Sunday, June 26, 2016

How to be a cranky troll: Guide to IGNORE all useful feedback

(Author's note: This is written as a contrarian piece... The advice is BAD for you, and you are meant to do exactly opposite of all this. Got that? Okay, enjoy.)

Do you have absolute belief in yourself, that you can do no wrong, therefore, everybody else must be wrong? Are you surrounded by people who intend to change your mind even though you know YOU are right and they are wrong, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary?

Here are six tips to help you silence the world and live only within your head where you are always right:

1. Reinterpret specific advice to be personal attack on you, your business, your "family"

Any and all advice that you don't like is obviously an attack on you, your "family", your business, and your way of life, no matter where it came from, including your dear mama. They obviously... "don't understand" about how you work, how you think, how you live and therefore they have no business giving you advice!  In fact, anything other than "great job" is an attack on your beliefs!

2. Ignore advice until they are no longer relevant, then rant about how the advice is useless

Ignore all advice until it becomes "overtaken by events"... i.e. completely useless, then claim the advice is useless. Go ahead and insult the advice giver as useless and worthless, never mind you never took the advice any way. That's merely some inconvenient truth to be swept under the carpet.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Commentary: How "Ultimate Guide to Network Marketing" illustrates what's wrong with Network Marketing

I often browse used bookstores, and one day I came across "Ultimate Guide to Network Marketing" edited by Dr. Paul Rubino. As the MLM Skeptic, I read it with a skeptical mind...  Overall, I am rather... disappointed. While several of the authors out of 37 did dispense practical advice, such as how to utilize modern tech like autoresponder and such, while others laid out do's and don'ts on what to say in a sales speech, ZERO discussed what's legal and what's not legal.

"Pyramid scheme" was NEVER discussed, other than as an resistance to be overcome, as doubt in a prospect that must be quashed, and so on.

Product-based pyramid scheme was never mentioned.

In fact, the entire book is devoid of definitions other than odd backronyms like WOO = window of opportunity. There is no glossary, just an index.

Consider the implication: how would the network marketing noob know what's legal and what's not if it was NOT discussed in a so-called "Ultimate Guide to Network Marketing"? How "ultimate" can this guide be if legal stuff was not discussed at all?

Furthermore, many of the chapters were about belief / faith. Belief in oneself, belief in product, belief in company, belief in team...  Belief involves TRUST. What happened to due diligence? Common sense? What makes the company, product, or team members WORTHY of trust?

This is basically a collection of "business porn"... written by network marketing "leaders" who claimed success through effort even though they can't prove that their success was a result of their effort. Anything they wrote are results of survivorship bias and self-serving bias, but people starting in network marketing believe these to be words of wisdom, and indeed, many of the 37 articles advocate "just ape what I do" or "create system that can be easily aped"

In fact, one article is about how to CREATE business porn... awards, recognitions, newsletters, mailing lists, podcasts, Youtube videos, and so on, as marketing vehicles.

Would you really consider "monkey see, monkey do" to be wisdom?  The entire book is thin on actual practical advice. Most are motivational talk and how to customize such for your particular market (i.e. your prospects). Again, it's business porn, and it does NOT help.

Just as porn is not sex but sexual fiction designed to titillate, business porn is NOT business advice, but sales pitch designed to motivate.  Porn is fine in moderate doses, but porn addiction is serious problem. Similarly, business porn is fine in moderate doses, but business porn addiction will simply depress you as you constantly choose to compare yourself to leaders, trying to ape them, without understanding WHAT made them successful (often, it's just luck) and what price did they pay (which is NOT depicted).

The book basically is all about trust, and duplication, with a few bits of sales techniques and marketing vehicles covered, but has ZERO advice on what to look for, how to spot good from bad, and how to spot legal from illegal.

The implication is very troubling: if this is the sort of book written by top network marketing professionals, network marketing is about faith and recruiting, not about sales and earning trust.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cognitive Bias: Choice Supportive Bias (aka Post-hoc Rationalization)

Previously we have often talked about cognitive dissoance, which is basically when a person is faced with two sets of "truths", and they conflict, therefore one set of which must be false.

For example, let's say the person has joined a suspect scheme, and is withdrawing money bi-weekly, but not yet achieved breakeven. Then he's exposed to a source that explained that the scheme is a scam with trustworthy sources.

So, how does one resolve this conflict between two sets of facts... a) the scheme works, I am getting paid  and b) the scheme is a scam ?

One way the conflict can be resolved is through "choice supportive bias", also known as post-hoc rationalization. As the person is already in the scheme, the person is likely to choose to continue in the scheme and therefore decide that the trustworthy sources (that explain the scheme is a scam) are NOT acceptable.

Basically, the person wants the answer to be "scheme is fine" and thus chose that outcome, and came up with reasons to discount the trustworthy sources post-hoc (after the fact). Normal logic is  check all the sources, then arrive at the conclusion. This is the reverse... The person know the conclusion s/he wants, then come up with the reasons later.   It's motivated thinking.

As you can probably guess, motivated thinking means more often than not the person will reach the WRONG conclusion, since the conclusion was NOT deduced from logic, but emotion.

Let's look at some examples...

Friday, June 10, 2016

Mythbusting: The Trump University is based on (some) bogus research

Trump University was in the news a lot, and it seems it may be the only thing that really got Trump riled up, as it's something he can't deny or denigrate... since it's his own. So instead, he denigrated everybody else... including the judge, which lead to furious denunciation by Republican leadership, who are put between the rock and the hard place of "supporting" their presumptive nominee WHILE wondering WTF happened that lead to this guy winning. The furor was so loud even Trump himself furiously backpedaled, claiming his comments were "misconstrued".

But we know EXACTLY what you mean, Mr. Trump.

In digging through some info about the Trump University, I came across its sales playbook dug up by Politico a while back. And it has some interesting information in it. Basically, they don't talk to the media, they don't let the lecturers over promise (any such incidents are reported to main office), and they will use psychological pressure to push you into buying their more expensive courses...

Including a bogus urban myth, such as "most persuasive words... from Yale University"

On page 99 of the document, you can find this:

Trump University Playbook, as posted by, see URL on top

The important part says:
The most persuasive words in the English language according to a study by the Psychology Department of Yale University are:  You, New, Money, Easy, Discovery, Free, Results, Health, Save, Proven, Guarantee, and Love
Except there was no such study. This is an urban legend.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Scam Psychology: "You have to try it to understand it" fallacy

One of the most popular fallacies trotted out by scammers and scammed sheeple is "you have to try it to understand it".  It has a cousin known as "you're not in it (so shut up)" argument.

Basically, the claim that any criticism levelled at the scheme is premature because the critics have not tried the scheme. The implication is once the critic have tried the scheme s/he will change his/her mind. It basically takes this form
A: Acme XYZ is a scam because of ____, _____, and _____.  
B: But you don't know Acme XYZ. How could you when you're not a member? Join us. 
The reply sounds very sensical, until you realize one thing: It never addressed your point: "Acme XYZ is a scam". It is completely irrelevant. It is a red herring. It neither disproves your premise, nor does it prove a counter premise.

The argument is non-sensical, and here's a very appropriate reply quip for such idiocy:
"So you have to eat shit to know not to eat it, huh?"

(Thanks to justicealwayslate on Facebook)

There are plenty of other quips, like "oh, so cops have to be criminals first to arrest criminals, huh?"  or "do I have to shoot myself to know it's a bad idea?" or "Do morticians have to die to be a mortician?" But you get the idea. It's ridiculous.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Scam Psychology: Luck Blindness, or why lucky people see it as skill, not luck

Success is dependent on many different factors, but it can usually be summarized as at the right place, at the right time, with the right training to spot the opportunity, and have enough resources to call upon to take advantage of the opportunity. 
It should be readily obvious that rich people have a better chance at success because they started out with better starting positions. Donald Trump was practically born with a silver spoon (his father was a real estate tycoon). Conversely, poor people can't succeed if they don't find the right connections to make their talent known, no matter how hard working they are.

Outliers (book)
Outliers (book) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the book "Outliers", Malcolm Gladwell reported that a good portion of professional hockey players found success due to their birthmonth, not solely via their talent. Why? If they were born in January, an arbitrary line used by the youth hockey leagues to divide up the years, they would enjoy physical advantage over the other kids who were born later in the year (generally speaking, of course) but still in the same league. And this physical advantage would lead to success, which would lead to them developing a taste for hockey, and eventually, into a pro career. Of course they trained hard, and they got some physical skills, but luck of having been born in month of January played a part in their success... They may not be aware of it, but that doesn't mean it didn't affect them.

Yet when you ask successful people how did they succeed, they will rarely if EVER mention luck. And in fact, some get downright offended if you try to bring up the role of luck in their success. This known as the "luck blindness" cognitive bias.

A few years ago Cornell economist Robert Frank wrote an opinion column for New York Times about luck and fairness, and for that he was invited on the air by Fox Business host Stuart Varney to talk about it. Varney opened the show by introducing Frank, then immediately jumped down Frank's throat: "Do you know how insulting that was, when I read that? I came to America with nothing 35 year sago. I've made something of myself, I think through hard work, talent, and risk-taking, and you're going to write in the New York Times that this is luck."  As you can imagine, it didn't go well for the rest of the interview.

Many people can look past their luck blindness though. Warren Buffet readily admits that he had won the 'genetic lottery' to have been born in the US to a loving family. And in a way, "gratefulness" (thanking God and the universe) is a way to acknowledge luck played a role.

How Luck Blindness Can Mislead You

Scammers know luck blindness is a button they can push to make you behave, along with sunk cost fallacy, hindsight bias, IKEA effect, and so on. By making you believe you are on your way to success, scammers will continue to take money from you, and you'll be happy doing so, because you believe you have learned skills, when it was either luck, or "arranged" success.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Bad Argument: MLM Strawman Arguments Labelled as Mythbusting

A lot of so-called MLM "coaches" write articles to drum up business and recruit downlines, and they have to deal with, what they perceive as "undue criticism" of MLM. However, what they often ended up doing is defeat strawman arguments.

Recently I came across a certain article titled "6 Biggest Myths about MLM -- A Must Read" by Nathan Sloan posted on Network Marketing HQ dot co dot uk.  (Interesting, the URL says 7, so he seem to have lost one in the edit), and it served as a prime example of how MLMers argue... broad insinuations, strawman, this guy used them all.

His myth #1: Pyramid structures are bad

Pyramid SCHEMES are bad. Pyramid structure or pyramid-shaped organizations are not necessarily bad. If a MLMer, even a noob, can't explain the difference between a pyramid structure and a pyramid SCHEME, s/he is uneducated in the MLM fundamentals and his/her upline should be ashamed.

However, instead of explaining this fundamental difference, Mr. Sloan instead pointed out that pyramid structures surrounds us. Basically, he failed to identify the real problem, and instead, went to equivocation fallacy instead. Indeed, this is a common "MLM defense" tactic, present a strawman equivocation with "safe" structures.

Verdict: strawman myth

Solution: Mr. Sloan should concentrate on differentiating pyramid SCHEME vs. pyramid organization. Pyramid scheme is fraud. Pyramid organization is just a shape.

His myth #2: MLM is a Scam

Is MLM a scam? Sloan's explanation is that pyramid schemes are illegal, MLM is not. However, instead of explaining the difference between MLM and pyramid scheme, he simply quoted an OUTDATED definition he copied from "Ultimate Guide to Network Marketing" without attribution. And yes, I have this book on my bookshelf. That's how I recognized it. It was published more than 10 years ago (2005).

For the record, MLM in its current form was created in 1979 when Amway settled with American Federal Trade Commission to institute several reforms (today known as the "Amway Safeguard Rules") in order to keep on operating. The short of it is, the difference between MLM and pyramid scheme is MLM NEVER pays on recruitment (but there are ways to disguise the payment). This is what Sloan failed to address.

However, Sloan then went on to knock down another strawman. He claimed that any one who said MLM is a scam are lying to cover up their laziness and failure. This is in clear contrast of several pyramid schemes that presented themselves as MLM that were shut down. FHTM (shut down 2013) and Vemma (shut down 2015) are just some recent examples. By ignoring a prime example where a scam MLM did operate, Sloan is guilty of lying by omission AND a strawman, not to mention victim-blaming.

Verdict: strawman fallacy, lying by omission (or ignorance), plagiarism, unsupported argument (did not explain difference between pyramid scheme and MLM)

Solution: Sloan should acknowledge that many MLMs are done fraudulently, and attempt to explain the real LEGAL differences why MLM is not a pyramid scheme. Simply quoting a definition is not defense without explaining how that applies to your defense.