The Exposure Economy

The world is a scary place.


Or is it?


Since I was a kid, I remember my parents telling me to be careful, keep a low profile and be humble. I didn’t like to attract attention. I was in my own world most of the time and I was avoiding trouble.


I had my occasional outbursts when I was feeling comfortable around friends, but most of the time I was quiet.


While growing up, that habit didn’t really change. In the classroom I wasn’t asking questions because I didn’t want to be perceived as dumb, when I went out I didn’t approach girls because I didn’t want to “ruin my image” and sometimes I didn’t speak up for myself because I just didn’t feel like it.


Needless to say that this situation didn’t make me feel well.



Freud said that civilization is the product of repressed sexual energy being redirected into productive activities.


In my case, there was repressed exposure energy being redirected into idleness.


My need to go out there and expose myself to the crowd was very significant but I was repressing it and that repression led to inactivity.


Years went by and although I started demonstrating more extroverted characteristics, I still didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.


For ENTJs, the need to put themselves out there is preeminent.


All these, however, changed when I started my job in consulting.


There, I had to constantly interact with other members of the consulting ecosystem and express myself in a way that could prove my value. Without that, I knew that I would unavoidably be left behind.


One day, the company arranged lunch for the new employees with the chairman of the board, who was a lady called Colette Bowe. She was a strong, independent, and very courteous woman. Her moves were very graceful, her style was chic and she was commanding attention with her every word. She was feeling comfortable being in the spotlight and she didn’t feel afraid exposing herself.


At some point, she started taking questions from us and I got my chance to ask one thing I wanted to find out badly. So, I stood up, took a deep breath and uttered the following words:


“Colette, you look like a very confident and independent woman. I really admire that. What is your secret? How do you find it so easy to demonstrate those strong characteristics?”


She smiled piously and answered:


“It’s all about exposure. When I was a kid, I was part of a theatrical team and the teacher was constantly bringing us on the stage to perform monologues. That made me feel comfortable on stage and being the center of attention. This has stayed with me until now.”


I sat there, listening to her, trying to digest what she just told me.


When the meeting finished, I exited the meeting room and started walking towards my desk. On the way, there was only one sentence playing in repeat inside my head.


It’s all about exposure.


It’s all about exposure.


The exposure economy


You don’t have to be a genius to understand that we live in an exposure economy.


Open a random media outlet and look at the people who make the headlines. Politicians, journalists, movie stars, singers, professors and entrepreneurs.


All people who aren’t afraid of exposure and putting themselves out there.


But even among those, not all of them get the same exposure. The ones that do so are the loud ones. The ones that are fearless. The ones that know how to provoke.


Take Donald Trump for example. He is the loudest candidate ever existed.

Donald Trump

He managed within a very short period of time to outsmart most of the so-called “incumbents” and now he is heading for victory in the elections.


How did he do that?


Some would say that he applied the master persuader filter. 1 He definitely did that and it worked, but he did way more than that.


Trump knew from the beginning that he had leverage over the other republican candidates, because he is a guy who lives and breathes from the exposure economy.


Apart from his involvement in real estate that helped him create most of his fortune, his real obsession was always show business. In fact, for his first business endeavor, he invested $70,000 to become co-producer of the 1970 Broadway comedy “Paris Is Out!”, which flopped. Since then, he took part in many more shows with the most important one being “The apprentice,” which bolstered his fame.


Trump is a showman and he loves it. He knows show business to its core and in today’s exposure economy that’s way more effective than anything political science handbooks can teach you.


If you are in that business, you understand two very important things concerning it:


  1. You shouldn’t care about ruining your image.
  2.  You shouldn’t care about being politically correct.

You care about putting yourself out there and making as much noise as possible.


People love it.


It’s like they don’t even listen to what you say.


They just want you to rock the boat and make noise.


The exposure economy is real and it is here to stay, because it is an economy inextricably woven in the fabric of human nature.


We are close relatives with apes and bonobos and in those societies the member that is able to make the most noise is the one that gets the most respect from others. Being energetic and loud is related to power and this is an attribute that affects human dynamics to this very day.


Despite all that and regardless of how interesting they sound, there is still a question you should ask yourself:


How can I benefit from the exposure economy, especially if I am not comfortable with exposure?


It’s great to have a teacher that helped you expose yourself to the crowd from a young age like Colette did.


But what about the rest of us who didn’t? How are we going to get our own fair share of that cake?


It’s not really what you are, but what you show


It is an open secret among people profiting from the exposure economy that it doesn’t matter who you really are, but what you show.


Exposure is theater. It is putting on a mask, assuming a role and performing in front of an audience.


Nobody cares if you are real or not. They only care about your persona.


That has occurred to me so many times since I left this meeting almost 4 years ago and tried to internalize the idea of exposure.

thumb_IMG_0649_1024Me, trying to internalize the idea of exposure and being a chilled, down to earth dude. 


Deep down I am a chilled, down to earth and very nice dude. I really am. I care a lot about other people, I believe in mutual respect and I try to be nice and polite to others when I meet them. Does this ever work in the exposure economy? Unfortunately not.


When I go out to meet people and consciously want to create a powerful image about myself, I change strategy completely. I lead, I am not so polite, I become louder, more direct, sometimes even obnoxious and I don’t really care about what others think.

thumb_IMG_0869_1024Me, being loud, direct and obnoxious.


You won’t believe it, but it works.


It works especially well in social circles where I don’t need to make cold approaches. If I am with friends and they introduce me to more friends and there is, let’s say, a group of 20-30 people that all know each other and I decide to put this mask on, it’s game over.


There is like a magic aura surrounding my image and people almost effortlessly get attracted to it.


It’s sad but it’s true.


And people who are in the forefront of the exposure economy know that very, very well.


They use it in business, politics, and entertainment. They use it on the TV, in public speeches, in board meetings and networking events.


Being good at it is so powerful that can even make you president of the USA.


I disavow Donald Trump or any other candidate. I like to keep my political views, for the time being, to myself and I just use him as a great case study for the purposes of this article.


Now, I am guessing most of you don’t have that ambition. Most of you just want to come out of your shell and enjoy some of the basic benefits the exposure economy can offer.


You want to be heard more often, to be more respected, to get more attention and sometimes be in charge of your relationships.


I totally get that and although exposure is what it is, meaning that the more you expose yourself to challenging situations the better you become at it, there are some things to have in mind along the way:


1. Eliminate decision fatigue, persona fatigue, and self-judgment fatigue.


For people struggling with exposure, there is usually a parasite inside of you, draining most of your exposure potential and not allowing you to overcome exposure barriers.


There are many factors that allow this parasite to exist, but the most prevalent are decision fatigue, persona fatigue, and self-judgment fatigue.


Decision fatigue: That is a psychological term, which refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual, after a long session of decision-making. The more time you spend thinking about the decisions you make, the more fatigued you become and this fogs your judgment even further.


Persona fatigue: This refers to your ability to constantly try to think who you are and act according to that persona of yours. If you haven’t properly identified your real persona and also the persona you want to expose to the world, you inevitably end up fatigued.


Self-judgment fatigue: This refers to your habit to constantly judge your persona and decisions. Your thoughts and actions do not align and you get lost in a downward spiral.


All three terms are related to willpower. Willpower is not a manifestation of your character that you can deploy without limit; it is like a muscle that tires. What is in your control is with what you will tire it.


Allow yourself to be the cause and let the others be the effect. Flow through life and enjoy every single part of it.


2. Expose like a prince.


In chapter XV of “The prince,” Niccolo Machiavelli suggests that a prince should not concern himself with living virtuously, but rather with acting so as to achieve the most practical benefit.


In general, some personal characteristics will earn men praise, others condemnation. Courage, compassion, faith, craftiness, and generosity number among the qualities that receive praise. Cowardice, cruelty, stubbornness, and miserliness are usually met with condemnation. Ideally, a prince would possess all the qualities deemed “good” by other men. But this expectation is unrealistic. A prince’s first job is to safeguard the state, and harboring “bad” characteristics is sometimes necessary for this end.


You need sometimes to look or act “bad” to ensure the stability of the state and thereafter your persona, which is associated with it.


Additionally, the mere structure of society doesn’t allow one to dictate his actions based on courage, compassion, faith, craftiness, and generosity. In a capitalistic system, which is the manifestation of a give and take ideology, one has to ensure that his actions receive validation. Humans are intrinsically power-oriented, thus showcasing “good” characteristics isn’t always favorable.


The ideal behavior embodies exactly what Machiavelli’s theory encompasses. Make sure to appear courageous, compassionate, faithful, crafty, and generous, but don’t forget to show your “bad” side from time to time.


Side note: Be audacious. Even if you do something most people don’t approve of, or something that might ruin your image, it doesn’t matter. People forget. Fast.


Example: Donald Trump was a huge fan on princess Diana back in the 90s. When he found out that Diana got divorced from Prince Charles in 1996, he started sending her huge amounts of flowers. Diana never really liked him and according to a friend of hers who gave an interview about the whole thing, she repeatedly said that Trump gives her the creeps. That interview was made public and Trump was obviously mocked for that. Do you think that he was ever affected by it? Look at Trump now. He is married to a supermodel and he runs for president of the USA.


3. Think of it like politics. Politics = Theater.


According to German philosopher Hannah Arendt, the realm of appearance is the realm of politics.


This idea has its origins in the ancient Greek polis, where politics meant entering into the agora where individuals could express their opinions in front of their fellow Greeks. In this public audition, it was only the words, rhetoric and deeds of citizens that were judged by their peers.


The better your rhetoric and narrative, the more favorable your judgment. Political life was all about how they appeared to others.


For Arendt, therefore, the polis stands for the space of appearance, for that space “where I appear to others as others appear to me, where men exist not merely like other living or inanimate things, but to make their appearance explicitly.” Such public space of appearance can be always recreated anew wherever individuals gather together politically, that is, “wherever men are together in the manner of speech and action.”


In simple words, in every social setting, your appearance, or “acting” so to speak, will determine your success in that particular setting.


4. Don’t be too nice. A healthy amount of arrogance never hurt anyone.


In the realm of appearance/exposure, apart from politics, another great occupation that requires our attention is the one of the musician.


Musicians are the people who at a macro level can give us hints of what type of behavior produces the strongest influence.


Examine every single American rapper for instance. Kanye West, Drake, Lil Wayne, Future. They all have the required amount of arrogance ingrained in their persona that allows them to not be questioned even when their behavior is inappropriate.


We are raised to think that arrogance is a bad thing and as far as I am concerned at a micro level, it is extremely toxic for your relationships.


But at a macro level, it can work wonders.


Side note: Arrogance doesn’t necessarily need to be demonstrated only verbally. Non-verbal demonstration of arrogance is even more powerful. An edgy outfit, a confident walk and posture, and a blasé look can easily do the work.


Closing remarks


Exposure is everything.


We tend to forget that because we feel warm and cozy in our overprotected environments. We think that getting out there, in our natural habitat, is dangerous and risky.


There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of.


You are still the same Homo sapiens that walked the earthy almost 70,000 years ago. You used to go out, run, hunt, explore, socialize, savor the moment.


You just forgot about it.


I think now is the time to remember.


If you enjoyed the idea of exposure and you want to take active steps towards exposing yourself to the world, you will definitely enjoy my 30-day challenge and every single challenge I suggest.


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Adrian Iliopoulos

I am the founder and main contributor at "The Quintessential Mind" - A unique personal blog that offers a holistic approach to self-development. I am striving to create high-quality content by investing in a reality-based form of self-help, informed by a deep understanding of psychology, philosophy and my own personal experiences and social adventures.
Adrian Iliopoulos