Hype is a like a reputational check. And it will always eventually demand to get cashed.

It’s not inherently bad. Just like borrowing money isn’t inherently bad. But it’s dangerous in exactly the same way. If you are on an upward trajectory and can use the capital now to get there faster and go higher, it makes sense, so long as where the debt gets you exceeds the principal and interest owed by the time it’s due.

Hype is reputational debt. You’re borrowing from your future success and using it in the present for a PR bump that you hope will help you generate and accelerate that success. Social capital is at risk. Every announcement of “big things coming” is a loan taken against your reputation and trajectory that must be paid back no later than the time you promised.

Even if good things come, if you hyped HUGE things, you’ll be in reputational debt and have little social capital to work with. You can fail even by succeeding if your past self borrowed more future success than you achieved.

People are pretty gracious and forgiving. They’ll let you go into hype bankruptcy once or twice and still give you chance, and even loan you some present rep on presumed future success again. But after two big hype bankruptcies, everyone will get really stingy with social capital and you’ll be in reputational debt for a very long time, if not forever. (Think how potential customers or investors would respond to, “From the guy who brought you the Fyre Festival!”)

Don’t fear hype, or assume anyone who uses it is conning you. It’s a tool. It’s debt. If someone really is going great places, the earlier they hype it, the better off you are because you can see and get on board early for higher returns. But borrowing against a reputation is easier (at first) than delivering. So watch those who have at least some track record of underpromising and overdelivering. Be wary of those who have a history, even in small ways (like Tweeting, “DMs are open” then not responding to your DM) of failing to return social capital investment as promised.

And whenever possible, build up a big store of social capital by waiting to announce until you’ve already delivered, or letting your delivery do the announcing for you. Then, should you need to draw down some hype, people will gladly loan you their trust and attention.