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MLM Danger of Seeking Positivity and Avoiding / Ignoring Negativity: rational vs. irrational people

Updated on December 22, 2012


Just the other day I was reading through a forum about multi-level marketing when I encountered the term "dream stealer". The writer was using it like an epithet, to be avoided at all costs. This intrigued me. So I looked it up. To my surprise, the definition is very simple: a "dream stealer" to a MLM participants, is any one telling the participants "no" in various form, 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 it is necessary to keep a generally positive attitude toward life and any opportunity. However, it also 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 told readers to completely ignore the dream stealers, as negativity to be avoided at all costs.

This is worrisome because 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's a pyramid scheme" makes absolutely no sense at all.

So, let us study both sides of the issue: Positivity vs. Negavitity, and Rational vs. Irrational.

Rationality Positivity Relationship Diagram
Rationality Positivity Relationship Diagram
When this happens to your upline (real picture, real guy in a scam pretending to be MLM) is this negativity? Or REALITY?
When this happens to your upline (real picture, real guy in a scam pretending to be MLM) is this negativity? Or REALITY? | Source

Rational Pessimism: useful if properly analyzed

Rational Pessimism is bad feeling about a situation, that can be justified 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 clearly tells you that this opportunity is very likely illegal, and you should abandon it quickly. That is bad feeling about an opportunity based on rational thoughts.

Clearly, you need to make sure that your thought process and your logic was not contaminated by biases (such as confirmation bias, sunken cost bias, and so on) but you cannot afford to ignore rational thoughts. You cannot just dismiss them wholesale.

(For the real story behind that picture, click here)

Irrational pessimism... it's like hoping for the worst
Irrational pessimism... it's like hoping for the worst | Source

Irrational Pessimism: dangerous

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 rustle in the grass ahead as dangerous and run, then 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 any way, this leads to paralysis and panic, then full blown paranoia.

Irrational pessimism is basically "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", etc. The hope is by NOT changing the 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.

There is no spoon, but then, he's in the Matrix, and he is Neo... and you are NEITHER!
There is no spoon, but then, he's in the Matrix, and he is Neo... and you are NEITHER! | Source

What if you ignore ALL negativity?

In one such "dream stealer" article, 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.

Similar to pain as warning signal to body, rational pessimism stops you from doing really stupid and reckless activities, stuff that is simply impossible, or should not be done.

If you only have positive emotions (i.e. positivity), you get both rational, and irrational optimism. The result is recklessness. There is nothing holding you back, even if you are heading toward a brick wall (without protective gear, at full speed). No matter how fast and 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". How much optimism or faith you have is irrelevant.

Thus, ignoring all negativity is actually DANGEROUS, as it encourages reckless behavior.

What needs to happen instead is 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 go on, but rational thought must come first.

You and Me Against the World... but that's a game show, not reality!
You and Me Against the World... but that's a game show, not reality!

You and Me Against the World, Really?

There is another danger in avoiding negativity... it is a sign of cult control over the member.

Dr. Robert J. Lifton wrote a book in 1961 called "Thought Reform And The Psychology Of Totalism" which is a book that studied how the term "brainwashing" came about, 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:

"[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 is a combination of the 3 highlighted ways

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?"

Yes, I made up those quotes, but those of you at a MLM meeting or seminar may have heard something very similar.

Furthermore, it is no accident why MLM conventions and such are often held at isolated and distant locations such as resorts, cruise ships, and so on: so you cannot escape from the sales pitches, cloaked as motivation.

All together, plus the "feel good" atmosphere, creates a "you and me against the world" or "us vs. them" attitude, cementing the cult bonds.

This is dangerous to those with weak will. You and I with some rational skepticism can spot this relatively easily. 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 is Same as 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 "yesman" 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. Deny a person the information he requires to make sound judgments, and he will be incapable

-- cult expert Steven Hassan, in his book "Combating Cult Mind Control"


When it comes to business, avoiding all negativity makes you reckless. It is also sign of cult behavior and thus should be avoided.

What instead should happen is you should embrace rationality, by rationally analyze the factors you have under your control, and formulate a plan for your success, instead of relying on opinions of others. Analyze what they have to say, but use the same rational analysis. If they are presenting rational thoughts, you should consider them. If they are not, thank them then ignore them.

Save a little bit of that irrational optimism, sometimes call faith, for the "toss-up" situations, when you need just a little faith to go on.

Now go out there and live a great life.


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    • juansamsel profile image

      Juan Samsel 3 years ago from Charlotte, NC, United States

      interesting topic about of "MLM Danger of Seeking Positivity and Avoiding / Ignoring Negativity: rational vs. irrational people"


    • kschang profile image

      kschang 4 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

      Thanks. There were a LOT of angles on MLM that made it look... bad when approached rationally. It is PRIMARILY emotion-based, and relies on personal relations (emotion) instead of business relations (logic).

    • WalterPoon profile image

      Poon Poi Ming 4 years ago from Malaysia

      Wow, KSChang... it has never occurred to me to look at this angle, although I used to be a nut about positive thinking. Reading your article, you seem to have a very heavy dose of rationality. Yes, these MLM do behave like a church. You get chastised for being blasphemous. Voted UABI!

    • kschang profile image

      kschang 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

      I hope it was helpful to someone! :)

    • qwin profile image

      qwin 6 years ago from Malaysia

      wow deep yet interesting insights

    • profile image

      Dream big 6 years ago

      One of the toughest things in mom is keeping your head in the game. That is why I put together the to

    • kschang profile image

      kschang 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

      @worried -- first, I cannot advise you on vmobile, as I have not studied it. I will make a few generic observations, which I hope will help you ask the right questions and think for yourself.

      1) Learn the proper definition of a pyramid scheme, NOT ones told by uplines to people, but straight from the DSAP, the association of direct sellers (MLM companies)

      8-point test: is it pyramid scheme or MLM?

      2) Shadow the upline for at least a week, and instead of just seeing "how much I made", ask how much he SPENT to make that money, and what exactly did he DO to make that money. Did he (or she) sell products, or just recruit people?

      3) Does VMobile offer real products that can be sold at competitive prices? They may have real products, but if their prices are too high it is worthless to you as you can't sell them.

      I hope these help you. Feel free to explore the other articles I wrote in the "MLM Wisdom" series. (just above the comments)

    • profile image

      worried 6 years ago

      hi kschang...

      I am from the Philippines.

      i have read your blogs on TVI Express and I wanna thank you for the information you shared.

      My concern is this...I am planning to invest in vmobile, yes, its also an MLM. after reading this blog, i feel worried... and i dont know if its really worth trying to invest in this business... are you saying that if it's an MLM, then most probably it is a pyramid scam?

      they are sharing videos on positivity (example; law of attraction - a documentary).

    • kschang profile image

      kschang 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

      @EmpressFelicity -- even worse, when it is for financial gain. That is the very definition of fraud.

    • EmpressFelicity profile image

      EmpressFelicity 6 years ago from Kent, England, UK

      Your hub is very sound and commonsensical. Anyone who uses highly emotive and manipulative language when trying to persuade you to do something is always suspect in my book.

    • GoingOnline profile image

      GoingOnline 6 years ago

      When somebody tells me to avoid negativity I think it's because they are trying to avoid me noticing that they are trying to scam me, or at least making unrealistic promises.

      Which is basically why MLM got the bad reputation...