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#9: The Price of a Life Lesson

#9: The Price of a Life Lesson

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Welcome, once again, to the Motherf*ckin’ Monday Newsletter, the only newsletter that promises to cure your dandruff, but fails miserably every time. Every week, I mind-vomit three ideas at your brain so you can feel smart and jazzed for the coming week, or something. This week, we’re spewing about: 1) How trying to spend less money often ends up being more expensive, 2) stories about what I refer to as The Great Life Coach Pyramid Scheme, and 3) an opportunity to buy signed books for your drooling, poorly-sweatered family this holiday season.

Let’s get into it!

1. What’s Cheap is Often More Expensive – Last week on Twitter, I posted what’s perhaps been the most difficult life lesson for me this year.

My wife and I are both conservative with money. We’re always looking for the bargain, the discount, the special one-time sale. This year, we bought a house. And when you buy a house, there’s a lot of stuff you have to spend money on that comes along with a house—contractors, accountants, designers, lawyers, and so on. Sadly, we learned the hard way—over and over again—that the money you save by hiring the less expensive contractor or the newer designer ends up costing you far more in their mistakes. Cheaper furniture becomes damaged or breaks more easily, costing you more to repair/replace it. Cheaper plumbing costs you more when a pipe bursts. And a cheaper decorator costs you much more when it turns out he measured half the stuff incorrectly.

I started to realize that this is actually true for a lot of things in life. You wouldn’t want to bargain hunt on a brain surgeon, for instance—or any doctor, for that matter. You could argue that you shouldn’t cheap out on food—as the lack of nutrition from cheap, poorly-produced food will more than make up for itself in health problems later on. Even clothes, the cheaper the fabric, the more often you’ll spend money replacing them.

Spanish-speaking readers told me that they have a saying for this phenomenon in their language: lo barato sale caro, or “the cheap turns out expensive.” We could use a saying like that in English. So here you go, let’s make it a thing: What’s cheap is often more expensive.

What’s your biggest life lesson from 2019—the one thing that just handed you your ass over and over until you finally learned your lesson? Reply with your horror stories and I’ll pretend to read them…

…okay, okay. Just kidding. My team and I will go through them and post the best ones in a newsletter at the end of the year.

2. The Great Life Coach Pyramid Scheme – A few years ago, I met a guy who had a business as a life coach. He ran seminars around the east coast—you know, the “pay me thousands of dollars and I’ll change your life” type things. He seemed to be fairly successful at it when I met him. But I’ve met plenty of people who do that sort of thing over the years, so I didn’t think much of it.

A few weeks ago, I bumped into him again and asked him how it was going. “Not good,” he said. He seemed pretty frazzled and bummed out. I asked him what was wrong. He said that he was going to have to close down his business. He couldn’t get clients anymore. And worse, he didn’t understand why.

Feeling a bit of pity, I asked him to elaborate to see if I could offer any advice. What emerged was a story that I’ve now seen play out so many times over the past 12 years, that it might as well be a rerun of The Office:

  • Dude wants to have his own business and work for himself.
  • Dude quits his job and claims very publicly that he now works for himself.
  • Dude puts on a really expensive seminar, promising to teach others how to quit their jobs and work for themselves.
  • Seminar surprisingly fills up with close friends, colleagues, and people from his network.
  • Dude mistakes the easy, early money for legitimate market demand for his knowledge and skills.
  • Jump ahead two years and he’s tapped his network. He’s taught nothing other than how to be another version of himself—a person who arbitrarily holds expensive seminars teaching people how to arbitrarily hold expensive seminars that teach people how to arbitrarily…

“Dude,” I said—because, at this point, his name is Dude—”what did you think was going to happen?”

He looked at me confused.

“Look, not to be rude, but you did a thing that people around you admired—you quit your job and started a business. You then immediately turned around and sold those same people on how to do what you just did. That’s an opportunity, not a business. A business has a unique brand, a target market, a differentiated product. The only thing unique to what you did was these were a bunch of people who kind of knew you. Once you ran out of those, the business died. And to make matters worse, your successful clients are just going to quit their jobs and turn around and compete with you by holding their own seminars. So… honestly, what did you think was going to happen?”

He listened to me, then got defensive and said, “So, I get what you’re saying… but see, you don’t understand. I spent tens of thousands of dollars on courses and seminars to learn this stuff so I could quit my job and start my business…”

Face: meet palm.

3. Signed Books for the Holidays – A lot of people have been asking for signed books with the holidays coming up. I just went down to Strand Bookstore here in New York and signed hundreds of them. You can get signed copies of both Subtle Art and Everything Is F*cked for your loved ones to make sure they really know how you feel about them.

Even better, when you get yours, cross out the signature and put yours instead, then sell the book for half price to someone else. Then charge them some money and teach them how to cross out your name and sign it themselves and sell it to someone else. Great business model!

Until next week, stay frosty.

Mark