Archive for December, 2012

They Sell What They Have To Sell

I’m finding it harder and harder to not be cynical when I talk to new people these days because everyone seems to be selling something. The collection of stuff they are selling ranges from the extremely useful to the useless to the dangerous. I don’t remember it being this way before; although that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been this way all along. It could just be that I’ve woken-up after indulging myself in the Landmark philosophy of infinite possibility and collective synergy once I began to experience what was being sold by some of their leadership people.

I suppose it isn’t anyone’s fault. Be it ourselves, our story, our skills, our companies products or the latest MLM supplement, we’re all selling something. I have less of an issue when it is ourselves that we are selling - it’s nice to be liked, you could say that it is a social imperative, and being lonely or hated isn’t much fun. And when it comes to ourselves, we generally have a good idea of what we are all about. Others may know more about us than we know ourselves, but we’ve spend enough time being ourselves to we are kind of experts on it. Generally speaking, we know what we bring to the table.

The challenge I’m having is with the stuff people are selling as most people seem to be clueless about it. At best they are honestly ignorant but more and more common are they actively ignorant who are selling out to make a buck. They deliberately avoid objective information about their products and instead focus on the anecdotal stories as evidence or proof.

For example, MLM products tend to be of very low quality and sell that a highly inflated process. True, the business model needs to be this way - revenue needs to be handed off to those who are higher-up in the company - but those caught-up in the collective delusion tend to be very irresponsible when it comes to the claims they make about the product line. Very few of the people involved with selling MLM supplements know anything about what they are selling. They present themselves as knowing, their products as a God send for whatever ails you and are eager to enroll you as a reseller but will always defer to a website or their company expert for the hard questions. Evidence comes from in-house sources and objective scientific evidence does not gain entry into their collective consciousness.

This is EVERYWHERE! Go to a dentist, let them know that you have benefits and notice just how bad your teeth are. Call them up later and say that you don’t have coverage and only want the necessary work done, notice the change in recommendation. There are a bunch of “concerns” in my mouth that haven’t turned into the cavities the dentist said were coming.

Take your car to the dealership for some repairs, then take it to your brother-in-law and notice the difference in what needs to be fixed. When someone is getting paid $110 / hour for labor, there’s going to be more wrong with your car than when they are already married to your sister.

Go to a chiropractor and then go to an osteopath and then to an athletic therapist. Notice how the duration for your treatment will differ and how there is little consensus on what is wrong with you. Although the treatment plan will be different, all three should make the same diagnosis.

Make no mistake about it, if someone is selling something their product / service is for you. It doesn’t need to be surreptitious, many peoples have such positive experiences with something that they believe that everyone will benefit from it.

I used to believe that everyone would benefit from personal training, taking-up cycling or eating well. While there are undeniable benefits from exercising properly and eating appropriate amounts of good quality whole foods, I no longer believe that everyone should do this. Once I realized that some people identify themselves as inactive, unhealthy and over weight, I stopped believing that active and healthy was a natural state for them. In fact, I believe intervening in these cases is wrong. Selling fitness improvement services, and active lifestyle and dietary habits is NOT in the best interests of people who do not identify themselves as worthy of that way of being.

How do you avoid being sold to?

Assume that people are always selling and observe them objectively or critically as though they are a teacher. Their sincerity and honesty may be real and they may believe that they are simply distributing advice - it may not be their fault that what they are selling is garbage.

Keep your money in your wallet / pocket and don’t buy from them when on the first encounter. If what they are selling is of high quality, it’ll still be available is a day or week or month when you have made an educated decision to buy.

Ask a lot of questions and get the people to explain their answers. Avoid buying from people who get defensive when you ask product knowledge questions or question their authority. Experts know their subject matter and, when money is on the line, they expect people to question their authority.

Know as much as you can about the thing you are inquiring about BEFORE you engage the seller. The more you know, the less of an expert the other person becomes.

Ask the question “who would not benefit from your service or product?” and then ask “why would they not benefit?” Experts will know who their services / products are not suitable for. E.g when I asked an exceptional personal trainer friend who would not want to buy their training services they replied with “people who don’t mind risking getting injured when they workout, those who don’t want to learn how to train more effectively and those who aren’t interested in transforming their body and life.” Someone who has less skill would have replied “everyone would want to buy my services” which is false.

A Few Questions Worth Knowing The Answer To

A few months ago a friend was relating their experience of their first session with a therapist. While they didn’t have an obvious need to talk to someone, they didn’t have a reason not to and given that the cost of the first few visits was covered through their benefits they figured they should go.

They found the session enjoyable. The therapist was easy to talk to, they created an open environment conducive to full disclosure and they helped guide a lot of self discovery.

There were two questions the therapist asked that stood out to me:

  • What did you go without because there was no suffering in an experience?
  • What was it like to have things go bad around you without warning?

These questions are not very specific - they apply to anyone who has experienced change or trauma - and they are reflective and introspective. There’s a lot of self-awareness waiting for anyone who is willing to spend the time reflecting on these questions.

I believe that human beings need a compelling reason to change otherwise they’ll just stay as they are. Suffering, or at least the avoidance of it, is then a good motivator for change. There are people who are able to parse the lessons out of a benign experience but doing so requires experience, wisdom and / or effort. If a change causes no suffering there’s a good chance less will be gleamed from having had it.

From my experience, being blindsided sucks. In the short term it’s painful and long term it sets in motion thought patterns or ways of thinking that can best be described as superstitious; in that they are based on a single mostly random event and not the gestalt of all your experiences. For example, for a very long time I was overly paranoid about the death of those I cared about. This came from Natalie’s sudden death and not because most of the people I have ever known have died.

The answers to these questions are revealing and worth offline consideration. There are lessons in everything, although we may not be in a state to accept or see them. Easy experiences often leave us closed off to them. These consequences to these lessons can become evident in the weeks, months and years following as behavioral patterns that are not functional.

Boosting Ownership And Control - Think In Terms Of Results

There is no such thing as failure, there are only results - Tony Robbins

I had read this before today and it didn’t make sense. But today it hit me.

It’s no longer relevant to look at life in terms of success and failure because these terms imply a false end point. Every life has only one end point and we reach it the day we die. And even then, we won’t be successful or a failure, we’ll just be at the end of our life.

The consequence to seeing life containing arbitrary end points is that it moves us away from the sustained hard work needed to get the results you are looking for. It makes it too easy to stop trying and it can prevent us from taking actual ownership of the process needed to achieve the outcome we are looking for.

By altering our view and seeing outcomes as results and NOT as success or failures we gain a level of depth in how we can look at the world and our actions within it. When we don’t get a job we want, complete a lift we’re trying, get to continue a relationship we hold dear, win the championship game, etc…. and view the outcome as the result of our preparation, effort and strategy, we have the power to change, grow and move forward to a different result. Call the result of not getting what we want a failure closes us off from the possibility of a different future.

There are two things to keep in mind, and make no mistake about it, there are both very important.

First off, none of it matters in the grand scheme of things. Life is about the transformative journey we each take from beginning to end and the transformation is the result of consistently applying the lessons we’ve learned.

Secondly, life progresses regardless of the work you put into it. It begins and ends only once so calling anything a failure is paramount to saying “I’m giving up right now.”

The first point is liberating, the lack of any universal meaning frees us to create or uncover whatever meaning we like. Point two frees us to make the choice on whether or not we’re going to put the effort into life to get the results we are looking for and it allows us to calibrate our intentions to focus on making the best of the time between the beginning and end of life.

1 Year Ago Today

A year ago my father’s diagnosis of GBM was revealed. I’m a little sick just thinking about it.

The year has been a whirl wind of emotions, introspection and lessons. I’ve had to do a lot of growing-up and reorganize how I view my support structure. I’ve lost some friends because I can act out and because helping to manage someone through the grief process can be a challenge, and for reasons that were never revealed to me. I take solace from the lessons they taught and the support they were able to give while they could. All parties do their best in situations like these.

I’ve gained a lot of insight into how I was existing in the world, my strong traits, my development areas and what is in my core. Today I have a much better understanding of how I handle the world, my thoughts and what I plan on doing with the next portion of my life.

Through all of it, I’ve come to realize that I’m a lot more like my dad than I was able to see a year ago. And I’m grateful for this. He modeled a lot of behavior, taught me a lot of lessons and guided me towards a lot of wisdom. He once told me that you just need to do your best, and have as much fun as you can because it won’t last forever. I agree with the first part and have started to accept the second part.

Parents Doing Things For Their Adult Children

When parents do something for their adult children, the kids tend to look at it from their point of view that their parent is saying they are still dependent upon them. But it’s usually the parent saying that they are still a parent and are unsure of how to adapt to their children’s new way of being.

And it’s understandable. We are born completely dependent upon our parents / caregivers for everything, we remain this way for almost 2 decades.

Why does your mom always try to feed you when you stop by? Because she’s done it more than 20000 times before.

Why does she not cook food the way you like it? Same reason, she’s been cooking it HER way forever and there’s nothing wrong with the way she cooks it; you’ve changed.

Why does your dad ask about the car and tell you how to maintain it? Because he’s been looking after the car for years and knows how to look after the car his way.

None of what they are doing is saying that you are incompetent, they are just saying they know better (different) and because they’ve gotten you to this point they know their approach works given your comparatively short track record. After 20 years of doing it your way they’ll believe in it; and you’ll probably be fighting with your own kids about it.

I’m not saying that as an adult you should just do what your folks tell you to do, I’m just going to say that their way did work for a long time and it may be all that they know. Remaining open and seeing their attempts to help you as being what they likely are, their way of saying “I love you” and “I’m still your parent.”

A Call To Action Becomes A Possibility When The Consequences Get Closer

Some political problems, like the impending fiscal cliff, cannot be solved until the very last moment, because the external pressure has to be so high that politicians can actually get forgiven for making the painful choice. If a Republican had acted 3 years ago and voted to increase taxes or a Democrat has voted to dramatically cut spending there would have been backlash from some of their supporters; they would have lost a lot of them and risked not getting reelected. But now, doom is so close that things have reversed - politicians face alienating their electorate by resisting tax increases or spending cuts. The notion of things falling apart in less than a month is a big motivator for creating the possibilities that become actions and solutions.

This tendency for action or different action to be taken as we get closer to the consequences is not isolated to politics because it seems to be a quality of most humans.

For example:

“The doctor told me that I needed to get into better shape.” This is usually interpreted by them as “I am going to die soon” and this is a compelling why.

“One of my friends / family had a heart attack and they are younger than me.” This too is interpreted as “I am going to die soon.”

Most drug addicts need to hit bottom before they stop using - death needs to be the next logical step in their addiction.

Many people who stop smoking do so only when they view the consequences (cancer, emphysema, etc…) as being inevitable if they continue to smoke.

Many students hold off studying until they view there to be no more time to waste.

Take a moment to think about your own behavior and that of those around you - how often are pragmatic actions tabled until they become crisis actions?

So what?

Be it your eighth cigarette or your 50000th, the threat of illness is always the reason why you should not smoke.

Being overweight or under exercised always increases your chance of dying early - this doesn’t become the reality the moment the doctor tells you to move more and eat better, or because someone you know has a heart attack.

Doing drugs always lowers your potential and does some damage to your body.

Consider the possibility that the “why” that seems to come to light as the consequences get closer is ALWAYS the why.

The Stories We Tell Are Not Reality But BECOME Reality

We are story tellers, almost all of us. The stories we tell, the really good ones, we tell not to others, but to ourselves. It is that simple. We learn to not tell them to others because they tend not to receive them very effectively. Others tend to argue with us about them, tell us that they are not a good reflection of reality or that there is another possibility that we have not considered. So, over time, we learn to keep our mouths shut and firm-up our view about what these stories mean.

The impact of these stories can be powerful, often more powerful than reality; which the stories eventually become.

Most of the migration away from objective reality occurs when we are young and these early experiences lay the foundation for one to more easily accept things that are not reflective of how others see the world.

For example, at school, an example is made out of a good student for speaking out of turn. For one reason or another the teacher decides to single them out for talking to one of their friends while other more rowdy students are also talking. This has the impact of getting the class to be quiet, but it can also create a story based on conflicting evidence within the good student that being consistently bad is an effective way to mitigate the wrath of the teacher. While this small tale seems innocuous, if the young person adapts this as a coping strategy they are well on the way to throwing academic potential out the window.

The stories that young people tell as a result of abuse are often much more damaging. When a caregiver fails to protect a child from abuse or when they do not respond quickly or decisively to it, children often create stories that have them as being less worthy of protection or love, that have them as objects for other peoples enjoyment or have them develop personality disorders that make movement into and through adulthood challenging or obnoxious.

Without proper scope or divergent opinions, abuse can be normalized and carried forward through these stories. Parents who chronically beat their children raise kids who continue this pattern - not because the children necessarily believe it is right but because they don’t know that it isn’t appropriate. Without proper guidance and role-modelling, what is common is normalized and the pattern of abuse continues.

These stories get traction in our minds and they are sticky. It can take years of therapy to identify and loosen a story to the point of it relinquishing its virulent grip. Even then, the stories may have become part of the individuals identity such that they ALWAYS pop-up and will require constant effort to hold back.

The key is a reality check when things start to look or feel off with the young people in your life. Ask lots of questions and provide lots of information about your experience of objective reality. Ask about their stories and listen closely to their answers, there will be a wealth of information contained within them that will light-up parts of their minds that may be destined to become their future reality.