I was recently approached by someone who is involved in the MLM company called Worldventures (www.worldventures.com). I’m no sales superstar, but my job is one that involves a lot of networking so invariably, those involved in (ahem) “Network Marketing” often hit me up at one point or another. Thankfully, most are professional about it, but like everyone, I’ve also been hit up by the kool-aid drinkers and hucksters as well. Annoying, but little do people realize it’s the rants of anti-MLMers that I find just as annoying as well. To me, both are ridiculously out of touch with real life – let me explain why.
For context, I did some research on the web and came across an article by the New York Observer regarding Worldventures and MLMs in general that seems to touch on both sides of this issue for me all at once, and prompted me to write. I’ll get to the specifics of the article in a moment, but first here’s my categorization of the people I’m going to be referring to:
1) There are certain people in the middle class who choose to settle for mediocrity but then quietly loathe themselves for not risking a little more, doing more, and achieving more in their lives (the difference between being content, happy, and fulfilled). Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against someone being middle-class, as long as they are ethical and happy. I do, however, criticize those who are not ethical and happy.
I criticize them for having what I refer to as a “Middle-Class Victim Mentality” (MCVM), which is a desire to live a life of perpetual victimhood and make excuses for themselves and their life circumstances in order to feel safe and important in their own skin. It’s a survival mechanism – to exist, we need to feel like we are “good people” capable of happiness and feel worthy of existing. With the MCVM, this is most easily accomplished by blaming some external force for one’s current circumstances and poor state of mind. They’d be happy if it wasn’t for the Republicans causing this stupid government shutdown, or if that idiot Jets player hadn’t dropped that pass on the weekend, or if those “bleedheart liberals” or “Kenyan in the White House” wouldn’t keep screwing the country up, for example.
2) On the other side of the Middle Class Victim Mentality is what I refer to as simply the “Winner” Mentality. I don’t attach a “class” to this mentality because to me it is the same across all economic classes of society. Basically the premise is that my beliefs, words, and actions matter; “if it’s to be, then it’s up to me”, and that my happiness and fulfillment are mine alone own to determine and take control of.
My experience with people who are either attracted to or are violently rejecting MLM’s is that they come from either one of these two kinds of mentalities.
With that, here’s what I wish both would clue into regarding MLMs:
For the Anti-MLM Camp:
1) Quit calling everything a “pyramid scheme”. If you had a clue, you’d recognize that virtually every human system or organization we have in our culture is based upon the shape of a pyramid. Guess what – the job you have where you flip those burgers, or the school your kids happen to go to, or hey – even the Democratic or Republican Party that you’ve so come to love – those organizational structures are ALL in the shape of a pyramid.
Oh, by the way, guess what else? Everyone who is at the top of the pyramid tends to a) earn more than those lower down in the pyramid structure, and b) earn “off” those who are lower down in the pyramid structure in one way, shape or form because they are in some way responsible for those peoples’ performance. Wouldn’t you think that you should get paid more working over somebody rather than under them? Same thing.
2) You’re not a “skeptic”, so quit trying to call yourself one. You’re actually a cynic, which means you reject facts instead of seeking them out or embracing them, and you do so for almost purely emotional reasons. Therefore, not only are you ignorant and manipulable (which you accuse MLMers of being), you’re also gutless, which I think is worse. You should deal with those two facts within yourself first before you start attacking other people from some b.s. “holier than thou” perch that you’ve happened to place yourself upon.
3) I have far greater respect for those who dream, chase a dream, or do something to improve their circumstances than I do for anyone who wants to just sit back and criticize from an armchair, Because those with guts chose to chase something unimaginable, seemingly impossible, irrational, or even “foolish”, you and I get to enjoy many of the creature comforts that we enjoy today. More than that…
4) Success often comes from mistakes – LOTS of them. Translation? You can’t be successful at anything if you’re worried more about looking irrational or foolish or like a failure than you are about achieving your goal. And by the way, this has more to do with emotional intelligence than intellectual intelligence; more to do with feelings than facts, which is why most “smart” people aren’t successful – they don’t have the guts to be.
5) Sales arguably the most valuable skill in America. It is the fastest, “easiest” way for someone to change not only their financial circumstances externally, but their level of happiness and fulfillment internally as well. Successful people know this, losers don’t.
6) If people are “duped” by MLM’s, then they have the intelligence level of a retarded guppy and the ignorance of a rock. Are their MLM scammers? Absolutely, and may they all rot in jail, but someone who joins an MLM is no more duped than they are guaranteed to fail.
7) You are as much a kool-aid drinker concerning failure and quitting as typical MLM’ers are concerning success. Since you’re so afraid of failure (and more about the “looking bad” part than the financial part), you refuse to take any real risk. You are also far too quick to label something a “failure” than anyone successful ever does, because unlike you the successful look at things from a growth and fulfillment perspective, and they also see the long term. On the other hand, you quit things under the excuse of being “smart” when the truth is you knew you never had the guts to follow through or do the hard work in the first place. And, since you’re so concerned about appearances, it becomes easier after-the-fact to scrutinize and vilify others rather than put that scrutiny on yourself.
For the Pro-MLM Camp:
1) The only job title within an MLM company is that of “Sales Team Builder”. Forget “Independent Business Owner”, or “Health & Wellness Advisor”, or any of the other swanky titles they try and give you when joining these things. If you’re not willing to take on the title of Sales Team Builder and have it exude from every pore, forget signing up for any MLM.
2) The people at the top of an MLM pyramid only have one goal – to get rich quick - but that’s not the issue. The issue comes with the second part, or the qualifier of that goal which is to get there in the most lazy way possible. This is where “legitimate” salespeople become separate from MLM.
Does “rich quick in the most lazy way possible” raise red flags? It should, because it means that people at or near the top of MLM pyramids will tolerate shady or even illegal activity in order to achieve their goal, and as a new rep if you’re trying to get rich in the most lazy way possible, it means you will as well. MLM apologists typically don’t want to do the hard work that comes with owning a small business or even selling, so they tend to seek out shortcuts no matter what the personal or legal cost happens to be in the long run. At the top, a very recent example is this guy. Near the bottom, take almost any MLM “failure”.
3) The people above you don’t actually care if you succeed. Sure, there’s some warm fuzzies and bragging rights if they help you get there, but in the end all they want is your downline. Disagree? Try this experiment: go to your upline and tell them you want to leave the business, but you’re willing to leave them 100 people in your downline. Then gauge on a 1-10 scale how hard they’re trying to keep you in the company now vs. how hard they were trying to get you into the company in the beginning. Does this matter? Depends on why you joined. If you’re truly a salesperson and you’re truly independent, then it shouldn’t but if it does, you should question why you’re really there. If you’re getting more out of the connection side of things, perhaps save your money and join a social club because true salespeople aren’t truly social people.
4) Just because you like something, doesn’t mean you’re qualified to sell something. This is a fundamental flaw (among many) in the MLM model – assuming that everyone is a salesperson when hardly anyone is. I like the iPhone. Does that mean I can recommend it? Sure. Does that automatically make me qualified to go onto an Apple sales floor and sell it? No. Same with cars, same with stocks, same with everything. Only about 2%-5% of the population are cut out for sales and guess what? This happens to be close to the percentage of people in MLM who earn an actual income.
5) Nobody normal is THAT excited about a product or service. Here’s a good rule of thumb – if you’re talking about “your” company and praising them more than, say, someone from Apple or Zappos would be praising their own, then there’s something wrong. For one, you’re coming across as a weirdo and for another, all you’ll attract to that passion is more weirdos.
6) Quit telling us things are awesome with you when we know that they’re not. When I ask how things are going in that new MLM you’re in, I’d much rather hear, “You know what? It’s tough, it’s a lot of money and a lot of work, but I’m really enjoying the products and services, and I’m learning a ton about selling and running a business in the meantime” than “Things are AWESOME! This company’s about to EXPLODE! You really need to take a look at this GROUND FLOOR OPPORTUNITY!” Yeah, I get it – critical mass, paradigm shifts, both Donald Trump and Warren Buffett said they like MLM (they didn’t, but whatever). Heard it. Yawn.
Anyways, those are some general things I wish people on both sides of the issue would clue into.
Back to the article. It plays this angle that all MLM’s are basically rip-off machines and that the poor public are just victims of these vile beasts, and that they somehow would be regulated more strictly if it wasn’t for lobbyists. Not buying it. As I’ve said before regarding many other things, I don’t believe at all in legislation as an excuse for people to be lazy or ignorant. Should nutraceuticals, for instance, be heavily regulated? Yes against unscrupulous companies labeling arsenic as aspirin, or expired products as new, but if its regulation for the purpose of simply letting people off the hook for actually questioning efficacy or quality of a vitamin, or learning, say, what St. John’s Wort will do to their bodies, then I say no way. It’s the same with MLM’s. Decide whether you are or want to be a salesperson and if so, then consider MLM. If not, be a customer. Sure, the products are overpriced but so are Sony TV’s, Nike shoes, and luxury/boutique anything, which is what you’re buying with MLM.
It took me getting fired from three sales jobs before I figured out how to really “sell” anything. In each of those jobs I bought a bunch of sales books from the store, a bunch of clothes and accessories to keep up appearances, and even paid for seminars outside of work. I was so broke it made no rational sense at the time, but years later, I now credit those experiences for helping friends and family through crises, helping me get through my own, and kicking ass in every job or client interview I had since then.
I also know great people who do very well in MLM. They’re professional about it, quiet about, it, and while they’re not millionaires, they earn a decent full-time income coming from very humble – and even destitute – beginnings. MLM was basically the only model they could quickly turn their situations around in, and they’re all better for it. Do I know people who have crashed and burned in MLM? You bet.
The point is, the last people you want to discuss with or learn about success from are losers, and these to me are the people who write these articles and many of the blog posts I see slamming MLM to such a passionate degree. To me, they are no more in touch with the reality of success than the desperate who have let themselves be “duped” into MLM.