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Con Artists Take Center Stage

Nations can be fooled when politicians drain the treasury and make promises which cannot be vetted for years on end.

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One evening, I attend a seminar which features a renowned “psychic.” Allegedly she is able to merely look at people in the audience and tell them about departed loved ones who are seeking contact, or who are present in the room during the gathering!

From my back row seat, I listen intently. I am skeptical of such claims and certainly of those that involve the dead, but I’m willing to be ‘educated.’ My key concern: Can she offer anything to anyone in the room that indicates she has specific information from their departed loved ones? This, as opposed to generalized blather that any cognitively sharp person could surmise.

Something, Anything…

For the first 30+ minutes, she’s on a fishing expedition. She’ll say to selected individuals, “You lost someone within the last few years, haven’t you?” In a room populated by 45 to 75-year-olds, this is not a startling revelation.

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She says to one couple, who are apparently married, “You have two children don’t you? They are boys.” The man and woman nod in agreement. A light goes off in my head: Now, for the first time in nearly 35 minutes the “psychic” has cited something that is case-specific. If she did not know these people beforehand, and had no chance to speak to them, potentially she has shown some inkling of ability, although I don’t know exactly what to call it.

The entire session is being video recorded. As she makes her pronouncements, calling on people in the audience, the camera crew focuses on those parties with whom she engages in dialogue. Even during her many fishing expeditions that yield no fish, the camera crew diligently records. The next day, she can edit the video footage to show off her ‘amazing’ ‘psychic’ ability. This starts me thinking…

Divide and Conquer

I’m not saying the woman and crew are con artists, like a Nancy Pelosi or a Chuck Schumer. I haven’t studied the situation sufficiently to draw such a conclusion. However, of late, con artists have perfected their craft and even with increasingly sophisticated audiences, or target markets, can reap profits.

Take the case of someone who professes to have forecasting capabilities. From a target direct mail list he bought, the “forecaster” sends out a mailing to 2400 individuals, each of whom is a long-term stock market investor. To 1200 recipients he predicts a particular stock will increase in value by the close of the market on a selected date in the very near future.

To the 1200 other recipients he says that this stock will not increase in value. It will decrease or stay the same. Thus, 1200 recipients will receive one communication from this forecaster that proves to be true. Okay, big deal.

Getting Them Hooked

The forecaster mails a second letter to the 1200 recipients with whom he was correct on the first mailing. He tells 600 of them about another stock that will increase, and tells the other 600 that the same stock will not increase. For half of the 1200 recipients he will be correct.

What a marvelous process. With 600 recipients he has been correct in his stock predictions twice in a row. He repeats the process a third time and now has 300 people with whom he has been correct three times in a row.

Granted, some people didn’t pay attention or chucked his mailing post haste. Others couldn’t care less. Still, perhaps 180 people or so might be primed to plunk down $247, or whatever the annual fee is for his stock predictions ezine. For a total mailing cost and labor of under $3000, he collects $44,460 (180 subscribers times $247). It doesn’t matter what else happens that year – whether or not his stock predictions are accurate. He has already pocketed more than $40,000 for this small scale operation. And he could have mailed to 240,000 people at the outset, 100 times 2400.

Some of the People All of the Time

Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Con artists train themselves in the fine art of separating fools from their money, or capturing their votes, relying on the premise that you can fool some of the people all of the time. Who is most likely to succumb to con artistry? Those who:

* like the idea of getting something for nothing
* are in despair, in a quandary, or who lack direction
* seek shortcuts along life’s journey
* want to make money quickly
* grieve over the dearly departed
* are not intellectually rigorous
* want to be led by someone with special insights
* think the government can print money with no repercussions

The opioid patient, the cancer patient, the patient with an inoperable brain tumor might fervently seek answers, sometimes dismissing a lifetime of accumulated wisdom and judgment, and the pleas of family and friends, in the hope that they’ve found a miracle cure. After U.S. doctors informed him that they had no chance of prolonging his life, actor Steve McQueen paid $40,000 per month, out of pocket, for highly unconventional medical procedures, to treat pleural mesothelioma during a three-month stay in Rosarito Beach, Mexico

His daily treatment included injections of live cell fluid from sheep and cows, as well as a massage and laetrile, an allegedly natural anti-cancer drug not approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. but available in Mexico. McQueen died at the same time he likely would have without the unconventional medical procedures.

Lead Us to the Promised Land!

Entire groups of people can be deceived. Sometimes their consent is voluntary, often it is involuntary. The common denominator is they want to be led by a “messiah type” who seems to have the answers to their long-term or persistent problems. If the “messiah” is a politician, they vote accordingly.

Oddly, for many believers, the fewer hard credentials that the “messiah” possesses, the better, as was the case with Barack Obama. He had neither long term political experience or demonstrated business acumen. Indeed, he had no significant accomplishments and had built nothing, but he spoke well and sure looked good in a business suit…

Entire nations can be fooled for months and years on end when elected leaders, especially imperial types, drain the treasury and make promises which cannot be vetted for years on end. National economies are huge. The results of “wealth redistribution” via legislation or presidential “executive order” such as Joe Biden and company are doing, for social programs of nebulous merit, often take an exceedingly long time, if ever, to bear fruit.

Record All, Use the Best

On the evening with the “psychic,” it occurs to me that even if the crew records everything, they only need to save and use a fraction of it: Those interactions where the “psychic” said something which apparently was true for the audience member being tapped. If she does enough presentations, and makes plenty of pronouncements to enough people, the law of averages will be on her side. Her “demo” video can be edited to make her look like a psychic genius.

The “psychic” had called on at least 20 audience members, and other than the incident where she accurately mentioned two sons, she had gotten nothing else right on the money. Still with one highly successful interaction that evening, if she can string five or six from other evenings, she is ready for YouTube, DVDs, and a website, all offering “proof positive” that she has psychic abilities.

She can use such footage to be shown again and again to groups who seek  “enlightenment” or entertainment. She can lure individual clients hoping for answers or who believe that she can contact the dead.

What a racket. Client, consumer, voter, and buyer: beware.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



 
 
 

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Business

Smart Move in a Rough Economy: Help Your Boss to Shine

Stay on top of your job, your department’s goals, and your company’s objectives

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Making your boss look good can only reflect favorably on you. Both your boss and his or her supervisors will appreciate this.

The best way to make your boss look good is to handle your work efficiently and thoroughly. If your boss is fair, he or she will give you credit for the work, increasing your chances of promotion.

If your boss is not doing his or her share of the work, leaning on you unfairly without giving you the credit, it’s still likely that you’ll be promoted when your boss is promoted. That person knows you’ve been doing more than your share, and he or she won’t be able to take a new position without your help.

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Becoming a Mentor to Others

Maybe you’re only 27 years old, or perhaps you’ve only been with your present firm for a year and a half. Yet, with your previous experience and achievements, you may already be in a position to serve as a mentor to junior members of your organization. This can be accomplished on an informal, ad hoc basis, and you can literally choose the amount of energy you’re willing to commit. Helping junior members always looks good to those above you, especially at performance review time.

Stay on top of your job, your department’s goals, and your company’s objectives. This three-way strategy includes reviewing your job description, deciding precisely what your department’s goals are, and determining your company’s objectives:

Your Job Description

First, knowing your job description and honoring it, or amending it if necessary, protect you from any misunderstandings. It will also give you an idea of the part you play in the total picture of the organization, an important factor in your work satisfaction and chance of promotion.

Your job description ideally contains all the important activities of your position, the knowledge you need to have or acquire to perform those activities, and some sense of your overall role. If your job description does not adequately detail the information you need to know and the responsibilities you have, now is the time to change it.

Company Goals

Second, learn and understand the goals of your part of the company. By whatever method your organization is broken into groups — department, division, project team — your group has objectives.

Goals are important to guide actions as well as to mark milestones. Knowing your group’s goals will help you to set priorities for your own work and make wise decisions concerning how jobs can best be done.

What is the Mission?

Finally, be aware of your organization’s mission. Any organization, from the smallest business to the multibillion-dollar corporation, has a mission. If you don’t already know it, find out. Your organization’s brochure, annual report, promotional literature, or employee handbook will have the mission spelled out.

The mission will unify and give meaning to all the division or department goals. Although conflicts among divisions will occur because of the nature of different responsibilities, a solid base can be produced when all employees realize the overall mission of the organization.

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Business

Lessons of the 2020s: Unanticipated Events Happen

Unforeseen tasks that arise represent intrusions on our mental and emotional state of being as well as on our time

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By now, nearly everyone has mentally marked the first few years of this decade as strange and, for those on the right, entirely upsetting. While we can’t guard against the unknown, or anticipate radical moves emanating from Washington DC, we can seek to do our best with what we have and what we know.

Each day when you compose your to-do list and begin proceeding merrily down it, do you take into account what is likely to occur in the course of a day? No matter how well we organize our lists and how productive we are in handling the products and tasks unexpected obligations, interruptions, and other developments arise that are going to throw us off.

How do you react when you are humming along, and all of a sudden, you get an assignment from out of left field? Perhaps your boss has asked you to jump on something immediately. Maybe a client calls. Maybe something gets returned to you that you thought was complete.

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To Be Flustered No More

If you are like most professionals, you immediately will become flustered. The intrusion on your time and your progress means that you are not going to accomplish all that you set out to before the end of the day. Is there a way to proceed and still feel good about all that you accomplish?

I believe there is, and it involves first making a miniature, supplemental to-do list that accurately encapsulates the new task that you need to handle. Why create this supplemental to-do list? It gives you focus and direction, reduces anxiety, and increases the probability that you will remain buoyant at the time of its completion and be able to turn back to what you were doing before the task was assigned.

If you don’t compose such a list, and simply plow headlong into the unexpected challenge that has come your way, you might not proceed effectively, and you might never get back to the to-do list on which you were working.

Anticipating the Unexpected

Unforeseen tasks that arise represent more than intrusions on our time; they represent intrusions on our mental and emotional state of being. Some people are naturally good at handling unexpected situations. Most of us, however, are not wired like this. Interruptions and intrusions on our workday take us off the path that we wanted to follow, and tend to be at least momentarily upsetting.

So… when executing the items on your to-do list, proceed ‘knowing’ that there will be an interruption of some sort. You don’t know when it is coming or how large it will be, but it will pull you off course. The key question for you is: can you develop the capacity to maintain balance and equanimity in the face of such disruptions?

The good news is that you can, and it all starts with acknowledging that the situation is likely to happen, devising a supplemental checklist to handle the new task, and as deftly as possible, returning to what you were doing.

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