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How to Avoid the Bernie Madoffs in Your Life

I saw Bernie Madoff in a bookstore this weekend. Okay, I didn't see the real Madoff, but what I saw on book cover after book cover, filling aisle after aisle, reminded me of him.

Madoff is a scumbag, but I've recently heard the media blame the investors who trusted their money to him. "What were they thinking?" the pundits ask. "They should have known better." The press has called Madoff's victims "greedy" and is always happy to offer the adage, "If it looks too good to be true, it most likely is."

The reality is, you're probably no different than the investors who got scammed out of their life savings. I'm sure not. At least I wasn't for a long time.

You see, I was once addicted to things that looked too good to be true. I bought into over promises and was constantly searching for the secret pill. It's not that I didn't want to work hard; in fact, I thought I was being smart. If you have a choice between something that is quick and easy and works, and something that is slow and hard and works, it only makes sense to do what's easier, right?

The problem is (gasp!), they didn't work. There isn't an easy way out. Real success takes real work. It's taken many years for me to recognize these faux fixes when I see them, and now that I do, I find that they are everywhere, including in my local bookstore.

If you're addicted to the quick fix and sick of being ripped off, here are two questions you need to ask:

  • Is the promise realistic? If it isn't, run away.
  • How much effort does it require? With most quick solutions, there's an inverse relationship between promise and effort (the greater the promise the less effort needed). Again, real solutions require real effort.
Because you only have 8 "other hours" a day, it's tempting to look for easy and fast solutions. While you might not lose your investments to a scam artist, you could waste a lot of time (and money) and end up no better than when you started.

Trust me, I should know. I've tried just about everything out there that promised to instantly and effortlessly make me better, richer, stronger, smarter, etc. I've bought books, tapes, CDs, DVDs, MP3s, teleseminars, webinars, seminars, pills, liquids, powders, courses, bracelets, calendars, schedulers, and more. But time and again, It was only when I took some action that I actually got anywhere. For example, I've watched countless "Speak Like a Pro in Less Than an Hour" videos on how to give a killer speech. But it wasn't until I started attending a Toastmasters Group during my other 8 hours that I actually improved as a public speaker.

My most embarrassing Madoff moment was when I purchased a self-defense video course that promised to teach me how to fight off a gang of 12 attackers at once. After watching the video, following the moves, and immediately getting kicked in the head by my friend during a sparring session, I felt like an idiot and my head hurt.

What's the most embarrassing quick fix you've ever tried? How did you feel before you tried it? What about after?

(Infomercial image by joelogon, CC 2.0)

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