Dandy Cat

Dandy Cat

The Problem with Success Peddlers

With my new website, and this entirely new place to host it, has come a newfound sense of community and interaction. This isn’t the first time I’ve used Micro.blog, but I’m still impressed with the friendly assortment of people that can be found on the service. It truly feels like what Twitter was before it got terrible. Here’s to always hoping that Micro.blog doesn’t follow that some route.

I encourage you to check it out for yourself. There’s a lot of nice banter happening on there at any given time.

I also feel happy to not be participating in the commoditization of self-improvement anymore. That’s what I felt Dandy Cat was becoming before I restarted everything. (Let’s call that “The Great Burn Down,” because why not?) Spend any time on the internet and you’re bound to run into many people who aren’t necessarily providing a service or product. Rather, what they offer can be boiled down to being an enthusiastic cheerleader. Their websites tend to be plastered with platitudes like,

“Become the best you that you can be!”

“Take my extensive mastermind course and grow into a badass—yet mindful—business boss. It’s your destiny!”

“Give me money and I’ll show you the tips and tricks I use to get other people to hand over their money!”

That last one sounds a bit jokey, but it’s also not too far off from the truth. A cottage industry has sprung up around the idea of earning money by making people the very best whatevers in their field. That’s what I feel was happening with Dandy Cat. It started as a Squarespace website design company and slowly morphed into a place where people could pay me money to, essentially, read about how I organize my computer files. I don’t know that I was really pushing the productivity conversation forward. It just seemed like another avenue toward generating an income.

If that works for other people, then what the heck, more power to them. We all need money to live.

On the other hand, it feels weird to me to build an entire business around the concept of teaching others how to build a business just like yours. It feels circuitous, like something that just folds in on itself without ever actually growing beyond its bounds. Like how the apparent point of getting a philosophy degree is so that you can get a job teaching philosophy classes.

I’m not the only one who’s feeling this way or noticing this trend. On February 16, 2021, Cosmopolitan published a story titled, The Big Business of Manifesting Money, wherein they describe the burgeoning field of teaching others how to will themselves into riches. This is an industry that has developed slowly. Its growing influence is sneaky and worrisome. It’s also full of the worst sort of hype-up nonsense:

“Do your tapping, make sure to meditate, and imagine yourself in the future you want to live! Don’t forget that you’ve also got to apply some elbow grease to your practice of willing that money into being! Success doesn’t just happen to anybody! And all the while, making sure you’re constantly telling yourself that you fucking deserve it because you do!”

Additionally, in an episode of the Apple News Today podcast published on February 24, 2021, hosts Shumita Basu and Duarte Geraldino take a dive into this article and discuss the potential adverse effects of the manifesting money industry. They examine how it’s aimed largely at women who have lost jobs due to the COVID-19 recession. Give that one a listen here:

I don’t necessarily think the individual players in this industry are predatory, but it doesn’t make me feel great to witness. There’s so much that goes into growing a successful business. While I believe that encouraging others to get into the right mindset is helpful, it’s not what creates a successful person. Not in the end, anyway. What so many of these success peddlers neglect to include in their courses and rhetoric is the defining key to their success: luck.

I’ll never suggest that having a positive attitude toward yourself, your endeavors, and your world is foolhardy or pointless. Quite the opposite: love yourself! However, this manifesting money business has an air of dishonesty to it. It comes across as a handful of uniquely fortunate people coaching others on how to be successful just like them, without recognizing the inherent randomness of their ascension. In fact, there’s little to ensure that their message isn’t going to harm their followers. Misty Lynch, a certified financial planner at investment firm Beck Bode LLC:

Unlike with financial advisers, there are no standards or laws around who can call themselves a coach. There’s no guarantee they’re working in your best interest.

Could be that they’re only working in the interest of growing their own success peddling business. All the while, they’re earning more of somebody else’s money for themselves.

Hard work, perseverance, and knowing the right people are all important, but they’re ultimately not what makes or breaks a business. Most of the time it comes down to: were you lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time? Following someone’s Generic Business Success Mastermind Course doesn’t mean you’re going to start earning loads of cash and get invited onto all the coolest business-themed podcasts. How could you? You didn’t do what they did when they did it.

A part of me thinks that many of the success peddlers we see these days are just people who weren’t in the right place at the right time with their initial idea(s). Luck passed them by on its way to someone else. Instead of fruitlessly toiling away, they just pivoted to charging people to learn a couple of things:

  • How to avoid the mistakes they’ve made, since they’ve already made them.
  • How to think positive, believe in themselves, and never give up.

Apply bits and pieces from their own particular business niche and POW! You’ve got a stew going. Naturally, this doesn’t apply to everybody, but I would put money down on it applying to many people.

What am I advocating for then? Well, for my work, I just want to write about stuff that I find interesting. For other people, I would like to see more public consideration given to what they’re putting out into the world. Is what they’re doing encouraging their audiences to reflect on their shortcomings, dreams, and work? Or are they doing it because it’s an easy money-maker? I want to hear about and see the complete process somebody takes to get to where they are, and I want to see authenticity in that recounting. Are you peddling success because you believe, deep down in your bones, that you’ve discovered the secret, sure-fire recipe to helping other people create fulfilling and profitable businesses? Or are you just peddling success because you’ve got nothing left, and you need to find a way to make some easy bucks by taking them from unsuspecting, hopeful people?