How not to murder your life

Or anyone else’s for that matter. For maximum effect please imagine the scenario narrated below in real time.

First things first – full disclosure: I stole this title, how to murder your life, from a memoir I love and added the ‘not’ because this is not about drug addiction but about vulnerability brought on by the human desire to succeed: this desire to succeed makes people, [most times], do things that inevitably murder their lives. The internet is inundated with countless reasons why people murder their lives, but there’s one reason I find most atrocious, this is because like a stealth bomb you don’t see or hear it coming until it’s on top of you. It is the hyped motivational-speaker-millionaire-entrepreneur craze/con sweeping the world.

I nearly fell victim to this craze/con but saner mind prevailed. Someone I know fell victim to this con, and now he is ten of thousands of pounds short and on the verge of homicide – he asked me to write about it if only to raise awareness. This con is so alluring in its simplicity anyone can fall victim to it, especially if one is on the brink of giving up on everything. This year alone, I’ve met two con-artists of this kind, but for this post, I will discuss the seduction processes of one of them.

I was at an exhibition where a ‘celebrity’ guest speaker was giving his precious time to tell audiences of how he, a school dropout, managed to turn a small business into a multi-million-pound franchise. He was, above all, very motivational and gave a few ‘business’ type pointers, but “due to time constraints,” he couldn’t go into too much details. He was, however, available in four weeks’ time to give [free] a three-day training session/seminar that normally costs thousands of pounds to the first 10 people who register there and then – a stampede ensued. What I know now, [I was one of those first 10 people who nearly broke their legs running to the back of the room to register], was that he was creating an artificial demand, and as we all know desperation doesn’t leave much room for reason. I didn’t make the first 10, there were other faster runners, but I made it to the next 50 who had to pay a small refundable sum – several weeks after the 3day seminar I had to fight tooth and nail to get this refund – to guarantee a place.

Historically, con-artists have always existed in various forms: first, there were the pyramid schemes which promised millions and richness beyond the physical possibilities – these are still in existence today, but now due to laws and regulations those clever con artists have added a product to make it legitimate. Then came the Nigerian princes’ email scams – I don’t need to explain this one because almost everyone has had an encounter with the Nigerian prince who’d just inherited millions but for some insane reasons cannot transfer the money to their account etc. The said prince would contact you asking for your help and in return, you’d get a 10% of whatever he’s inherited. Some gullible do-gooders have fallen victim to his scam and in the process murdered their lives.

Unlike the above, the new breed of con-artists is not so blatant in the thievery. First, they hook you in by offering a one of a kind training session for free or for a little refundable amount. They offer a 3-day or a one-day special seminar, usually in high-class 5-star hotels. When you get to the hotel, the signage for the event is so professional it leaves you in no doubt. There’s a welcoming party in the foyer next to the room where the seminar would take place; there, you are greeted by broad smiling, overly enthusiastic worker bees high fiving and swaying to the high-octane music. There are motivational quotes all over the place and on a big screen. Instantly you feel drawn to this high energy and feel like a fraud if you don’t show excitement, so you feign some to fit in. And right on time, as the program indicates, you are ushered into the conference room – you don’t stroll in with coffee cup in hand… oh no… you run in and five high everyone in your path, smiling energetically to people you’ve just met. The music is even louder inside the room, and there are multicoloured disco lights everywhere – for a minute you are confused as to whether you are in a disco or a business training seminar. You smile anyway and soldier on.

The main speaker [i.e. the con-artist from the exhibition], is then introduced by one of his success-story mentees. This mentee explodes onto the stage speaking animatedly on how her life was mundane, stressful, a failure and any general sob story that will make your heart melt, until she met this man. She explains how her once lame business was turning over £100,000 a year, but not without explaining in great details how she had to make tough calls and extraordinary decisions. She then signs off by saying how lucky, you the audience, are to be in the presence of greatness, and that one year from then you’d be the ones standing on stage.…. And there my friends the first seed is planted.

The main man also explodes onto the stage, and over the course of the day, 90% of the seminar’s contents is motivational talks taken from one of the many books and YouTube videos available to anyone who looked; 5% of the talk is based on mainly generic ideas and advice on setting up and running successful businesses – the information is readily available on the internet if one knew where to look. The speaker won’t tell you where to look, instead, he will speak as if he had gained the knowledge from experiences of running successful businesses that had failed a few times. He narrates how due to pure grit, determination and hard work he rose from dust to countless amounts of money. He goes on to explain how once upon a time he had to google how many zeros in a million when he got his first check – because he couldn’t believe it had happened. He spends a considerable amount of time telling stories of how he and his business partners clenched deals with international companies, details of which are very sketchy. At some point, he goes off on a tangent on issues that had nothing to do with why we were gathered there. During the course of the ‘training’ he throws phrases such ‘do not be a motivated idiot’, ‘hard work pays, and patience is a must’ etc all the while hooking you in for the killer pitch. At the end of the end, he articulates how well sort after he is as a mentor, and that an hour with him costs thousands of pounds. Then, as an after-thought, he offers something – a year’s worth of mentorship to a select few. These ‘select few’ would be selected on the strength of their business proposals.

The second day is not much different from the first – i.e. a success story, Facebook marketing strategies (truth be said I found that useful though it was sketchy and required a lot of googling). At the end of that day, he asked people to write out their proposals which he would read during the night “while you sleep”, he said. I think this was yet another strategy to add weight to his argument for when he delivered the killer pitch. At this point, most people were hooked anyway and spent a chunk of time writing out the perfect business proposals. By day three, there was no doubt in most people’s mind what this man could do for them. Asked why he was offering all these for free or so cheaply, he told a sob story of how successful he’d become but felt unfulfilled. At the depth of depression, he had an epiphany – philanthropy – helping others succeed was his spiritual calling: this solidified any doubting Thomases.

Human beings’ capacity to trust is what betrays them because the first thoughts are not of suspicion but of trust, and we let these conmen hack into our brains, corrupt the operating system and make us vulnerable by uploading irrelevant information that would otherwise not matter. On the afternoon of the third day, mind you people were exhausted and hopeful they would be chosen, he delivered the killer pitch. Here he talked about his worth, you know as a successful celebrity entrepreneur philanthropist – the works – and everyone knows they don’t come cheap. However, he was offering a yearlong mentorship program worth hundreds of thousands of pounds for just £10,000 to a select few. People were called one by one and had to pitch again to directors, and then the discussion of payment came at the end. Let’s just say, my friend who asked me to write this post, is now bound in a twelve-month contract paying £1000 per month and to date, nothing of substance has come off the program and the mentor is seldom available. My friend was given 7days to cancel the contract, but seven days is hardly enough because in the first week after committing he was bombarded with online courses, power lunches and breakfast meetings that dwindled as soon as the seven days were over.

I write this post to warn people of these conmen; beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. They will drain your bank accounts and leave you in debt – they will encourage you to further murder your life by borrowing if you can’t raise the money by other means. Be vigilant.

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