Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Let them use debt!

Since no one has answered my Awakened Millionaire Challenge, and Joe Vitale and Craig Perrine are silent on the topic of providing details on the effectiveness of their Awakened Millionaire incubation program, I decided to go hunting for writings about the events and program online. Well, I asked my good friend Google to go hunting, and it brought back a little gem.

Here is a blog post from a guy named Suhail from Bahrain who looks like a nice enough guy. There's  not a lot of information about the program, it's results or efficacy, or even what was taught in the post. There does seem to be a lot of talk about how the attendees were wonderful people, though.

It was a fairly uneventful read without much information about what transpired at the event until I got to this part:
The whole group was really interesting. There was one Argentinean/Japanese lady. When I asked her what she did for a living, she told me in her accented English “I’m a cleaner.”
I thought I heard her wrong, “excuse me? What do you do?” I asked. “I’m a cleaner,” she said again. I was impressed! I asked her how she could afford this course, because it was really, (REALLY) pricey.
“A miracle!” she exclaimed! She told me how she managed to spread the cost over several credit cards. She had planned to buy a car but instead spent part of the money to come to the event. I told her I admired what she did. When we spoke some more she told me she wanted to break away from cleaning, and that she had started selling Herbal Life products! Whoa! What a coincidence! Another Herbal Life person!
I bet you can imagine how much I would love to hear from either Suhail or this woman about their experience at Joe Vitale's event. It has been about a year since, and I'd like to know how attending it impacted their lives, if at all.

But that little snippet bothers me. Does it bother you? Or do you feel all tingly and miraculous that someone went into debt to attend a seminar, let alone a Awakened Millionaire event. She planned to buy a car, but instead decided to go spend 3 days with -- as Suhail calls him -- the "guru."

She decided that attending his event was more important than transportation for herself. That going into debt was a "miracle."

Now, I wasn't there. I have no idea if attending this event is worth going into debt. It sure raises a lot of questions, questions I think we all deserve answers to. What was promised in the marketing? Was it anything like the Awakened Millionaire Incubator program web site that promised total body, mind, and spirit transformation? Did those things happen for her? For Suhail?

My greatest fear for her is that she's still cleaning houses and paying off the debt of attending the seminar and she still doesn't have her own transportation. And I wonder if she is being belittled by anyone because she went into debt to attend a $10k seminar and doesn't have anything to show for it. I hope she isn't, but as others have pointed out, this is what happens.

I'd write Suhail but his contact page suggests I fax him. I didn't know we were still faxing things.

So, I twittered that I could think of 100 things people should do before they go into debt to attend a program. A twitter friend suggested that would make a good blog post. Well, I've got deadlines today, so I am not sure I will get to 100, but here's the start.

  • Look for the information in books, preferably at a library
  • Look for the information online
  • Not sure what you're looking for? Ask questions on message boards online.
  • Tell people about your goals. Ask them for their thoughts.
  • Pray and/or meditate for guidance.
  • Follow your intuition and gut feelings. 
  • If it sounds to good to be true, IT PROBABLY IS.

The internet may have created a wild west where people are selling anything and everything including total life transformation. But the internet is more importantly a great place to share ideas, knowledge, encouragement, inspiration, and friendship. Most of the places where you get that are free. There are some places where you can get a shortcut of information for a price. But weigh that price against the possible outcome and information.

My advice? NEVER EVER EVER GO INTO DEBT FOR A SEMINAR. EVER. Never go into debt for a program. Never go into debt unless you have a business plan in place, a team of people who can review your plan, and you have a greater than 50% chance of recouping your investment. But if you're going into debt to hear pearls of wisdom from a "guru," please be aware that part of the reason you think that he's got information that isn't readily available elsewhere is because you believe he's a guru.

Because we weren't given any testimonials, data, or other information about how the participants at last year's event performed after attending, we can only guess.

I hope the woman was able to recoup her investment, pay off the credit card debt, and buy a car with what she learned. If not, Joe Vitale's got some 'splainin' to do.

Maybe he'll do that 'splainin to ABC News from the back of his Rolls Royce during a mastermind? You know, talk about how he's driving around a $400k car and has a collection of cars while people are spreading the cost of his seminar out on multiple credit cards while that person forgoes a car herself.

There's such an interesting balance there, don't you think?

Me, I don't know how he does it.


  1. It is indeed an interesting balance, BBF. And I wonder what sort of angle ABC News is planning (if indeed they are planning an interview with Joe). As critical as they and other MSM have been of the selfish-help industry in the wake of Sweatgate, what's their real reason for wanting to talk to Joe?

    In all fairness, even Joe says that if you can't afford the expensive stuff, or even the inexpensive stuff, you can always go to a library and get a lot of good information for free. In his now-famous legend of Former Homelessness he talks of hanging around the library and soaking up all of the inspirational information he could soak up. (I'm paraphrasing, of course.)

    Yet Joe and his colleagues, including James Arthur Ray, often include messages in their sales pitches along the lines of, "How can you NOT afford this?" And, "Do whatever you need to do to get to this event!" (Again, paraphrasing, but it's a common enough theme that I don't have to run and get actual quotations. Sorry, Pat, but you know me; I'm too lazy to do real research.)

    BBF, I think you know as well as I do what Joe's explanation, if any, would be, should it be revealed that the woman mentioned in Suhail's anecdote is still the same or even worse off than she was before attending his pricey weekend event. She "just wasn't ready for the information," or it was due to some other shortcoming on her part. Surely it wasn't due to any actual flaws in the material or the presenters.

    Nice work if you can get it.

    [Interesting verification word: Dainger]

  2. This story broke my heart. While I really REALLY would like to think that she got enough good out of that expensive tryst, my personal experience tells me that her chances were mighty slim.

    Of course, being the Mystical Skeptic or Skeptical Mystic, I find myself conflicted on this, too. One foot in each camp, so to speak.

    You see, one of my earliest exposures to self-help came through Amway. I was young, incredibly sheltered, and the idea that I could read books and listen to tapes and expand my horizons was all new information to me at the time. I'd always been a reader, but of things not woo-woo. The first time I went "dream building" to tour model homes, which I had never done in my life, I felt as if I was trespassing, and that at any moment someone was going to toss me out the door with unkind words about my socio-economic status. Talk about leaving your comfort zone!

    So that part of my Amway experience was priceless, and really, that's what started me on my life-long journey of self-education & curiosity satiation.

    However, there was a very dark side to that experience, of which this woman's decision to go into debt to attend this event reminds me.

    My husband at the time was also very young, and was seduced by the "fake it 'til you make it" and the "do whatever it takes" credos we were being taught. He took them far too literally.

    Our upline diamond, Dexter Yager, was going to be at an Amway rally, which our sponsors would be attending. They told us that going would change our lives and that we should do "whatever it takes" to get there. One of the "benefits" of attending would be to spend time with our upline, and get inspiration that would help us succeed. (Does that sound familiar?)

    Well, we did attend, although I didn't discover HOW we did it until it was too late. I thought our sponsors had given us the tickets, but no, it turned out my husband used our rent money to buy them. Our lives were changed, all right, but not for the better.

    Can you guess where this is going?

    We ended up being evicted because I couldn't catch up on that month of missed rent and penalties without somebody going hungry or having the utilities shut off.

    Yes, I know that we, or he, had free will, and didn't have to do that. I know that it's easy to point to free will and say it was her choice to run up her credit cards and forego the automobile. I also know that sometimes we are so "hypnotized" by the smooth words of people we look up to that we can make decisions that are not in our own best interest.

    It's fun to be "in the parade" looking back at all the people who listen to us, and upon whom we may have some influence, but I believe that with power of any kind (including influence) comes great responsibility to do the right thing for all concerned.

    The other side of the coin is that there can be great benefits derived from going to an event where there will be energetic, upbeat, enthusiastic people who share a common interest. It is possible that, for this woman at that point in her life, attending the event was as important to her as the Dior Dress was in "Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris" starring Angela Lansbury. For her sake, I sincerely hope so. I hope that it was all she imagined it to be, despite my suspicion that it was not, and my feeling that she may be ruing the day she ever unchained those charge cards.

  3. "with power of any kind (including influence) comes great responsibility to do the right thing for all concerned."

    That's exactly it. Influence is power, and with power comes responsibility.

    Also with power comes corruption, and absolute power absolute corruption, at least that's what Lord Acton said. :)

    Thank you SO MUCH, Janelle, for sharing such a depth and perspective from your personal experience. It adds a lot to the conversation and perspective.

    If I am ever outed (and they seem to be itching to do so, I hear), I'll be able to share my own personal perspective in a way I cannot as an anonymous whistleblower.

    Until then, I thank you again, for your insights. You're one smart lady.

  4. I thank you too, Janelle. You *are* smart and perceptive, and far kinder than I usually am. You (and BBF, by writing this post) have brought up some of the most important issues in the whole conversation about whether self-help is harmful, helpful, or somewhere in between. On the one hand, it's so easy to talk about free will and common sense. On the other, the self-help marketers are very good at identifying people's weaknesses and their deepest needs, and targeting their efforts to those needs and weaknesses. I have never been involved with Amway or any MLM, but have participated in LGAT programs and I know how easy it is to get swept up in the enthusiasm of the group.

    BBF, I have a feeling that if you *are* ever outed, many folks will be interested in your personal perspective. I know I'll be listening.

  5. Connie - Thanks for your insights. Of course, Joe is the "father of hypnotic marketing" or copywriting or whatever, so if he tells people to head to the library for his stuff, it will be followed with hypnotic marketing telling people "what if it works" coupled with marketing for wish dolls and pricey events.

    I hope that woman is better off from whatever she learned, though we wouldn't know WHAT she learned by the hype-notic copy that doesn't give much in terms of actual information at all.

    So, if they say she's worse off because of her own shortcomings, then it must be because of her own intelligence and effort if she is better off.

    So what's the point of the event anyway?

  6. Well, I know some people would say that big business are even better at the influence and persuasion, and that our attention should be on them. Oh, especially P&G, I think those Comet cleanser commercials are especially troublesome.

    If they out me, fine. I've made peace with that probability, and my legal eagles have given me options. I actually started thinking of what I would do if that happened. Oh, it could be fun indeed.

    I don't think they've thought through all of the ramifications and costs associated with going that route. And for what. Some satire, some questions, and logical analysis of their communications. Oooh, scary stuff. But if you've got something to hide, I suppose it's scary if someone has a flashlight and is poking around under the furniture.

  7. You allude to an oft-used analogy: When the lights are turned on, the cockroaches scramble for their hiding places. These hustlers are no different, save for the fact that some will threaten to call their attorneys as they scramble, and others will actually hide behind their attorneys. I'm glad that you've chosen to retain counsel, and suspect that your doing so will take the wind out of the "gurus'" sails pretty effectively.

    We've observed the hiding, what with the frequent deletion of comments that challenge the "gurus'" assertions, the refusal to even post civil challenges, and, in this latest case, the blog owner's editing and deletion of his own comments (which do more to show his true nature than do any of the alleged "attacks.").

    IMO, the one common element in all these behaviors is the cowardice that inspires them. I guess when one's whole schtick is built upon brags about a huge income stream, it would be frightening to have someone challenge the appropriateness of that stream.