Thursday, October 13, 2016

Shouting and Bullying Doesn't Make You An Expert

NOTE:  Today's column comes with a warning.  I'm writing this while angry, so it might be a little longer than normal. Hopefully, you will be angry, too, when you're done reading this.

I'm starting this blog post with the ending, so when you read the rest of it, you won't miss the bottom line:

  • Bullying and intimidation - regardless the venue - are unacceptable, so stop tolerating it.  An adult bully who makes you feel you're "less than" if you don't pay them money, is no different from the kid on the playground who takes your lunch money so you can avoid getting punched.  An adult bully who flames you on social media because your opinion doesn't agree with theirs, is no different than the kid who shoves someone smaller into their locker.
  • Being insulting and demeaning is NOT "keeping it real."  Call it what it is - bullying.
  • YOU CAN take control of what you're doing and make your life better.  It's in your hands.  Don't let anyone make you feel "less than" just because they're loud and insulting.
  • To make real, definable change to be better, you need a coach or mentor.  You can't make big change in a vacuum, by yourself.  Every successful sports star, singer and business person has a coach, someone who has your best interests at heart, wants you to succeed and will walk with you through the process of getting there.
  • YOU definitely have everything you need within you to succeed.  You just need someone to bring your talents to the forefront.  The question is - do you want someone to help you who is on your side or someone who bullies you into it?  Which will bring long-term, sustainable, beneficial change?
  • You're too smart and too good at what you do to let yourself be bullied into paying for air; don't get sucked in by the emotional attack on your self-worth.
Now for the story:


There's a trend becoming more common, especially here in the United States - bullies masquerading as "experts."  I spent the day yesterday in the company of just such a person and it was a fascinating exercise in business psychology, at least the way it's being played out today.  Unfortunately, I don't take well or kindly to bullies; I stayed because it was fascinating to watch the psychology of the words being used and the reactions of those listening.  I won't be mentioning the name of the speaker, because the methods he uses are not much different from those used at most "platform sales" events; I'll get into that more in a bit.

Yesterday's event was marketed in two ways, which, in itself, made an interesting study in business psychology.  It was marketed to women specifically saying they were looking for the next big woman speaker; women's empowerment and the message that more women were needed in this male-dominated industry were the key messages.  The marketing to men was less subtle - Ferraris, beautiful women, fast boats and other luxuries were featured, drawing men in with the promise that you'll make millions in a short period of time just by becoming a public speaker.  It was a free event and in both marketing campaigns, it was said that the next big mega speaker would be chosen from the event.

Four speakers were put in front of the group, which started with 120 people; by the end, there were about 35 left.  Three of the four talked about how they were able to make millions by following the methods taught at this day-long workshop and by following the main speaker.  The three incidental speakers told the group they were experts because they made millions.  But they also talked about how tired they were, they aren't sure from day to day which city they're in and they spend as much time on the road as they do at home.  The three all talked about how the main speaker we'd see throughout the day was THE expert in training and promoting speakers and we needed to listen to him or we were losers.

As soon as someone tells me I HAVE to listen to someone because they're the "expert," I start looking at what's going on for verification of that fact.  So here's the proof they presented that this guy is the expert:

  • Pictures with celebrities
  • Pictures of his house in Asia
  • Pictures of his house in Florida
  • Pictures of him on stage with thousands of people
  • Pictures of his Rolex watch
  • Pictures of him on the cover of magazines
Do those things make him an expert?  They make him an expert at marketing himself.  They make him an expert at being able to convince people to give him money and because he gets people to give him money for doing nothing other than being himself, yes, he's an expert.  And yes, he's made a ton of money.  

Not coincidentally, their proof of him as an expert was the entire substance of his presentation - all these pictures of him with celebrities and all his things, interviews with the same celebrities saying why they like him (which, by the way, you can get for a few hundred thousand dollars) and continuous mentions of how ridiculously rich he is.

Then came the pitch, woven throughout the day.  The pitch could be broken down into a few simple messages:
  • Give me money because I'm rich and can make you rich
  • Give me money because I can put you up on a stage in front of a thousand people
  • Give me money because I'm an expert at getting people to give me money
  • And if you don't give me money, you're a loser
  • And - you're a loser because you don't have as much money as me
  • And if you look me up on the internet to prove you're right and I'm wrong, you're a loser
  • So give me money and you won't be a loser any more
Telling the audience they were losers and will remain losers if they don't fork over tens of thousands of dollars to spend a few days with him at his house was only the beginning.  Then, he started insulting people.  Loudly.  In front of the entire group.

He insulted women as a group.  He insulted African American women, specifically and directly, over and over.  He insulted Hispanics, saying they weren't interested in building their businesses, unless they were into multilevel marketing businesses, because it's all about selling to one's family.

Saying he was an expert at reading people, he singled out those he felt were easy targets to "read" to the group, telling them they were incapable of being successful in business for one reason or another.  He argued with those who disagreed with him, saying they obviously weren't successful because they didn't have the celebrity endorsements, the money and the "things" he has.

He even singled out a younger African American gentleman, repeatedly calling him "Brothuh," telling him he would never be successful unless he lost the earring and changed his attitude.  When the gentleman told him to stop calling him "Brothuh" because his name was (fill in the blanks), the speaker proceeded to become offended and say he was intimately familiar with the "black" experience because he spends so much time in South Africa and then showed pictures of him with the Vice President of South Africa, a South African billionaire and then pictures of himself in several hospitals he says he funds.  

All of this happened before lunch.  I half expected someone to rise up out of the crowd and beat this guy senseless.  Instead, most left during the lunch break.

The rest of the day was filled with more of the same - insulting, demagoguery, bombastic BS, all continuing to tell us that he's an expert because he makes more money than any of us or all of us put together, so we HAVE to listen to him.

The sales pitch was woven throughout the day, in every sentence, in every claim - pay me money and I'll make you rich.  What's interesting, though - and this was the clincher for me - with all the pictures of clients on stage with this celebrity or that celebrity, the people who had paid the money and gone through the program who attended yesterday's event weren't any more successful than they would have been on their own, given a little more time.  They weren't making millions; at most, they were making a few hundred thousand dollars where they would have made one hundred thousand.  They were held up as examples of the success of the program, people who had followed everything this guy gave them and were exclaimed as "successful," yet they still weren't "world famous" public speakers - one of the claimed results of paying all this money - and they weren't "living the dream."

I asked one person who has attended many of this guy's events what he's gotten out of it.  He said, "Well, I got some marketing ideas, but nothing that really applies to my business.  And none of them really helped me build anything lasting."

No doubt, those putting on seminars like yesterday's will read this and say I'm a loser, because I didn't fall for it.  They'll say it's all sour grapes because I wasn't accepted into the program; I wasn't accepted because I wasn't willing to pay between $50,000 and $25,000 for a handshake with a celebrity and 15 minutes on stage - if I was going to spend that kind of money, it would be my stage and my message, not someone else's.

Are these guys successful?  No question.  Are they experts?  Yes - at marketing themselves and blowing their own horns, for which some will feel compelled to pay money.  Did I learn things?  You can always glean good information out of any situation, if you're really listening.  

Are they ethical and looking to really help people be successful?  Absolutely not.  If you have to use intimidation and bullying tactics, insults and bombasity under the cover of "being real," you're a bully, a fake and a fraud.  I don't care what your message is.

I'm a coach.  I work internationally.  I won't yell at you.  I won't insult you.  But I will tell you what's going right, what needs fixing, and work out a game plan with you, in an open, honest way that preserves your dignity and actually helps you move toward your goal.  And I won't charge you a zillion dollars to do it.

Who would you rather work with?