Multi-Level Marketing: The Dangers of Avoiding Negativity
Should We Avoid "Dream Stealers?"
In a forum about multi-level marketing (MLM), I encountered the term "dream stealer." The writer was using the term to mean a person to be avoided at all costs.
The term intrigued me, so I looked it up. To my surprise, the definition is very simple: a "dream stealer," to MLM participants, is any one who tells the participants "no" in various forms, such as "you will fail," "it's illegal," "it won't work," and so on and so forth.
This both delighted me and worried me.
It delighted me because I believe it's good business to keep a generally positive attitude toward life and any opportunity. But it worried me because unwarranted optimism is akin to faith, and that smacks of religion, not business.
So I looked into this issue of "dream stealers," and what I found really worried me. A lot of these supposed "motivational coaches" of MLM, in addition to teaching various "attraction" methods, marketing and recruiting techniques, and so on, also tell readers to completely ignore "dream stealers," as negativity to be avoided at all costs.
My concern is that negativity comes in two types: rational and irrational. Rational negativity makes sense; irrational negativity does not. Ignoring irrational negativity is fine, but ignoring rational negativity, like "it might be a pyramid scheme," makes absolutely no sense at all.
So, let us study both dimensions of the issue: positivity vs. negativity and rationality vs. irrationality.
As you can see above, rational pessimism takes up a different space than irrational pessimism.
Rational Pessimism Is Useful
Rational pessimism is a justified bad feeling about a situation. Rational pessimism is supported by rational thought, logic, and facts.
For example, if a particular MLM opportunity was indicted in court and its top members arrested for fraud, that would clearly tell you that this opportunity is very likely illegal, and you should abandon it quickly. You would have a bad feeling about the opportunity based on facts and rational thoughts.
Clearly, when deciding whether to pursue an opportunity, you need to make sure that your thought process and your logic are not contaminated by biases, such as confirmation bias, sunk-cost bias, and so on, but you cannot afford to ignore rational thoughts. You cannot just dismiss them wholesale.
Irrational Pessimism Is Dangerous
A human, by nature, is a cautious creature. Millions of years of evolution have honed our sense of survival into fight-or-flight responses. It is much safer to assume that the rustle in the grass ahead is dangerous than it is to ignore it. After all, one rarely dies from a false alarm.
However, when there is no reason to feel bad about a situation but one does anyway, this feeling leads to paralysis and panic, and then full-blown paranoia.
Irrational pessimism may sound like, "Everybody's going to die," "Something is about to go wrong," "We should wait it out," "Don't do anything to upset the status quo." A irrational pessimist hopes that if he avoids doing anything to change a situation, nothing else will change it either. That is not rational thought.
Paranoia is fear taken to the extreme form: afraid of everything and everybody. It is irrational, without reason.
Irrational pessimism is something to be avoided.
What Happens if You Ignore All Negativity?
In one of these "dream stealer" articles, the author encourages the readers to ignore all negativity. However, this would include both rational and irrational negativity, and that is very dangerous.
You are not in the Matrix, and you are not Neo. You cannot just say "there is no spoon" and expect reality to bend to your will.
Rational pessimism has a function, like the pain that your body uses to warn you when you are risking injury. Rational pessimism stops you from doing really stupid and reckless activities, stuff that is simply impossible, or things that should not be done.
If you insist on "positivity," that is, having only positive emotions, you will harbor both rational and irrational optimism. The result of unexamined optimism is recklessness. There is nothing to hold you back, even if you are heading toward a brick wall without protective gear at full speed. No matter how hard you wish it to be true, you can't go through a brick wall by yourself. You cannot dismiss "you cannot go through a brick wall by yourself" as just "negativity," no matter how much optimism or faith you have in irrelevant.
Thus, ignoring all negativity is actually dangerous, as it encourages reckless behavior.
What needs to happen instead is to eliminate most irrational thought. Save a little dose of irrational optimism (sometimes called faith), for the toughest days when you need a little more to get you through, but rational thought must come first.
You and Me Against the World, Really?
There is another danger in avoiding negativity. A person who avoids negativity is a person who can be controlled by a cult.
Dr. Robert J. Lifton wrote a book in 1961 called , about "brainwashing" and how it was used to transform people. The first tactic a cult uses to control its members is "milieu control." In Dr. Lifton's own words: Thought Reform And The Psychology Of Totalism
"[Milieu control] tends to be maintained and expressed in several ways: group process, isolation from other people, psychological pressure, geographical distance or unavailability of transportation, and sometimes physical pressure."
Avoiding negativity makes a person susceptible to the three control techniques highlighted above.
- Group Process. "We are a team!" the upline roared, "and together we will succeed! Nothing will stop us!"
- Isolation from other people. "Avoid the naysayers", the coach droned. "Only your fellow participants and your upline and I understand you!"
- Psychological pressure. "You are not going to let the group down, are you? You are not going to slow us down, right?"
I made up those quotes, but you can hear something very similar at a MLM meeting or seminar.
Furthermore, it is no accident that MLM conventions and such are often held at isolated and distant locations such as resorts, cruise ships, and so on: in a place like that you cannot escape from the sales pitches, cloaked as motivation.
All these techniques together, plus the "feel good" atmosphere, creates a "you and me against the world" or "us vs. them" attitude, cementing the cult bonds.
Such pressure is dangerous to those with weak will. You and I, with some rational skepticism, can spot the pressure relatively easily, but more vulnerable people can be absorbed into the flow, taken for every cent they have, and dumped like a ragdoll when they no longer have any value left to the company. It is not uncommon for such people to commit suicide, or have their family engage the help of cult deprogrammers.
Avoiding Negativity Equates to Seeking Positivity
When one avoids negativity, one seeks positivity.
However, seeking positivity, as we have explained earlier, gives you a distorted world view. It makes you reckless, when people only tell you what you want to hear, because all of you think alike. There is a reason why "yesman" in English has a negative connotation, and its synonym is sycophant.
Yesman: a flunky, a person of unquestioning obedience.— Princeton Word Web
What's worse, when you have too many "yesmen" around you, you become one yourself, as you conform to the group. Add to all the cult tactics listed above under milieu control, and you have a genuine cult breeding group. Soon, it'll be "all hail the leader!"
Information is the fuel we use to keep our minds working properly.— cult expert Steven Hassan, in his book "Combating Cult Mind Control"
Embrace Rationality, Plus a Little Irrational Optimism
When it comes to business, embracing positivity—avoiding all negativity—makes you reckless. It is also a sign of cult behavior and thus should be avoided.
What you should do instead is embrace rationality. Rationally analyze the factors you have under your control, and formulate a plan for your success. Instead of relying on the opinions of others, rationally analyze what they have to say. If they are presenting rational thoughts, consider them; if they are not, thank them then ignore them.
Save a little bit of that irrational optimism—sometimes called faith—for those "toss-up" situations when you choose to venture a little further into what you cannot foresee, but otherwise, stick to the rational.
Now go out there and live a great life.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.