So, my first meeting with Benjamin was at a Starbucks. Now, let me make it clear, I’m not a big fan of Starbucks. Being someone starting a co-op, I’m more interested in supporting locally owned, small coffee shops. If I had it my way, I’d have suggested a few local coffee shops such as Mugs (near the CSU campus). But whatever. While I can see the appeal of going to a chain coffee shop, still…

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So, upon meeting Benjamin (after he got lost since he thought we were meeting at the Starbucks in the King Soopers… another problem with chain coffee shops), we got to talking about what I’ll be doing for Global Social Media Marketing. This conversation went fairly normally, but in it, I got my first red flag: he describes himself as a positive person.

Red Flag #1: Positive Thinking

Now, let me make myself clear, positive thinking isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. But, as Barbara Ehrenreich said in her book “Bright-Sided” (emphasis mine):

What would it mean in practice to eliminate all the ‘negative people’ from one’s life? It might be a good move to separate from a chronically carping spouse, but it is not so easy to abandon the whiny toddler, the colicky infant, or the sullen teenager. And at the workplace, while it’s probably advisable to detect and terminate those who show signs of becoming mass killers, there are other annoying people who might actually have something useful to say: the financial officer who keeps worrying about the bank’s subprime mortgage exposure or the auto executive who questions the company’s overinvestment in SUVs and trucks. Purge everyone who ‘brings you down,’ and you risk being very lonely, or, what is worse, cut off from reality.

Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

The thing is, hard truths can help us learn about ourselves and make us better people. This is why people who describe themselves as “positive” or “positive thinkers” freak me the hell out. Not to mention, being one of those people who loves watching YouTube vids reading r/antiMLM, you see the folly of “positive thinking”. Not to mention, it makes it harder for people to share their true feelings. Avoiding hard truths in the name of “positivity” makes you worse off, not better off.

Balance, the Middle Way, and the Buddha

A painting of the Buddha meditating under a Bodhi tree
The Buddha meditating under a Bodhi tree.

Now, I’m not saying people should be negative 24/7. It’s about having a middle ground (like the Buddha said). For those of you who don’t know a goddamned thing about Buddhism, the Middle Way is a key part of Buddhism and the Buddha’s story. Born into royalty, he was surrounded by opulence and could have been contented to live that way until he saw four things. Those four things shook the foundation of his belief system to the point where he renounced everything and followed the path of the ascetic. It was another extreme where he got to a point where he was starving himself. So, after meditating under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha had discovered the importance of the Middle Way. Balance in all things. And that’s the whole damned point of me bringing up this story about the Buddha: balance is necessary.

The problem is that positive thinkers who identify themselves as such, tend to refuse to see the obstacles in their path. They get really stressed out or frustrated when things don’t go their way. As you’ll see in future instalments, Benjamin Kepner is one of those people. Whereas, I am not. After all, it is my goal in life to be the best “me” that I can be (as trite and cliché a statement as that is). In order to do that, I need to accept my flaws, embrace them, and learn how to make myself better.

Noxious Positive Thinking, MLMs, and Cults

What Benjamin Kepner believes in is something I’ve termed “noxious positive thinking”. It’s a form of “positive thinking” that has very little positive about it. It could be characterized as blowing rainbows and unicorns up someone’s ass. It also has its place in organizations where “positive thinking” can be used as a thought stopping mechanism to circumvent critical thinking, such as cults and MLMs.

In her tale about her experience with Younique, Elle Beau (probably not her real name) talked about this. She talked about the dark side to this noxious positive thinking and this “fake it ’till you make it” attitude. I’ll talk about how it impacted Benjamin later and how he took it out on me in later parts (especially in my last two months at GSMM). However, his attitude was not too dissimilar from Scarlett’s in Elle’s story.

I tried to tell him about this (but in a bit more diplomatic manner) and we move on to our second red flag.

Red Flag #2: Imperviousness to Advice

Here’s the thing. Ben isn’t completely impervious to advice. After all, he did make some changes to GSMM’s branding that I suggested. However, that’s not hard when you consider the fact that GSMM’s previous logo was a shape he ripped from Google. However, I told him about many things he could do to not only make money in the short term but get higher returns in the long run. One of which is to build his personal brand alongside GSMM’s. After all, this is a strategy that has paid off for Michael Hyatt, Chris Guillebeau, Chris Goins, and Steve Pavlina. And clearly, he didn’t take my advice considering I own and not him.

Additionally, I suggested that his website should look more professional in order. This was in order to generate higher conversions. Not to mention, the need to be compliant with Gutenberg. After all, Gutenberg was coming to WordPress 5 and was two or three months away at this point).

Ending our Meeting (and Part 2)

So, with two red flags flown, what else can be said? I think finishing the story about meeting Benjamin Kepner is crucial to wrapping up this sordid ordeal. So, we moved on from Starbucks to Torchy’s Tacos. We continued to talk about what could be done for GSMM, Manuel Solis, and his other clients. While I did have my guard up, I still had a bit of hope that this could be a good thing. Oh, how naive I was. But now that we’re at two red flags and the end of my first meeting with Benjamin, I’ll leave it off here.

In Part 3, I’ll talk about the weird ways Benjamin does business, death by meetings (red flag #3), and starting with the law firm. We’re around late October/early November right now and trust me, the shitshow has barely gotten started.

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