Reflections on Go Pro 2019
Last week, I attended the 10th annual Go Pro Recruiting Mastery conference in Las Vegas. What's that? Here's a quick primer if this is all Greek to you.
Go Pro was arguably the first event aimed at professionalizing the Network Marketing (or MLM) industry. What started off as a small collection of leaders has grown into a multi-day event with 5,000+ people in attendance. The conference draws big-name speakers (e.g., Tony Robbins, Sir Richard Branson, Magic Johnson, etc.) that touch on a broad range of topics (e.g., personal, business, and leadership development). All in all, it's an exceptionally well put together conference where speakers and attendees alike openly share their knowledge and wisdom to help others along their journey.
So why was I there? No, I am not a network marketer, although I once dabbled with a company called Zeropoint. My company, Contact Mapping, builds apps and creates training materials to help people create and strengthen their personal and professional relationships. Since this is a crucial aspect of the network marketing profession, it's an ideal conference for us to attend. There's no better place to learn of the challenges they all face and the opportunities to help.
I wanted to share some of the takeaways from the conference because I think some lessons have broader appeal and usefulness. Also, these types of events continue to shift my perception of what networking marketing is versus how people stereotype it to be. Either way, here's what I found to be useful or insightful.
1. Network Marketing is HARD
MLMs get a bad rap for being a pyramid scheme and for a good reason. If people lie to other people saying that it's all fast and easy money, you are setting up a terrible set of expectations. Like anything in life, some people are exceptionally gifted or lucky. Some may, in fact, rise to the top ranks with minimal effort. However, these are the exceptions and not the rule. Also, without putting in the work, they'll rarely maintain their success for very long.
Yes, it can be easy-ish to coast once you have built momentum and hit a certain level of success. However, many of these leaders have a tireless work ethic. They are running multiple leadership training workshops a day, traveling to several destinations a week, on-call to address issues 24/7, etc. And building this momentum is not trivial. Many of those just getting started grind hard only to face multiple setbacks over the years and even a decade+. The industry also keeps evolving and changing, which requires them to adapt constantly. The result? Top leaders continue to put in their dues and try to become stronger and better while trying to achieve their next breakthrough.
Now, this doesn't mean the game is not winnable or enjoyable. But almost no one I saw this weekend was a sit-on-their-ass-slacker.
2. The Gig Economy is a Cog in the (Uber) Wheel Economy
It's incredible to me that the general public sees an Uber driver as a more noble profession than network marketing. True, a person running rideshare shifts in busting their ass to improve their lot in life, and I 100% respect that. But the very platforms providing these gig opportunities are ultimately hell-bent on trying to eliminate them through automation. There is little in the way of mattering as a human being beyond your 5-star rating. The platform treats people as cogs in the wheel for their self-serving agenda without any real opportunities for growth or long-term success.
Network marketing provides a different platform. Like the franchise model, most of what you need to run your own independent business are provided by the company. You get everything from training materials to a back-office set of tools to a customer support line to help you address order fulfillment and issues. Yes, you still are a number in some form or fashion to the organization at large. However, there is a constant investment in people. People matter and are the lifeblood of the company as a whole and among each team. Uber is one type of platform in the gig economy that seeks to maximize the benefit of the company at the expense of its 'lowly' and expendable contributors. By contrast, network marketing companies are at the other extreme whereby the (long-term) return to the company is directly proportional to the quantity and quality of the leaders it produces.
A majority of the talks directly or indirectly talked about leadership. In one incredibly powerful example, a gentleman by the name of Darnell told a story about how he went undercover at this wife's surprise birthday party. He came back to town early and dressed up as one of the servers. He expected that his friends and family members would have instantly caught onto the ruse. Still, he was shocked when nobody recognized him (not even his wife, who picked a glass off of his serving tray!). Worse, he made the powerful distinction that while not being recognized was surprising, not being noticed was painful. This gave him a newfound understanding of how most of us filter out or look past people right in plain sight. It changed how he approached leadership by reminding him to notice each person in his organization and not just focus on the high achievers. Everyone, he said, was worthy of noticing and celebrating.
The beautiful thing about this conference was the constant reinforcement of how aligned the company's had to be with developing people. Without that, any success would be a flash in the pan and not sustainable. This is again why network marketing is hard because not everyone had the opportunity in school or college to develop these skills.
4. Entrepreneurship is a Necessity to Battle Income Inequality
Armond Puyolt claimed that 96% of the available labor force were employees, and only 2% are entrepreneurs. Given the trend of falling wages (even before adjusting for inflation) and the rise of the gig economy jobs as the primary source of income for most people, this is unsettling. Those that end up taking jobs where companies treat people like commodities will continue to see their overall income level go down.
Meanwhile, those owning the platforms will continue to benefit massively. This is not to say that these companies are evil. Instead, they have misaligned incentives between the platform and the people used to run them.
I'm more focused on the necessity for people to recognize that full-time employment may not be the safe bet it once was. The internet provides anyone with an internet connection the opportunity to create products and services at a global level and without any cap in upside potential. Yet, for many, they don't have a safety net. This can result in fear-based thinking, which can then drive them into the safety of a job that might not be around in a few years.
So what about socialism? We can tax or transfer wealth all we want, but this is not really a sustainable solution. More people must see the writing on the wall and take the leap into being their pwn boss (network marketing or not). Sure, life is less certain when there is no map. However, with the job market changing at an ever-increasing rate, this may not be an option in the next 5 to 10 years.
Even though I'm not a network marketing, I left the conference incredibly inspired by the potential that every human has within us. It challenged me to think big and to have more conviction in my beliefs of what is possible. And most importantly, I have an increased respect for the profession that my company serves. It's not an easy career, but for those that put their heart and soul into it, it can create leaders that create incredible lives.
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About Rick Manelius
Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.