Waaaaay back in the first post on this blog (ok, maybe it was the second post) I mentioned that prior to coming to the realization that our envisioned lifestyle required cutting costs, we briefly attempted to come up with ideas to increase revenue instead. These didn’t work out for various reasons, which I’ll get into below, but they did recently result in us running across Robert Kiyosaki’s The Business of the 21st Century (I’ll get into that later too). I have absolutely no respect for Kiyosaki as a person or for his shitty advice, so I never would have read this book otherwise. However, it proved to be interesting for reasons he obviously didn’t intend and prompted me to remember a thought I had while mulling over income generation ideas months ago.
The standard way to generate income for literally more than 99% of the world’s population is to exchange significant chunks of their life for money. This is the foundation of labor that capitalism is built on. A massive underclass that does not own the means of production sells itself to the handful of folks that do own the means of production. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you (and obviously it doesn’t to me either, hence my dilemma that prompted creation of this blog), you really only have two other options:
- Become an owner of means of production.
- Generate money with money.
#1 means owning a business. #2 is called “investing” or “trading” or “Goldman Sachs raping Grandma’s retirement account”. In the book, Kiyosaki actually discusses four income generation methods rather than three, which he puts into a “cash flow quadrant” by differentiating between large and small business ownership. I think he only does this because quadrants look cool to people in the business world and no one actually knows the proper name for a three piece pie. In my opinion, there’s no relevant difference between the two. Anywho… there are glaring problems with a regular person like myself attempting to do either #1 or #2, all of which boil down to barrier of entry – i.e. you need to already have large amounts of money to leverage either of those methods to make money. Richard Branson famously said something to the effect of, “if you want to make a million dollars, start with a billion dollars.” That outlook isn’t far from the truth.
Kiyosaki makes all these points in the first half of his book, but these are also issues I was already aware of and had been trying to think through months ago. It’s very difficult to sell non-essential and non-highly marketed products or services to a general public that, for the most part, has very little discretionary income. Yet somehow, social media, the internet, farmers’ markets, and street corners are absolutely loaded with people attempting (very unsuccessfully, it’s important to note) to sell energy drinks, electricity providers, home goods, oils, and just about any product under the sun… all provided by multi-level marketing companies they belong to. Not so ironically, Kiyosaki’s book also came to me by way of someone attempting to get us into an MLM company. In fact, it turns out that Kiyosaki’s idea for the “business of the 21st century” is MLM. That’s when it all clicked.
The reason we were given the book was to sell us on the awesomeness of MLM. Undoubtedly, that’s exactly the read and conclusion most people will get from the book, and it’s probably the read Kiyosaki wanted people to have. Yet, anyone with a shred of common sense knows that nearly all MLMs are a scam, but in spite of that, Kiyosaki actually isn’t wrong… IF you can read between the lines. As a method to sell product, MLM is an abject failure. Anyone involved in one, when they’re able to finally be honest with themselves, will admit that. But if you pay attention, Kiyosaki never even talks about selling product. He only talks about building up people under you to generate you money. This connected the last couple dots in my mind of what I had been thinking on months ago. There is still one thing left that is easy to sell to a cash-strapped public and MLMs allow it to be done with minimal entry barrier: hope. MLMs sell the hope of financial freedom, freedom from a 9-5 job, freedom from asshole bosses, freedom to live your life in more than just the remnants of a 40 hour work week. This is what all MLMs really sell, regardless of what product they hide behind. And they don’t sell it to their customers. They sell it to their members and prospects. That’s why these businesses explode in popularity during recessions. That’s why they’re growing in popularity as the US wealth gap widens rapidly. Unfortunately for the people who join them, only the founders and early adopters ever see any of the promises come to life. Everyone else has simply been suckered into funneling money to them. If you don’t think so, I have a really good deal for you on the bridge in the title image.