Selling Difficulty

Selling difficulty imbues in us a pervasive taunt of underachievement. We are told that reviewing subject matter, obtaining new qualities, and learning new material through practice is thunderously difficult. To these statements, we concede. We may take a back seat to our own desires prompted by a curious mind in the face of articles we have scoured, all of which tell us that we are ill-equipped and fundamentally in need of guidance through the process of acquiring a new skill or new knowledge.

In truth, we may opt for guidance, but the requirement is not there. Least of all do we need to seek guidance from an advisor who places his knowledge as difficult to obtain. Learning is not about difficulty, but rather about process. It can involve difficulty, of course, but the main focus should not be on this state. Rather, attention needs to rest elsewhere. Selling difficulty takes on a similar role in the world that we live in as depression does. We want to keep a certain mystique and aura about it. We don’t want to list specifics, but rather tip toe around general concepts. We sell depression as we do difficulty.

For depression, many of us tend towards avoidance. The reason for this? There is a gap in understanding that while depression may be “difficult” to understand, we are required to speak of it nonetheless to bring forth clear narrative. Avoidance is key to the understand of common day “difficulty”, however, much of the difficulty we current proclaim is not correlative to that which we are attaching that term to. Some say that web development is difficult or learning a new language is difficult. Oftentimes, the very people proclaiming the difficulty serve to gain from it.

Mountain photo by George Hiles

A salesman says that learning French is difficult, thereby raising the value of his skill. He offers people the definitive guide of learning to speak French. An author says that starting your own business is difficult. In such, he sell not only the solution to the problem, but the problem itself. Selling difficult is much more than making a statement about the capacity and obstacles for learning that humans supposedly hold. It is an imposition of difficulty branding.

Difficulty branding lives in an economy of stigmatization. We have bred this stigmatization by rejecting to speak openly about topics like learning, independence, depression, and other morsels of the true human narrative. In this type of economy, particular people prey on the outside-ness of others. You’ll see that perpetually keeping a front of separation helps individuals claim status. If what they do (and sell) is difficult, then it is worthwhile for me to pay them for their insider-ness. However, in a world of relational de-stigmatization, we have less of a clear distinction between insider and outsider.

Selling difficult is a breeding ground for advantageous reckoning with the politics of knowing and not knowing.

Knowing is status and salable. Not knowing is just that. It is the state of also not knowing whether or not the proclaimed difficulty is overblown, dramatized, or even applicable to the buyer. Then difficulty is enigma. A contemporary salesman will focus his attention to the obstacles and barriers to entry, even if he simultaneously denounces those barriers. He does this because his proclaimed livelihood depends on the sale of difficult.

To say something is not difficult insinuates that the product or service is not needed (or so the salesman thinks), which would terrify him. His profit relies on continuing the facade that his service or product is absolutely required in the face of all of the difficulty he has himself proposed. His insight becomes valueless if potential buyers weigh their level of fear against the threat of difficulty and determine that their stamina and willingness to learn stands above the false threshold. Selling difficulty serves only the seller in the context of transmitting insider information. There is no difficulty in this world but that which we attribute. We get caught in the lines of those in constant seller-mode, who turn their utmost efforts onto laying down and reinforcing the idea that things are difficult. There is no difficulty in this world but that which we seek to gain from.