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Monthly Archives: July 2011
Especially if you are self-employed, you are probably aware of the many, many services and products (seminars, e-books, webinars, courses) being sold, mainly over the Internet, promising business, financial and personal success.
Perhaps what I will write here will seem obvious to some, but given the ability of scammers to go on doing business, clearly there are still people falling for their scams. Furthermore, everything I write here is either something I have personally seen in marketing copy, or based on actual responses service providers have given me to questions. All of them happened within the last 4 years and most of them are within the past year, so people are still out there saying this stuff.
I have started to compile a list of what I think are signs, questions to ask yourself to determine whether you should trust a service provider. I don’t believe any of these factors are determinative in and of themselves, but when more than one is present it is time to get suspicious.
1) Does the service provider make a very bold claim about results, talking about taking it almost to the opposite extreme of how you feel now (e.g. from weakness/lack of control to ultimate power and mastery)? I will be fair and say that sometimes you need a coach or mentor to hold you in a state of possibility, and believe that you can accomplish something even if you don’t currently believe it, but making it extreme is one way to tell that they are not going to deliver on their promise.
2) Look carefully at their description of the service they offer. How much detail is provided about what actually goes on in the seminar? Especially be suspicious if it’s a very high cost program that they don’t say a lot about.
3) Is the promised substance of the service provided, or the results claimed, capable of an “alternate” description from the one given? (In other words, when you look at it, do you suspect you could cobble together a similar program based on everything you already have read on the Internet about the subject? Or is their description of the result you will get capable of a “lower” interpretation so that just about anything that may happen is covered by it? Seriously.)
4) Do they rationalize the high cost of the program by saying that “you have to be willing to make an investment in yourself” or similar?
5) Conversely, do they rationalize the high cost of the program by claiming the price is low, relatively speaking? For example, comparing an e-book to how much one might spend at a live seminar or training to learn the “same” material? (In which case it may not even be worth the “low” price you are paying for it.)
6) If you object to the price, do they tell you that you are operating in “scarcity mentality”? (Indeed I may be, but even if I were in “abundance mentality”, that doesn’t mean I would spend money on something when you haven’t convinced me it’s worth it.)
Or, if you object to the price, do they tell you “your health/business/whatever is worth it” – again, yes it may be worth it, but that doesn’t mean I should spend my money on your particular program.
7) Is there any “in crowd/out crowd” comparison made between the people who buy the program (e.g. “these are the people who take action”) and the ones that don’t?
8 ) Positive testimonials? These are par for the course nowadays, and no wonder, they are a powerful method of “social proof”. They may be telling the truth, but all I will advise here is, do not look at the testimonials as a sole factor for whether or not to buy something.
9) Everybody gives out “free” stuff these days. E-books for signing up for the email list, free teleseminars and webinars. And rightly so, it establishes the service provider as someone who knows what they are talking about. Be careful though. I suspect - and yes, this is total conjecture on my part, as I have not actually bought a paid seminar based on a free “teleseminar” before - that the more lacking in substance the free stuff is, the more lacking in substance the paid seminar will be.
Ask yourself when you listen to the teleseminar or read the e-book….is there any insight? Do you leave the call with new information or a new perspective you didn’t have before? Are there any exercises or material I can actually use here? Or do they use a lot of words without actually saying anything?
To be fair, they don’t want to give away all their content for free, but I think you have to be suspicious of someone who is even CAPABLE of doing a lot of talking without saying anything.
10) Does their sales page look like everybody else’s sales page? Big bold red text heading at the top, plain but bold centred text, same arrows and yellow “add to cart” button?
That’s it for now, I might add more as I think of them.
Have you been taken in by a scam before? I want to hear from you. There’s no shame in it, these people use sophisticated techniques and take advantage of natural human emotions, so don’t worry about admitting it here. I am interested to know what criteria you would add to this list from your learning experience.
Both of these articles refer to the United States, but I think they are relevant to Canada as well.
“We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of expertise. What we don’t have are leaders.”
“U.S. public education and current calls for education reform are committed to maintaining the authority of the elite—not ensuring a thriving democracy, not honoring human dignity and agency.
We are raising birds in cages and demanding that they earn the right to fly.
We are raising pit bulls to fight and putting them to sleep for their violence.
We are forcing children to sit down, shut up, do as they are told, and then wondering why they can’t think for themselves. . .
We need to look in the mirror of public education and see ourselves for who we are, not what we claim to be.”
I have some pretty strong ideas about the factors that are most important for personal change. Or maybe I should say fulfillment, because most spiritual principles will tell you it is not about improving, it is about being. (And that The Task of Life is not to derogate or destroy either side of your nature, but to walk that tightrope between the instinctual and very natural drive towards endless wanting and seeking, and the recognition that you are already there.)
In any case, I’m curious.
What do you believe you need in order to change?
More…..motivation? Commitment? Information? Compassion? A hand up? A handout? Relationships? Time? Support? Opportunities? Connections?
Would you say that what you need is individual (your personal qualities and behaviours), interpersonal, or societal in nature?
And if you have made changes, what has worked for you?
I was just at a Meetup event where I received some unsolicited advice on my business. This wasn’t even a workshop, not someplace where it is assumed that things are open for review and you are open to feedback. It wasn’t even billed as a networking event. It was a social event.
Now, I know I don’t know everything, and I try to see other people’s points of view even if only theoretically. Listening to diverse points of view can be a learning experience. But what I found particularly inappropriate was that this was someone who had just met me. Not only that, they were not offering a suggestion, but rather trying to put me into a position where I had no choice but to agree with them.
It’s possible that as a <Highly Sensitive Person, I am more aware of these things (whether I want to be or not), experience them as someone trying to throw their energy at me, etc.
It’s hard to know friends well enough to “tell them what they should do”, let alone someone you just met. When you just met someone or they are an acquaintance, you simply don’t know the specifics of their situation well enough, and maybe more importantly you don’t know the specifics of them as a person.
Because I know how it feels to be on the receiving end, I have nearly eliminated the word “should” from my vocabulary, and I do not start sentences with the words “You should….” or “You need to….” It is simply not my place to say this to another person, and I believe that to do so is to impose one’s own truth on another person.
Some classes of people seem to be magnets for unsolicited advice. I know as soon as I told people I was starting my own business, that seemed to be a license for them to give me advice. I imagine new parents are in the same boat.
How about you? Have you ever received unsolicited advice in such a way that you were amazed at the person’s lack of tact, or you just felt limited or “boxed in” by what they said?
What kind of advice or support would have been more helpful for you?
People who read this blog regularly know that I am not a preacher of “your thoughts create reality”. That prescription creates more burdens than it alleviates. I had an interesting thought recently, though, about the metaphors we use to describe our lives. Metaphors are a great way to vividly express complex thoughts and feelings in one simple picture. No wonder people like to use them. However, I thought about times those words might be limiting.
Think about what words you use to describe success. Is it “clawing your way up”? Why do we represent success as “climbing a ladder”….or directionally “up” at all? The top of a hierarchy, that’s why. (Of course I could speculate as to why the status pyramid is represented as top-down, since it makes just as much sense to put the leader at the bottom, supporting the whole structure. Sky-based religions in which heaven is up? Leaders standing on platforms, or hills? Anyways.)
In any case, nowadays more people are, or considering, working for themselves. Is the “up” metaphor relevant anymore? At “the bottom of the heap”, you may feel squished, or sat on – but the supportive earth is also there. So what about sinking into success, or mellowing down into it? If you are currently experiencing difficulty, have you described yourself as “stuck”? Now imagine you are literally, physically stuck in something. Not a pleasant sensation, is it? Now look back at your life: are you really stuck, or did someone just tell you you were, and you started using that word? Whose metaphors are you using?
What words do you use to describe your current situation, and what you want to do next from there, and your goal?
Do the words you use imply struggle, or relaxation? Condensing and tensing, or expanding? Letting go, or holding on? Effort, or ease?