Essay

Marketing as Freedom: Mead’s Mojave Manifesto

By Eric Schiller on August 21st, 2009 1

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This post originally began life as an email exchange between a friend and I shortly after the Project Mohave Liberation Manifesto was released on May 15, 2009.  Project Mojave is essentially a get rich quick scheme led by Clay Collins of the blog Finance Your Freedom (formerly the Growing Life). The project encourages its subscribers who pay $97 per month to  find an expert in a field, create an information product with them such as an ebook and to sell it for $47 on the internet. The manifesto itself was written as a marketing tool for Mohave by Jonathan Mead, a personal development blogger and marketer who writes on IlluminatedMind.net and also as a guest writer on the ubiquitous ZenHabits.net I have followed Jonathan’s blog, projects, and other social media identities for almost as long as he has been writing. Illuminated Mind began as a spiritually minded blog that explored simple Buddhist-like concepts and was critical of both productivity and personal development.  However, over the past year the blog has changed into a guide to “become free” through a variety of “unconventional” methods, much like the ones highlighted later on in this post.

In this post I argue that through the manifesto Mead posits the reader as a slave to their work and society, and then offers them new-found freedom via the Project Mohave pay-site. This model does not work in a sociological sense for a very basic reason: it isn’t sustainable in any realistic way.  If everyone in society subscribed to Mead’s “freedom,” we would all be selling digital products on the internet, with no one to grow our food, fix our plumbing, or treat the ill.  I then expose the manifesto for what it really is, a sales pitch under the guise of a political and economic savior. This critique takes the form of a loose rhetorical read, in the sense that I use the tools of postmodern rhetoric to explore the messages that the manifesto sends to its reader, and asks why those qualities are persuasive.  I’ll generally go at this manifesto in order as it lays out its arguments. I suggest you briefly read the manifesto first, and then come back and read my response to it, you can get it here.

On  Hard Work and Enlightenment

The most striking thing about the first page, is how it immediately posits the reader as a slave, or a lesser than, and puts the author in a sort of “enlightened state,” as if they have great knowledge to endow on the reader and can move “from slavery to freedom” (3).  This evidenced by Mead’s second paragraph, and then the preview of emancipation in the third.  This tells us two things, first that you should hate your job and it is a prison, and second that he has the keys that will let you out. This does not consider the possibility that the reader actually loves their job, and has a good relationship to the company that provides it to them.  In many ways, this is a classic rhetorical act, by demonstrating the author to be an authority, they build trust with the reader, and the message can then be consumed much easier.  It is also well known to be a brainwashing method, by creating a sense of dominance over another, one can force them to follow an ideology without fail.  This positioning is very interesting by virtue of the fact that in the beginning of this year Meade wrote a blog post entitled “Enlightenment is Overrated,” where he opened post with the claim “I admit it. I am Enlightened,” he went on to completely ignore most of the Buddhist ideas about what enlightenment is, using enlightenment as a tool to explain to his reader that they should live their dreams, and to live “life more fully, passionately and fearlessly.” This all leads up to Mead’s slightly less spiritual belief that the internet changes the political and business landscape, and that NOW is the time to get in by starting your “freedom business.”

Going After Marx and Engels

Mead jumps into some really light political philosophy where he talks about Marxist power structures in a very uninformed manner, and then he positions the Internet as a savior when he writes; “the difference between now and before is the internet is opening up massive opportunities for the everyday entrepreneur” (4).  As if “before” refers to pre-internet class struggles, harking back to a work of pseudo-inspiration for Mead: the Communist Manifesto.  On the following page he offers that this is the path to “freedom,” and that you the reader have the choice right now to be free. In many ways, section reminds me of a quote by a cyberneticist who said ‘the internet isn’t the wild west anymore, it has long been established.  The internet wild west was in the early 90’s.’  Another relevant anecdote is,”the people who made money on the gold rush, were the people who sold equipment to miners.” And so it was for the internet also.  The internet and technology as a whole being our savior is an idea that has been around for quite some time.  Our society has become quite ingrained with the idea that the problems our progress has created, will invariably by solved by progress itself.  This idea is one that makes very little sense in the way it is expressed on a widespread scale, yet it is very much at play in the ideology that Mead is selling in the manifesto. The internet will save you if you let it.

Jonathan: The Romantic, The Marketer

Mead then goes back to talking about why working for someone else destroys us.  I’ll skip over most of this because it is just trying to do more of the same, convince the reader that they need change, and that this particular project is just the way to do it. Revolution is an ideologically and rhetorically charged word that I’ve noticed Jonathan use often, simply because it is sort of romantic, it is powerful, and it changes minds.  Through this section, it becomes clear that Jonathan knows how to manipulate people.  I plan on exploring Jonathan’s notion that working for someone else is “soul-raping”  (from Mead’s about page) in a future post.

In section three, Mead talks about meaning.  I love this line, because it contradicts the most obvious premise of the whole project (make money), “No amount of money, cars, swimming pools, private jets or company paid luncheons can make up for that” [in reference to making meaning]. From here, we talk about more of the same, changing our lifestyles, making money, meaning, and forming a community of new-rich meaning makers.  “Our ultimate mission is to break down that social belief-structure of limitation and drudgery.”  I’m not really sure that those social belief structures actually exist, but after reading this manifesto, one might come to think so.  Skipping to the end, we get to the best part.  All of this awesome pump you up to get involved in our “revolution” rhetoric culminates in a simple call to action, “join us” (28).  The perfect sales letter.  No price, no indication that it costs anything, in fact I would think that this were some sort of holistic community of entrepreneurs who would gladly welcome me into their arms for free if I didn’t know better.  Mead gets them hooked before they even know what they are into.

The Manifesto that Could Have Been

This manifesto could avoid many of these problems if it weren’t for the fact that it has a massive asterisk hanging over it.  Simply put, it is a sales letter for an expensive membership site. It sets up the reader perfectly, putting them into a corner, a poor American worker chained to their bourgeoisie corporation, slaving away for the betterment of the elite.  But wait! We can save you, we can show you how to make your own money (ultimately selling sketchy information products on the internet).  The missing piece here is simple; the system simply does not work that way.  Not everyone can be a mini-retirement-taking entrepreneur.  Everything would fall apart. The question remains, how can Tim Ferriss’ Indian virtual assistants have their four hour work weeks? Mead talks on end about making meaning and “freedom,” but the fact remains that this information and freedom is not free.  I cannot think of a single revolution in history that required the beneficiaries to pay a corporation for their freedom if it was legitimate.

This is a huge gap in the whole manifesto’s argument: it is made of the same stuff  it claims to be trying to save us from.  One corporation taking our money, time, and whatever else claiming that they will make our lives better.  This isn’t a freedom revolution, it is a sales pitch. This demonstrates Mead’s approach to Project Mohave, he tells you that he really wants to save you from some massive problem you don’t realize that you have, yet deep down, he always really just trying to sell you something.  In many ways, Mead emulates Tim Ferris’ work  in the Four Hour Work Week, except he tries to sell his life-hacks via some sense of profound social emancipation.  The worst part is he really believes it will free people.

My next post will explore why this freedom is likely to be impossible.

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52 responses to “Marketing as Freedom: Mead’s Mojave Manifesto”

  1. gregorylent says:

    no problem, let the guy have his dance ..

  2. very thoughtful post. what i like most is that you didn't personally attack Mead, instead you showed how his argument was flawed. I like Mead's work to an extent. I am happy y'all are having a healthy debate of ideas. Kudos. Please continue!

  3. @mrteacup says:

    My favorite part of the manifesto:

    "It doesn’t matter if there are starving children is [sic] Somalia. You’ll be in a much better position to contribute and make a difference in this world if you’re doing something you’re passionate about…"

    Not only are we encouraged to become self-indulgent spiritual narcissists, it's also the best way to change the world!

    Nice work, Eric. More comments later.

    • I remember working at Integral Institute when Ken Wilber said on video that the best thing you can do for starving people in Africa is to meditate (because it will raise consciousness to Integral levels, which is the only way we can deal with the complex problems that create world hunger, etc.).

      While I agree that there is indeed some interconnection between spiritual practice and effective political action, this kind of flawed logic reduces the political to the personal, rather than seeing the personal as political.

      I think that we can indeed develop spiritually and personally through political action, and in doing so, guard against much of the excessive self-focus of personal development culture.

      • @mrteacup says:

        Spiritual practice can be useful for a lot of things. For example, the samurais used Zen meditation to become more effective killers, and today people use it to build power, wealth and status, and promote narcissism and self-absorption.

        There's a temptation to say that this isn't real spirituality & they're misusing it, but are they? Religion has a very long history of doing evil things in the name of God.

        People become politically engaged for many reasons – sometimes spiritual reasons. Spiritual practice may (or may not) also make you a more effective political activist. But usually the claims are:

        1. the main problem with political opponents is that they are insufficiently spiritual, and need to have their consciousness raised

        2. and the best way of doing that is by meditating because it makes you an inspiration to them to change their minds

        Apparently the plan is to become completely filled with compassion & equanimity, that conservatives realize that's what they've been looking for their entire lives and take up meditation, start supporting Dennis Kucinich and buy a Prius. This seems unlikely.

        • While I wouldn't say that doing evil in the name of God isn't "real" spirituality/religion in the historical sense, but I would say that it isn't good, and clearly isn't the explicit intent. One might argue that the veiled intent of religious leaders and organizations involves power and status-seeking, which of course to some extent is true, but not all power and status is bad either. The Dali Lama's power and status seems to me a good thing, Ahmadinejad's not so much.

          Excellent point re: the use of spiritual practice for samurais and the parallels for today. I think this is an important thing to keep in mind and in the discussion that is almost always left out of discussions of spiritual practice, to the great detriment of society and culture.

          And great critique of the common arguments for spiritual practice within politics. I think the main problem with political opponents is that they disagree with me! *kidding* Clearly, political dialogue cannot be resolved by personal or spiritual development.

      • Gina says:

        As Mother Teresa did!

  4. Clay Collins says:

    Despite the mischaracterization of PM as a get rick quick scheme (which it isn't at all) . . . I appreciate thoughtful dialogue and the time you obviously spent writing this.

    I would, however, like to respond to this: "If everyone in society subscribed to Mead’s “freedom,” we would all be selling digital products on the internet, with no one to grow our food, fix our plumbing, or treat the ill."

    Jonathan does not assert that the only path to freedom is by selling information projects . . . and I think that it's incorrect to say that ANY WAY of accomplishing a goal is incorrect, just because it would be unsustainable if EVERYONE did it. If everyone were a farmer or a plumber or a professional blogger then society would break down. Vocational diversity is good and beautiful and adds to the richness of life (I'm grateful for it and support it).

    (I had my hair cut by someone the other day who totally lifted me out of a mood and made my day . . . plus she was absolutely committed to her art: she loves what she does and is — in my opinion — much more free that most stay at home entrepreneurs).

    What's important to me is that everyone realizes their inherent freedom . . . and that they empower themselves to give their greatest gift to the world. That they open themselves to the fact that they ARE life and love.

    Whether you're cutting hair, digging ditches, working as a doctor, or working from home . . . you have the power (you always have had the power) to wake up to the freedom that's always been inside you. No matter your profession, you can realize the beauty and freedom of each moment and open as the love that you are, or you can close down.

    PM is a good match for some people, and it's not a good match for others. I hope that — through PM — I can give as much as humanly possible to those who stand to benefit, and that everyone who isn't a good fit won't waste their time or money.

    Most of all, I hope that people don't come to think of freedom as "freedom from" but instead "freedom to." I think that everyone has an incredible gift to give the world, and if they would stop hiding behind their fears, they would create a way to live out of the depths of their hearts and their imaginations. I myself don't think work is bad . . . I love it. And I believe that when you are living in absolute unity with your purpose, everything both is and is not "work." Everything both is and is not play.

    What we need is not fewer work hours . . . what we need is NOT to escape the cubicle . . . but to instead embrace our own truth and live without compromise (whatever that entails).

    Personally, I strive to live a kind of enlightened workaholism (which isn't workaholism at all). When you've realized your own truth (which of course evolves over time) . . . you have only two choices (1) bite the bullet and do what must be done, or (2) be a coward. Sometimes doing what must be done requires long periods of restful contemplation and sometimes it requires hard hard work.

    At any rate, I appreciate the discussion, and this important dialogue. You've written a good article and I applaud you for taking courageous positions.

    Freedom comes in all different shapes and sizes. And its manifestation is as diverse as the human population.

    The most important revolutions are the internal ones. The ones that happen inside us and that we win (or sometimes don't win) every day of our lives.

    Be well and feel free to call or write me personally if you want a discussion in real time.

    Warm regards and best wishes with this excellent blog,
    Clay

    • I appreciate your thoughtful and intelligent reply, Clay! Thank you for participating in this discussion.

      I'm looking forward to Eric's response.

    • EricSchiller says:

      Clay,

      As I wrote to Jonathan a few comments down, I agree that my wording of my “sustainability argument” was not complete and was not well thought out enough. I think I am missing a good deal of context in so far as what Mojave is currently teaching people. In my response to Mead I explored what I do know about Mojave, however if you are willing to give us a description of exactly what it is you teach people in the project I would be very appreciative of it. My current belief is that you teach people how to create “information products,” which I am actually very opposed to for a number of reasons I list to Mead. I would also be interested in a defense of how information products are ethical, and represent a good value to the consumer.

      As far as the rest of your comments go, I don’t really see very much that I disagree with.

      Apart from Mojave, I've always thought you have been a great benefit to the personal development community.

      • claycollins says:

        You say "I think I am missing a good deal of context in so far as what Mojave is currently teaching people." And you are correct.

        You also say "my current belief is that you teach people how to create 'information products,' which I am actually very opposed to for a number of reasons I list to Mead." However, every non-fiction book that's ever been sold (whether an ebook or not) is an information product.

        You also say "I would also be interested in a defense of how information products are ethical, and represent a good value to the consumer." However, asking whether information products represent a good value to the customer is like asking whether cars are a good value to the customer. Some cars are, some are not. Same with information products.

        Also, with regard to Project Mojave being a get rich quick scheme, you say "Just because someone has to work hard on a Mojave project, does not mean they don’t want to make a lot of money fast." However, classifying a program by the intents of its subscribers (who generally don't want to get rich quick) is incorrect. A girl you take out on a date is not "easy" just because YOU want to have sex with her on a first date.

        Also, creating a $3k to $5k business within 3 months (the purpose of products mojave) hardly counts as "get rick quick" . . . many people wouldn't even accept a job that produces these results.

        • EricSchiller says:

          Non-fiction books go through an editorial process, are approved by the publisher, and there are a wide variety of ways for a consumer to find out if the product is quality and worth purchasing. Digital information products such as the ones which you suggest people create have no such process. I believe you have told your customers to try to create their products in 7 days or less. Can you honestly tell me that an amateur author can create an ebook worth $47 dollars in less than 7 days? I could easily buy 3 marketing books at the local bookstore by well known, well researched authors for that price (and even better at a used bookstore).

          Most of the content these people are creating is out there for free already anyway. Your methods are not exactly encouraging people got go out and create products of great value. Don't get me wrong, there are great full-length ebooks out there which are worth the money, but seriously, 7 days? So what is worth more Clay, the freedom of your clients, or the satisfaction of their customers? What is freedom anyway? It is a socially defined thing, it is intangible, it is likely not possible for your clients to gain, because the freedom they want is perhaps spiritual, and what you are offering in many ways is superficial and temporary.

          I'm not sure why I would want to get rick quick, however as far as your get rich quick comments go, we will just have to agree to disagree, just as I wrote to Mead.

          • Andy says:

            Hi Eric. There is a lot of interesting inquiry on this site, and I've been enjoying reading and thinking.

            I just wanted to chime in here as an amateur author who has created an ebook worth much more than $47 in just a few more than seven days. I am a member of Project Mojave and a hell of a nice guy. I also happen to know a shit load (technical unit of measure) about the subject of my product.

            The content I created is not "out there for free," and it's through Clay's encouragement that I decided to create something of value rather than slapping together another "Six Pack Secrets" program. I also enlisted the help of other experts to review the final product before releasing it to the public. In other words, there was an editorial process, and I am an extremely well researched author.

            Mind you, I'm not seeking spiritual freedom from Project Mojave. I would like to be out of debt, and with Clay's help, I'm getting there.

            I don't think you can make the assumption that my freedom requires my customers to be dissatisfied. In fact, I can tell you that all of them are quite satisfied with their purchases so far.

            I guess what I'm trying to say with all of this is that you have no basis for judging what "Most of these people are creating," and it's value to our customers. You also have no basis for making generalizations about the editorial process for products you have not seen. That's pure assumption based on your fantasy about the types of people who might be involved in an online business course. Maybe we could have a beer together, and then you can tell me what kind of person you think I am.

            As the topic of your original post was Jonathan Mead's manifesto, perhaps I should comment on that as well. It didn't speak to me. In fact, very little of what Jonathan says speaks to me. But that's cool. I can still learn from Clay and Jonathan and the other faculty and members.

            I agree with several of your critiques of the manifesto, though I can knowledgeably assert that Project Mojave does attempt to fulfill its promises. Since it's not mine to defend, I'll let Jonathan respond to the critique for himself. Still, to judge everyone involved with Project Mojave on the basis of Jonathan's writing is poor logic at best.

            I'm looking forward to your next articles and the continuing development of Beyond Growth.

          • EricSchiller says:

            Andy,
            Give me some specifics, show me your product, show me the happy testimonials. All you have done is tell me a story of that anyone could tell (and reminds me of many ebook testimonials).

            I’ve seen thousands of sup-par ebooks out there. The ebook model was originally created by internet marketers as a product they could create with little to no overhead which worked very well with the long-form sales letter funnel model. If you are so well researched and you believe your content is so worthwhile, why not sell it for a reasonable price in line with hard-cover books (say $27)? You sell it for more because you can get away with it using the persuasive marketing techniques that you use. Something is wrong here Andy. If I could program you with a long-form sales letter to paypal me $47 and in return I give you absolutely nothing other than the satisfaction of giving me the money, would that be ethical for me to do? How is it the same if they get a product of questionable value?

            Where's the proof? Where's your product, your sales funnel? If you claim you are ethical, stop telling us the story about it, and show us your product!

            Andy, perhaps you are the exception. I’m willing to accept that, however I am entirely unsure why you are taking this personally considering I have not directed any of my discourse specifically at you up until this point. I have never interacted with you before, nor have I attacked you directly in any way in the past. If you are the exception, then none of my comments are directed at you and I don’t really think you are any kind of person, other than someone I do not know.

            Give me some specifics, and then we can talk about whether you specifically apply to my generalizations about Clay’s student’s products.

            I strongly believe that selling $47 ebooks is unethical, unless it were say 500 pages and well beyond what you get from an ordinary book written by a professional author. If you are so well researched and your book is worth so much, I challenge you to call up some publishers and get your book in their hands. That should be interesting.

  5. Hi Eric,

    When I wrote that manifesto, I was very passionate about everything that I said, and I still am.

    I still believe that many people go to work to jobs that they hate, don't respect and feel trapped in. I would hardly call that freedom. I would call that bondage. The fact stands that people have the choice to decide something different, to decide to find a way out of that, and create "freedom" for themselves. (Freedom, to me is ease of movement and the number of options you have available.)

    The purpose of Project Mojave is to help people create more options for themselves. And the purpose of the manifesto was not to try to sell Project Mojave to EVERYONE. That would be silly. Not everyone feels that they are trapped in their jobs.

    As far as saying that Project Mojave is a "get rich quick scheme" in the manifesto I say: "But we're not here to bullshit you. You will have to work you ass off. It will require effort."

    That is NOT something you see in any "get rich quick scheme."

    To be honest, I was hurt by some of your comments, especially you saying that "I know how to manipulate people." I regularly write on my blog for *free* every week, do free coaching, and responding to hundreds of emails to people wanting to change their lives. I hardly say that someone willing to spend the time to do that would be interested in manipulating others.

    Either way, I'm not here to change your mind. It's obvious that your opinion of me is made up.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to take a closer look at myself and the work that I do.

    Jonathan

    • @mrteacup says:

      The "non-conformist" role is secretly a position of authority – you present yourself as a person to be emulated, someone who can show us how to live deeper, more meaningful lives, but the irony is that a non-conformist who supposedly breaks social conventions is a social convention. It's been part of Western culture for hundreds of years, and today's consumer advertising plays on it relentlessly. It doesn't matter what's being sold, buying it will get you more freedom, fulfillment, choice, independence, life satisfaction, uniqueness. Hummer – Like Nothing Else.

      From this perspective, what does it mean to say you've always been a non-conformist? Maybe this is what society has conditioned you to think will make you happy.

    • Theo Horesh says:

      Entrepreneurship appears to be a vital component of maintaining freedom of expression in a complex society such as ours. For stagnant institutional environments can be stultifying to freedom of expression.

      And we can go very far in breaking down a corporate system of domination through starting innovative, useful, and effective businesses. In societies with a less vibrant sphere of entrepreneurial activity, not only is there less room for individuals to develop unique aspects of themselves, but there are often less resources for meeting vital human needs like those of basic nutrition, health care, and education.

      So, there is a liberating element for more than just the individual in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship allows us to continually recreate society – its institutional forms and the norms by which we live.

      However, the Liberation Manifesto struck me as ridiculous in at least a couple of different ways. First of all, while entrepreneurship can be liberating, successful entrepreneurs tend to be more enslaved to their work than employees. Not only do they almost always have to work more hours in order to be successful but they are constantly challenged to change what they do in order to suit the needs of customers. The idea that being an entrepreneur will make life easier is a load of bullshit that wastes a lot of peoples time and energy as well as a lot of social resources. My guess is that the Liberation Manifesto is not the work of a successful entrepreneur or someone who has spent much time talking with successful entrepreneurs about what made them succeed..

      Hence, my second problem. The whole thing sounded trashy to me – insubstantial, inflated, and yes, manipulative. The claims were too strong, like those of a freshman college activist supporting a cause they barely understand in a world they cannot begin to comprehend. The focus of liberation was misplaced. I don't really believe anyone thinks that starting businesses is where we are most in need of liberation – except perhaps some outlier conservative libertarians. While I agreed with Eric's analysis, it was all so obvious I wondered if anything needed to be said at all. The Liberation Manifesto seemed to be just adding noise to cyberspace without much sincerity behind it.

      The fact that we have had a couple of what seem to be vulnerable responses from people involved in the project makes me a little uncomfortable with being so harsh. Yet, these sort of inflated claims are not only ruining much that is beautiful and liberating on the internet by filling it with the noise of feigned public interest covering over the same devouring beast of personal profit that has ruined so much other public space in our nation. They are also turning entrepreneurship into a game of hucksterism and destroying trust in the free market.

      In this sense, the primary effect of projects such as the Liberation Manifesto is that they drive more business to established and reliable sites. Big corporations must at least be accountable to their customers in most instances. And I have to say that after reading the Liberation Manifesto, I honestly have trouble trusting anything coming from its proponents. This as always, will be the price of making extreme an unwarranted claims.

    • Regarding the focus on effort, nearly all get-rich-quick schemes, MLM's, crash diets, etc. focus on personal effort.

      Here is just one example: "If your not willing to put what you learn from mass control into action then just forget about it now cause i dont want you wasting your money… if you wanna give it your all and are determined to succeed then head over to…" from http://www.masscontrolreview.com/

    • EricSchiller says:

      Jonathan, I believe that you and Clay have the best interests of people in mind when you write, create products, and coach. Where I break from you in opinion is whether the social impacts of your work are harmful or not. This is why I don't care about intention. I think your manifesto sends strong messages that limit the agency of the reader, and suggest they do things which are not necessarily in their best interests. The manifesto does not do a very good job of differentiating between those who are in “bondage” jobs or not. In my opinion it makes the assumption that they are not “free.”

      While I believe I did a poor job of explaining my “sustainability” argument, I do not believe teaching people how to create information products is a really an ethical activity. Information products are often over-priced, contain little information of use, and present themselves as the end-all to the purchasers’ problems. These products more often than not put the consumer in a worse position than when they started, because they create a habit of looking for “the final piece of the puzzle” in order to get rich, lose weight, or find the love of their lives. This causes an unhealthy addiction to expensive self-help materials that in the end just benefits the person marketing them. I find this to be ethically distasteful, whether it is an option for an “enslaved” person or not.

      I think Mojave would be infinitely more relevant if it taught people how to start their own small businesses, or other more useful real-world skills, not a dodgy one like writing expensive ebooks.

      As far as the get rich quick scheme arguments, I really believe it is one. Just because someone has to work hard on a Mojave project, does not mean they don’t want to make a lot of money fast. The key word with Mojave was “FAST.” I’m not particularly interested in continuing the conversation on this particular point, so I’ll just leave it up to the reader to decide.

      I believe marketing itself is a highly manipulative activity. This comes from four plus years of studying persuasion in an academic context, even the marketing professors were critical of it! While I think our definitions of the word “manipulative” may differ, in this post I argue that you were conducting marketing within your manifesto. Therefore I argue that you were manipulating the reader. How you take that is your business, but I feel you did not have only the reader’s interests in mind with this manifesto. While this is edging on questioning intent, I think it is indicative of how much manipulation was coded into the text. Was it not a sales letter Jonathan?

  6. Gina says:

    I found Duff from watching Clay's videos on PM, I read… I watched …and I listened to my gut. Somewhere in all the hype and possibilities there was a big red flag and I could not get rid of. My gut knew something I, to this day, can not put my finger on.

    Perhaps this is a warning only for me and my needs and personality, maybe it's a warning that something is intrinsically wrong.
    Either way if we as individuals could find our own center and have enough stillness (inner) to hear what is really going on we could simply make better decisions for ourselves.
    The amount of spiritual marketing/narcissism that is flooding the web is alarming as it feels manipulative…yes even when you give things away for free (isn't that in it's self a way to "look" like a good guy?). Nothing new under the sun.
    The only way to have freedom is to *know* yourself and who you are, who you *really* are. While it is a life long journey it is one worth the cost.
    Duff -Mahalo for the space to entertain these thoughts and ideas!

    • Theo Horesh says:

      Your words have the ring of sincerity to them. The spiritual movement that many would say began in the 60's in the US has taken a deeply disconcerting turn.

      Perhaps it is a natural urge in a society such as ours to want to earn a living doing that which we most believe in. The problem is that there are a limited list of things that people tend to most believe in – spiritual development, the arts, service, socio-political transformation, etc. And there is only so much stuff we can sell that is related to these spheres of activity.

      Hence, working in these fields become highly competitive. It's difficult getting a job in a non-profit that pays a living wage. Getting paid for activism is even harder. Music and the arts is notoriously chancy. But spiritual development? The field is only as limited as our own inflated claims.

      The true freedom you speak of is vital. But more and more, the message of knowing oneself is being used to make someone rich. This is making the message ever weaker and poorer, more likely to be mistrusted and scoffed at. It is becoming twisted and perverted and hence meaningless.

      So, thank you Eric and Duff for exposing these games. Most spiritual movements are sooner or later corrupted. Your work and work like it may perhaps stall the corruption of real personal and spiritual development in the Information Age. This movement is as in need of revitalization as many of the world's great religions. Perhaps we would do well to treat the gifts of spiritual and therapeutic practice with the same reverence and respect that people have so often treated religious life.

  7. […] Marketing as Freedom: Mead’s Mohave Manifesto | Beyond Growth beyondgrowth.net/guru-criticism/marketing-as-freedom-meads-mohave-manifesto – view page – cached This post originally began life as an email exchange between a friend and I shortly after the Project Mohave Liberation Manifesto was released on May 17, — From the page […]

  8. Shannon says:

    This entire post represents my personal issues with Marketing Enlightenment. Marketing this type "freedom" actually sounds a lot like some of the churches in my area, persuading us to go, so that we may feel a part of something bigger than what we are currently experiencing in our lives. I think that it shows the utter lack of acceptance that not every one falls into specific social enlightenment groups. I love my job. Period. I found my own path. To be told otherwise, immediately makes me want to jump ship, so to speak.

    That's another issue with marketing "freedom." It's unrealistic to market something that's free, an oxymoron, almost. Again, if a person reads between the lines of that manifesto, I believe that anyone can see that it is similar to Zig Ziglar's position on freedom from his book, "Top Performance: How to Develop Excellence in Yourself and Others." Of course, Zig is a popular sales phenom (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zig_Ziglar). This bothers me immensely.

    Eric, you did a great job in exploring this. I remember that the key term in Freedom is Free. I think it's tragic when people forget that.

  9. EricSchiller says:

    I am currently reading Douglas Rushkoff's book "Life, Inc." which explores consumerism though the ideologies purveyed by American corporations throughout our history. I stumbled upon a few paragraphs on page 125 exploring MTV's marketing practices towards children which reminds me strongly of my arguments about Mead. They are worth a quick read (all emphasis mine):

    Sorry, but MTV's research machine doesn't listen to teens in order
    to make them happier-that's not what the column containing
    "ethnography study" in the MTV balance sheet is named. They are
    not dedicated to creating new kinds of music and entertainment in
    order to promote a richer culture. Corporations depend on understanding
    trends so that they can sell people whatever it is they already
    have. Amazingly, in becoming the focal point in the mindless feedback
    loop between production and consumption, corporations have transformed
    themselves from authority figures into what the media critic
    Mark Crispin Miller calls "the tacit superheroes of consumer culture."
    As he explained to me while I was filming a documentary on
    MTV, "It's part of the official advertising worldview that your parents
    are creeps, teachers are nerds, and nobody can really understand kids
    but the corporate sponsor. They are very busily selling the illusion
    that they are there to liberate the youth, to let them be free, to let them
    be themselves, to let them think different, and so on. But it's really
    just an enormous sales job."

    Whether or not any of these new and improved techniques work as
    advertised, they all engender an increasingly hostile and dismissive attitude
    toward consumers. Practitioners work to sell the idea that people
    are predictable and persuadable-at least when they are subjected
    to the latest manipulation systems on offer. So while arguing to themselves,
    their readers, and their associates that the consumer is empowered,
    in charge, and gaining control, these same marketing gurus are
    simultaneously offering their clients tools that they promise will make
    consumers almost completely programmable. More amazingly, they
    don't see the contradiction.
    They believe they are simply helping the
    consumer get the things she really, truly wants-and she would know
    what they were if only she were smart and aware enough to see inside
    herself as well as a good marketer can.

  10. Yusuf says:

    Duff. I am a mojave member and appreciate the valuable content. When you write a sales letter, you hit a certain mentality. JMs ebook spoke to people in a certain place – that doesnt mean he believes every reader to be in that place. But the ebook speaks to those that truly are trapped, doing things to provide for themselves while going against their values.

    Have you worked for a public company? We have to move out of the big corporate model and get back to small business. There just isnt enough room for humanity when the short term needs of shareholders must be met.

    Clay teaches stuff that will help any small business not just an info biz. Just because he packages it in a specific way as is the rule for effective marketing, does not mean he is tricking people or not adding tons of value.

    I hope you get off your philosophical high horse soon because you could add a lot of value to the world if you wanted to. In fact, if you would sign up for an Eban Pagan marketing course you could learn how to avoid expertitis and start meeting people where they are at.

    Understanding the predictable nature of humans and leveraging that responsibly is not unethical. In fact is required to help people learn, grow, and evolve. That all falls under marketing.

    We shouldnt call out effective marketers but should call out scammers that don't deliver. Clay delivers and clearly puts his heart into his work. He wants his clients to succeed in being able to express their gifts and make money with them.

    • Hey Yusuf. My friend Eric wrote this post, so I'm guessing your comments were directed at him.

      Thanks,
      ~Duff

    • Theo Horesh says:

      Yusuf: you write that "We have to move out of the big corporate model and get back to small business." I wholeheartedly agree. The problem is that small businesses on the internet have become less reliable and more liable to deceive us than the big ones. A project that contributes to the mistrust of small businesses on the internet does not help small businesses on the internet. It helps the owners of that one small business at the expense of other businesses.

      I am not a Mojave member nor have I been one. So, perhaps the project delivers a sterling product that I am unaware of. However, I would never begin to take the chance of becoming a member because the inflated claims that I was exposed to demonstrated the leaders of the project to be untrustworthy.

    • Despite the fact that you misunderstood this piece as written by me and not Eric Schiller, I'll happily respond to some of your other comments that seem directed at the Beyond Growth blog and me specifically. I am not interested in commenting specifically on Project Mohave. I've already given my direct feedback to those involved and I'm on to other things.

      "Get off your philosophical high horse" No thanks, I'm enjoying the ride. 🙂 Again, I find it of the utmost importance to have critical discourse within personal development and marketing, which pretty much entirely lacks any critical thought or feedback whatsoever–especially from insiders–which leads to enormous power trips and corruption. Doing so breaks social taboos, and risks being too harsh at times, for which we must account. But it is still vitally important, and worth the risks.

      If you'd like to know more about what I think of Mr. Pagan (who's first name is spelled "Eben"), I invite you to read this blog post:
      http://beyondgrowth.net/identity/the-simulacrum-o

      I'm not interested in meeting all people where they are at–some people are places where I'd never want to go! I'm meeting the people I want to meet where we are, and it's working just fine for me, thanks. I invite you to join us from time to time if you'd like.

      I am creating the value I want to create, and "my right people" are responding, creating my "tribe." I've studied marketing for years, Yusuf. And all the great marketers and personal development leaders recommend to take bold stands on what you believe in, do they not?

      Some public companies are better than others for employee happiness. Many entrepreneurs are miserable and feel stuck in their businesses.

      Short-term needs of shareholders need to be met even more quickly in small, independent businesses–the needs of your customers demand continual attention. The solution I think is to change the legal structures of corporations; if we do not, public companies will continue to maximize quarterly profits, as they are legally obligated to do so.

      "Beyond growth" means to me to move beyond the focus on only the value of growth and explore other values, the limits to growth, the cultural and economic contexts in which growth occur, etc. I think perhaps your offense was to Eric's article, not to the name of our blog, but maybe I'm wrong.

      This blog will not appeal to everyone, but I hope it can bring some sanity and intelligent dialogue into personal development culture.

  11. Yusuf says:

    Also Coach Duff. What happened to gratitude? A lot people know you through Clay. Why write a public refutation/expose without going to him with your concerns in private first? You may have but if you did I would have included that along with his reply in your article.

    The very concept of "Beyond growth" is as condescending as any marketing assumption.
    You never get beyond growth until death. To delude yourself otherwise is an overestimation of your human limits. I dont like the "secret" abundance woo woo stuff either but I don't find it as offensive or self important as "beyond growth."

    Come on Duff. Come back down to Earth and keep growing. You'll regret acting like this in your old age. You'll wish you did more living and less philosophizing. Enough of my rant. I hope I don't get too blasted back. I only say all this because I find you to be an incredibly sensitive and brilliant person whose taken a wrong turn.

  12. Theo Horesh says:

    Every school of thought is in need of criticism. Without that criticism, most systems of thought and action rapidly become corrupted. The near complete absence of such criticism in the field of personal development has had predictable results. And Yusuf would have stop our philosophizing and come back down to earth.

    Marketers using techniques that were developed so as to train individuals to manipulate their own minds, instead use those those techniques to manipulate others. What started as a movement oriented toward empowering people in their own lives has now become much more about learning how to have power over others. And Yusuf would have us stop being so condescending to these people and just come down to earth.

    The media has critics. So do politicians. There are critics of academia, the health care system, the military, religion, big business, and just about every other endeavor in our society. This is how we keep the powerful in check in a free society. This is how we keep instituions serving the people. This is how we prevent those institutions from decaying into criminal activity. Ah, but such talk is idle philosophy, cause for regret in our years of decline.

    And the field of personal development goes unscathed – with predictable results. What is one to do when useful and beautiful things become corrupted?

    So Yusuf says, "We shouldnt call out effective marketers but should call out scammers that don't deliver." Of course many of the effective marketers happen to be scammers. But we can set that aside. What scammer would you like to call out on this site, Yusuf. I imagine Duff and Eric would love your support. After all, as you say, we should call them out. This sounds like a moral imperative.

  13. Jamie says:

    Great article. I really wanted to find out if Project Mojave is a scam but it is almost impossible to find unbiased information and reviews of Project Mojave since they have stuffrf the internet with fake "reviews" that are just more sales pitches for Project Mojave. If it was so great, we'd see more results and they wouldn't need to resort to dirty tricks like this. See for yourself – search for things like "project mojave review", "project mojave scam" etc. – there are virtually no legitimate search results, just sales sites obviously built by Clay Collins himself. Not to mention he is making money on the internet by….telling other people how to make money on the internet! While I'm sure it has some useful information, in reality Project Mojave is another get-rick quick scam (and saying "I tell people they will have to work hard" doesn't discount that).

    • This is a classic tactic taught in all the internet marketing courses to crowd out criticism, effectively preventing any consumer protection. By getting lots of affiliate partners, you get more sales and guarantee all search engine results.

      A common marketing tactic is to either create natural search results or buy AdWords for search terms that add "scam" on the end, which often advertise the very product or a competitor. For instance, if you Google "frank kern scam" the first natural result goes to an article advertising a competitor. In this case, since Frank Kern actually has been caught scamming by the FTC, the second result links to information about that.

      The products themselves are usually not described fully until late stages in the marketing hype, after customers are ready to buy. With so much disinformation and confusion, it becomes nearly impossible to evaluate such products rationally.

      I've covered Tony Robbins' strategies (copied from Frank Kern and others) here on Beyond Growth: http://bit.ly/wuJta

    • Andy says:

      Just a quick note: at least one of those sites was not created by Clay (on what evidence do you claim that anyway?). I built it because I believe in the program, and it has taught me a lot of actionable information.

      Nowhere does anyone in Mojave promise quick riches. There is a suggestion that consistent income can be made in three months, and that's entirely realistic.

  14. Amber says:

    Wow – interesting conversation here…. Wish I would have seen this sooner. I'm currently a Project Mojave member (about one month new) and am very impressed with the level of information Clay and his team provide for budding entrepreneurs. I'd be happy to serve as a personal/live reference for anyone who wants to chat.

    freedom7312009.wordpress.com

  15. steve says:

    This program is somewhat unique in that it targets otherwise fairly bright people. I know a couple that jumped in with both feet. While smart, I’ve always felt that they lacked judgement. After several hundred hour of work and no sales they finally gave up. The sad part is that their campaign and product were fairly well done. The wife passed up a real job because she thought she was going to make $50K working 10 hours per week.

    • I'm sorry to hear that, but I appreciate you sharing the information. Unfortunately the only money to be made in such programs is from the very sale of the empty promise of "freedom."

    • Andy says:

      It really sucks that your friends didn't have the same results with the program that I've enjoyed. Business is not easy, and not everyone will "succeed" (whatever that means to them personally).

      I work a lot more than 10 hours a week, but I love my work, and I wouldn't have found this path without Project Mojave.

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