Game of Cults: What This Pervasive Cult Teaches Us About the Dynamic of the Group

I’m a cult member. I don’t believe in its central teachings, but I did once.

Once I learned the big lie, it didn’t stop me from indoctrinating others. I told the lie to my children. I lied to others to support the cult.

It’s not just me. You may be in it as well.

It’s hard not to participate because a worldwide conspiracy exists to keep it going.

There’s so much at stake with this cult. It has created a multibillion-dollar industry around it. Business and global supply chains rely upon it.

All major news outlets propagate its lies.

Big Tech has perpetuated the lies and created misinformation to make its primary personality look like he can do things humanly impossible.

I never had a chance.

It’s likely you didn’t, either.

If you’re like me, your parents indoctrinated you as a child. The people you trusted the most and took their word as gospel lied to you—knowingly.

Just like their parents did to them, never questioning why.

The cult I speak of is the cult of Santa Claus.

Santa Clause

Think about what we have created as a culture.

Why do we do it?

Of course, looking back as a child, those were wonderful experiences, and that’s why I did it to my boys so that they and I could have those experiences.

The problem is, it’s all fake. A massive fabrication that our society perpetuates.

We all see a benefit to propagating the fantasy. It is how we relate to and associate with others. We associate comfort, warmth, safety, and belonging with faint memories of watching Christmas shows like The Year Without a Santa Claus.

Reading this won’t stop you from participating because we see the benefit in the fantasy.

It has become part of who we are.

We’d be denying ourselves and some of our most precious memories if we denied it.

It has a place on our value map.

The more you read into this series, you’ll see that much of life is filled with fantasies and false constructs to bring meaning to our lives. It validates Walter Lippman’s hypothesis that we seek to create a pseudo-environment.

The cult of Santa Claus initially came out of pagan traditions, then was adopted by Christianity, then by corporate consumerism.

If you dwell on how big this cult is and how it is fundamental to our economy, it falls between unfathomable and absurd.

As you read on, there may be concepts you find troubling. You will question reality—and you should.

Because reality is subjective. A construct of our beliefs and interpretations.

These aren’t new ideas. In the sixteenth century, Michel de Montaigne wrote that “we need to interpret interpretations more than interpret things.”

Nietzsche’s line was, “Facts do not exist, only interpretations.”

If the masses’ reality is navigated by some created social construct, then who better to influence the masses than a storyteller?

Just like you weave a fantasy for readers to conjure up in their imagination, you can also weave story and meaning into their social constructs.

You may question these strategies as manipulative.

You should stop and ask yourself if you’re cut out to look behind this curtain. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to know how the sausage is made.

In much the same way that story craft can ruin your capacity to enjoy a story, as we go deeper, what you learn here will make you question your core beliefs and institutions.

You’ll see how easily we buy into myths and disinformation and adopt them into our belief systems without question.

Many of our deepest-held beliefs aren’t influenced by some evil guy at the top trying to control us. Like Santa Claus, many are a perversion of faith and practices that now have woven themselves into society and benefit many.

Publishing is like that.

What do you believe in when it comes to publishing?

How much of it is a myth that you have adopted as dogma?

But I digress. This article is to show you how pervasive cult behaviors are.

Stop and think about how absurd it is to keep the cult of Santa Claus going while also contemplating how difficult and uncomfortable it would be to dismantle that cultural norm.

Think about what you may be angry or unhappy about with your parents. It likely isn’t that they lied to you about Santa Claus.

Did you even give it a second thought when you did the same thing to your kids?

Cults and culture are cousins

Both are social structures that help us define groups and individuals. They will make us do things we wouldn’t do on our own.

Why would you be willing to die for your country but not for your local Homeowners Association?

They are both social constructs associated with the land you own or live on.

Pop culture is our way of building the social groups we need to support and protect ourselves in a modern age—a distant perverted ancestor to the groups that collected on the savanna to provide mutual support and protection.

Belonging is a vital human given. If we don’t feel it, we become mentally ill.

Status is another essential human given. We need to understand how we fit into the hierarchy of the group.

Again, when we don’t clearly understand status, we act out.

You may wonder what this has to do with publishing and marketing.

Community or cult-like behaviors drive the mesoscopic layer of cumulative advantage. It is the accumulation of individuals into a group that you can get to act in concert, influencing the market writ large.

Suppose you want to win the national election. You build up from small groups that you can more easily influence. You then accumulate small groups and build consensus around common issues. No common issue? Create one. Eventually, you make a larger group that can influence regional, state, and, finally, national elections.

We can do the same to popular culture.

It took hundreds of years for the cult of Santa Claus to become what it is today. It won’t take you as long to build your brand cult, but it will take time.

This will separate the winners and losers. Those who patiently work on building their brand cult, launch after launch, will sell more and more books.

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As of this writing, I have multiple clients with sub-one hundred ranked books that stay in these low ranks without a lick of advertising. While it looks effortless, it took years to get everything in alignment.

If you want to get to that point, begin where you are at and build your cult from there.

Next week, we will go back in time to work through critical thought on how groups form and have their behavior patterns.

One more thing…

While you aspire to be the President of the United States, maybe the thing to do today is win a seat on the local school board. From there, it’s mayor, then governor.

Too often, we look at the avalanche someone else is creating today rather than working on getting the conditions suitable for a future landslide—yours.

Your avalanche will happen eventually, based on the part luck plays—that part you don’t control. What is in your control is setting the conditions to increase the probability that the landslide will happen and will do so more intensely and sooner.

​​​​​​​You don’t just walk into the White House. If you aspire to do that, maybe the right work today is printing flyers about your bid for a seat on the city council.

Read: Building a Reader Community With a Reliable Author Brand