Top 5 MLM Paradoxes

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Have you ever tried to talk a friend out of an MLM? It’s an incredibly difficult task, and even though BotWatch and Timeless Vie have written stellar pieces that help prepare you for that decision, there are so many ‘unwelcomed guests’ in that conversation. Today, we want to discuss the concept of in-group paradoxes, a guest that leads our friend to believe we haven’t worked hard enough to understand the business.

This is the nature of a paradox. It’s the “wise fool” or the “we’re all equal, but some are more equal than others.” These statements don’t seem right, but upon investigation a deeper insight is revealed. For those that reside within an MLM these paradoxes are resolved, not through logic, but relationship. Nevertheless. we take a stab at trying to offer a reason why people believe them, while maintaining the conclusion they are simply nonsense.

PARADOX 1

We don’t focus on recruitment   ;    Double your team size via duplication

In order to make the system appeal to others, and in order to distinguish the business from a pyramid scheme, the public face of the business often admits that recruitment is not necessary for success. Once inside the team however, this is what is celebrated on group calls, it’s what is professed and focused on in team training and it’s what the vast majority of scripts are focused on coaching people to do. Uplines will encourage new members to focus on doubling their team each cycle of the business. As a paradox, it may be said they don’t focus on recruitment at the prospecting phase, but it is the majority of the training thereafter.

PARADOX 2

You can be the CEO of your own life   ;   Don’t carve your own path, just plug into a system that works
The ability to have more flexibility and control in your life is a near universal desire. The term CEO is a powerful concept to draw on for MLMs as it is understood, around the world, that the person in charge makes these all-important decisions. At the same time, you’re not making any real business decisions, you’re taught to follow a plan and you are made to feel shame if you are not “coachable” enough.  The paradox is that you might be able to decide how much you want to put in your business and because you’re not being paid salary, no one is telling you what to do, but you can bet that people are going to have their opinions of what you should do. They will leverage their relationship (does the miracle of ‘time leverage’ ring a bell?) with you to make sure you’re working to support their best interests, even if they don’t come out and say it.

PARADOX 3

Anyone can make it as far as they want in this business    ;    This business is not for everyone
Does this paradox have an overlap? Sure. Arguing that people just aren’t working hard enough for their money in stock trading, car sales or house flipping all has some credibility. The idea that anyone can do it, but it’s not for everyone is a common theme among many businesses. But in those endeavors there is an element of truth to what is shared, it’s not so hard trading securities, but it’s difficult managing a portfolio properly. For those that enrol in MLMs, many have the sense that their focus is retail. In focusing on that, their advancement is hindered because ‘qualifying bonuses’ are primarily dependent on developing a team of distributors. Any search for customers, quickly becomes a hunt for recruits.

This expansion of suffering, while you yourself are struggling, spreads throughout a network of people close to you. The belief that anyone can do this flows through you, meanwhile, the loss of a team member is rationalized in the thought that they didn’t have what it takes; you do! They could have made it, if they spent more time on it and sacrificed a little more. You continue to search for just about anyone with a pulse to come and link arms with you. Because if you don’t make it, it’s all your fault. /s

PARADOX 4

Love yourself for who you are and show people your authentic self   ;   You must change your mindset

Network marketing’s advantage over traditional advertising is in how it employs (exploits?) existing relationships to share a product with new potential customers. Many MLM companies are encouraging their representatives to not always talk about the product but instead share the lifestyle the business affords you. Signal how good your skin is because of the cosmetics you use, or how energetic you are from the supplements you take. This is done in the midst of keeping up with a self-improvement regiment that pulls from a selected booklist of leadership thinkers (John C Maxwell, Robert Kiyosaki, Rachel Hollis, etc…). Many reps talk about transforming their life, and some may feel this is towards a more true expression of who they are.

What’s more likely happening is that much like what happens in cults, you develop a new expression of identity that is distinct and separate from your true self. If you begin to believe this is the true you, as is commonly supported and expressed within the team of the business, you will be further committed to the business and have changed your mindset. Many who leave these groups though, claim upon reflection, the person they had become in these groups was not who they really were. Marketing is focused on growing authenticity today to sell products, its a real ‘science’ if you will, and it’s asking us all to change our mindsets so we’re ok with it. Well, I’m not.

PARADOX 5

It’s not a pyramid scheme    ;    It’s not about selling a product, it’s about sharing an opportunity

There’s a reason to leave this to the end. As a defence mechanism, all are educated in how to handle this concern from a prospect:

  • Tell them a story about how you thought that way too
  • Point to unrelated benchmarks like:
    – celebrity endorsements,
    – the years the company has been in business, or
    – the amount of other brand partnerships the business has had
  • Take it personally and ask “Do you think I’d do this if it were a pyramid scheme?”

None of these properly address the issue. Within the company, so many leave without ever truly understanding what was spent and what was earned. So many never learn how to properly manage inventory, create a solid and growing customer base, test new marketing strategies or consult colleagues on key business metrics. If it was a real business, it would be essential you learn these to better connect you with customers.

Instead you learn a system that was used to bring you into this business, sharing an opportunity to share an opportunity, that shares more opportunities. The infinitely divisible product of “opportunity” is what an MLM really sells, sorry … shares.


PEOPLE, IN GENERAL,  HATE MATH… so I hid this explanation here.
As a visual, think of a person standing inside a circle (white dot) and someone standing on the circumference (black dot). If you stand inside the circle, your field of view is restricted to roughly 90°. On the periphery, you have the same field of view, yet you can see much more of what is happening inside the circle. The further you step outside this circle, the more of it you can see at once. 

As members of the Anti-MLM community we are the fortunate black dot, while a distributor only comfortably views a small percentage of what’s available for us to see at any given point in time.


Have we missed any? Share your MLM paradoxes or straight-up contradictions below.


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One comment

  1. The biggest contradiction is that all jobs are a scam, yet their corporate office is full of employees, all making 10x the take-home-pay than they are in pre-expense commissions.

    Also, MLMs all profess to be on a crusade against the evil corporate world and Wall Street, yet the publicly traded MLMs are almost entirely owned by Wall Street institutional investment houses and banks.

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