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Be Careful Who You Follow: 6 Reasons to Unfollow or Unsubscribe

Be Careful Who You Follow: 6 Reasons to Unfollow or Unsubscribe

Good marketing can make anyone appear to be an expert. They’re not necessarily.

Good marketing can make anyone appear to be any way they want you to think they are. They’re not necessarily the way they appear.

Just because someone has a big following does not mean they know what they’re doing.

Just because someone has a platform does not mean they’re a good teacher for you.

You’ve never heard of some of the wisest people walking this earth, and you never will. Because wisdom does not equal notoriety. Some people are so busy being awesome that they don’t have the time, energy, or desire to be public about it.

(And, of course, being public about your work doesn’t mean you’re not wise, either. It’s simply important to remember that notoriety is not always a result of depth or quality of work.)

Over the past 5 months while stepping back from the day-to-day flow of our business to spend time with our new little babe, I’ve found myself becoming more discerning. About things I want to spend my money on. People I want to spend my time with. And teachers I want to learn from.

I’ve been culling my newsfeed and my inbox and reminding myself of the aforementioned truths, and I’ve come up with the following 6 questions that I’m asking myself about the people I’m following for business or life guidance.

I offer them here to you in case you find them useful, too:

1. Are they working on themselves, questioning their biases, and open to being wrong?

Not everyone is public about the fact that they’re in therapy (though I consider it as critical for health as taking my vitamins and getting good sleep where I can). Not everyone is posting their personal growth journey on the internet, and I’m not saying everyone should. But there are people who you can tell feel like they’ve already arrived and therefore get to be the expert instead of the teacher. And there are other people who get that there is no “there” there and that they’ll be on the journey of self-discovery forever. I’m following the latter. 

2. Are their words, images, and content inclusive?

I’ve been waking up to the inequities in our world around sex, race, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, religion, and more in a BIG way over the last two years or so. And I’ve been waking up to the ways that my business has been part of this in the past and ways we can do better now and moving forward. A platform is a privilege, and with that comes the responsibility to use it to help create the future we desire. For me, that means inclusivity being at the top of the agenda. (I know I’ll continue to screw up in this area, and I’m committed to continuing to learn and do better.) I’m following the people who are using their privilege of a platform (of whatever size) to make the world a better place.

3. Is their content original and/or well credited and documented?

The internet has made it incredibly easy to grab people’s work and share it or “make it your own” without properly citing your sources or documenting what you’re talking about. I’m a nerd at heart, and my time in academia makes me a real stickler about citing your sources and honoring those who have come before you and the ways their work has built a foundation for your work. Teachers who are dressing up other people’s content in a new outfit and parading it around as their own are not worth my time.

4. Do they have a life like you want-ish?

Listen, nobody’s life is perfect and nor should we expect ours to be. It’s all a process. We’re all working on stuff all the time. (See question 1.) That being said, if I’m taking business advice from someone, it’s important that they have a business that looks something like the kind of business I’d like to have. If I’m taking relationship advice from someone, it’s best if they have the kind of relationship I’d like to have. I want to learn from those who have walked the path before me.

5. Do your values align?

There are incredible marketing teachers out there who I know I could learn strategies from to grow our business dramatically, but on a fundamental level we don’t have the same values. I know people say not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but if I find out someone I’m learning from doesn’t respect marginalized people, thinks the planet is our dumping ground, or isn’t spending quality time with their kids, I feel like what they’re teaching, no matter how effective, is tainted. Our culture has a long history of pardoning people for who they are because their work is so good, but I call BS on this. I’m just as, if not more, interested in who someone is than what they do. I follow folks whose values I respect because it makes no sense to invest my time, energy, or money with someone whose values don’t match mine. (Your spending is a prayer.)

This is not about putting our teachers on pedestals or expecting perfection of them. It is about learning from those with the depth, integrity, and self-awareness on board that makes them a good teacher. And only you will know who that is for you.

6. Lastly, trust yourself implicitly.

Even if everyone is going nuts about how great someone is, but something about them feels off, it is. For you at least.

I choose to follow the people who feel like a “hell yes!” to me and let the others be for others.


Which of these questions most resonates with you as a filter for who you follow or learn from? What other filters do you have for your teachers? Tell me in the comments!

If you’ve read this far, there’s a pretty good chance that you resonate with the work that I put out there and the way we run our business. Next week, we’re opening the doors to a brand-new program, The Ultimate Online Business Playbook, for just 4 days.

The program will give you a behind-the-scenes look at how we run our 7-figure business, covering everything from content creation, feeling safe to use your voice, project planning, managing a team, creating company culture, taking exquisite care of your customers, systems, social media strategy, visual branding, marketing, and more. If this sounds like it’s for you, get on the waitlist here. Enrollment is quite limited so look out for an email on Monday when doors open.


  • Jane Meinz

    Please add me to your wait list. Thank you!

  • My favorite all time message you wrote was about “Picking the Brain” … I do believe this may top that! 🙌 🙌 🙌 What a powerful, important, and key message! After finding out I did B-school with you and Mike recently, someone just asked me “who else do you follow?” My response was pretty light mainly because I knew the person wouldn’t know who I was referring to. This is such an important message.

    I really love your first point. “…there are other people who get that there is no “there” there and that they’ll be on the journey of self-discovery forever.” THIS IS KEY FOR ME. In addition to that, I always choose people who give the power back to me, in that I AM MY BEST TEACHER. That no one knows better than me. And I spread that message.

    That’s why I always read your stuff; I so appreciate your truth, vulnerability, shares, risk taking, integrity. Of late, I am drawn to the way you navigate inequities, and it is super inspiring for those of us who aren’t quite sure how to touch on some just yet.

    THANK YOU for this important message!

    • Kate Northrup

      Thank you so much Gina! I’m really glad this resonated with you. I agree – I find it so empowering when teachers remind us that we are our own best teachers. Thanks for being part of our community – we LOVE having you!

  • Good morning, Kate:

    You wouldn’t remember this, of course, but I knew you and your sister as very little girls. When you first came into your adult life work, I occasionally followed your blog because, well, you make a lot of very good sense a lot of the time.

    This blog today is exceptional in its clarity and wisdom. With your permission, I’d like to include it in a program I founded and facilitate called The Living Spiritual Elders Project because those guidelines serve as well in choosing a spiritual path and/or mentor as they do for choosing a business mentor.

    Is that agreeable with you? I would, of course, credit your blog.

    Many blessings on your babies, your family, and your work.


    Meredith Jordan

    • Kate Northrup

      Hey Meredith – I love that our connection goes way back. And of course feel free to share this article with those you think would find it helpful! I appreciate it!

  • Belinda

    This article is on point, especially as I de-clutter my inbox. I don’t want to follow “fake gurus.”

  • Rather

    Perfect timing… as I’m sifting through the hundreds of emails I’ve let pile up over the months. Which ones do I even read? Yours… always. And this particular one helps me with the task of unsubscribing from many of the others. When I find myself unsure, I’m also remembering that I can still follow them in other areas so I don’t always need to be on their “list”. Sometimes it takes a while to get to know a person online, re: their values and true character. I can still get a feel for them on insta or fb without overwhelming my inbox!

    As always, thanks for the tips!


  • Amanda Speights

    I love this! I have found myself taking a step back and asking “Is this person truly giving value?” Being original is super important to me as well. Also, you are right, lots of followers mean nothing these days when people are doing follow for follow and follow loops. Some days I get discouraged because I only have a little over 400 but then I remind myself that I want TRUE followers. I am building a tribe of like-minded ladies and I am doing it organically by building and nurturing relationships. It will all pay off in the end, right? :)

    Thank you,

    • Kate Northrup

      Exactly! Have you ever read the 1,000 True Fans article? It’s well worth a Google and a read to confirm what you already know about depth vs. width!

  • O

    Hi Kate, thanks for the article. I have been thinking about this alot lately because I am also a freelancer and I work for myself. I think it is very difficult to “share” on my Instagram account for example, and I find it difficult to open-up. Swedish as I am, I think work is work and personal life is personal life. I am questioning why I should do that? When I want to use Instagram as my portfolio only, but then I look at my “competitors” and I see that they are open. Should I then do it? And how do I start? Thanks, O

  • Caroline

    Hi Kate! Your point #4 is pretty much how I decide whether I’ll follow someone or not! I look at what they put out there and ask myself “Is this what I strive for?”. It started unconsciously but has become a conscious process and it has made a huge difference for me! I’m much more mindful of what energies/people I let influence my life.

  • The best teacher I ever had was my senior years speech teacher who guided us to challenge ourselves to be our best self as an ongoing process. We were our teachers and each others mentors and I thrived!
    I could never go back again to the way I was. It was all forward and the path of least resistance was so forward moving. That teacher was my ticket to my best life!

  • Hi Kate
    I am a well-being coach and yoga teacher. I totally agree with what you are saying here. credibility is so important and being open to growth yourself shows that you are practicing what you preach.
    thank you for sharing this, it has given me something to reflect upon when I write posts on my FB page as well.

  • I think I’ve become much more discerning in the past few years, but I’d say #5 resonates the most at this time. My experience has been that investing with someone who doesn’t share the same values creates inner conflicts while implementing and undermines the trust which I think is so important when learning from a teacher or being coached by someone. I’ve certainly learned my lessons in this area!

    • Kate Northrup

      yes – I’ve learned all of these lessons by trial and error for sure, too! We can’t learn unless we’re out there doing!

  • Joanna

    Kate, there is so much deep and profound wisdom in this post (of course!). Every word of it resonated so strongly with me, especially the part about a leader/teacher really being in the work. As a therapist and group leader it’s been so magical to let clients in on my own process. I’m emerging now to begin putting my voice out to a wider, online platform (with the help of Origin, PTL). And I very much feel the tension of just wanting to be in the deep work (with myself and clients) and resisting the huge pull to take the vision bigger. There’s so much satisfaction that comes from knowing I’m in it, I’m doing it, and staying in anonymity. Thank you for your words and wisdom. I’m certainly feeling the inherent permission in this post to be in the position of holding these opposites, and taking my time to emerge. At the same time, emerging is not optional! (It never is with Spirit, it seems). :)

    • Kate Northrup

      Your response means a lot to me. Here’s to being in the work and being out there in the balance that makes the most sense for the season we’re in. Thanks for being part of Origin and our greater community!

  • Hi Kate!


    This resonates with me the most right now. I lived in Germany for so long (10 years) that I “forgot” how to write in English and it is not the easiest to put my thoughts down on paper even though I went to college to be a writer! If you don’t use it, you lose it!

    Thank you for reminding me how important it is to properly cite my sources and properly document what I’m writing about. Not only does this help others when they are researching content on their own, but it also gives proper credit to the authors which in turn makes me more credible.

    I am so happy that you and Mike decided to do B-school this year, I have gained so much insight and information on how to make business decisions that are packed full of value.

    Thank you both so much,

    xox Traci Moon

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