21st Century Snake Oil
Snake oil didn’t start out as phony. At one time, it was therapeutic medicine.
But, the water snakes used to make the oil were in China. Not, America.
So, without the right snakes, the only option for making and selling an American version was to lie about the ingredients.
That’s right. Snake oil was once real. And popular. But, in order to capitalize on that popularity, without doing the work of making real snake oil, one had to manipulate customers.
And, that’s exactly what happened. Lies were told. People believed the salesman. Took him at his word. Up until the point when the truth came out.
We like to think we’d recognize a “snake oil salesman.” That we wouldn’t be fooled. That we’re smarter than that.
But, the truth is, we’re all susceptible. And, as our connections become more virtual than real, we’re having a harder time seeing the snake oil.
This, I believe, is especially true when it comes to the “hustle" culture. You know, the industry that sells the idea that you too can be an entrepreneur. Run your own business. Maybe even while you have a full-time job.
Whether it’s through a conference, a webinar, or a podcast, there’s someone out there willing to tell you that your dreams can come true by just investing in their online class, community, or better yet, personalized coaching.
And, the people selling these services? Well, they got the idea from someone who sold to them. Sold them the “secret” to starting an online business. An online business that helps others build online businesses.
Go too far down this rabbit hole and you really are in a different world. It’s madness.
And, it worries me.
I’m all for chasing dreams. Pursuing passions. I absolutely believe that it can be done. That it can work out. For anyone.
But, I don’t want our kids to think they can just cash in without actually doing the work of building a business.
Building a business takes time. There are no shortcuts. No hacks. No magic formulas.
If what our kids want is a real business. One that helps people. Solves problems. Delivers value. Well, then, our kids should know the basic rules for building that are the same as they’ve always been. Ever since humans started selling goods and services.
Our kids should learn that at its most basic level, business is about connecting with people. Developing relationships. Listening. Learning.
Businesses aren’t built by writing one book. Or giving one speech. The book or speech is simply a way to connect with people. One must then listen to feedback. And, be willing to push their own thinking and improve upon their original ideas. Then, perhaps, they can write more books or give more speeches.
Without communication with followers, a blog is not a business. No matter how great, content alone is not a business. A business connects with people, adds value, and gives generously.
And, a huge following on Twitter is not a business. It’s merely a number. On a platform that some other business controls. Twitter is one tool that a 21st Century business can use to connect, listen, and learn.
Which takes work. Real work. Not harried 80 hour weeks of work. But, work with purpose. Intention. A desire to produce something good. Then make it better. And, then make it your best.
A real business comes from the heart as well as the mind. It’s truly a human endeavor. One with great risks and rewards.
Anyone saying anything different? Well, that’s someone we don’t want our kids to follow. Someone that doesn’t want to put in the work. Just wants to capitalize on the popularity of entrepreneurship.
That someone is just a 21st Century snake oil salesman. Stay away from that someone.