The Shoemoney Choice and How to Survive It
by Dan Haggard
Signs of truth are often found in some unlikely places. If you really want to find out what’s going on ‘OUT THERE’, you have to learn to be an expert tracker. You have to learn to spot signs as subtle as a slightly bent leaf swaying to and fro on a branch. You have to bend down and examine faint tracks of movement along the earth. The paths of migration through the wilderness have to be your home away from home.
In other times you have to get your hands dirty and let the flecks of fecal matter roll between your fingers. Their warmth tells you the distance of your prey. Their smell tells you of its health and likely resistance when you meet. You fight your own revulsion because you do what you have to do to find truth. Cause that’s the noble path right? Truth is what we need to save the world. Truth is what we need to save ourselves.
But the more immediate truth is that you’re alone in the wilderness with shit on your hands – and you have to make up your mind what to do with it. Do you keep following - accepting the stench of its stark reality on your hands? Or do you decide that it’s not worth it. Do you turn away and concoct your bubble dream reality because it’s nicer?
I have come to call this choice “The Shoemoney Choice” and I’ve called it this because of this post by online marketing expert Jeremy Schoemaker. That’s right – today’s review is of a blog – not a movie, not some great work of literature – but the blog of an online marketer. As I said, sometimes you find truth in unlikely places and when presented which such a frank, little brown nugget, you have to decide what to do with it.
I’m here to tell you – if you don’t choose well, it WILL destroy you. It will cripple your soul and spirit and take you to the very edge of reason and belief. You could close the browser now and try to avoid ever having to make it – but in this day and age, you won’t be able to avoid acquiring the knowledge that will force it upon you. You’ll have to face it sooner or later. And when you do, you had better be equipped with some tools to deal with it. That’s where Reviews in Depth comes in. We’re going to help you survive.
If you have spent any time trying to make any online and yet haven’t spent some time on Schoemaker’s blog then you’re probably doing it wrong. This guy knows how to turn a dime online. He’s famous for it. I won’t recount the list of his achievements here – that can be your learnings for later should you be interested. But the main point is that he is good at what he does – and his blog is mostly about how it is that he’s had this success.
The post I’m interested in is innocent enough in its title: “Getting Press for Your Website, Application, or Service“. And much of the advice is sensible: assemble a press kit, make sure your product is working… etc. But then it starts to get creepy – fast. You’re advised to stalk your prey online and find out their habits and their interests. The purpose of this behaviour is to then deploy that information in the manipulation of your target. The process flow goes like this:
- Use your opening contact to ego stroke and disarm.
- Use the knowledge gained through stalking to establish a false sense of intimacy between you and your target.
- Casually slip in a mention of your product.
- And if all else fails – grease them up with money, shares or kickbacks.
What you should realise if you’ve been around even a little bit is that this process flow is not just a winning strategy for getting press for your product – it’s a winning strategy for life. You want a large network of influential friends? You want that dynamic and interesting job way up top of the corporate food chain? You an artist trying to get galleries to promote your work? It all comes back to this. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. If you fail to adhere to this process – life for you will be very hard indeed.
When you go deeper into Schoemaker’s site you’ll see that it doesn’t end there. He outlines all sorts of varying techniques of marketing in his Weapons of Marketing video. It’s a veritable A-Z of manipulation and it’s all true. It turns out that we’re all a bunch of egotistical, pain averse cattle that are incapable of looking beyond the signalling processes that we evolved in our early history. And if you think you’re immune from it – ask yourself how engaging you really were with that guy that called your product a pile of crap. How much did you gush on the inside the last time someone told you that your work totally blew their mind.
So why does this knowledge force upon us a choice that we now need to make? Schoemaker himself presents it as such in his video. He warns us that knowledge of these techniques will open your eyes to the ways in which people around you try to manipulate you on a daily basis. So in his words (borrowed from Morpheus in the Matrix) – you can either take the red pill and proceed or take the blue pill and go back to your normal life. But in actual fact – this isn’t REALLY the choice that you’ll have to make. None of us at this point choose to take the blue pill. In fact – it would seem completely irrational to do so. What – give up all this information about how people have power over me? Of course I’m gonna go the red pill. Gimme!
What’s more, The Shoemoney Choice, is not a choice that you have to make only once. You’ll likely have to make it multiple times a day – everyday – for the rest of your life. It will not end. It will not yield. Not unless you develop strategies for dealing with it and putting that choice out of play. If you don’t, it will break your mind and leave you an empty husk of a human being – detached, exhausted and alone.
So what is this choice really? Well – imagine a scenario where an acquaintance of yours approaches you with a compliment about your website/product etc. In which way do you choose to see this approach? Do you choose a) to accept it as a genuine compliment – an affirmation that you’re on the right path? Or do you choose b) to see it as a cynical attempt to grease your wheels in exchange for a dispensation of your authority in their favour?
Obviously this a little simplified. Maybe you wait for further signals before making your choice. But eventually the choice must be made about a person and it is far from trivial. It is is a fundamental question about which is the best strategy to employ in the conduct of your day to day life. Each choice has different implications and entails a different cost/benefit analysis that you have to employ.
If you choose option a) then you have taken the what I like to call the path of intimacy. For whatever reason you have decided to trust this person. Your choice is based on your belief that this person (even if they are wrong most of the time in their opinions) are honestly trying to share with you information about the world that they believe will better help you navigate.
The difficulty in this approach is that you need some way of being sure of their sincerity, and in terms of a cost/benefit analysis, you need to take a measure of how reality indicating their opinions happen to be. The reward of choosing wisely is that you get a loyal companion who exchanges accurate information about your endeavours freely and without a running scorecard of what you’ve contributed in return. Although it’s expected that you’ll similarly reciprocate, you can accept such exchange on credit for quite a long time before they’ll realise they’re getting a bum deal.
If you choose option b) then you have taken what I call the path of cynicism. You decide that they really are just running game on you for their own benefit. Whether or not you just ignore them or send them on their way is the economic calculation you make in terms of what they might be able to bring to the table later on down the line. You accept that even though they are a player peddling lies – but pragmatically accept that they might have sufficient connections, etc to be of value of you somewhere down the line. You don’t mind in and of itself that they are running game on you because that’s just life and everyone does it. All that matters is that it’s worth your time to play their game.
The difficulty in this case is that you need someway to establish exactly what their worth is. But because you know they are running game – you know they’ll be employing all the strategies in the book to try to make it seem to you as though they represent greater value than they really do. If you want a fantastic example of someone running this calculus – then we need go no further than our friend Jeremy Schoemaker.
In this post he calls bullshit on an approach by plentyoffish.com founder Markus Frind to make it seem to the world that he was a greater success than he really was. It’s quite an old post and Schoemaker’s outrage stands in stark contrast to the seasoned marketer we see in later posts. It’s as though having learned the secrets of manipulation he initially struggles to relate and interact with people when he notices them running these techniques on him. Having that knowledge and employing it himself forces him to doubt those that approach him. His perception of reality and his place within it is fundamentally altered.
Do unto Others as They Do unto You
But besides the respective difficulties faced by those on either path, one still has to face the difficulty in choosing which path to take in the first place. How does one decide? And when you really start to think about how to go about answering this question you’ll start to wish you never learnt these dangerous truths.
The obvious answer – the one I think most of you will cling to first as you start to think about this – can be called the “do unto others as they do unto to you” strategy. It goes like this:
What seems reasonable is to develop a strategy to determine which people are the sincere ones that aren’t running game on you – and for them choose the path of intimacy. The path of cynicism will be reserved for those who fail the test. Treat everyone as they they treat you.
This sounds reasonable right? After all, why shouldn’t people be treated as they deserve? On this view you would expect over time to improve your testing abilities – developing a better sense for determining who is worth your intimate trust and who should be played as a purely economic calculation. You establish your core crew – your trusted tribe – with whom you share everything. Everyone beyond are just things to control, use and discard like a natural resource – a patch of ore in the ground.
But I’m here to tell you that this is the worst way of making your choice – as intuitively reasonable it seems to sound at first.
First of all it provides you no relief from having to MAKE the choice on a daily basis. This is important because trying to make the right choice in every case is exhausting. No one on this earth can maintain the effort required. In order to determine whether such and such is deserving of path a) over b) requires the processing of an infinite array of variables the data for which never ceases in its change. It’s an endless maelstrom of Machiavellian, game-theoretic madness. As I described in my post about intimacy, whenever a reliable signal of intimacy or authority is discovered, the players, thieves and marketers will rush to adopt it. There can be NO enduring, reliable signal of intimacy.
And just because you chose path a) for one friend one day doesn’t exempt you from having to re-evaluate them the next. Maybe tomorrow they discover Schoemaker’s post and decide to start running game on you in order to get more out of you. How do you know they won’t? The second guessing will indeed drive you mad.
Hang on you might say – once I start to trust someone then I don’t second guess them after that. That’s what trust is all about!
Sure! But note that such a reply isn’t consistent with the original strategy on offer. The original strategy tells you to treat people as they are treating you. If they start running game on you, that implies you should start running game on them. And if you decide at some arbitrary point that person X is deserving of your trust from here on out forever more – then the arbitrariness of that decision implies that you may as well have chosen to do that from the very first second that you met them (which is exactly one option I’ll advocate in the next section).
Secondly, such a strategy leaves you exposed to the great hurt. What is this? It’s when you decide at some point in the future that the people you trusted most in life are really just game playing schmucks out to use you. It never bothered you when it came from someone that you decided before hand to be running game on you. But when it’s your closest friend, it rips you in two and leave you grasping for breath. Many won’t find the heart to trust another after that. It’s so hard to pick yourself up and open yourself to that kind of pain again.
But maybe you’re think that you’ll be able to choose correctly. Maybe you think you’re special. Don’t. What will happen is that in order to save you from the endless exhaustion of having to continually revising and updating your opinions of those around you – your brain will flick a protection switch in order to save you both. You’ll become convinced that you have developed the perfect strategy for picking correctly in each case. You won’t gain this confidence for any rational reason. You won’t have actually developed such a measure of life. Your brain will just be so exhausted and scared of the reality that it will just assume this arrogant stance to protect itself from overloading and shutting down. In this way will you come to believe that the rug can’t be pulled out from under you. In this way do you expose yourself to the great hurt. Your arrogance will prevent you from ever preparing in advance for what will someday come.
A Better Strategy
A better strategy is that irrespective of the path you ultimately choose – make the choice once and apply it consistently forever more. That is to say if you choose the intimate path, treat everyone as though they are doing the same. Don’t look for signs, don’t run your tests. Similarly, if you are going to be a game playing prick – run with it. Don’t look back. Don’t ever revise your choice. This is the “do as you would be done by” strategy – and it should be sounding pretty familiar.
But isn’t this strategy madness? If you choose the path of intimacy and never revise this choice you expose yourself to so many who might use you up and spit you out. If you choose the path of cynicism and never revise you might risk through your games and machinations the friendship of many who would be truly loyal to you.
This is correct, but the trade off is worth it. By following this you defeat the greatest burden of The Shoemoney Choice – the continual drain in having to make the choice day in and day out. The costs that you endure in making the wrong choice in various circumstances will in fact be something that you will be able to endure. The cost of having to make the choice every day of your life is just not a feat any human can bear. It’s too much.
What’s more – this approach affords you some protection from the great hurt. Why? Well, supposing you choose the intimate path, then you accept with full awareness and clarity that the people you choose to be with in life may prove someday to be completely false. Because you aren’t trying to apply some calculus that tells you which they may be, you know that in fact that you might be giving your best years to complete bastards. You just choose not to worry about it because you know the strain of it will destroy you. When the revelation occurs you are shielded from the hurt to some degree because you are prepared for the possibility. It’ll still hurt. But it won’t be the great hurt that I described above. In the meantime, you’ll spend much of your life acting as though the people around you really are good friends – and you’ll get many of the benefits that such an approach confers. For even if your friends are really cynics they’ll seek to adapt themselves to your approach in order to win your favour – because that’s a crucial part of their strategy. And if you really are a genuine person – their strategy will force them to act much like you. It’ll actually take them quite some time to realise that this entails that it’s difficult to get things on the cheap. You’ll get years of good friendship before they seek greater profit elsewhere.
If you chose the cynical path then when people betray you – you won’t suffer the great hurt because you a) probably believe that everyone is a cynical bastard like you anyway and b) you think that you probably deserve the betrayal because you know yourself to be a cynical bastard. It still hurts. You will spend your life longing for something that feels like an intimate relationship. But in the end you’ll deal with it because you accept that such relationships just don’t exist. In this way are you shielded.
Ignorance is Bliss but You Have No Choice but to Choose
I think that people like Jeremy Schoemaker really believe they are helping people when they reveal the secrets of how to manipulate and control their fellow man. I don’t think many have a conscious understanding of the choice they force on those who bite down on their apple. What motivates them probably really is a genuine desire to see in others the success they have found for themselves.
But in the end they are forcing on people one of the most important choices of their lives – and they are doing it without providing them with the tools to deal with that choice. Most people will come away from watching Schoemaker’s videos with only a semi-conscious understanding of the way they’ve started second guessing things. They wonder why it is they suddenly exploded at that person – calling bullshit on their approach.
But there’s no point in blaming the likes of Schoemaker. If he didn’t reveal these truths many others would. Because the process of revealing these truths is an easy way to gain the authority needed to establish your brand. It’s still the low hanging fruit of ignorance. Those in awareness of the ways in we control our fellow man are still in the vast minority. So it’s a cheap and easy way to be shaman to the pack. In the meantime, many will still get to live entire lives of blissful ignorance. Envy them I do.
But it won’t be this way forever. Eventually this knowledge will mainstream – and with the proliferation of information and the lowering of the barriers to self-publication – that may in fact be happening right now. If you hadn’t been exposed to Schoemaker’s cynicism before now – then I think it likely that it would have happened soon. Someday you were going to have to face the choice. At least you were exposed via a route that provided you with some tools for dealing with it.
Um – but What Do We Choose FFS!
Yeah – I still haven’t told you what the best choice is. Well – turns out that I don’t know everything. You’re going to have to figure that out on your own. All I know for certain is that if you try to choose correctly for everyone you meet based on how you think they themselves made their choice – you’re going to go insane. Trust me on that much at least.
I tend to think that ultimately the decision you make is so deeply personal that there can be no frame of reference which settles the matter. It’ll be a fact of your deepest pre-dilection that has you choose one way or another. We’ll see if I have more to say on this as time goes on.
If I had to say anything with regard to this ultimate question then I would say that probably life will be hardest when choosing the path that most others don’t take. If your a cynic among intimates – you’ll be found out pretty quick and if you’re an intimate among cynics, I think you’ll be worn down pretty heavily over time – even if you don’t suffer the great hurt.
What’s more it seems to me that we’re headed toward a time in history when most people will be choosing the cynical path. If you want some further explanation of why I think this then you can read my discussion of the Social Network. I discuss it at length there. In short it’s because our default, pre-choice approach is generally cynical (as determined by our evolutionary heritage). And so life is going to be easiest if you consciously affirm that which evolution has endowed us. So it’s my guess that’s what most people will choose. Of course, no one will admit this because unless your a Schoemaker using this to establish your authority – then generally the admission is a bad move in the game. Once you admit you’re a cynic, you lose all the leverage gained through false intimacy.
But maybe life for you isn’t about things being easy. Maybe you feel most alive in taking your stand against the common ebb while asserting your pre-dilection against all odds. Maybe there’s a thrill in that for you. To you I tip my hat and offer you the secret, infinite smile of admiration. I don’t know exactly why I admire that – but admire it I do.
The Final Hope
I will close on a small note of hope that perhaps the easiest choice won’t always be the cynical. As I said, current knowledge about how to manipulate and control your fellow man is a low hanging fruit. There is reason to think that such methods won’t always be effective – and that precisely a widespread knowledge of them will be the agent of their demise as effective tools. If you want evidence of this then just look again at Schoemaker’s post – right at the end. What does he tells his readers after revealing his secrets?
DON’T TRY THIS SHIT ON ME!
Perhaps the magicians will run out of tricks someday. Perhaps the fruit higher up the tree will be beyond anyone’s reach. Perhaps the easiest path someday will be to treat your fellow man with dignity, respect and trust. And maybe if enough of us chose to live this fantasy as though it were real, we could bring about its reality sooner than we ever dreamed.
Ah – wouldn’t that be grand?
p.s - I was struggling with finding a category to put this in. But the ending as it has turned out has answered that for me. It goes in “Fantasy”.