You Are Not Stupid

Ian Lurie

Words are powerful.

If you’re like me, 10, 11, 40 times a day you mentally slam your head in a drawer and say “That was STUPID.”

That’s the wrong word. 99.99999% of the time, you can replace ‘stupid’ with ‘experimenting.’ You didn’t do whatever it was that blew up in your face, failed, imploded, left wreckage in its wake or otherwise went all to pieces because you’re dumb. You did it because you’re trying stuff.

Somewhere around age 5 we start a lifelong course of training in fear of experiments. An experiment usually requires a bunch of failures before you get a success. We’re taught to hate that. When it fails, you kick yourself. When it succeeds, you move on. That’s all wrong.

If you’re an internet marketer — or if you do just about anything else for a living, nowadays — there’s no instruction manual. All you have to work with is experiments.

You may think you can find some crusty veteran of the marketing wars like me to give you advice. But our industry is so new even the pioneers have very little historical data to go on. So whatever you do, you’re going to be experimenting.

I know lots of entrepreneurs sound the ‘you must fail to succeed’ horn. That’s not my message. My message is that it’s all relative, and you’re not stupid. Nor did you do something stupid. So stop using the word on yourself.

The word ‘stupid’ belongs to this kind of idiocy:

no words for this, really - kid allowed to hang out window of moving car on freeway

The car in the photo drove by me at 15 miles per hour. I was trying to get the license plate so I could call the police, but I failed. My most charitable explanation: The child has horrifying mental powers, and has erased the facial features of the last 100 adults that tried to get her to NOT hang out the window of a moving car while on a freeway.

Seems unlikely. So the adult risking their child’s life to avoid a tantrum qualifies as ‘stupid.’ She has set the bar for all of us, and the bar is high. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re no dummy.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. In some way your post reminded the “me” of several years ago.
    In the past, I used to write in an italian blog named “Elucubrazioni di uno stupido” translated in english should be “Lucubrations of a stupid”.
    It was about personal issues of everyday life of a young man. Now that young man doesn’t exist anymore, and even then the blog.

  2. OK Ian, I’ll give you that, if you allow me to be a non-stupid (an un-stupid?) who does some really, REALLY stupid things. Nothing involving my son and moving vehicles, other than the fact I have to let him drive now, which is bad enough. My keyboard is imprinted on my forehead for a reason.
    Unfortunately, I doubt reporting those idiots would have done much – I once saw a guy drop a full bag of garbage out of his van in the middle of the road, got his license plate and gave it to a cop a few minutes later – the cop was honest, and said there wasn’t much they could/would do. It was totally crazy, to me, as I had him dead to rights…much like a world where kids jump around precariously in moving cars and celebrate all things Bieber.

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