Menu
Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!

Why Some Dreams Don’t Lead to Happiness

When I was 24 years old, I learned that some dreams are actually avoidance tactics, and some discouragement is a very good thing.

I was relatively new in New York City, and I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of failing if I tried to pursue my passions. I’d learned a lot about failure in the six years prior, and the only thing I knew for certain anymore was that I had to become someone important.

When I arrived at my interview for marketing job—as it was so descriptively advertised on Craigslist—I was surprised to find a room full of people and a whiteboard that read, “Who wants to work smarter, not harder and earn six figures?”

I did!

If I had the money, I reasoned, I’d have the freedom to do whatever I want with my life. The money was a smart dream. It was the path to everything and anything.

A 22-year old girl named *Aida led us through a 45-minute presentation. She told us how she recently bought her own home while helping other people find financial freedom, too.

That’s where we came in. We would sell phone and internet packages to our friends and family members, and recruit other people who wanted to do the same thing.

Every time we made a sale, we got paid. Every time those other people made a sale, we got paid. Every time the people they recruited made a sale, we got paid. And it only cost $499 to get involved.

That’s where she started to lose me. What kind of company asks you to pay them $500 to make sales for them? She told me that it cost because it was our own business—our investment, our tax deductions at the end of the year, and our profits.

I was skeptical, but I wanted to believe in the possibility of achieving massive success so that I could eventually do something big—and I loved the idea of helping other people along the way.

It was actually kind of beautiful. The more people you helped, the more you helped yourself.

I switched my friends and family members on day one, and then spent the next two months trying to convince everyone I knew and met that this wasn’t a pyramid scheme.

Every day, I pounded the pavement with *Anthony and *Eric, two 19-year olds who told me they were making bank. One day, they told me that I could help everyone on the team do the same if I started leading the presentations, like Aida.

How could I possibly have credibility when I hadn’t yet made a dime? Anthony told me, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” That was the name of the game.

Only problem was that a small voice inside me kept saying that there was something not quite right about asking people to pay $500 to get involved. And I didn’t have it in me to lie about what I earned.

Eric told me that I had a limiting belief; that I needed to realize taking people’s money could actually be a good thing for everyone involved.

Anthony told me I needed to stop talking to the friends and family members who suggested the company was shady.

“Don’t listen to the haters,” he said. “Negative people are like crabs in a barrel. They’ll try to pull you down. You got to stay positive. That’s how Dakota became a millionaire.”

Dakota started this group, and grew it to somewhere around 750 people. He said the most successful ones were coachable. They’d believe fully in the power of the dream, and they’d do everything they were told, exactly as he explained it, without questioning anything.

But I had questions. And he had answers—just not ones I wanted to hear.

What about people who never made back their $500? It means they got negative. That’s not your fault.

What if friends and family don’t want to change their service? Keep badgering them. They want to help you. They’ll do it eventually.

What if someone’s credit isn’t good enough to get on a phone plan? Give them a cheaper plan to trigger your payment. They can cancel it before it starts. They love you and they want to help you deep down.

That was it for me.

It was three months in, I hadn’t made any money, and I learned that no one else on the team had either—including Anthony, Eric, and Aida. But even more disheartening, I’d unknowingly recruited people into a system based on lies and unethical business practices–all for the promise of a life that looked really good on paper.

That’s when I realized my instincts were there for a reason, and in ignoring them, I was doing a terrible thing.

I’d refused to see dishonesty because I wanted to believe the best in people. I kept pushing myself to do something I believed wasn’t right because someone else told me my belief was limiting. And I failed to think critically because I was too busy labeling everyone who tried to reason with me as a “hater.”

I had been so invested in this possibility that I felt too stubborn to start questioning—both what I was told, and what I was doing, day after day, without a meaningful internal motivation.

It’s what known as the sunk cost principle. Once you’ve gone all in, it can feel really difficult to cut your losses and admit it’s time to find a different path.

I needed a different path. Even if this was the path to residual income, was that really what I wanted? Was my whole life’s purpose about chasing an increasingly growing paycheck so that I could someday feel important enough to start doing something that mattered to me?

Excel Telecommunications eventually went bankrupt because of all the unauthorized service switches, and I left the experience feeling both morally and emotionally bankrupt—like I’d failed yet again.

But after I recovered from the embarrassment and disappointment, I realized that despite the six figures I never earned, this was a highly valuable experience.

We spend an awful lot of time chasing things in life, and this isn’t inherently bad. We need to have things to visualize, strive for, and create, both for ourselves and for the world we share together.

But sometimes the goals we set have nothing to do with what we really want, and everything to do with what we think we need or should have.

So I say listen to your “haters” realizing that no one hates you—most of the time, they’re just trying to share the way they see things to help you either challenge or confirm what you really want to do.

And I say hold onto some beliefs, even if other people tell you they’re limiting. There are some limits that we devise inside because they help us maintain both personal integrity and the integrity of what we believe is right.

Of course it isn’t black and white. Sometimes you’ll need to keep going, even when other people tell you that you’re being unreasonable; and sometimes you’ll need to question if maybe your belief is misguided. But the most important piece of this equation is learning to trust yourself.

There will always be someone else who thinks they know what’s right for you. If you’re too scared to define it, you can trust that someone else will.

Take the time to look within and identify what you really want to do with your time—not some day after you’ve succeeded, but right now, because that is succeeding.

There is no right or wrong answer. There is just what feels true to you, and whether or not you have the courage to honor it. Do you?

*I have changed the names of the people I met at Excel Telecommunications. Photo by tibchris.

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook series and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you change your life. She's now seeking stories for her next book, 365 Tiny Love Challenges from Tiny Buddha. Click here to share your story and follow on Facebook for inspiring posts and wisdom quotes.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://www.thinkchooselive.org Chris Barba

    “Take the time to look within and identify what you really want to do with your time—not some day after you’ve succeeded, but right now, because that is succeeding.”

    Amazingly insightful!

    When we “go all in” we’re more likely to find that something more worthwhile, even if we must create illusions around it. Its a common phenomena of effort justification that we all fall victim to.

    The difficulty of pledging for fraternity or sorority makes the feeling of achievement and camaraderie that much stronger. A psych study made the application process significantly more grueling for the first group than the second, but what do you know, the first group found the study more worthwhile and were more likely to defend its cause.

    Experiences no doubt shape us. Not that this is good or bad..it just happens. But Lori, I think you nailed it on the head – identify what you really want to do in life, and do it now! Then you can shape your future experiences instead of justifying past ones.

    Cheers!

  • http://twitter.com/reinventing64 Pamela Picard

    “I switched my friends and family members on day one, and then spent the next two months trying to convince everyone I knew and met that this wasn’t a pyramid scheme.”

    LOL lovely honesty. *thumbs up*

  • http://www.livingkaizen.co.uk Vicky Hemming

    Wow- How beautifully honest Lori. Love that you are now able to follow your heart and do what you love xxx

    Vicky
    xx

  • http://www.poweredbyromi.com Romi

    Lori,
    I’m sorry you had a bad experience with a network marketing company. I’m a big fan and follower of your site, and respect your opinion that “there was something not quite right about asking people to pay $500 to get involved.” However, I wanted to share that not all companies are made equal. I am one of the top leaders in a network marketing company, Rodan + Fields (founded by the creators of Proactiv), and we do offer business kits for new consultants; how else would one open for business in skincare without having products to demo? With our award-winning training program for consultants (the Direct Selling Association singled us out for excellence in field development), those who are coachable and do the work are profitable in their first 30-45 days.

    While my success is delightful, my greatest joy is from helping thousands of others on my team reach their goals — whether it’s an extra grand or two to save their home from foreclosure or to build a multiple six-figure income like I have. We’re duplicating success; in fact, I earn more than the person who brought me into this company.

    Of course this business model is not for everyone. And different companies offer different things. Just like with everything in life, it’s a shame to summarily dismiss an entire category because of one experience.

    Thank you for all you do!

    Best,
    Romi Neustadt

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Pamela!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Vicky. I think a big shift happened inside me when I decided to follow my heart and not money. I suspect that’s true for a lot of people!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Romi,

    Thanks for commenting! I have learned a lot about different network marketing companies over the years (curiosity after my initial experience). I personally don’t love the business model, but I realize that my opinion is not right just because it’s mine. I’m glad to hear that you have had success with your business. =)

    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    What an interesting study. I’ve seen it happen with lots of people in all kinds of scenarios–the more time you put in, the more invested you feel. Thanks for reading and commenting Chris!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    What an interesting study. I’ve seen it happen with lots of people in all kinds of scenarios–the more time you put in, the more invested you feel. Thanks for reading and commenting Chris!

  • Jennifer

    Wow, that takes a lot of courage to retell that story! Fortunately for me, the company I work for is small enough that if I feel something doesn’t sit right, I can bring it to a manager’s attention. Since there’s 1 person between me and the CEO, I get resolution right away. I like that. It means I don’t have to do things that make me feel uncomfortable. But I have worked for people before where they were small white lies I was telling – but I didn’t enjoy it and found other places to be.

  • http://www.mirecho.com SuJ

    It’s the act of trusting your gut, though that concept becomes harder and harder with circumstances such as group mentality, comradery, and the obligation to fulfill basic needs. I understand what Chris was saying about fraternities, as I was in one as well.

    You fall into a niche of finding happiness and creating happiness. Though my experiences through that pledgeship have been mostly positive, I can see where the views come from.

    I’ve had my fair share of experiences in network marketing as well, and I could never make that first step. Just the idea of request money from friends for your own gain, versus asking on behalf of charity, seems ill-fated in my gut.

    But we are all here now with the path paved behind us. Our instincts serve us well, it got us this far.

  • chuck leffew

    I had the same experince, back in the mid 90* I do enjoy your blog. thanks much chuck

  • Mei-mei012

    thqnk god i read this post…my friend and i almost entered a similar business. i saw an ad on the internet and says online part time job..so we thought that they were hiring..we contact the employer and she said that there will be an orientation bout the job. we went to the said orientation..then it was really not a job hiring…while we were there..we listened to the speaker and we were convinced that this businss is for us…but the problem is we dnt have the capital yet to be a member…we said we are not sure if we will join..the following day..the employer called my friend and he said he was very disappointed with us. we should be open minded and reach for our dreams..blah blah blah!!! what can we do?we still dont have the capital..and we decided not to join the group. it seems that they are very desperate…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=683266785 Amit Bhatia

    Nice article, Lori.

  • http://DeltaDreams.com Quang Ly

    There was a lot of this pyramid scheme when I was in college. Even recently, I bumped into a few people selling this great Internet business. I called them out right away and asked them if it was Amway. They both independently had the same stock answer. “oh, amway is so different now”. Yes, these business models always end up pushing you to sell to your family and friends which is annoying.

  • QualityOregon

    It all comes back to Source.

    Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it..
    Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
    Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
    Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
    Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.

    But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it
    -Buddha

  • http://www.writinginflow.blogspot.com The Writing Goddess

    Advertising in the Classsifieds as if for a traditional job position, and asking job-seekers to come in for a “job interview” and instead presenting them with a high-pressured sales pitch, as was Lori’s experience (and mine also, at some company whose name I have long forgotten) is not a “business model.” It is DECEIT, plain and simple, and it is designed to take advantage of people who are gullible, inexperienced with life, or desperate in hard economic times.

    Avon also requires their reps to pay for their samples and supplies, but they don’t represent themselves as “offering jobs,” nor do they tell people, “We can’t wait to have you come in for an interview!”

    Romi, I have no idea how your company operates, or how it recruits new consultants, but if it’s closer to the Excel model than the Avon one, I wouldn’t want to be associated with it whether it paid six figures or sixteen figures.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1059759870 Christina Ochs Nichols

    Since I’m self-employed, I’ve learned that the only path to ethical success is to provide more value than you receive compensation. It means my clients are happy and keep coming back, and I can succeed, because my own efforts can generate a considerable amount of value. There is simply no ethical shortcut.

    Thanks for having the guts to share your story. On occasion, I’ve purchased “memberships” in various enterprises from family and friends who got involved in direct marketing efforts. While I’m sure some companies offer products and services of value, I always ended up canceling my membership because I didn’t need or use what they were offering. I’ve never known anyone who made serious money doing this either.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    One of my favorite quotes. =) Thank you for sharing it here!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Christina,

    I love how you phrased the key to ethical success. That’s what I strive to do, as well. I always want people to feel as though I am providing maximum value for their money.

    I’ve found that a lot of people end up disappointed with direct marketing companies because the vast majority of people make supplemental income at best. That’s not to say that it isn’t possible to make big money. It’s just not the norm.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!
    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I think that was the most troubling part for me–the pressure to convince other people to do something, even after they indicated they didn’t want to do it. Any business that requires coercion feels intrinsically wrong to me!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I think that was the most troubling part for me–the pressure to convince other people to do something, even after they indicated they didn’t want to do it. Any business that requires coercion feels intrinsically wrong to me!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thank you Amit. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thank you Amit. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s awesome that you work in a company that facilitates honesty and integrity. I think that’s one of the cornerstones of happiness in life!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s awesome that you work in a company that facilitates honesty and integrity. I think that’s one of the cornerstones of happiness in life!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi SuJ,

    I think you hit the nail on the head about creating happiness as opposed to finding it. A huge insight for me was that happiness wasn’t something I’d find someday after doing the right things; it was something I’d experience now if I was doing the right things. This shift in thinking made it so much easier to identify what those right things are for me.

    Thanks for reading!
    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Chuck. I’m glad you enjoy it!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad that you both decided not to join! Honesty is so important in business. What I learned from my experience is that positive words can sometimes be a distraction from negative intentions. A prospective employer would never pressure an applicant about following their dreams. It’s just not the way things work.

  • mara

    recently i faced a lot of push from a friend entering a traveling pyramid scheme he just signed up for. Since i wasn’t interested in the product how could i sell it? Generally the guy was insisting that the only thing you need to do is to sing up another 10 below you and money will start coming… but unfortunately he and neither the guy above him who is 2 years in the scheme could not answer me simple questions like the income scheme, % and how much i will be getting in specific cases… Unfortunately we got distant although i liked him. It made me realised that we need to avoid promoting our services or products among relatives and friends, even if we strongly believe in what we offer. Its one thing to talk about something you do (and hopefully love) and another promoting/selling it, people close to you may not support your interests directly by buying but may provide you the moral support like believing in you and be there for you.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Mara,

    I agree with you there. I think that what network marketers see as the beauty of the system is also what a lot of people recognize as the flaw. On the one hand, it’s easier to influence people who know and love you. On the other hand, those are people you would prefer not to influence unless you genuinely feel moved to do so.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Mara,

    I agree with you there. I think that what network marketers see as the beauty of the system is also what a lot of people recognize as the flaw. On the one hand, it’s easier to influence people who know and love you. On the other hand, those are people you would prefer not to influence unless you genuinely feel moved to do so.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Lori

  • http://big-zen.blogspot.com/ Big Zen

    A great post as usual! There’s a neat little question we can ask when we find ourselves chasing something, that question is: ‘for what purpose do I want this?’. When we get an answer we can repeat the question ‘but for what purpose?’ until we reach our highest values, perhaps things like ‘feedom’, ‘happiness’, ‘love’ etc. Then it’s a lot easier to see if the thing we are chasing is really fit for the purpose!

  • http://alwayswell.wordpress.com Sandra / Always Well Within

    Lori,

    This is an insightful story and wonderful reminder to trust our inner voice. So many times when things have gone “wrong”, I could look back and see that a little voice was prompting me in a different direction all along. In addition to courage, I’ve found that listen to that inner voice takes practice. The more we practice, the more courage and confidence we have.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi there,

    This sounds like an incredibly useful exercise. Thank you for sharing it!

    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Sandra,

    I think you hit the nail on the head! I also find it takes practice to ascertain exactly what the little voice is saying. There are times when I feel a sense of inner conflict, like I’m pulling myself in multiple directions. When I take the time to breathe deeply, or practice yoga, it helps clarify what exactly I believe and feel.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!
    Lori

  • Pingback: Why Some Dreams Don’t Lead To Happiness | Truth Is Scary

  • Prakash15783

    Hi Lori,

    I have been reading many of your articles. I think you have very clear thoughts. I got to learn a lot from your articles. Keep going :-)

    Regards,
    Prakash

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Prakash! I’m so glad you’ve been learned from my posts. =)

  • Aizidel

    Lord knows how business of this type I joined!!

  • http://DivaBenefits.com/ Ellie Yamane

    Network marketing is hard work.  Sorry to hear you weren’t properly trained.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I actually think it was more than that; I really question the business model when the majority of a company’s revenue comes from recruiting new representatives. I’m so grateful I learned to be cautious of these kinds of companies, because I’ve had many people approach me with similar opportunities over the years, and most of them operate in the same way.

  • http://DivaBenefits.com/ Ellie Yamane

    Reps or customers, you do need to sell something to make money.  Network marketing business brings opportunity to everybody where you can make money without you even being there.  But if you don’t like the concept, don’t look at it lol.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I originally looked at the concept because it was presented to me as a job–meaning the people recruiting other people actually posted a misleading ad on the job section of Craigslist to sell prospective representatives on the opportunity.

    They *were* selling something–phone services–but they switched people’s services or gave them new services without their consent. They pressured new reps to get their family members’ personal information, and then used that to give them whatever service triggered the biggest payment for the reps at the top of the pyramid.

    I am sure there are network marketing businesses out there that operate ethically, but I personally think a model based on pressuring friends and family is questionable. That is just my personal opinion!

  • http://DivaBenefits.com/ Ellie Yamane

    As I said on your other post, if you are “pressuring” people, you are not approaching it the right way.  Sorry you weren’t trained properly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leucome Eric Jacques

    It’s so hard to be successful with Network marketing .. but it can be seen as a way to learn a lot of new things. And after we can use those new tools we learned in an other project. Like writhing a sucessfull ebook and maybe a web site … who know? :P

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I definitely learned a lot through the experience, particularly as it pertains to smart decision-making. At the time, I didn’t question much because the people “above” said that questioning/doubting was being negative. Later, I found out that the man on the top of the pyramid looked for “ignorance on fire”–people who just ran with his instructions without ever once thinking for themselves. In retrospect, I think that’s when I realized how important integrity is to me, and that’s definitely something that has informed how I run this site!

  • Souris

    That was a *classic* pyramid scheme. Definitional, even. Not “work.” You must be in the same scam yourself, to even attempt to make that claim.

  • Souris

    She was trained perfectly well for what the “job” actually was — to perpetuate the pyramid scheme.

  • Souris

    Seriously? This is a classic scam. I have a bridge to sell the lot of you.

  • Souris

    Look at all the pyramid scheme promoters coming out to defend *their* particular version of this classic!