This is a great word today—to gain traction. What does it mean to gain traction? It means, to have a little bit of success. You know how when you try to do something, but it just never really gets off to a good start? You never get that first little bit of success that you need to keep going. When that happens, you’re having trouble gaining traction.
What you heard earlier is that previous efforts to oppose Maduro have had a hard time gaining traction. One reason for that is that the government has intimidated and repressed the opposition: Henrique Capriles, the leader of the opposition, was prevented from running in the most recent election. Other opposition figures were either jailed or forced into exile. It’s no wonder that opposition to Maduro hasn’t gotten much traction, since every time a leader emerges, that leader is disqualified or thrown in jail. For some reason, though, Guaidó’s efforts are starting to gain some traction. We’ll see how far he goes: he has the benefit of support from foreign governments, so that may help give him momentum.
There’s this new thing in the United States called the Instant Pot. I’m not entirely sure what it is. Supposedly it cooks whatever you want. It’s like a pressure cooker, a crock pot, and an oven all in one. I won’t be getting one—I’m just using it as an example of a product that has gained a lot of traction lately. I’d never heard of the Instant Pot in my life until last week; now, I hear about it like twice a day. It has definitely gotten a lot of traction online; everyone is talking about it. It got the support, that first bit of success, that it needed to get popular.
Can you think of a product that launched but did not gain much traction? Do you know what a Snuggie is? Google it, if you’ve never heard of it. It’s a blanket with sleeves, so you can wear it like an article of clothing. It never got much traction after it came out, although it did enjoy a bit of a revival when people started buying them as jokes. Snuggie—never got much traction.
Oh, here’s a great example of a product that never got any traction. In the late 90s (or maybe it was the early 2000s), this guy announced that he had a product that would change the world: literally, this would change everything we thought we knew about transportation. It would crush the car; nobody would want cars after they saw this product. He revealed his product on a television special—it was the Segway. Have you seen those? You stand on top of them and lean forward or back and that’s how you move. After all the hype, everyone took one look at it and said, “This can’t be serious.” The company thought they would sell 50,000 to 100,000 units in the first year; after two years, they had sold 6,000. A few years later, they finally had shipped 25,000 units. Finally getting some traction right? Well, they had to recall them all due to a software glitch that would cause the Segways to go backward when the user wanted to go forward. Right when they started to get some traction, they all had to be recalled. And that might have been the last hope of the Segway ever really becoming a popular consumer product. Nineteen years later and the car is still unthreatened by any new type of invention.
We started to gain some traction here about three or four months into the podcast. Those early days—yeah, not too many listeners back at the very beginning. Crickets, mostly. Maybe some insomniacs—people who can’t sleep. But after a few months, more and more people started discovering us, and we started to gain traction. And it’s a good thing we stuck with it, JR and I, because now we have a flourishing community of listeners.
And don’t forget, as I mentioned before, as a member of the flourishing community, you have the opportunity to connect with us by WhatsApp. The number, once again, is +1 312 967-8757. Send me a WhatsApp and I’ll include you on some extra messages. Nothing special; I really don’t know what I’ll use WhatsApp for, but probably just get episode ideas, ask for your feedback, maybe ask you some questions about the topics I’m exploring for the future. +1 312 967 8757.
And this doesn’t take away from the emails, by the way. You can still sign up for those by going to PlainEnglish.com/mail. That’s all for today. Next up on Monday: What should we do about artists who have let us down? R. Kelly, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, comedian Louis CK, actor Bill Cosby: all have fallen from grace, as a result of personal misbehavior in recent years. But does that mean we can’t enjoy the music, movies, or TV shows they’ve produced in the past? That’s what we’re going to be talking about on Monday, so tune in, right here on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen. Thanks again for being with us and we’ll be back together on Monday.