“Scam” is a nasty four-letter word in Success. In Success calling someone, or their product, or their brand, a scam, evokes a reaction akin to a man calling a woman the c-word. The accusation and reaction play a shopworn script:
Accuser: You’re a scam.
Guru: You’re a poor, broke loser!
Accuser exits the scene and lives their life.
Guru stays in scene and delivers long, prolix monologues about why the accuser is beneath him, poor and broke, a loser, and why those who succeed invest in themselves and take a risk, and those that don’t are worthless humans, stuffed full of self-limiting beliefs, and those worthless people could change but are so overwrought by their jealousy and hatred of money, they will die forgotten and alone. Guru also posts these thoughts on social media and spouts them at on-stage speaking events. And the guru insists he’s not bothered by getting called a scam, doesn’t have the time to deal with haters, and is too busy providing value/hustling, and must insist, again, how his mindset ensures he’s never bothered by anyone that accuses him of being a scam.
The melodramatic reaction of gurus is common. The word “scam” elicits a visceral reaction due to the internal makeup of who sits on the receiving end. It presses on the thin-skinned and thin-dimensioned nature of gurus and Success acolytes.
Merriam-Webster defines scam:
- noun: a fraudulent or deceptive act
- verb: deceive, fraud, to obtain (as money) by a scam
That standard definition captures a small taste of what the word means in Success for both the accuser and the guru. When a guru gets called a scam, they see themselves as a type of noun or adjective:
- (1) basic a person engaging in fraudulent or deceptive sales messaging
- (2) common a person selling shitty, valueless products
- (3) visceral the person accused or in question makes little or no money despite the claims; they are poor and broke; their entire personal and professional worth is meaningless, valueless, and worthless; they also have low to zero financial net worth, thus offering no value to the world and no value to anyone; their entire legacy is meaningless due to a lack of skill set and belief -adjective (generally written scammy):
- (1)basic of a person, company, or message with poor copy; of a thing or person using poor marketing; of a poor marketing message usually selling shitty, worthless, or valueless products
- (2) common resembling a marketer or person of low intelligence, and therefore not able to market or find success or make money
- (3)visceral resembling a person who sells shitty products or products of no value
- (4) visceral resembling a person of no financial worth or worldly worth, but selling products and proclaiming themselves otherwise.
When a guru gets called a scam, in their mind and belief system, it questions their entire world. The guru thinks this person, this vile accuser, sees their life and mission as offering no value. Thus the guru and everything they do, and who they are as a human, are downright worthless.
Whereas the accuser adheres closer to the standard definition of scam. But the noun part includes more definitions:
- (1)standard fraudulent or deceptive act
- (2)common a person or company selling products or advice offering little to no value
- (3) common a person or company making little to no money attempting to deceive others out of their money
- (4) most common a person or company offering generic and rehashed hyper-results that are unlikely; a person or company promising insane wealth, perfect habits, instant weight loss, etc. but the advice or methods offered are platitudinal or downstream (in the case of tactics, coaching, and consulting) or blue sky and the hyper results promised are unlikely attained, but average results for a beginner are possible
- (5) visceral the person selling the hyper-results is either a sciolist1 or an ultracrepidarian2, sometimes a sell-out
The adjective forms resemble the definitions mentioned above regarding the gurus. Also, it’s not just money scammed, it’s also time and mental bandwidth that’s seen as scammed.
Why The Accusation
When a guru gets called a scam, they sweep the accuser into a generalized group: poor, broke people with toxic anti-success mindsets and habits. But the group isn’t as monolithic as the guru believes. Accusers fall more or less into three camps: trolls, general group, and dork oddballs. The trolls comprise a small group of people that like to go around and say ‘scam’ or shit post3. The trolls do it for a laugh. The dork oddballs take a sales letter at face value. They then reply to the sales letter either on a personal blog, on the guru’s Instagram, or some other platform, with an incomprehensible manifesto breaking down the sales letter. The dork oddball camp is infinitesimal but stands out due to an ALL CAPS written manifesto or odd rants breaking down a word like, guarantee. The dork oddballs are the smallest camp, the trolls comprise a larger size, but most people can see the troll shtick. The general group, however, is the largest group and the most common accuser. This accuser comprises various men and women of all ages, of all walks of life, and of all financial positions. Despite gurus calling them poor, broke losers, some — many, in my experience — come from big wealth.
But why does this group say scam? The fast and short answer. They’re tired. They’re tired of hearing and seeing the same promises promised in the same way using the same marketing methods and methods marketed over and over and over again. The accuser sees the ad or personality, sees or hears the shopworn methods, and instantly and viscerally says, “scam.” The accusation is a result, more or less, of a first impression. A guru, right now, would knee-jerk respond that the accusers should buy what they offer instead of letting that first impression — an impression the guru sees as they’re not giving me a fair shot; and an impression they see comprising a toxic mindset and self-limiting beliefs — win. But the guru’s response shows their lack of market insight and business wisdom. The accuser indeed undergoes an impression, but that impression often involves past experience. That past experience involves having previously bought and tried programs or products offered via similar promises and sales methods, yet only ending up with fruitless results. And gurus harbor an ideology to blame the customer for their fruitless results, and boast this ideology publicly, despite that guru promising their method or product is “so simple, anyone can do it!” That public blame and shame game ingrained itself into the customer experience. And sometimes, it’s not only fruitless results the customer experiences, it’s that the product or program or sales message is rehashed and recycled. Even if it’s a well-produced video module course, the advice or lessons taught are nothing more than hackneyed truisms. For instance, a copywriting course selling “secrets of conversion” offers the same templates and advice of every other copy course: AIDA, big promise, sell a solution, don’t educate, press on fears and emotions, people want their problems solved, create curiosity, use short words and short sentences, etc. It’s all the same. Or a “close more deals” course sounds no different from a mindset course. The buyer gets nothing but platitudes, truisms, anecdotes, and axiomatic advice. To the buyer, the courses, the advice, even the supposed physiological results a supplement promises, it all tastes stale. Even when a guru tries to “stand out” with a contrarian message like, “all copywriting experts suck,” most know what that contrarian copywriting expert will say next — the same lessons and promises of the experts they claimed sucked. In other words, the contrarian safely sticks to the generic blue-sky hyperbole. Nor is the scam accusation always directed at make money online marketing or gurus. Someone might call a supplement a scam, or a marketing company, or whatever else is being sold to them. Since those marketers and those gurus, those mavericks and renegades eschewing the traditional corporate branding, all read the same books, buy the same courses, follow the same TedTalk-like personalities, all adhere to the same principles, philosophies, truisms, methods, all adhere and yield to the safety of Success no matter what they do, it all looks the same. It’s that sameness that lumps them into the category: scam.
This general group of accusers, however, does have two misguided beliefs. One, that the guru makes no money. Two, that the guru is a savvy confidence artist. We find these mistaken beliefs most often in the make money online arena or how to make more money with a particular skill or mindset arena. The misguided first belief does contain truth. Many gurus go broke, many get busted, some go to prison. News of this makes its way around. Furthermore, the closer one moves inside guru circles the more one experiences broke gurus. 4 But not all gurus are bust or poor or broke. Bust gurus tend to comprise a smaller group. In reality, some gurus or online marketing companies make ok money5 but they don’t make the mega-millions they claim. And much of the money they claim to make ties to a stretch claim 6. Even they the gurus miss that they don’t make millions upon millions of dollars, they believe they do, but they don’t. And this ties into the other misguided belief, that the guru or personality selling the product is knowingly conning or scamming. That gives the guru too much intellectual credit. Most gurus and “experts” in the Success World are two-dimensional people. They are about as mentally savvy as a cardboard cutout of a person. They have loads of vanity but scant personal depth, swagger, brains, and critical thinking. They attend events and run with what they’re taught.7 They follow shopworn scripts and miss that what they’re doing wades into immoral, unethical, or scammy areas. In other words, they lack the smarts to con.
But the scam accusation reveals a human nature truth. A truth the gurus — the self-anointed masters of human psychology, sales, human nature, and persuasion — all miss. That is, people respect and admire a person’s rise to success; people respect and admire a person’s enduring journey to a good result. And people admire this journey when they know it’s real and not fabricated. Even people that hate capitalists and billionaires, still enjoy someone’s rise to success. The Rocky movie franchise is a multi-billion dollar franchise enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Each Rocky installment is a story of a rise to success. Even when Rocky attained success, he faced new battles. And the rise doesn’t always mean: rags to riches or David beats Goliath. Yes, people love that tale too, but we respect it when a man or woman, with their faculties and skills, engenders success. We see this truth pervade the arts, music, writing, business, athletics, and more, at all levels. From a little kid suddenly finding athletic footing in a baseball game to make a great throw or hit, to an already wildly successful businessman coming in and turning around a dying brand. What we admire and praise, what we find admirable and praiseworthy, is that a person through their own industry, discipline, talents, and faculties moved the needle in some way. And when the person succeeding, particularly those incredibly skilled, blends confidence and humility, and when they aren’t doing their actions solely for praise, or “for the likes”, we find it more admirable.
That respect for the rise, that respect for success, ties to praise and praiseworthy, and admire and admirable. We praise actions that we believe or sense to be worthy of praise. For instance, we praise hard work. We praise discipline and consistency. We praise the creative result of someone with rare talented gifts. And what we praise, what we admire, isn’t just the result; we praise and admire the qualities of that person that got the result. The result is only the surface of what’s praiseworthy and admirable. Under that surface is the work, the actions, the disposition, and the behaviors of the person; the courage, the justice, the discipline, the ethics of the person. Again, in any endeavor, people love witnessing someone overcome or endure or engender a positive result. And despite what gurus say, even poor, broke losers like a success story.
As much as humans find a rise or success praiseworthy and admirable, they hate the opposite. They hate it when someone manufactures a success story; hate it when they tell a tall tale of a rise that never happened; hate it when a person overstates and over-glorifies their actions or positive result. People find this distasteful. It stinks of vanity, stinks of insecurity, and, sometimes, stinks of maliciousness. These people that overstate and boast or that connive and lie, we blame them for the charade and the facades. We find their actions and their behaviors blameworthy. We distrust them. We ourselves feel fooled, we find out someone overstated their importance, they sold us a false bill of goods. People respect what’s real, and respect the work to attain a good result; people despise anything that feels like stolen or fabricated valor. That’s rooted in human nature.
Why The Accusation Hits Success — Gurus and Acolytes so Hard
Success is a world of unquestioned belief. Everything hinges on belief. Believe in a guru and their tactics, and you can find a personal and professional utopia. Use certain tactics to attain bulletproof self-belief to attain your utopia. Use certain “secret” methods to make others believe in you. Use “sneaky” persuasion secrets to get people to believe in your product or brand. Attend this event, believe in the process, and you will walk away with more self-belief. Success offers promises of a utopia based on belief. Your own business can lead you to the promised land. And not only lead you but get you praise and recognition along the way. All you need to do — believe.
It’s axiomatic that to succeed you must believe in yourself. In only the rarest of instances, a super-talented person will succeed even while plagued with enormous self-doubt. But these people tend to fizzle fast. And we find many stories where people succeed in spite of their self-doubt. On the whole, however, to succeed requires enormous self-belief. Success pushes the belief message to its shallowest levels. Success makes the self-belief depend on external results and outcomes. Those external results and outcomes provide a metric of one’s self-belief. Getting praise, likes, views, clicks, conversions, testimonials and more all serve as a metric of your self-belief. Another metric, how much you invest in yourself and display the self-investment publicly to then get the affirmation that you believe in yourself; the public display of saving threads on Twitter, racing to the back of the room at an event to buy the speaker’s course, blogging how you read Atomic Habits, attending masterminds, and humble brags on Facebook or Linkedin.
It’s an indoctrination: you must believe in the message in order to get the belief you need to make others believe in you. This indoctrination, and why people fall for it, comes from a fear. It’s a natural fear any person experiences: facing resistance. When you want to achieve something, at some point, you will face resistance. If you want to get strong, the weights will get heavier, not lighter. If you want to start a blog, the first hour of setting it up online, in fact, the first few seconds, you face resistance. It’s natural. And at times, and often, it sucks.
A common resistance for someone new, why should anyone believe in me? The same goes for a sales message selling a new product, why should anyone believe in this new and wholly untested product? Success never teaches how to work through this common scenario; Success sells a skip around. So how do you get people to believe in you when you’re just starting? Show social proof. Social proof is the simple concept that if others believe in you then more will buy from you. For instance, as the concept goes, if you see a line of people waiting to get into a restaurant, then you believe that restaurant to be good. Social proof comes down to others showing trust — aka belief — in a product or person so that means the product is trustworthy. It’s a human instinct. In sum, more people believe in it, so you too believe it will be a better product. It’s not true in every case, but social proof provides a decent rule of thumb when you’re unsure.
But how do you get Social Proof if no one knows of you yet? If no one believes in you?
Remember, Success stuffs its followers inside an emotional Chinese finger trap: how many other people believe in you resembles your own personal self-belief. So if you’re brand new, or trying to sell more, or starting a new business, no one knows who you are. The newbie Success acolyte finds himself in a social proof conundrum. What’s the skip around? How can they have social proof if they have none?
Success sells and professes:
- Fake it until you make it
- Leapfrog tactic
- You only need to be one step ahead
- Imposter syndrome is a self-limiting belief
They could all be swept under: Leapfrog Tactic. This tactic was made famous by Robert Ringer, the author of Winning Through Intimidation. Much of his book Looking Out For #1 enumerated the tactic. Ringer didn’t invent it. It existed long before him. Overstating self-worth existed when humans were fighting wooly mammoths, but Ringer gave it a catchy name, and the motivational speaking circuit in the 1980s took off with it. The tactic is simple: declare yourself an expert. This does have some merits. A false notion plagues society. The notion that one needs an MBA or a degree to say one is an expert. Credentialism plagues the modern workforce. A profession truly requiring a degree proves rare. For instance, a car dealer that never went to college will know heaps more about sales than a marketing professor at Harvard with all the right degrees. At best, it’s more or less a motivational tactic to get started and to realize you don’t need fancy degrees. But anointing yourself an expert comes with issues. If you can’t sing a lick, but you anoint yourself an expert in teaching people to sing high notes like Aretha Franklin or Brian Johnson of AC/DC, you run into issues. And newbies studying Success realize this issue, this false facade, they call it “imposter syndrome.” But Success meets the reasonable retort and professes the importance of believing that you are already a success because doing so will deliver you future success. Success then provides the steps and methods to fabricate social proof all in the name of moving closer to future Success. Methods like stretch claims and stretch numbers. In other words, you learn to overstate your current levels of success (and again, as it goes, by overstating you are showing belief in what you can attain and your self-talk of what you want to be and what you plan to be, therefore it’s ok now to overstate your Success since you intend on arriving at this level soon — yes this is a real method). You’re taught to sell that you’re at high professional heights despite it not being true. You learn to use any number, or any projection, and sell it as your social proof. For instance, if you want to say you’re a business coach, you say you coach millionaires. The implication to the public is that you, yourself, are a millionaire. While you may not be yet, the method further states that to be a millionaire you must act and believe as if you are a millionaire, so say you coach millionaires. Worried that you haven’t coached a millionaire? Well, have you ever chatted with a millionaire? Read a book by a millionaire? Seen a millionaire on TV? Then that chat, that book, that seeing, you use as a stretch to make the claim that you coach millionaires. Worried? That’s toxic thinking. Revert back to the mindset tactic of if you want to be a millionaire you must start acting or behaving like a millionaire. The definition of how a millionaire behaves proves ambiguous, but ambiguous enough to allow someone to inject their vision of what it means. It almost goes without saying that this Leapfrog tactic and all the emotional, psychological, and methods comprising it, will undoubtedly attract a certain type of person. No one can escape having vanity, but some fret over it more than others. And the Leapfrog tactic appeals to those who fret over their vanity more than others.
But as you can see, an issue occurs. The Leapfrog tactic is best used when you’re scared of starting. Yet in the grand scheme, that worry is minor. Most self-motivated people face the resistance, willingly. They are also willing to learn, take some bruises, and gain experience. Most successful people, whether it’s a personality or a gravel company owner, work past that resistance immediately versus needing a tactic. This group, though, knows through their hard work they made it. They paid the price. And for those who take the leapfrog past a bit of motivation, they lack that man in the arena experience. They instead skirted facing resistance via stretch claims, stretch numbers, and chintzy mindset platitudes telling them they are a warrior. Instead of bearing down and gaining experience to become sure, the Success acolyte tries to claim they are sure of themselves. Does it even need to be said that paying for your stripes, paying for your self-assuredness leaves one unsure? Success twists its followers; Success misleads its followers; Success twists and misleads because it teaches to fabricate a Success story, then teaches to keep hoping for that man in the arena experience, the experience claimed in the story, to somehow happen. It puts a paper cart in front of a vision of a horse and then dreams for the real cart and horse to show up.
Why Genuflection Supplants Self-Reflection
A reasonable person may ask why is it these people can’t see the blind spot of buying false assurance, and fabricating and overstating self-worth? Why is it this way, even with all the mindset books and business books teaching “better decision making” and all that stuff, why is it they can’t see the issues of a false facade?
Questioning is toxic in this world.
Some gurus, like productivity gurus or “income experts” preach that questioning is a form of procrastination. That it slows you down. And procrastination, in the realm of Success, is a vile sin. It’s what poor, broke losers do. They never start, they procrastinate, they question. Any form and any degree of procrastination in Success is an utter, outright, disgusting, vile, sin. And questioning a guru, questioning a tactic, questioning a course ties itself to elements of procrastination. And also tied to it is the opposite of procrastination, speed. Speed here means the speed of application. One must apply, and apply now. Questioning slows things down.
That slowing down and questioning goes against the unspoken “Buy and Apply” or the spoken “Always Be Applying” mantras, maxims, and laws of Success. Again, application is critical. The only way to succeed, you must apply. Read books, apply the lessons; don’t question, apply lessons; the only way to figure it out, apply. For instance, at any multi-day online-marketing event, the men’s restroom reveals this buy-and-apply mentality. Go to a urinal, and as sure as the sun rises in the east, a guy will stand next to you and say, “wow, this is a firehose of information to the brain.” Upon command, someone hears that and says, “Yeah! I already applied what Russell was saying, and I’m already seeing sales, this event is already paying for itself.” Then, someone else on cue, “Yeah, I applied those lessons, and I just tried what Russell taught just now before I got into the bathroom, and wow, this event will triple my business!8” And so on.9 This one-upping — as pathetic, vain, and puerile as it is — signals to others that the person applies. That they didn’t even ask questions. That they got the lesson, and no questions asked, applied the lessons before they headed to the restroom. Whether these people applied an entire new Video Sales Letter within the three minutes the break was announced, and before they stood in line to relieve themselves is a lie or not, we can leave that up to simple logic. But Success instills a self-fulfilling consumer behavior, apply without questioning. This applying without question also shows, and as the acolyte believes, self-belief; to believe in yourself requires applying.
In short, you’re taught that critical thinking has no application in success, only applying and forward momentum does. So what is the promise? Why all this forward momentum? Leaving an enduring legacy. Success bakes in a promise into its messaging: that you won’t just be successful if you use the methods, after you’re gone, the life you led (using the approved methods) will be so remarkable, you will be remembered forever. But, since Success can’t help itself once again, the message gets pushed to radical edges. The edges — retiring not your children, but your entire future lineage. And not just retire, rather, they live in total comfort — yachts, private jets, mansions, the whole deal. Yes, from using Success tactics — marketing, make money online, Tony Robbins’s weekends, etc. — one gets told they can build an enduring family name, and enduring intergenerational wealth.10 And people buy into this. In their minds, they start thinking “I’m right around the corner from breaking through.” The vision begins dancing in their heads and imprinting itself into the person’s belief system.
That you must apply adheres to another tactic turned moral law in Success circles: winners invest in themselves, losers don’t. Various other sayings like that exist. It’s called an either/or or a dichotomy of choice. A famous Wall Street Journal ad used this tactic. It told a story of two men,11 where one is a manager and the other works for the manager, and the difference being, the manager read the Wall Street Journal and his lowly employee didn’t. On sales pages, you’ll read or hear, those who buy today will soon start their journey to live a healthier, better, fitter life, while those who don’t buy, will remain spinning their wheels, trying one program after the next. Tied to this message, is the idea that those who don’t buy or invest or pay more or buy the upsell, are losers. They stay stuck. They will live forgotten lives, wondering “what if?”
This tactic turned moral principle ingrains a particular psychology, a near ethnic division. It foments in the mind of the Success acolyte (including many gurus), a binary social hierarchy: winners and losers. Or the haves and have-nots. On one end, it’s a rudimentary social class hierarchy. And the losers in the hierarchy are toxic people. They have self-limiting beliefs. They question things. These lowlifes watch TV, work 9-5 jobs, question everything, and make no money; in fact, they hate anyone that makes money and they try to convince themselves making money is evil12. The losers are seen as vile urchins, lowlife sinners, wallowing in self-misery and doubt. Whereas the winners are seen as holy, as successful, as inspirational, as providing value to the world. Success ideology states to hang out only with wealthier people, or people “better than you “(“better” almost always means they make more money than you since that is the important metric, not character) and not to hang out with people making less money with you. Gurus state that if they meet the five closest people you hang out with, they can predict your future success. This idea gets pushed further, you must hang out with people that push you and support you; if your parents express concern about your future, “fuck your parents” is a Success maxim; you must hang out with those that tell you the truth and uplift you (but that truth is atta boys and take risks; if it’s “you’re scammy” then that friend must be dropped as they are trying to keep you down). Success can’t even see that if you hang out with wealthier people, then you are the poor idiot in the group, and these people shouldn’t be hanging out with you as that’s a red flag on their growth. Success conveniently leaves that out, rather, Success lacks basic logic and wants things both ways when necessary. Yes, it’s important to hang out with people that inspire you to be better, but this idea that hanging out with anyone making less money than you is bad is pure vanity. It’s like being a handsome guy, and you can’t be seen with unhandsome people — it’s pathetic vanity, it’s pathetic insecurity. But this dichotomy exists in Success, and it’s seen as a law of life.
So here we have this person, ingrained with a shallow belief system. A belief system dependent upon external metrics, wild contradictions, facades, hackneyed sayings, and a blue-skied vision of their success. A person not of their own decisions, but of the decisions an airport best-seller; a person not of their own making, but of a making they purchased and continue to pour money into to make it look like they are of their own making.
The Visceral Reaction
That fueling of pie-in-the-sky vision, that fueling of self-indulgent fantasies, that fueling of shallow beliefs, that fueling fills the acolyte full of a self-satisfying belief system. Then that guru, that acolyte, and their entire belief system, their entire vision of the world and of themselves goes out into the public, goes out into the public with a belief system where their self-worth depends on the external metric of others believing in them, ventures into the world full and gets hit with: “scam.”
At the stroke of four letters, the word reduces the acolyte’s entire worldview to nothing.
The word reduces in two ways. The first way it reduces, it implies a lack of overall belief. To repeat, the Success moral principle goes: how many others believe in you is a result of how much you believe in yourself. So this person who spent so much time and energy and money to have or make others believe in them meets someone that at first impression doesn’t believe in them. And doesn’t only not believe in them, but thinks they are outright full of shit. The second way it reduces, someone sees the guru or acolyte as a have not, as a loser. This goes deeper. To the guru or acolyte, a person not in the approved Success circles asserted themselves as more valuable than them, the self-anointed “expert. And this person sees that self-anointed expert as providing no value. And that self-anointed expert invested large amounts of time and money into constructing an image of them providing immense value to the world; they now believe this time and money entitles them to have others believe that they provide immense value to the world, that others revere them as Atlases to the economy, and that others should believe that their legacy is worth praising. But no. Someone sees them as nothing. Not only nothing but as providing no value. And not just that, but sees them as someone low on the social totem pole. And sees it all in an instant. And this outsider doesn’t exist inside the approved Success club. They lack the paid-for credentials, they attend no masterminds, they write no marketing threads on Twitter, and they don’t post on Facebook. The only person allowed to criticize is the critic you pay to review your sales letter, not some plebeian peasant that knows nothing about sales! So it’s how dare this non-Success person speak to me this way! Some vile troglodyte who hates money, hates making money, and troglodytes around with self-limiting beliefs!
YOU’RE A POOR, BROKE LOSER!
The guru lacks the ability to ignore. The guru lacks the ability to retort with anything but a formulaic thought-terminating cliche. The guru lacks the self-belief and wisdom to know getting called a scam is part of doing business. The guru lacks, most of all, inherent and true self-belief and self-strength
Why Gurus Saying “Poor, Broke Loser” Displays Their Lack of Smarts
People will always cast aspersion onto someone or something successful and for various reasons. Some people simply don’t believe in the person or the claims, some are envious, some are having a bad hair day. It’s the nature of business. Sometimes the criticisms contain merit, sometimes not, and sometimes it’s trolling or oddballs. Yet Success misses that the lessons and ideologies it teaches, lessons and ideologies teaching to fabricate admiration to get admiration, shallows people. And Success fosters an environment where people strategically admire others for their own self-interest (to show they are hustling), and the person admired takes the admiration (on, say, a Facebook group) as a metric of their self-belief. Yes, people want to be admired, and it’s important to be admirable. But Success takes this truth and hollows it out to its thinnest and shallowest parts. What’s missed here, Success sells methods promising to instantly turn you into an admirable person. But an admirable person arrives at being admirable on their own accord, not because they purchased it or manifested it into existence.
Another big thing missed: the homogenized methods, messages, and promises. It’s all the same. In the marketing arenas — copywriting, email marketing, funnels, media buying, sales, etc. — of Success, an odd ideology pervades: they don’t get it. The idea from these masters of psychology, persuasion, speaking the customer language, and human nature is, that if you get criticism on the sales page or sales message, that person, the criticizer, “doesn’t get it.” And that doesn’t “get” means that possible customer doesn’t understand sales. As if a customer must understand sales and copywriting in order to buy a Turmeric supplement promising to make you smarter. Yes, it’s that daft. Many copywriters and marketers, no matter what they’re selling, if a customer calls it a scam, the retort is, “They don’t understand sales.” And that “understand sales” means how that copywriter or marketer understands it. And how they understand it, is how they learned it from Success; generally direct-marketing methods a la Gary Halbert, Frank Kern, Eugene Schwartz, and so on.
These self-anointed sages of human psychology and mystics of human behavior can’t see a glaring contradiction: they want it both ways. The first way, “speak the customer’s language” and write at a level everyone understands; the second way contradicts the first, if someone criticizes your letter — an outsider, not an approved Success critic — then they “don’t get sales.” Further, those who “don’t get it” get lumped into the toxic category of human. They are sinners. They don’t “get it.” The only approved people to criticize are those in Success, in other words, those you paid to criticize or other Success insiders. Which is more backward psychology. The customers are a business’s livelihood. Someone you pay for an hour to look at your sales letter does not put food on your table. Yet if a possible customer says, “looks like a scam” that customer “doesn’t get it.” Sure, some people see a sales page and say scam. They may not be in the market, so they are not a customer. But on the whole, as covered, a customer calls it a scam because the message looks like everything else.
This makes things look worse for Success (and absurdly bad on the marketing side of Success). Success claims to tap into human nature. The marketing elements sell all types of tactics to influence individuals or the masses. But here, we see the opposite. Consider the “speak the customer’s language” message hammered in copywriting and building sales funnels. The “speak the customer’s language” promises to tap into the brains of a potential customer demographic. And it’s boasted that it can make outsiders want to buy. But as covered, if an outsider, even in the demographic, calls your sales letter scammy, the Pavlovian response — “they don’t understand sales.” In Success, “speak the customer’s language” means “speak Success language.” As in, it must adhere to the approved methods of Success. The language must resemble copy courses or what the copy guru says, not what the customer says.
Digging deeper into why they look bad, Success promises a legacy, and “surefire” methods to gain that legacy. That crowds of people will admire you — but as soon as you get outside into the real world and face criticism, you’re told those outsiders are wrong. As in, the people you’re attempting to sell products to, are wrong; they don’t get it, they must be full of self-limiting beliefs. An acolyte goes into the world, and once met with something natural, a critic, they retreat instantly to the safety of Success.
In sum, most people call something a scam because that something looks like everything else. The promise is generic, the message generic. And that person either has bought something and got barren results or just recognizes the shtick. Success can’t handle this. The tactics promised to make people believe; the tactics purchased promised to make people believe. To get all that working, you must believe in the approved methods to make others believe (if you don’t apply you’re toxic, so you must believe and apply). Tied to that, the idea that you can fabricate admiration to get admiration. But what’s missed, authenticity. You can’t pay to be authentic. No one can. And in marketing and business, it’s tough to look authentic. It’s hard to stay authentic. And no matter how authentic a business or a personality is, someone will call it a scam. And those who uphold themselves, have earned their confidence, they hear the accusation and either reflect on it, maybe to see if they can improve their message, or leverage the message with some gamesmanship, or they simply move on, not caring. Yet those who tried shortcutting their way to confidence, who tried buying their confidence, when they hear it, they react. They go public to pacify themselves. They deliver that shopworn script. The accusation says little of the accuser, but reaction to the accusation says everything.
- A person who pretends to be knowledgeable and well-informed. ↩
- Adjective: expressing opinions on matters outside the scope of one’s knowledge or expertise.Noun: a person who expresses opinions on matters outside the scope of their knowledge or expertise. ↩
- Somewhat trolling, somewhat tongue-in-cheek accusing. Sometimes it’s an insider joke. Sometimes it’s to expose the absurdity. ↩
- I’ll share a personal experience. When I got really good at copy and then had a few top of Clickbank offers, a few of the copywriting “experts” I learned from — bought courses or talked to — and others, hit me up for cash. And these were experts that claimed to have made millions upon millions of dollars. Even a few make-money online experts hit me up for cash, cash to cover rent, a car payment, a mortgage, and so on.If you ever want a fun experiment, when Traffic and Conversion has an event in San Diego, grab a coffee and sit in the lobby. Look at the fancy cars parked. You’re almost guaranteed to see the repo man coming to grab the Lamborghini or the Corvette sitting out front. And sure enough, that car is driven by an expert claiming to have made millions upon millions of dollars. ↩
- In my experience, around $70,000 – $300,000 a year. The six-figure makers are less so, anyone over that $300,000 a year, extremely rare. And this is their income numbers. ↩
- A simple stretch claim: 1,000 people on a free email list, but only 2 people have bought the course. The guru says he’s helped over 1,000 people. Most people see this as 1,000 people buying, not the size of the course. And the guru thinks, at some point soon, they will sell to 1,000 people, so they base the income on that belief. They don’t even get how false this is. They are that dumb.A more advanced stretch claim: A baseline level exercise shows a 1% increase in something. A supplement shows to have a 1.5% increase. A marketer can go a few ways here. A marketer could say, “It works 50% better/faster than exercise.” Or with some real stretch, “Add this to your exercise program and lose weight 150% faster!” ↩
- I may risk my neck here legally, but since it’s paid and private, I hope not. And hence why I’m putting this in the footnotes. I’ll share insider information here.The more I succeeded in this world the more behind-the-scenes others let me into. They also wanted to know the insider information about who I worked with at Venus.
Here we go.
Certain figures in online marketing look for idiots that strike it hot out of luck. They look to how they can monetize — ok, more like, take advantage of them because they don’t know any better were the words we used — their personality or sales pages. And by monetize, meaning, someone behind the scenes makes the lion share and this person or company takes their hands off the wheel, sits back, and gets a lot of money.
Mike Geary used to look for certain affiliate marketers that struck luck. A sales letter hit, and the person had no clue how to make money or drive traffic, and, well, they were dumb. They lacked business sense and money sense. Geary would approach, cut a deal where he runs the traffic, and gets a percentage of the sale or email list. One such person, Wesley Virgin. The people Geary approached fit a mold, all hyped up on Seth Godin and Napoleon Hill type sayings, truisms, but really having no idea what they were saying.
Others, like Russell Brunson, worked it a different way. He gets people to pay into his masterminds. Then he finds someone either with a decent idea or an offer that does well, but the person’s lack of intelligence and business sense stunts the offer. He then cuts a deal where he runs the traffic, handles the copywriting, and provides the framework, while letting the personalities do their thing. He did this for Drew Canoli for Organifi, and from what I can tell and from what I’m told, the Hormozis. He, like Geary, picks a similar mold, vain, vapid, full of hype but lacking business sense people. Russell will not cast you aside, however, whereas Geary will have no problems tossing you into the trash bin. ↩
- Often this triple my business statement is offered as a testimonial. Then the sales page for the next event will claim that people 3x their business. It’s never checked if that person 3x their business, in Success, projections are taken as truth. ↩
- This is why when I used to attend these events, like Traffic and Conversion, I booked myself into a hotel a few blocks away. And at Dan Kennedy Dan Only events in Cleveland, during a break, I either raced back to my room to pee, or, no joke, would exit the hotel, walk through the business park next door and back into the woods behind it to pee. I did anything to stay away from this conversation. ↩
- Evidence of these claims comes from my experience and time at events and masterminds. I’ve heard these things promised, at Dan Kennedy Events, Traffic and Conversion, Craig Ballantyne Events, and so on. ↩
- This ad, as it turns out, performed horribly and it’s largely mythical and romanticized. ↩
- I’m using actual accusations ↩