mosquitoAfter watching Merlin Mann’s recent video on make-believe help I started thinking about the relationships, in particular on the internet, that are being used for survival. Merlin’s video was response to a satirical video he made yesterday about the sometimes ridiculous hacks that self-help type sites put up. For me the 30 odd minutes he uses to explain his point came down to two things

  • stated clearly – think about who is telling you how to be you
  • less clearly –  much of internet business is based on keeping people reliant on receiving information on who  to be/what to do

Merlin is particularly nice about how he describes this industry. He doesn’t condemn it outright, but it is clear that it troubles him, and troubles him a lot.

I can see where he is going, and I agree with his sentiment. Yet the conundrum that Merlin finds himself in (and me too) is there is no black and white answer for each of the world’s ills, no matter how much we want to say “this is the cure”. There is no magic bullet.The example of the butcher with 40 years experience is quite true, there is no substitute for actually doing the work.

Does that mean that helping people on the internet is a bad thing? The answer is no and yes.

Humans, business and the internet are like a rainforest to me. You have the predators that make their own way in life (entrepreneurs) who are out there killing and eating (and dying). Then you have the symbiotic relationships where one entity is supported by another, and gives back in their own way  (employees, networks) and finally the parasites who live off of the others but do not kill them as that would end their meal ticket (service industries such as self help).

Parasite has a negative connotation because it is seen as less of an effort to sup from the rest of the rainforest, than to go out and create your own mini system where you are top of the food chain. There is work involved in being a parasite though; sourcing your sustenance, getting to it, keeping it close by. In service industries this can be “creating a clientèle” , a fan base, your tribe. There is a niche and you fit right in there doing what you do.

In a perfect world one stop solutions would be available for every ill you will come up against; one haircut lasting for life, one inoculation for all diseases, one way to get motivated. There isn’t and there can’t be, so what is the next best thing? Offering the cure where there is a cure, and making sure the person purchasing your services are pre-qualified to ensure they take the cure.

This goes against what most of the continuity based programs out there in the “make money online” land. You must find the mark, hit them up for a program, ensure they stick around for as long as possible. You are the mosquito and if you take small enough sips the cash cow is never going to notice you are there (yes there are teachings that actually state how to do that). Or you find the mark, sell them a program, that leads up to selling another program, ad infinitum. The worst in the industry sell nothing but steps to get to the next program, not steps to get to the next level of expertise (which of course comes from experience and practice and no course).

Over at the SWBN we have struggled with how we can morally provide the best of services without being (or becoming) parasites ourselves. We could blame our clients not progressing on “human nature” and take their cash because they are stupid enough to give it to us, God knows the majority of programs out there do that and no wonder they are shit scared of the FTC ruling that says tell us how it really is. In the end we decided to take our coaching to a micro level. One person, one task, one focus. A “never want to see you here again with this problem” cure, that is financially less rewarding, but morally infinitely more so. I can hear the scoffing right now about “cash left on the table”, a term I have always despised, you can be grateful and happy with what you have, or you can bemoan what you left behind.

I know we will be happier being a cure, than being part of the problem.