- Mohamad Kalaaji
You flick through social media, scrolling around like you are trained to do then you find an interesting ad! Someone is giving you the secrets to become an expert in X field or the ability to make millions of dollars and the solution costs $30! You realize that it is not that of a risk like $30 is nothing
But this is when things get interesting. I am going to write about those people along with my personal experience (self help mainly and how I gave up 25 self help books away) and how this Ponzi pyramid scheme stretches to other aspects (I will use the tech world since I am a software developer)
Who are those fuckers?
Welcome to the world of self help/financial gurus and advisors who pop on your timeline, giving you the secrets on becoming rich or becoming the next big thing instantly! You think that they are doing it for a noble cause and the $30 course price is more of a motivating factor to push forward right?
You start seeing motivational quotes, successful moves like making 1 million dollars in less than a month or selling out one of their businesses, testimonials of people who became successful from selling fucking socks on Shopify, and the important part is the fucking Lamborghini and the big ass mansion.
You think you are dealing with experts, like if someone has 15 thousand or 100 thousand followers on Instagram they are a reliable source of information no? If you followed their footsteps and guidance (along with opening your wallet) then you might become one no?
Technically it doesn’t work in the way that you are expecting. Nobody becomes rich from buying a bloody product regardless if it is a $30 course or X product, invest in something meaningful like Bitcoin (no other shitcoins, stick with the first authentic cryptocurrency on the planet that even countries are starting to consider it an asset class)
If a $30 course is gonna make me rich then why buy more of their courses?
This is where the fun part starts, this is upselling you to buy more courses. It starts with a small $30 course to make you amp up then at the end of the course, you get a small footnote that this course you bought has a complimentary course to double up the performance for an additional $40 dollars.
You might think that an additional $40 is worth it since you will be making millions in the next months, the hustle culture told you to invest in yourself to become better every single day hence you warmed up your credit card and bought that additional course.
Then you get an email that there is a secret elite group of serial entrepreneurs that can guide you towards greatness and becoming a multi millionaire! And it costs $100!
You start to realize that there is a vicious cycle of abuse here right? That it is not going to end on 1 or 2 courses (books, courses, seminars, and much more)
If they are rich then why need to create courses on how to be rich?
Because you are the product, as simple as that. The main reason they are rich is because they are able to trick a flock of dumb idiots (sorry but you are an idiot to believe them) and milk money out of you and many others to buy useless shit that it would not get you anywhere, even to the point beyond bleeding (getting into debt and selling everything)
a $30 course is at least better than a $6K seminar
This is more seen in the self help department since self help is more oriented towards seminars and physically being present while the books and courses are complimentary yet not that necessary products (virtual seminars are taking more traction and cheaper than physical seminars due to covid, you gotta make money in a way or another)
Like imagine booking a $6K ticket to see one guy talk for 4 hours to motivate you to move your ass and do something in life that is meaningful. Like how fucked up you are in this position?
If there is no backstage afterparty with Lil Nas X twerking to the devil and a huge hell themed sex orgy then the $6K ticket might not be that beneficial and you are better off paying your student debts that have been crushing you since 2015.
But they have fancy cars, huge mansions, and travel all over the world, how come they are not legit? Man you must be jealous of them
Let me tell you something: you can rent a mansion on AirBnb for less than $1K per week, you can rent a Lamborghini or a Ferrari for less than $5K with a 3 month lease, and traveling is not that of a luxury honestly (the only thing stopping you is getting the Visa due to your passport index and country)
You can rent anything these days, and if you have friends that have a Lambo or a Ferrari then technically you can do a couple of montages and videos for free
Models swimming next to you in your swimming pool? Hired actresses from Craigslist for less than $1K a day for 5 actresses in that rented mansion.
If someone have those fancy things and is able to change them to something even much more fancier in a short amount of time then you know the drill.
My experience with self help and why I gave away 25 self help books away for nothing in return?
3 years ago, I was facing a huge obstacle in my life and reached to a dead end (or in other words: Depression). My biggest escape was reading but slipped into reading self help books since it might motivate me to do something in my life.
At first it was awesome! Because the writer told me that I can do anything and I am full of potential! I can be anything! (Low key that is Peter Pan syndrome being casted on me to be in this magical world and I am the king of the lost boys)
There is a reservoir within you that can hold up to stay moving forward. When you are reading those self help books, they are tricking that you have an infinite reservoir that never runs out. Technically they are not lying but here is the catch: to have that infinite reservoir, you should keep buying their content to stay on that infinite edge.
Eventually you will end up like me and read 25 books to stay motivated (but ironically I read 52 books in a year, that infinite reservoir dried out in less than half of a year).
Why it is a Pyramid and Ponzi scheme?
Pretty simple: someone is framing that they are on top of the dominance hierarchy, and since you always dreamt of reaching the top then you would do anything to become like them to show off. Nothing more than your ego being hungry for power and fame.
Hence you buy their courses, seminars, content, products, memberships, like anything they throw in front of you because your chances of becoming them, to become at the top.
The obscure part is that there are no refund policy or they set weird rules and excuses to not have a refund. The funny part is that they promise you something and the promise that it will happen yet it doesn’t happen at all. You will remain that 25-30 year old something in your parents home with a dead end job at McDonalds playing on your Playstation 5 while arguing on taking night shift tomorrow.
How can it stretch to other parts on society?
Those self help/financial bullshit to get rich quick or becoming happy in the least amount of time originated from the technical world when you use to buy a Udemy course to learn X programming language or Y library or Z framework.
All you have to do is expand on top of a working model and you have a business going on, pretty simple.
The rise of the drop shipping dorks
Like everyone else, there are a group of people who are selling courses on drop shipping from AliExpress to a basic WordPress website or Shopify for huge amount of cash, promising big gains and it is the “future of passive income”
I am not going to talk more about it, you figure things on your own.
How can I identify a Ponzi/Pyramid scheme?
- front page is pictures of the person in different close up shots doing different poses like holding cash, standing next to a fancy car, or spread his hand pose while a big ass mansion is behind
- a basic WordPress website based off a famous template from ThemeForest
- cliffhanging click baiting titles and testimonials
- courses that have the same vibe as an erectile dysfunction medications ads like Viagra or a penis pumping vibe ads (GROW YOUR NET WORTH TO 10X IN LESS THAN THREE MONTHS!!!) [the caps words are a must to make it look legit]
- no return policy
- more courses and click funnels
- filtered rating with generated bots
- fake awards
- more courses
- more images of the person presenting the content
- more course material
- more testimonial
- picture of the presenter with a Ferrari
- picture of the presenter on a yacht
- more course material
- if the website has a gold/black/white palette along with fancy calligraphy then run, run as fast as you can.
How can I identify a person as a fraud?
Pretty simple: put them in reality and let them do what they are “experienced” in person under genuine circumstances.
To properly identify a fraud comes from the amount of knowledge this person provides. If this person hides the info by saying “best practices” , “recommended by many” , and “I know what I am doing” then you know the drill. There are people out there that will throw useless words that brings no sense at all like you want a basic portfolio website and they start bring up topics like AI, Machine Learning, and Blockchain (like I want a fucking portfolio website not jargons for useless shit) buzzwords to sell you out and make money out of you.
Follow your instincts, those people are easy to spot and if you got scammed by one of them then you will learn (if you got scammed multiple times then you are an idiot sorry)
The Dunning–Kruger effect
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a psychological event that people with low ability/knowledge at a task overestimate their ability and vice versa (people with huge amount of ability/knowledge tend to underestimate their abilities).
When someone knows nothing of what they do, they act as if they know it all to impress a certain someone and make the deal happen. This is known in the Arab world that Arabs know everything (like want to buy a carpet? your neighbor suddenly becomes an Iranian carpet expert, your car is not working? Your friend is an expert mechanic)
When someone is a proclaimed “expert” with over confidence and dodges a good portion of the questions by stating other facts to not expose himself/herself then you know you are dealing with a fraud.
How those proclaim “experts” assholes might ruin your business and expenses
I will give a technical and real-life example on this because it would make more sense on the subject
I know someone who claims himself that he is an AWS expert and markets himself as that (yet asks me a lot of questions regarding AWS, he markets himself as a professional Solution Architect). He has been telling me for years that he will get certified yet didn’t do it while I got three certifications and going towards the fourth in one year span
The issue with him is that he does the job under his rules, what he does is what he currently knows. He hasn’t expanded his knowledge and becomes defensive when proved wrong
How would this asshole ruin your company and expenses? Here are my remarks on it:
- Instead of renting out a server and let the client pay $50 for a small server that 70% of the time on idle and 2-3 peak times, you can utilize server-less computation that you get paid per usage not per month hence you pay for peak time without ever going down or facing server crashing issues or scalability issues since AWS will handle everything for you
- Instead of using a database that you are comfortable with that charges a minimum of $70 for a small server, there are other databases that can handle better workflows much cheaper and faster
- Instead of rewriting a good portion of the elements of the software (like authentication), there are ready made services that are available to use but he chose not to because he doesn’t know how to use them and comes up with multiple excuses on how bad they are (but if your user database got leaked then that should be good no? Bash a tested service and endorse his implementation as better to lock the client and screw them later on)
- Instead of saving images as base 64 on the database, you can use storage buckets to save them there while keeping your database clean and lean (and save costs on the database)
- There are multiple programming languages that can handle use cases much better yet he sticks with what he knows, although that other language can perform better than the other in that specific field
There are more remarks but those points on their own can cost a lot, you can get charged more than $300 for things that can be done for $70-$100 (not accurate numbers but you get the point, you can save money when someone knows what he is doing is in charge)
That over confidence and ego will eventually lead him to somewhere bad (like legal actions taken against him) yet after all these years, nothing have changed. He claims himself as a professional Solution Architect and asks questions while argue being proven wrong all the time. Those people will never learn.