Snake Oil Sales Dominant Social Media

Snake oil sales dominate social media to the extent that burns my eyes. Instagram booty models want me to buy a useless detox tea, and if you call out a guru selling the word salad to success, they will flag your YouTube video for copyright infringement. All while the MD’s of Twitter, are either cringing or causing the cringing of credible medical professionals. And everything is rewarded by the AI’s that control search engines and social media. 

Instagram is a place where fitness and health go to die, and people leverage their 15 minutes of fame to extract as much milk from the social media cash cow as possible. If you don’t have an impressive deadlift, you could use fake weights, but that comes with a risk of discovery, better to do back squats perched atop an exercise ball. Physical pain will never hurt as much as the scorn of followers catching, you, their beloved emperor naked. As long as they don’t find out you’re nude, you can sell them branch chain amino acids! 

If only these moronic, fitness “experts” documenting their awkward gym moments didn’t appeal to an audience of decidedly not fit people. The dangerous exercises performed for likes on the gram and sales of mostly useless supplements have grown prevalent enough that commenting on the stupidity is now a subgenre on YouTube.

 For some unknown reason, perhaps just the design of the simulation we live in, most fake fitness experts are named “Vence”, while those providing reasoned criticism are mostly angry and bald. Alan Roberts is sort of an archetype of an angry bald man who doesn’t want dudes named Vince to kill people. It’s reflected in the hours of videos trying to dissuade people from dangerous stunts justified by pseudoscience. Did an Instagram model offer you the miracle quiz to discover your body type so you can begin working out more effectively? A slightly less angry equally bald Youtuber named Shredded Sports Science can help dispel the somatotype myths.

So far, YouTube sounds like a haven of decent content, but alas no. YouTube is full of health-related trash. Intermittent fasting had a couple of interesting studies, and the floodgates of YouTubers either not understanding or misrepresenting those studies flew open, releasing the Kraken of misinformation. Half a dozen people started running ads to brand themselves as intermittent fasting experts. Actual experts on fasting exist, many are at Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Texas Tech, and USC. Basically, expert equals person conducting studies, not idiot telling you to skip breakfast.

Just as pervasive on YouTube as ads for “super foods” and bigtime-jumbo-word-detox-salad to rejuvenate your third eye are ads selling the magic bullet to business success. These keys for success don’t come cheap, mostly they seem to start at around $2,495, but don’t worry if you buy now before the end of the pre-recorded-live webinar, you can lock in the low rate of $1,997. Since the course offers at least $76,995 of value, you can’t afford not to mortgage your pet hedgehog to claim your slice of the good life now.

 Also, if you have a terrible experience or even slightly criticize these thin-skinned guardians of the halls of prosperity, they will try to flag, copyright claim, and otherwise cast you from the platform. This happened to a YouTuber who goes by CoffeeZilla after publishing a video calling out the plagiarism of a man who is “teaching thousands of like-minded individuals to leave their 9-5 Jobs Behind and Free them from Corporate Slavery!” – If only Coffee had known that Kevin David both owns the copyright to his name (although you cannot copyright a name), and that despite having hundreds of thousands of online followers that mentioning Mr. David would be a gross violation of privacy.

If only the algorithms and business model controlling the workings of social media were different, lying douchebags wouldn’t end up spending money on ads to garner large followings. I mean, for shame, if not for the algorithms and ads platform, Mr. David could enjoy his private life. You can’t have pre-roll ads and not expect a vigorous young man to produce and elaborate video in this Lambo and make sure people see it; that is unreasonable. Like leaving an alcoholic in a liquor store during the apocalypse. If the bombs dropping, any sane person would consider an intoxicant, and with social media around a young privacy-minded man can’t help but run ads to his plagiarized video content. It’s the natural order.

Since collectively, we have decided that Snapchat and Tik Tok are irrelevant to anyone old enough to pay for internet access. And everyone seems to be writing off Facebook for not doing more to censor speech, that leaves me only one social cesspool, and that is Twitter. You know you cannot trust health advice from Instagram, but maybe the MD’s of the Twitterverse can offer some sage wisdom. The answer is they can, but some of them are too focused on demonizing potatoes to offer reasonable discourse. 

Like most of what the good MD says, it’s so dogmatic, that looking up the nutritional value of potatoes cannot dissuade the wrong opinion. Notice also that I said, “the good MD” and not “the good doctor,” as is the result of a decision by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners, who obviously sells books about the ketogenic diet. Keto is great by the way, and if you want to learn more about keto from an expert, checkout Dom D’Agostino, he is doing some cutting edge research at USF, and this interview on the Tim Ferriss podcast should give you some insight into his work.

There are medical professionals worth following on Twitter, qualified fitness coaches on Instagram and YouTube, and all over the internet people are sharing heartfelt and conscientious advice for business, health, and relationships. Still, the most sensational hot takes either fighting with or diametrically opposed to most people’s preconceptions of the world are what gets those views.  

The algorithms and business models that govern social platforms reward behaving like either a psychopath or an idiot, and borrowing from Happy Gilmore, we are all awarded no points and are collectively dumber as a result. I’d argue if the AI ever became super intelligent, it would end humanity the same way “dumb AI” is currently.

Aversion of this article ran on Splice Today

Header Image: “1023 Homoeopathy Protest, Bristol” by Dr.Tricky 

Online Gurus Are Beyond Parody

I used to make videos mocking the folks you see in ads on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc. selling you some form of info product. I had to stop, because, while standing in front of a U-Haul place and talking about the haters who will claim I the great, “Dutch Ovens” don’t own all these trucks, the real guru’s ads now surpass parody. John Crestani makes liberal use of a money gun in his videos and a picture of Sam Ovens holding a power drill to a statue is a real ad that I’ve seen on Facebook; I cannot top that.

The ads tactics of the people, I will call fake gurus, are intended to be so sensational that they draw attention and get amplified by a certain amount of ridicule. Tai Lopez, the OG of the course selling gurus– leveraging over the top ads to move people into the sales funnel of a “live webinar,” earned media attention from the likes of H3h3 Productions and Funny or Die. The mocking coverage gave the guy meme status, and almost definitely sent more saps into his sales funnel. Now everyone in the game is trying the same thing, doubling down on what worked. 

We’ve seen gravitation to the effective extremes happen in many areas, The Soup Nazi was a gag on Seinfeld, but now everyone in every argument draws a Hitler comparison. Godwin’s law is the idea that “If an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds.” 

I want to introduce you to a concept I hope will be known as Mason’s law, the idea that if anything can make money ever in any context, someone will build a course teaching you how to do so. I also firmly believe, the more courses on a topic, the less likely anyone is to make money using the tactics within. I’m now shown ads from gurus, who’s courses teach how to make money selling courses. 

The reality of these courses seems very clear to me; they have jumped the shark. People selling courses teaching a tangible skill, such as selling on amazon, only started after most of the juice drained from whatever method they are teaching. The battery life is now low, and some of these folks are trying to get the last bit of cash before it runs out.

Not every fake guru is selling tactics or tangible skills. Some I consider to be the most predatory are selling bunk supplements and bad health advice or teaching always useful, skills like starting a consulting business or “high-ticket sales”. This creates a terrible grey area, because not all health advice is dangerous, and not all sales training is useless. Many people will freely give and even charge for such information. The problem is those I view as fake gurus do not teach anything of value.

For every sales training widely hailed as excellent, like the pure intentioned Zig Ziglar or perhaps less noble, but highly skilled Jordan Belfort is someone pushing nonsense; Often obscured by fake reviews and buzzwords. The tactics used by many of these business gurus frequently mirror cult leaders, Dan Lok reportedly has students listen to 45 minutes of his recorded mantras daily.

The flashy over the top ads are a marketing gimmick; they turn off people who aren’t willing to buy the cult-like business training, and manifesting as a character of a wealthy person appeals to those ready to invite a new guru into their lives. What’s more, the scorning commentary and parodies help enforce a brand image. The kind of distribution that comes from the YouTube commentary community is media that would cost millions to buy. 

We’ve also seen the more self-aware gurus; KT Nine used to run ads (selling their garbage course) mocking the ostentatious displays of wealth others in the space were using. The ads for Nine University used to start something like “I’m in my super sick car, parked next to my super sweet mansion… Oh no, I’m not. I’m in an alley in Pittsburgh.” I assume these ads didn’t work, because the new ad recording in what seems to be the same alley now features a Tesla, not a Honda Civic.

Others are on a sort of minimalism kick; Alex Becker, for example, made a video a couple weeks ago titled “Why (As A Millionaire) I Own NOTHING”. Becker is now selling courses teaching how to sell courses. If I had to guess, this minimalism is a way to set himself apart in a market saturated by displays of extravagance. I’d also make a bet that if follow up coverage doesn’t happen, Becker, just like KT Nine, will switch back to the more traditional sports car route. 

The community of business and health gurus are pushing the extremes, and therefore now parody themselves. But not only has the lunacy surpassed parody, attempts to poke fun for a laugh feed the sales funnel. In the last U.S. Presidential election, Trump got more media attention than any other political candidate, even ridiculing brings eyeballs. Any criticism or commentary of fake gurus that isn’t attached to damning evidence is to act as a free billboard.  

Header Image: via YouTube

Is Link Building A Waste Of Time In 2020?

“Link building is a waste of time for SEO” – At least, that is the claim made by an “SEO expert” on Linkedin. But is link building a waste of time for better search ranking in 2020? Absolutely not. 

When Google started, they set themselves apart from other search engines by using off-site factors to improve results. Beginning with the use of inbound links as a primary factor in determining search result placement. Over time Google added many more factors growing in complexity – Probably to the point where an AI now runs the show using thousands of data points, including some so personalized, they likely cannot be accounted for in an SEO strategy.

The saying for weight loss is “you cannot outrun a bad diet,” and with SEO, I’d say you cannot out link build a lousy site. If a web page doesn’t provide a good user experience and content that meets Google Bot’s expectation, no amount of links will rank it. 

Fixing on-page problems are the first step Push ROI takes for any SEO project. But I’ve seen many websites climb up the search results pages after receiving links from a few quality websites, even with several subpar onsite factors. Like most things related to Google (maybe even life), success is the result of an overall score from a combination of factors.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you have to be in a caloric deficit. If you stop eating, you will eventually lose weight, up to the point you die. You shouldn’t just stop eating to shed a few pounds, and you don’t have to.

Most people understand the math of calories eaten versus calories burned from exercise. Although concepts like the energy used to turn a given food into fuel (thermic effect) and how many calories are burned during non-exercise activity (neat rate) tend to be ignored. Why, because it’s easy to focus on the two most significant factors. 

It’s the same with Google; people find success using only the top few factors and ignore everything else. If an SEO only builds links, they can see results, and the same is true if they only optimize onsite. I’m seeing people who only want to focus on ranking Google My Business pages for local search. 

All of these are parts of an overall SEO strategy. But most likely, no single factor will be enough long term. If a website reaches the top result for a keyword, based only on onsite changes, it can be knocked back to the second result if a competitor gets linked to from a large site. And, at some point, there are no more on-page changes left to make. 

The chief argument of this self proclaimed “expert” was that “SEO’s spend too much time link building without optimizing onpage.” – This is sadly often correct. Not making onsite changes is foolish, perhaps as foolish as calling “link building” a waste of time. Just because, an SEO “expert” is bad at building links, doesn’t make the process a waste of time.

Link building done well is PR, not PBN’s. While using a private blog network, if done correctly, can still rank a website, it may not work forever. Even if private blog networks perpetually fool Google, we know getting a link from a website without traffic has no direct value outside of SEO. But I think everyone agrees a link from The New York Times will have value well outside of Google’s search results page. In fact, I’d take a mention in The New York Times print only, where it offers no SEO value. 

Header Image: Link building stock style photo” by tecmark UK

You May Enjoy

How-To Course Market Saturation Index

People often love simple correlation metrics, in part because (aside from post hoc fallacies, like more ice cream means more murder), correlation can be an easy indicator of a broader trend.

My favorite correlation metric example is the Hot Waitress Index, so dubbed by Hugo Lindgren in an article for New York Magazine. Lindgren’s point, when the economy is booming (for both genders), being sexy leads to cushy sales and promo modeling jobs. In an economic downturn, those jobs go away. Along with the beautiful people, restaurants, bars, and cafes suffer revenue declines, and that sector of businesses hire the now available models to try and slow that decline with sex appeal. Therefore, the hotter your server, the worse the economy. 

Meet The How-To Course Market Saturation Index

I have my own metrics like these measuring all kinds of things. So far, I’m most confident in the How-To Course Market Saturation Index; The more people selling courses on a topic, the more saturated the market, and the less likely anyone is to make any money using the lessons from the course.

You’ve probably all seen a video ad of someone screaming about how to make money with Facebook ads and dropshipping. I am continually targeted by a half a dozen such people often showing off luxury cars and babbling about building up a substantial business selling products from AliExpress (some even pretend to be super aware and explain why they are not scammers like everyone else). My gut, and basic economics tells me that each of these people carnival barking a course stopped reliably making money using these tactics some time ago. 

See, “100% Legit” if they were even 99% fake they couldn’t say that… Right?

People with a method to reliably start large borderline passive income streams don’t tend to share the technique with the world. Unless… They can make more money teaching, because buying products from a wholesaler and selling them with ads is both hard and these days relatively low margin.   

The Margins Are Low

Most large consumer brands either own manufacturing or are one step away, buying directly from the manufacturer in bulk. Meaning their goods can still maintain a profit when sold at a lower price than someone buying from a wholesaler. For many CPG brands, they expect repeat sales, and they can build that into the cost of advertising. Sellers of products from shampoo to coffee have a reasonable idea of how many people will become regular buyers of that brand. I’m willing to bet the average number of purchases of a drop shipped product discovered from an online ad, without availability in stores, will workout to within a rounding error of one. 

YouTuber Coffeezilla has a fantastic video breaking down the difference between revenue and profit for Amazon FBA Sellers.

Advertising Can Be Costly

All advertising, online or offline, is subject to limits of how many available places can display advertisements. A television show has a limited number of ad breaks, and Facebook is the same. At one time in 2017, Facebook maxed out the number of ads slots available within the News Feed. Predictably from November till after Christmas, the cost of online advertising goes up as big brands spend more. The only way your ads will show when most of the slots are full is to outbid your competitors.

It isn’t purely a battle of cost. Both Facebook and Google use versions of second-price auctions. The platforms consider the relevance of the ad and the amount of money bid, to create the actual amount bid in the auction. If you are better at building and targeting ads online (Facebook or Google) than those competing for the same placement, you may pay less than they have to. Still, the cost will always be higher when more people are competing for eyeballs.

Bottom Line

Online ads work, not as well as many people want to pretend, but ads emphatically work to sell products. However, when you have a low margin, no recurring revenue, and competition with deep pockets, you will have a massive uphill battle turning a profit. I assume the hordes of guru’s selling these how-to courses feel the same way I do; that is the reason they are selling courses.

Info products, like a course, offer a high-profit margin and allow for upsells. Training and classes are not inherently wrong (nor are online advertising or drop shipping), but a lot of people suddenly offering courses teaching the same way to make money, is an indicator that well has already started to run dry.

Header Image by bkeepers

Partner Or Employee With Extra Steps?

This morning I saw a post by Paul O’Brien titled “A VC is asking 6% for acting as an advisor…” – My first thought, that is some b******t – O’Brien agreed. His post is well worth reading, and it lead me down another thought pathway.

When you give out a lot of equity, you are handing away control!

You can give someone so much equity, that they should be a partner and should behave like a partner. But sometimes they just end up as an employee who is very hard to fire. I’ve had this problem a few times in my businesses, and have seen it happen even in true startups.

Let me explain, by “true startup”, I mean, a company that has funding from VC’s, has a board, is expected to trade at a multiple of revenue – not EBITDA – and is creating a product. Those bootstrapping, and starting service companies are entrepreneurs too, But I’m using this, limited definition to make a point.

I’ve never been the founder of a true startup. I have been part of successful (and unsuccessful) investor pitches. I’ve done product design for failed startups, held marketing jobs at successful ones, been on teams who made VC’s “good”, and in running a digital ad agency I’ve worked with all sorts of startup companies.

But, I’ve never been the founder of something that had a board of five, where two members are investors, two members are founders and all parties agreed on the swing person, in the fifth seat. That is the typical structure of an early startup board. An important setup, because it gives the founders autonomy, but lets investors have enough control to protect their early investment. It also means, a founder can be fired, as can a non founder with substantial (vested or scheduled) equity.

In the past, my “founder title” has been limited to services companies. Some grew to be larger than myself, some were just a way to bill for consulting – a term I now try to avoid. But sometimes when I’ve added a “partner” without a board, I’ve created a nightmare scenario.

If you have an employee who is not doing their job, you talk with them about it, and if need be you fire them. The perhaps overly ’80’s action movie saying is “Lead, follow, or stay out of the way”. With a partner, often it takes more steps to fire them, without a board those steps are often unclear, or costly.

Scenario: You and a partner run a small services business, with revenue from clients. Your partner has taken to working less, and their work product is of poorer quality. You cannot just fire your partner, and since you don’t even have a board to go to, you are in a marriage that no longer works. Some options exist, but many have a possibility of lawsuits. The most likely case is you have to buy our your partner for a multiple of EBITDA. This is a rock and a hard place.

I recently had an amicable parting of the ways with a former partner in Push ROI. Part of the reason is that the company is pivoting away from service and towards SaaS. But even with a non hostile breakup, getting all accounts turned over, and names off of everything takes time, under even the best case scenario. If you have to deal with animosity, and even litigation it may just be faster to start a new firm.

Giving a VC 6% is crazy, and as O’Brien said,

“A VC would warn you of how bad an idea it is to allocate so much [to] anyone who isn’t full time.”

While I do think you can have a non full timer who can justify 6%, on a vesting schedule. My statement assumes that person is highly motivated, and is actually committed to doing things to increase the multiple of everyone’s equity.

A truly terrible scenario is when you have a party who is “full time” but isn’t really working. Someone who doesn’t share in the vision for the firm and who’s commitments are lip service at best. When someone says they are “all in” on a project right before signing a funding round that will give them a solid salary, that means almost nothing. It’s the people who are still “all in” when they find out the investor’s terms are unacceptable and you’re passing on this money, that earn being a partner.

Their is always a time to leave a sinking ship, don’t commit to the Titanic or WeWork. I mean it when I say, setting metrics that allow for failure is as important as defining success. But you don’t want a fairweather partner eather.

A partner in any business, is the person who will be sweating it out with you, when you’re trying to make payroll. If you don’t make the payroll, you’ll lose employees, but if you lose a partner when they don’t get the check they expected, they were a hard to fire employee.

Header Image: “Lighter” by jacunningham

Why I Stopped Calling Myself A Consultant

When someone asked what my job was, I used to tell them I was a “Consultant”. This was an accurate title. I worked with companies, largely on digital marketing, video, and product planning. I’ve stopped using the title, however, and should have given it up sooner.

A few years ago, a client told me I wasn’t a “consultant” because I was doing work. That may or may not have been true, but I should have changed my branding at that time. I kept the title because, to me, taking a consultative approach meant acting like a doctor.

If someone goes to a doctor, they don’t just say “give me chemo”. Good, heck, even mediocre doctors diagnose patients and give them possible treatment options. My goal was in separating myself from the service provider whose proverbial service hammer causes everything to look like a nail.

Yes, if someone called me and said they wanted YouTube marketing, I was always happy to provide the service. But what I aspired to be was someone a company could call when they needed to know what services they should use.

The part of Miracle on 34th Street when the Macy’s Santa Claus is sending people to Gimbels rubbed off on me. An aspect of my career I’m proudest of is how many times I told someone they didn’t need a service they called me about. I felt the consultant moniker was the best way to convey the message of what I aspired to be professionally.

The word consultant has taken a hit recently with people on YouTube selling classes to teach everyone how to be a “consultant”. But honestly, it was never the best part of the business world. Even with all my analogies, appealing to authority of medical professionals, Kris Kringle and classic films, my experiences with consultants have been largely negative.

Often, I’ve worked on projects with a “consultant” who adds no real value and injects themselves into operations in ways that even hinder success. I joke that I will someday write a satirical book called “Sandbagging with a Smile: The Guide to Appearing Important by Forcing Everyone to Play a Game of Telephone.”

Here’s an example of the bad side of consulting behavior. Once, I’d spent a few months designing and documenting this product and eventually, I needed to hire a developer. I didn’t need design, or product management, just a programer. When I asked around for introductions, my mind was blown by how many non-developers not only wouldn’t just make intros, but wanted me to hire them to manage the developer.

I was so aware of the parasitic folks in consulting, that my branding at one point was that I was a “real consultant” not someone who’s only skillset was outsourcing work at a markup and holding account logins hostage. Basically, the same marketing play of used car lots, “used car salespeople are bad, but we’re different.” I should have given up the title sooner.

I’m still not sure what to call myself. I’ve used terms like “digital strategist” and “growth hacker” (I really went after the growth hacker branding) but those terms are unclear. Someday, I’ll figure out my own branding.

Header Image: Miracle on 34th Street

Why I Don’t Sign NDAs, Mostly

As a general rule, I don’t sign NDAs; meaning non-disclosure agreements, because as a general rule, NDAs are BS, meaning b******t. Here’s the thing, NDAs serve a narrow function. Enforcing confidentiality when no other legal structure would require it. It’s why you don’t need Lawyers or medical personnel to sign an NDA. You also don’t need an NDA to prevent the disclosure of information that would otherwise be a crime. 

NDAs are for trade secrets, and times someone’s work for hire needs to be treated as a trade secret. Someone working on new technology, or being hired to ghostwrite a book that they can never acknowledge having written. 

Oh, NDAs also work well when a company wants a legal tool to bully former contractors and employees if the need arises. The tobacco industry famously used NDAs as a legal threat towards associates to prevent them from testifying about known health risks associated with smoking. 

Frivolous Lawsuits Are Not Fun

When everyone is honest and above board, NDAs best serve all parties when they are specifically defined. For an employer, a clear and precise agreement is more likely to result in successful court rulings, should lawsuits occur. The benefit to employees is a lower likelihood of being sued frivolously or bullied with threats of erroneous legal action.

The confidential definition of an NDA being too broad isn’t favorable to a company in court.  However, even when fighting a bad, non-specific NDA, when you have clear defenses around publicly and priorly known information. It’s a beating to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit. Basically, being sued even if you have a strong case isn’t fun. 

I have some faith in humanity and believe most NDAs aren’t required with malicious intentions. My experience around NDAs is mostly with people who are playing business. People having nothing specific to protect, and without money to put up much of a fight in court. Still, why would I risk anything, under the assumption someone is being honest. Or will continue to be honest. Or won’t go crazy the day I win the lottery because they mentioned a method of picking numbers while I was working with them. 

I won’t sign most NDAs. However, I will sign some. I even have one in the Scope of Work I use for most of my life as a service provider.

The Five Criteria of NDAs I’ll Sign

1. I’m getting paid, highly likely to be paid, or really interested; This should go without saying. Don’t create legal agreements for the sake of having legal agreements.

2. “Confidential” is actually confidential, is defined as such, and is not trying to protect info so obvious from public records that it’s equivalent to a 4-year-old whispering a secret. 

The sentence “will not disclose identifiable information that is unknown publicly at the time of disclosure and is likely to cause financial harm.” sums that up. Saying “…any information related to our marketing channels or methods.” – Yes, someone really sent me this once – is not a viable NDA, as most “marketing channels” are publicly known or easily extrapolated.

3. The “confidential information” is worth protecting. Meaning both confidential and has a risk of harm to a person or business if disclosed. Saying someone likes cream in their coffee, may not be a public record, but unless they are Dave Asprey the disclosure of that info is unlikely to cause harm.

4. That you’re not trying to use an NDA to prevent me from reporting a crime. This is happened before and will likely continue until people just stop signing unneeded NDAs

5. That my use or disclosure of the information you’re trying to protect, wouldn’t itself constitute a crime. A fair number of things already have criminal and civil sanctions, some, apply to me. Please don’t write those into an NDA and act like without that signed sheet of paper, you have no protection. It’s sort of like asking me to sign a document saying I won’t murder you. I sware to you, if I sign or do not sign that sheet of paper, I will be in the same amount of trouble if I commit a murder.

Recap

While most NDAs are BS, some are worth signing. But if you have little or no confidential information, a broad scope for the NDA, ambiguous clauses, aren’t paying me, or are already protected by existing laws I won’t be playing Art of the Deal with you, even if you’re the president. 

Here are a few other posts about the ridiculous prevalence NDAs have reached.

NDAs Are Out of Control. Here’s What Needs to Change via hbr.org
No I Won’t Sign Your NDA: Why Non-Disclosure Agreements Are Stupid via cinematlmagazine.com
5 Pieces of Etiquette for Startups Approaching Advisors via business2community.com
Please Steal My Scope of Work. I Want You to Have it. via masonpelt.com 
The Problem With Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) via pointsandfigures.com
Why I Don’t Sign NDAs via markwelchblog.com

Disclaimer

Mason Pelt is not a lawyer, this doesn’t constitute legal advice. These are his personal opinions and are general business advice. 

Header Image: “Golden” by chrisdonia is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

10% Happier, Book Review

I want to call this book “life-changing”, but I’m not going to because reading it didn’t change my life. What I’m trying to say is, the book has the capacity to be life-changing. If someone handed me this book five years ago, for example, I think it would have changed my life.

The problem is, five years ago, I wouldn’t have read this book. Such was my conviction against woo-woo crap. A title like 10% Happier, read to me, like a neon sign saying “Deepak Chopra style word salad inside”. I thought this book was for “healing” crystal wearing hipsters and idiots, my perception was way off.

This is a book for everyone from the top shelf skeptics of meditation (that I once was) to the deeply determined silent meditator. What Moonwalking with Einstein is to memory 10% Happier is to meditation. It’s difficult to make this a review and not simply a love letter to a book.

If you’d been able to convince me to read this book five years ago, I think it would have been the catalyst that caused me to take up meditation. It’s incredibly well written, sharing the science behind meditation and the journey of the author. The combination of personal anecdotes and medical literature citations is clearly the way to convince me to try something.

My Journey Into Meditation

I started meditation about two years ago, after seeing a study showing meditation’s association with lengthening Telomeres. Telomeres are the cell caps at the end of your DNA, protecting DNA from damage. That was enough to convince me I should learn more. Eventually, I decided to try meditation for a month and have not stopped for more than a few days since.

My journey into meditation followed a path very similar to Dan Harris’s, even involving many of the same cast of characters. Granted, for me, those people were virtual. And for my first anxiety attack, I was driving a car; not live on television. I’ll let you decide who had a more frightening experience.

People Dan Harris (full name to avoid ambiguity) mentions like Sam & Annaka Harris, Terra Brock, and Mark Epstein, are people from my journey of learning how to meditate. Even Dan Harris was a part of the journey, making it strange it took me so long to read this book.

Keeping Your Edge

Besides being an enjoyable read, how to not lose your edge, as Dan Harris puts it, was a major take away for me. In avoiding conflict, even before I started meditation, I became overly docile. As a mentor of mine told me “I avoided conflict like alcoholics avoid bars. I can do no confrontation or go to war, the difference between Bruce Banner and the Hulk”

In the beginning, meditation made it easier for me to be docile. Knowing when to say, “Hey, not acceptable!” rather than just saying “Hey, everything is a matter of experience occurring moment by moment” is still something I’m unclear on. Dan Harris’s description of this problem resonated with me and I’m testing a few of his proposed solutions.

Did This Book Change My Life?

While this book didn’t directly change my life, we’ve seen a culture that has evolved around meditation. In the west the practice of Buddhist monks (who I always respected). And of Birkenstock wearing Berkeley dwellers (who I sometimes found disingenuous). Has become something that corporate leaders claim they do on lists of their morning routines. Basically, meditation is now so acceptable that it moved from the fringes to something that is virtue signaled.

Looking at my own timeline around discovering meditation caused me to realize that this book did, in a way, change my life. The culture around meditation changed, in some part because of this book. I don’t think I would have ever evolved past a guy who mocked meditation as “hippy crap” to someone who does it daily without that cultural shift.

So this book didn’t directly change my life, but indirectly, I think it changed the world. Leading to a set of circumstances that caused me to change my life for the exponentially better. And there are some people that were a part of my journey who are owed a thank you.

So, Sam Harris, Terra Brock, Dan Harris, Rhonda Patrick, Joe Rogan, Timothy Ferriss, Joseph Goldstein, Annaka Harris, (I’m surely missing a few names) thank you. The work all of you have done in promoting meditation, has clearly helped western culture become more accepting. You have all been instrumental in getting me to the positive place I now find myself, because of meditation.

Another worth reading book in this vein is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin review by my mom.

Header Image via the Joe Rogan Experience