Sunday, September 11, 2016

Scam Psychology: The "Hard Work" Narrative vs. the Luck Factor

The words "hard work" often appears in the MLM supporter's arguments or narrative trying to discredit their "opponents". Any one who failed can be explained away as "they didn't work hard enough".

The problem is technology has shrunk the required competence in skills that makes a difference. It has "leveled the playing field", so luck now plays a much larger factor than any one realizes.

This is total anathema to network marketing / MLM, whichever name they choose to go by. Indeed, luck and success are almost opposites in the MLM mindset. Those who are successful and "self-made" never want to talk about luck, or even want to HEAR about luck.  This is a cognitive bias known as luck blindness. And MLM feeds into the self-made narrative directly. Most MLM pitches involves "entrepreneurial spirit" "be your own boss" "get away from the J.O.B. (just over broke)" and so on. These people are taught that any success they had is due to their "hard work" and the brilliance of the system (despite the same system, in another breath, claimed "anyone can do it")

This sort of mentality leads to some truly amazing (in a slow train wreck sort of way) claims. One of such claim is how some net winners in the ZeekRewards ponzi scheme are claiming they provided "value" to the business, and thus they are entitled to their ill-gotten gains and thus not have to hand them back to the receiver to be redistributed to the victims.

Let's forget for a moment that ZeekRewards ponzi scheme head Paul Burks was just judged guilty on all four counts in July 2016. How did these ZeekRewards Ponzi net winners claim they are working hard and thus entitled to be compensated, according to their brief, worth $50K to 80K a year? They are pasting 10 short text ads per day on anywhere they can get away with it (i.e. "spamming"). For the record, while they are required to copy the URL where they posted the ads back to ZeekRewards for "verification", no such verification was ever done. In other words, they don't even have to be done. Their work were worthless. It can be done in minutes. For this simple work, they they claim such to be worth 50-80K a year...

Right, and pigs can fly.

Yet the same sort of argument was leveled at regular MLM... that anyone who said MLM is a scam is just lazy. This is what "Nathan Sloan" wrote in his "6 Biggest Myths About MLM" (which, BTW, is "so wrong it's not even right")
The reason you many have heard it might be a scam is because someone you know, may have joined a company, realized that there was actual work involved and then quit. To make themselves feel better, they then tell their friends and family that it was just a scam to save on any embarrassment. Today, it is just an easy excuse.
While not MLMs are scams, there are enough scams (FHTM, Vemma, Herbalife, TelexFree, etc.) that one should do proper due diligence rather than assume the next MLMer you run into is legitimate in every way. Further more, victim-blaming is cousin to slut-shaming. Blaming MLM lack of success to "laziness" without considering the actual circumstances is very much like blaming rape victims for "dressing slutty" without fact-checking. Such stereotyping is merely propaganda.

By discounting the luck factor, and blame any and all failures on "laziness", a narrative is reached... All those who "succeeded" are "hard workers" and "self-made". It's an easy trap for the unwary, and it's a self-healing narrative. If you don't succeed, "work harder!" And if you fail, "you didn't work hard enough!"  Luck has no factor in this success narrative. Why? It's in the Western Culture: accomplished people bristle at the suggestion that luck or chance played a role in their success. Once, Stuart Varney, FOX Business anchor, grilled a Cornell Economist (who wrote a book on Luck and the Myth of Meritocracy), basically hated the idea that any one can question how self-made man could be dependent on luck.

Yet those who do acknowledge good fortune are MORE likely to succeed. Careers and success are based on hundreds, thousands, or more decisions over time. And a lot of it is just being at the right place, at the right time. Those who don't acknowledge luck will often turn into egomaniacs claiming sole credit for group or collaborations, or claim "leadership" credit not earned.  An example given was former Apple Senior VP Scott Forstall, who was chief architect of iOS, possibly even succeeding Steve Jobs as a future CEO, but he was dismissed in 2012, according to Tim Cook, to preserve the company's collaborative culture. It's pretty obvious that his colleagues believe Forstall claimed more credit than he deserved.

But people in MLM who claim MORE credit than deserved are lauded and decorated and recognized for their "sales prowess". Any success was attributed to his leadership and team-building... because the company said so, and have huge conventions and ceremonies "recognizing" reps who achieved "sales goals". There were definitely NOT quietly being shown the door, because they can blame the downlines, the minions, for "not working hard enough". Any failure on their part is because their minions didn't work hard enough, not because of their leadership, even when they chose a pyramid scheme.

S. Dossey blaming all her downlines for not working hard enough when
TVI Express was kicked out of US for being an international
pyramid scheme and she fled to a different scheme, circa 2010. 
The problem of such sales goals is with very few exceptions, MLM companies actually do NOT track retail sales. They track sales to the distributor, relying on distributors promising that they will only reorder after selling 70% of their existing inventory to retail customers before ordering more, and many companies have "autoship", where you subscribe to X amount of products automatically in order to qualify for commissions, where the company assumes that you will sell or consumer enough to meet the 70% goal. There is almost no audit. Any audit would consist of randomly calling a few people up and "hi, did you sell 70% of your stuff?"  In FTC's lawsuit against Herbalife, Herbalife was documented to have picked less than 1% for audit via a simple phone call, and even that is 5 months late.

If you are being "taught" that hard work is success, consider the following factors:

  • What constitutes "hard work" here?  In MLM, that should be "marketing". Yet many people will insist it is recruiting, completing missing the point. In other schemes, they simply give you "busy work" that has practically NO contribution to success.  
  • What constitutes "success" here? Is it really money in your wallet and in your bank account, or is it simply some meaningless certificates of achievement and recognized as a "weekly sales leader" with some people clapping? 

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