The Causey Consulting Podcast

Bonus Episode: "Scam Frameworks" & Hopium

September 26, 2022
The Causey Consulting Podcast
Bonus Episode: "Scam Frameworks" & Hopium
Show Notes Transcript

Recently, I read the article "Why Successful People Don’t Teach Success: Gurus, income experts, and business coaches preach personal success systems" by Jim Clair.  Unfortunately, some of these personal success systems don't actually help you achieve that success... they mostly just take your money and leave you empty-handed.

Key topics:

✔️ Con artists use a formula. We can see this in many cases of snake oil salesmen and pyramid schemes.
✔️ Some of these gurus rocket to the top with a gimmick and then find themselves bankrupt almost as fast. If their system truly worked, why would that happen?
✔️ Can you really  work a four hour work week and make a living wage? Does anyone still believe that anymore?
✔️ In his article "Tim Ferriss's Scam Framework and the Rise of Fake Gurus," Pete Williams calls out the model of fake expertise that he believes Ferriss advocates for in his book. He also calls out the model of starting a business to not run it - essentially just starting a "hollow enterprise."

Links I mention in this episode:

Need more? Email me:

Welcome to the Causey Consulting Podcast. You can find us online anytime at And now, here's your host Sara Causey. Hello, hello. Thanks for tuning in. In today's episode, I want to talk about the so called scam framework. On Thursday, I will be publishing an episode about Lauren Berlant's book cruel optimism, and really probing this question of, at what point does optimism go from being something that's happy and helpful and helpful to being something that's downright cruel. On that note, I thought it was pretty interesting when I stumbled on an article on titled, Tim Ferriss scam framework and the rise of fake gurus written by Pete Williams, I will drop a link to it, of course, so that you can check it out for yourself. But I thought, Oh, this sounds juicy, and it sounds interesting. I think you probably know, I'm not a super big fan of The Four Hour Workweek. There are some things in that book that I have used and found helpful. Like when he talks about thinning the herd, getting rid of problematic clients that just wants to complain, they're never satisfied, nothing is ever moving fast enough for them. They're just troublemakers. I use that framework before in my business to start separating the wheat from the chaff. So I'm not going to sit here and say that the whole book is just a complete waste of time. The part that I really take umbrage with is that for me, a lot of the tactics never worked. I recorded a bonus episode titled who is coming to save you that I published in the middle of August. And one of the things that I talked about in that episode is how I read The Four Hour Workweek back in 2007. And I was skeptical, but I thought I would at least give it a try. I thought that it sounded really awesome. Even if you don't have technically a four hour workweek, even if you just had maybe a 20 hour work week, and you were able to bump your hours down to a four hour day workweek when that'd be awesome. So I read the book and no offense, but he makes it sound relatively easy to go in and make your case to your employer about working from home, taking a sabbatical, or at least getting more paid time off. Okay, if you're gonna make me traipse up here and be butt in seat, then I at least want more vacation time so that I can travel and see the world or pursue these side hustles or passions or whatever. And whenever I went in and made my case, and I had a little bit of hopium, a little bit of optimism there I was basically told, No, no, no, no, if we do that for you, we have to do it for everybody. This is a small company, everybody kind of knows everybody else's business. So what we do for one we have to do for all so we appreciate you A for effort, we get why you'd want to come in here and shoot your shot and make this argument for yourself. But no, you can have to go ahead and sit on down in that cubicle and hush your mouth and get back to work. So I felt pretty deflated. And I'm like, for whom does this work for? For whom does the bill toll? Well, it didn't toll for me. And it didn't work for anybody else that I knew either. Again, I can't speak to everybody in America. Maybe somebody read it made their case like Perry Mason or Ben Matlock. And they got exactly what they wanted. Maybe they did, who am I to say? All I know is that for me personally, the strategy didn't work. And then also for no one, no one else that I knew, did the strategy work. So I'm sort of like, okay, well, I guess somebody somewhere had success from this. I also didn't really support or understand the concept of just hire an assistant to do everything. Go find somebody from a third world nation for whom like five bucks an hour is a lot of money, which sounds elitist and problematic, to say the least. But you know, it's gonna be okay, because that's a lot of money for them. Wink wink, and then just get them to do everything. And I'm like, what? How is that practical for somebody that's stuffed in a queue, working nine to five. I'm gonna go and hire somebody in another country to do what I'm gonna pay somebody$5 an hour to do for me what? I didn't really get it didn't get the appeal of it, then don't get the appeal of it. Now, I would rather hire someone at a living wage and feel good about what I'm doing. You know, call me crazy. Anyway, so I find this article on from Pete Williams, again, titled Tim Ferriss, a scam framework and the rise of fake gurus. The byline reads for all the good Ferriss has done, he may have created a monster. And I think that's a pretty interesting assessment. It was One of the things he talks about are these influencers who they go into their garage or they stand outside in front of a mansion, and they pretend that it's theirs. In reality, it may not be you know, we've all heard these stories at this point of someone rented a jet, someone rented a boat to somebody stood in front of a mansion and took a quick video while the owner wasn't paying attention, where they went somewhere very posh, they rented it for a night or did Airbnb and then pretended that it was all theirs. But then in reality, it's just falsehood. It's it's all smoke and mirrors. It's done to make the average person scrolling and seeing an ad on YouTube or Instagram go, oh, wow, this person really has something I guess I should listen to them. So I'm going to read from this article now. As Uncle Ben famously said, in Spider Man, however, with great power comes great responsibility. The Four Hour Workweek was a seminal piece of work that went all around the world. It sold 1.3 million copies and has been translated into 35 different languages. Unfortunately, within the many great pages that deal with optimization and new ways of thinking is the framework and method that one can use to build fake credibility on their way to being a scam artist. I won't quote the entire passage, but this particular paragraph is telling. It took a friend of mine just three weeks to become a top relationship expert, who, as featured in glamour and other national media has counseled executives at Fortune 500 companies on how to improve their relationships in 24 hours or less. How did she do it? He then goes on to a methodology to make this happen. Number one, join two or three trade related organizations with official sounding names, to read the top three best selling books on your topic, and summarize each on one, page three, give a free one to three hour seminar at the closest well known University for do the same that branches have to well known big companies use the fact that you have given seminars at the University for credibility to get the booking and so on. He finishes by saying that he doesn't recommend pretending to be something you're not. And presenting the truth in the best light not fabricating it is the name of the game. Sorry, but that's a bunch of BS. Reading a few books and passing yourself off as an expert might not be illegal in the same way as claiming a qualification you don't have. But it's just as immoral and scammy. In fact, I'd sooner talk to someone at the bus stop, than take relationship advice from his expert friend who has gotten all her knowledge from a few books, and not from actual experience and quote, yeah, that's pretty heavy, isn't it? I mean, and when you look at these steps, like the way that Pete has laid them out in this article, it really makes it clear, it sounds very pyramid scheme, very Ponzi scheme, do this. And then you go up to the next level, and then in the next and then to the next. And then you just keep repeating this formula, you give the free seminar at a well known University, and then you use that seminar, I guess, even if it went complete crap, you use that seminar as credibility to get into two of these well known big companies, and then you use that as credibility. And then you use that as credibility. And it's like, wow, that's a lot. And not in a good way. I mean, we all have to start somewhere, we all have to start somewhere. And I'm a big believer in not waiting around for someone else to anoint you. If I make a prediction on this podcast, and it comes through tu tu Tu, Tu, Tu, Tu, tu tu, tu, tu tu, I don't mind speaking up and saying so because who else is gonna get on here and do that? For me? That would be absurd. And we're gonna get on here and be like, Hey, I just want to let y'all know that she made these predictions. And they totally came true. I'm not going to wait around for somebody to do that. But I'm also not out giving seminars at universities and then trying to use those seminars at the university to get into, quote, well known big companies and do the same thing. I mean, I would say I agree with Pete, I think I would rather take expert, expert relationship advice from someone at the bus stop than to listen to somebody who got all of their knowledge from reading a few best selling books and pitching to a magazine and somehow getting accepted. Here's another thing. And I don't really get about all of this. There just seems to be a lot of background information that we're not given. Okay, so you pitched to a well known magazine and you somehow like what Forrest Gump your way into that. I don't quite get it. I always felt when I was reading this book back in 2007. And then a year or two ago when I revisited it again, I'm like, it feels like there are big chunks of information that we're not being given. It feels like the stories that we're being told have a lot more behind them. It's like we're getting the highlight reel, and social media is that way too is it not? Here let me give you the highlight reel of my Life or let me give you a completely fake phony version of my life. It's like the people Oh, date night with my cutie. And then a week later they're filing for divorce. And they want to tell you how awesome their life is. Meanwhile, it's in complete shambles. So it's like we're getting the highlight reel in his book, but we're not getting all of the important details. Okay, so you read the best sellers. And you join some trade related organizations with official sounding names. Presumably, some of those companies probably are just like, as long as you pay the fee you can get in and we're not going to do much fact checking behind it. And then you somehow got accepted to be a guest columnist or something for this major magazine. I just feel like there's something more behind that than what we're being told. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. But it just feels like there's more to the story that I'm gonna continue to read from Pete's article. That's because you're messing with a basic and highly important human emotion trust. We value experts because they are experts. They have devoted their lives to a subject and because of that they advanced the human race, be that through technology, medicine, or whatever. So we rightly revere their knowledge because it helps us all. If you're invited to speak in a university, it implies that you have a high standing in a field and engenders a level of credibility and trust and quote, that's true, but I really think you know, I preach big time to you guys about Caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. Use good critical thinking. Do your own research on Oh, that's taboo. You just trust everything that you're told blindly. But don't do your own research. Don't do your own critical thinking AI is so much smarter than you anyway. You and your human brain and your gut instincts. You've silly billy, use use good judgment. Okay, do some research, if just because somebody says I'm an expert, because I read a couple of best selling books. And now I think I know as much as someone that's been in this industry for 10 years. It doesn't make it so it doesn't make it so. I'm gonna scroll a little further down and continue to read from Pete's article. These guys are amassing huge fortunes. We're talking 10s of millions of dollars here and amassing cult like power, because they're using the psychological framework to manipulate desperate people into partying with their money. Here's where we find the second parallel with the four hour workweek. The lure of an easy lifestyle. Ferriss lays it all out in his book, check out this paragraph, which I assure you is not taken out of context. There are 1,000,001 ways to make a million dollars. I think my tongue was actually rebelling against saying that sentence. Okay, bear with me. There are 1,000,001 ways to make a million dollars from franchising to freelance consulting the list is endless. Fortunately, most of them are unsuited to our purpose. This chapter is not for people who want to run businesses, but for those who want to own businesses and spend no time on them. The response I get when I introduced this concept is more or less universal. Hmm. Well, there's good reason for that response. It's because no worthwhile business like that actually exists. As you can see, fair as not only legitimizes but encourages this kind of hollow enterprise. So not only are you going to build fake credibility through manipulation, you're now going to set up a company you don't even have to you don't even have to run just to enrich yourself. Good luck with that and quote. Yeah, that's awesome. That is awesome. Yeah, so startup business that you're not going to spend any time on. Okay. Beyond that, I mean, just the beginning. Okay. The wages are endless. No, they're not. No, they're not what kind of hopium is this? Most small businesses fail. Okay, you can call me an EA or you can send me hate mail and say I'm being a gloom and doom or I'm trying to take the wind out of somebody's sails. No, I'm not. Not at all. There are small businesses that make it you can have a recession baby. You can start a business during the least optimal circumstances and make a go of it. I have seen plants and flowers grow and piles of manure long pause so you can just picture that for yourself. You don't have to be in perfect circumstances to have a profitable business if that were true. Nobody would have one because there's there is there's no perfect there is no perfect so I'm not be smarting. The idea that you can make a million dollars or that you can start a successful business where I take offense, not offense. So everybody says they're offended nowadays. I don't want to use that word. Where I divert from this idea is that the list is is endless. Oh, there's just all of these ways. No, no, there's not. No, there's not. You know, people remember stories more than anything. So I'll tell you one. There was a guy that used to brag to myself and my friends that he was self made. And we really didn't have any reason to disbelieve him from outward appearances. That seemed to be the case. So fast forward a few years later, I find out that it's not the case at all. The woman that he married came from money, parents and grandparents both loaded. So whenever he would run his business into the ground, or he would make irresponsible financial decisions, Wi Fi would go crying to the parents and the grandparents about what was going on. And they would funnel money to him. He was not a self made man. He was not, you know, some bootstrapper that never gotten any help from anybody. It was the wife's family, keeping the whole thing going. But he had his charade. He had his mirage. And so by outward appearances, it seemed like things were successful. And were going well, and he could run around town bragging to women that oh, I'm the self made millionaire. I'm this self made, man. And none of it was true. I sort of feel the same way about oh, the list is endless, right? Of course it is. And all of these people are self made. They didn't have any any help from friends and family. They didn't take out any loans. They didn't rely on any corporate debt. They just got there through sheer force of will and determination. Of course they did. Of course they did. Meanwhile, anyone with common sense, who pulls the thread a little bit sees that the whole tapestry falls apart. I'll scroll down and read just a little bit more from Pete's article. Before you think that I'm attributing way too much to a passage in one book, consider Ferriss other early work. The blog post that put him on the map was from Geek to freak, how I gained 34 pounds of muscle in four weeks. He claims that it was accomplished with a total of four hours of gym time, what's his deal with four hours? I'm not going to go into all the reasons it's bull that would take a post longer than this one to do. But let's just say that no credible trainer would consider that possible without the use of anabolics even then probably not possible. I've wondered, considering all the good that Ferriss work is done if this sort of thing keeps him up at night. It's clear in his younger years that all he cared about was getting rich and famous. And he recently stated himself in his podcast. Obviously back then he had a whatever it takes attitude towards getting famous. There's a vast disconnect between the scammy framework he espoused in the four hour workweek. And his podcast, which is full of actual experts and quote, yeah, I'm gonna dive into that here in just a second because I found this awesome article written by Jim Claire where he I mean, he writes like a master's thesis on how these scam frameworks work. And it's incredible. If I tried to read even half of it, we would be here all day. But since Pete brings up the podcast and how these people are actual x experts like this episode doesn't even want me to talk how these people are, you know, supposedly experts or whatever. I'm gonna read now what Jim Claire has to say. Some gurus will do a pay to play as in a guest speaker pays to speak on stage and hopes to sell his guest on Tim Ferriss podcast all paid big money to be a guest on the podcast. It's a veiled promotion, Tim got paid and likely because Tim commands a massive and eager audience, people will buy whatever that guest sells. Each guest pays the hefty fee in hopes that Tim's massive reach boosts whatever they sell in quote. Yeah, it's a little bit less impressive. When you pull the curtain back and you go, Oh, God, it's paid to play. Okay. So it's basically like an infomercial. You know, and some of those are sneaky, you're watching TV, and all of a sudden, it's like something appears to be totally legit. And it's like, call this law firm. If you ever spent on a sidewalk back in 1974, and you don't think somebody compensated you for and it's like, oh, God, please stop. So the title of this blog post that Jim clear has written is why successful people don't teach success. The byline reads gurus, income experts and business coaches preach personal success systems. Isn't that the case? I'll read a bit more for you now. They claim to know methods that will help you level up your life dream big than double those dreams while tripling your income. The methods entail goals, productivity, hacks and advice on how to start your personal empire. Yet most personal development coaches speak at motivational events often selling More stuff. We know little of their business background except their version of how they became millionaires. Are they credible teachers on attaining success? The success gurus, rouse followers, man up, work harder than you did yesterday, whatever is in your way, you're stronger than that Awaken the Giant billionaire mindset, reprogram your brain, blah, blah, blah, on and on. We, we definitely get it. We've probably all heard those before. And a lot of them to me just sound like hustle culture. Just do more, do more, work harder, get that obstacle out of the way. I remember having a teacher who in my during my first iteration of self employment in the business that failed. And by the way, I remember having a teacher that was really big on massive action. He he was super into Tony Robbins, and he was like, just take massive action. Doing something is better than nothing. I mean, just do something. Well, the thing is, you can massively act your way into debt, you can massively act your way into a bunch of hot air and nonsense. You can get ticky marks in a database, you can have vanity metrics that do nothing. They add nothing to your bottom line. They make you no money at all. And I don't think that guy ever got it. In this tome, Jim Claire goes on to rough out a hypothetical with a character named Bill like how Bill does step by step his process of becoming some kind of fake influence or Guru. And it's, it's really interesting. Again, if I read the whole thing, we will be here for hours. But one of the ways that bill does this is by selling a high ticket course. And I'll read some of that for you now. The cost is 997. Not $9.97 $997. Often you get often all you get is a binder filled with the same cliched advice is Bill's book, set goals. Wake up at 4am. Eat healthy, hit your goals, eliminate toxic friends, etc. Again, this is nothing new and it's nothing Warren Buffett ever followed. A binder? Yep. Why a binder? When Bill sends a physical product, he follows this dogmatic advice. Send a big item in the mail. Just a simple plastic binder. Yep. The bigger it is, the more likely the customer thinks the course delivers high value. Where does this advice originate? In a mastermind? Someone in the mastermind will say what sells for nine bucks at a bookstore can be put in a binder and sold for $997. Bill creates the binder billionaire mindset. He sells it to the list, but not many people on Bill's list by billionaire mindset. Bill is bummed. He goes to the next mastermind. He hears that the term billionaire is not as believable. But people like the name uncompromising Bill repackages the offer, he hires a top writer who craft a better sales funnel. Let's pause for a moment, success gurus spin wild tales of success. They stand on stage and deliver stirring tales of how they attain success. On social media. They deliver videos speaking about how they earn their millions, many gurus narrate how they conquered obstacles, how they overcame parents, anxiety, introversion. Yuck, check that how they overcame parents anxiety, introversion, social conditioning, being an outcast in school, business failures, nine to five jobs, people not believing in them, all that stuff. The stuff a professional like me creates how a pro swipes the hero's journey blueprint, and then forces stretches and mashes an expert's background into the journey steps and quote, this is a fascinating look behind the curtain of exactly how it's done. And there is a formula to it. Yeah, go back to that creepy documentary that I watched about Tony Alonso. And how he said, in sitting there in jail, if I ever get out of here, I can do it again. I can snap my fingers and be a millionaire all over again. I'd have multiple wives. I have all these acolytes and followers. I have millions of dollars. I know how to do it. There was a show on ABC not long ago about Jim Baker. And some of you're too young to remember PTL and all of those scandals, but like, he goes to jail, not for very long, gets out of jail, gets married, starts another ministry and starts the whole thing over again is he's on TV and he has a huge chapel. And apparently he was selling some kind of Colloidal Silver solution that he said would cure all of these various and sundry illnesses. So I think he's under investigation. Again, some things just don't change. But my point is, he had a formula he had worked out here's what I need to do. Here's how I need to behave. Here's what I need to say and how I need to present everything to become wealthy. There's this clear formula behind it. And then especially in thinking about what I read and cruel optimism, like, sometimes it just goes beyond toxic optimism, toxic positivity, Hashtag blessed good vibes only. And it becomes like an act of cruelty against yourself. Yeah, remember reading The Four Hour Workweek in 2007. And like I said, I was skeptical, but I'm like, I owe it to myself to try. Why would I not? Why would I not want to work from home, I had a long, long commute. At that point in my life, I spent a lot of time on the road, getting to work. I spend a lot of time at work. And then I had to spend a lot of time getting home. I mean, my house really existed for me to sleep at night, have breakfast in the morning, and then have a bit of time on the weekend. That was it. I felt so disconnected from anything other than work most of the time. So it made complete sense. Why would I not try to go in and make my case and make my argument about being able to work from home? Or at the very least have more PTO, and then to be slapped down? When the book makes it seem so easy? That's one of the things that just drives me bonkers with with any of these. I'm not picking on Tim Ferriss necessarily. It's just like, they all have this formula. They all sell you this bill of goods saying well, if you do ABCD you just can't fail. You just can't if you do fail, it's your own fault. Hmm, where have we heard that message before? Sounds an awful lot like Larry wing gets book. It's called work for a reason. Your success is your own damn fault. Hmm. Yeah, I remember reading that book too, when I wanted a big dose of misery porn. Sometimes I swear that's what we want to do is just self flagellating. We want to sit and feel awful. Okay, I must have caused all of this awful stuff this poopoo that's hit the fan and blown right back into my face. It must be my own fault. Oh, look, see, this guy's telling me it's my own damn fault. Jim goes on to tell a couple of interesting but sad stories in their own way. For an offer to stay on top like that it requires media buying and making a bunch of deals with media buyers. I've been behind four top offers on all of ClickBank, each grossing seven to eight figures and accompanies one guy went from living in a penthouse at the Ritz Carlton to currently living in his younger sister's basement outside of Flint, Michigan. Another guy after making a few million a year, moved back into his parents house, a double wide and Florida in quote. Yeah, it seems that based on the stories that he tells from his own personal experience with with these so called gurus is that they might flare up and flash up fast, but it's like a flash in the pan. They make all this money and then it doesn't stay. They're not really offering anything of substantial value. And once people figure out their system doesn't work, poof, they're gone. Obviously, that is not the case for all of them. Because some of them are still churning out one formulaic book or one formulaic system after another. But I think that's the trick to it, you develop this formula that works. And then you just do it over and over and over and over and over again, and keep trying to get as many people to sign on to it as possible. On September 8, I made a prediction alert, we will see more rip off artists. Be careful out there. I cannot tell you want to do I cannot offer you any kind of advice. All I can say is that for me, I would want to be really careful. If you and I were just sitting having a pint at the pub, I'd be like, listen, I'd be really careful about spending money that I didn't have throwing things on a credit card or giving 1000s of dollars to some guru or even hundreds of dollars, like the sample that Jim uses the 997 offer you get a binder. In the mail. Somebody in a masterclass said, Hey, take a $9 book from the bookstore. But blow it up make it literally large so that when they get their lumpy bumpy mail, it seems impressive, and then charge almost $1,000 for it. I would be really, really careful. I would also say if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it were that flipping easy for everybody to go on sabbaticals and get increased PTO everybody would be doing it. But yet here we are in this period of tension between the average remote worker in corporate America corporate America has gone from the carrot to the stick. They want your butt back in that cube farm. And a lot of people who have been working remotely who have enjoyed it and who have been successful at it don't want to go and who can blame them. Commuting sucks. sitting in traffic sucks. Having to dress up when you've been able You just wear a t shirt and jeans all this time who wants to do that? A lot of people don't. But as I said, if it were that easy, if you could just march right in, you know, like your backbone was made out of steel and say, Look, boss, I'm entitled to a sabbatical. I feel like I've worked really hard, and I need to stay remote and blah, blah, blah. If it were that easy, everybody would do it. Some people might be successful, it especially if they have indeed been massively productive. Over the pandemic, if they've been a top level producer, they might be able to make it I don't know, I wouldn't necessarily hang my hat on it. I think when when we are allowed to know that unemployment is higher than any 3.5%, in my opinion, then the game will change. And people will suddenly say, you know, what, if I have to RTO, if I have to sit here in a cube, I don't want to do it. But I like to eat. I don't want the house to get foreclosed on. I don't want to get evicted from the apartment. I don't want the car to be repoed. Don't forget what it was like during the great recession. And don't think that that could not happen again. Because it could I hope it doesn't. I pray it doesn't. But it absolutely could happen again. And I think the argument can be made that we're in a global financial crisis right now. And that we're already experiencing the opening stages of the Great Recession. 2.0. I don't think we're there yet. I think we're in dress rehearsals. But I think you know, based on what I'm seeing in the tea leaves that I'm reading nothing good shaping up. Maybe somehow the crisis will be averted? I don't know. But I'm skeptical. So I personally would be careful. If anybody telling me well, you can have a four hour work week, you can just march right in there to your boss and say, you either do this for me or else because the boss probably is going to say or else. Remember that Bank of America memo that got leaked about how they said workers have too much power, we need the power back on our side of the equation. Don't forget that. And don't be naive. Please don't be naive. In my opinion, part of how these scam frameworks play into cruel optimism is they give some hopium out to people who are desperate. They may be financially hurting, they may be emotionally hurting, they may be working at a company that completely sucks. Their boss may be a psychopath. They may be wanting to jump off the roof every day when they go to work. And so somebody comes along with some slick packaging and says hey, buy my book for 20 bucks. Or take this course watch this webinar that goes to a course and then I'll charge you some money or buy my oversized binder for 997. And I'll give you all the secrets on how to supercharge your way to the top. You don't have to wait to become a millionaire. You can do it overnight, but you have to buy my book. That's where I'll teach you how to do it. Sure. Be careful out there. Coffee on him tour, use good judgment. Do your research. Check your facts, do what you need to do to stay safe and stay sane. I'll see you in the next episode. Thanks for tuning in. If you enjoyed this episode, please take a quick second to subscribe to this podcast and share it with your friends. We'll see you next time.