The following are some popular narratives of the past:

"Privatizing space travel won't work."
"Electric cars will never be popular."
"Online publications are dead."
"Gaming is a niche industry."
"Search is too crowded."

Here are some cannabis specific narratives:

"Cannabis is a gateway drug."
"The cannabis industry is easy money."
"You have to be a vertically integrated company to be successful in cannabis."
"Categorizing cannabis based on feeling is a fad."
"Cannabis beverages will always be niche."

The results?

  • Space travel = Space-X
  • Electric cars = Tesla
  • Online publications = Buzzfeed, The Atlantic
  • Gaming = Twitch
  • Search = Google
  • Gateway drug = Legalization
  • Easy money = Cannabis shakeout

Many of the cannabis narratives are yet to play out. Only time will tell!

Narrative Mirage

Narratives have the ability to influence the way we act and approach our businesses. When this happens we've potentially fallen for a narrative mirage — an illusion created by a popular narrative. This was extremely apparent during the early days of cannabis legalization. Think about how the popular narrative resulted in companies and founders raising millions on a promise that would never come to fruition.

Lost in the fog of illusion, it's easy to forget where the real pioneering happens — on the fringe. Not playing within the parameters of the popular narrative, but searching for the hidden truth — a narrative violation.

Narrative Violations

Narrative violations are the reason for innovation. It's founders questioning everything around them in search of the truth.

Narratives are anything but definite. These are stories by design. These stories are created by someone, somewhere. They are meant to be challenged and put to the test. What we've seen from questioning narratives are some of the greatest breakthroughs in technology.

The ironic part is, the new "truth" becomes the popular narrative. Churchill said, "history is written by the victors", which explains the narrative cycle. As new leaders in a category emerge, they create the narrative. Rinse and repeat.

In search of truth

Narrative violations are a search for hidden truths. Where there is a hidden truth lies opportunity. We should always question popular narratives – "Who's telling me this and why?"

Think about your kids. What's the question our kids ask over and over? "But, why?" And when you answer, there is another "why?" in reply. Our kids are only satisfied when they get to the bottom of it.  They are searching for first principles — truths that cannot be reduced any further. We should approach popular narratives like our kids approach life. Question everything.

As Steve Jobs said, "Stay hungry, stay foolish."


Headquarters is a strategic advisory studio that specializes in California cannabis. We help brands launch, grow, and scale in the Golden State and beyond.


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