For some reason, a combination of online sales opportunities, home-based businesses and multi-level marketing programs with all their geometry -- pyramids, circles, funnels, parallelograms and matrices -- has entered my consciousness and crashed on the couch.
It actually started a couple years ago with a partner and a plan to provide independent filmmakers the means to sell their movies online and be the first to make money, not the last. Despite the brilliance of this idea, this endeavor is still limping along, although I'm making some headway selling a couple of my own movies.
During the course of this process, I have had to learn a lot about how to market stuff online, and I've become acquainted with such esoterica as search engine optimization, keyword searches and auto-responders. It's a deliciously complex game.
But the pattern really kicked in a few months ago with an offer from a friend to market and sell environmentally safe cleaning products through a multi-level marketing "opportunity," as the folks in the biz like to call it. From that point, I attracted people offering me various opportunities -- affiliate re-seller programs for building your own solar panels, health juice, beauty and longevity aids and most recently, memberships in a travel club. (During the course of this, I also started this site, which sells Busting Loose products, but apparently only in theory.)
I know many of you reading this are either participating in similar programs or thinking about it and from what I've heard, there are some successes. I'm not here to judge any of this. But my most recent brush with multi-level marketing did cause me to contemplate my own situation.
From a Phase 1 perspective, I think I'm like most of you. I want to work very little and make a lot of money, so these programs are initially very attractive. I know from my brief time as an internet marketing pseudo-expert, that you can actually make money doing this type of thing, but it takes a hell of a lot more work than they let on, and there are lot of things you have no control over. Heard that one before?
That's why 97 percent of these types of businesses fail, if I'm to believe the person I created to spout that statistic in a blog recently.
But not to worry, the marketing gurus say. There is an entire industry dedicated not to actual sales, but to selling sales programs at anywhere from a few hundred bucks to a few thousand bucks a year. The standard come-on is this. "I was a poor schlub just like you, struggling to make ends meet. I tried internet marketing and screwed up horribly. I lost everything I owned. But in the meantime, I learned my lessons and now make tens of thousands of dollars each week. I live on the beach and surf all day. I'm one badass dude now. I'm ready to make you one badass dude (or dudette). I made all the mistakes so you don't have to. Let me show you how you can start wiping your butt with $100 bills in just a matter of weeks with my new super accelerated advanced guaranteed super program. Do it today. Don't wait. Change your life. And don't forget your credit card."
I know, hard to resist. When you take the plunge and sign up, you are inundated with CDs, DVDs, e-books, notebooks and books that will more than likely end up on that mini-fridge you snagged at the garage sale last summer. If you act now, you might also receive free customer support from a Raj in Bangalore, assistance in building new websites, rah rah conference calls with the owners to get your greed hormones flowing and on and on.
But the point is, you've purchased a pass to get on the inside of this exciting new game, where anything could happen. Of all the thousands of programs out there, this is the formula that will work. This is the greatest product. You're in on the ground floor, and who knows what the next big breakthrough will be? Don't worry, you'll be notified by email in a couple days. These things evolve faster than fruit flies on cocaine.
Now as a fledgling participant in Phase 2 of Busting Loose, I can look at this one of several ways. First, this is all a great game. You can embrace the challenge and match your keyword search wits with the millions trying to be successful at the same thing. Or you could play online poker and get the same effect.
You might convince yourself it's for a good cause and/or you're helping others. Again, all fine as long as we remember that all causes are illusions, and the only person we can "help" is us.
Or, you might suddenly wonder if this is not the universe dropping you a cash lifeline and you'd be a fool not to jump on this amazing opportunity right now. (See God/helicopter/flood joke here.) That's a toughie.
Or, as in my case, you can shut up for a minute and see what resonates with you. Selling stuff I have no particular connection to for the purpose of making money is not one of those things. I'm not knocking prosperity, believe me. Yes, I like challenges, but why not apply that determination to something closer to my heart? And I think most of you know my position on causes -- run like hell the other way.
It has become apparent to me over the last year that my joy lies in expressing myself through creative endeavors, among them, telling stories in a variety of formats from blogging to TV shows. These things aren't better or worse than any other games I could play, they're just what moves me. And if it is what I'm supposed to be doing, the universe will support me, which is a big change from my previous belief, do what you love and the bill collectors will follow. I know the money will, too.
I appreciate all the opportunities that my other "aspects" have presented me. But I also realize that just because you love it doesn't mean I will, and by following you down the rabbit hole of multi-level marketing, I may just be distracting myself from my mission and purpose.
As I told a friend the other day, go ahead and make wheelbarrows full of money, but don't dump your dreams in the meantime.