorn
I wanted to close this with a note to those who have been the targets of social mob frustration. I’ve talked to many of the players involved in the larger recent episodes directly, but for the wider group, here’s some advice:
The bad news is, your ego is in for a rough few weeks or months, but the good news is attention spans rarely last longer than that. They’re coming for you because they’re scared of your determination, your work ethic. Remember that in most cases you’re being judged on your work, not public opinion, so don’t let them get under your skin.
Shit-talkers are almost always a small (though vocal) percent of your base (unless you like, did some real fuck shit), so your best course of action is always to prove them wrong and/or kill ‘em with success. There is nothing that will drive them more crazy than seeing you win.
As I’m sure everyone reading this knows, we get plenty of shade thrown our way here at High Times, so take it from me. If there’s anything I learned back in my agency days, it’s that falling on the sword doesn’t actually hurt, it usually just makes people feel seen, and often that’s all they’re looking for. I’m admittedly the worst with this, but remember the more you respond, the more you validate and embolden the loud mouths, and motivate them to keep hitting. They want your attention – the more attention they get from you the bigger their win. You don’t need to be an expert to know that you can’t rationalize with an idiot, or the willfully ignorant. What’s that old proverb? They’ll baffle you with bullshit then beat you with experience. The best you can do is shine – really, really brightly, right in their fucking faces – and let the rest of your base see that you are above the noise – because that’s all it really is. They weren’t buying your shit anyway.
I wanted to close this with a quote I heard once about how those that set fires eventually get burned themselves, as I figured it might be comforting to those feeling the wrath right now, but I can’t find it and I have no idea where I heard it, so make up your own for that and here’s another I find uniquely appropriate in times like these:
“There is nothing more foolish, nothing more given to outrage, than a useless mob.” – Herodotus