The Self-Declared Expert

The Self-Declared Expert

The Señor tagged me in one of the posts of someone selling their recruitment advice - let's call him Mr. [X].

 
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This kind of sponsored posts appears more and more often on my Facebook feeds. 


I call this the “Tai Lopez” effect of the Self-declared Expert. This is named after spammy social media ads campaign, across Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and more, of a personality called Tai Lopez who frequently show off “his” expensive home, cars and other assets to sell a $69.99 get-rich-quick program. While many people have exposed that these assets are not his, enough people have naively believed that ’everything-on-the-internet-must-be-true’ and bought his program, making this person now a possibly real millionaire. 

The anatomy of such post is entirely consistent across the entire genre:

  1. The post is usually sponsored, and features a lengthy story-based text; most frequently a zero-to-hero narratives; with a conclusion of I-can-do-it-therefore-so-can-you; and-here-is-how. 
  2. In the end of the post, there is a call-to-action, often bring you to a trackable link where they give away for “free” some content materials (e.g. 50-100 pages of some ‘plans’ or ‘advice’), in exchange for your email.
  3. They will email you on a weekly basis with more motivational soup-for-the-soul, just infrequently enough to make you not unsubscribed.
  4. Depending on your open / read and clicking pattern, there will be an A/B testing campaign to determine at [x] weeks after, they will send you a “special offer”, of a:

- $199.99 program now only at $69.99

- $499.99 seminar ticket now only at £199.99

- and more xx.99 “discounts.”

The email testing relies on your behavioural pattern to time the best moment to send you such offers to optimise the conversion rate of you ending up buying. 

The reason for such sale funnel is appearing so commonly these days is because, if priced right, it’s merely a matter of number game before one earns a fruitful amount from others’ trusts and nativity. A back of envelope calculation is as follows, for example:

  • Run a Facebook campaign for $50 a day for 7 days, reaching a potential 1 million people a day depending on targeting settings > Cost = $350 for a total 7 million impressions.
  • Assumed 1% of those people who see the ads click on the link > 700,000 clicks.
  • Assumed 1% of people who click left their email addresses > 7,000 emails.
  • Assumed 1% of people who let their emails buy the program/product> 70 purchases. 

If the program is priced at $69.99, the total revenue is $4,899 from a cost of $350. Total profit is $4,549 from a one-week £50 campaign. If you scale that to a spend of $250 on ads for 52 weeks, within one year, you’ll have a whopping $1.18 million in profits. Then a self-declared millionaire can now become a real millionaire. That is admittedly a somewhat simplified analysis; however, it is true that there are lucrative earning opportunities in the “Tai Lopez” effect of the Self-declared Expert.

I don’t have a problem with people profiting on others in this way; because the definition of value is through perception. Therefore, if one is happy to pay $69.99 for a program, one must see value in it. It is a fair market clearing transaction based on demand and supply.  There are so many insane ways of making money on earth these days (e.g. becoming millionaires from sending potatoes with a message written on it) that everything is possible. While I personally do not see any value in these sorts of product, I can understand why someone would buy it just because of what he sees.

Despite having my own Amazon book, several upcoming Udemy courses, a Cover Letter community and a strong follower base myself, I just could not bring myself to do the same. I try my best to help my juniors and readers by creating these materials, but I leave it there on its own for others to determine its worthiness themselves instead of shoving it on their faces or daily feeds. If you support me and trust me by getting some of these products, great! If not, it’s still there when you change your mind. Except for ‘7 Different Blues’ - possibly the lack of marketing (or more like, zero paid marketing) is the cause of the failure of that book of mine. It did not reach the 500 orders target by 15 January hence the book could not be published due to an existing commercial agreement.

The reason I could not bring myself to do these mass email marketing it is because I am crossed by the Dunning–Kruger Effect, which states that the inferiority complex of a person is proportional to how much he/she knows. I am potentially somewhere on the bottom of the U curve on this graph - I know more about a specific field than an average person but not enough to feel sufficiently confident to broadcast it. 

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This also explains why I only post a blog once a month; because I feel unsure about writing pieces more frequently but of lower quality. Behind the scene of each blog are my doubts “Am I qualified to say this? Who am I to even give advice? How do I know that what I am saying is true, or are they constituted of my own biases ?” Over time, as my maturity improved, I no longer write content that is considered as ‘advice’. I feel I am only qualified to share my personal experience and slowly gravitate towards this type of content over the recent years. 

How I determine whose opinions to follow in the era of the abundant self-declared experts is to follow the ‘believability’ principles of what Ray Dalio - the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates said in his book “Principles". Principles remains my most favourite book of all time - The book was offered for free by Ray on the internet a couple of years back; it is now actually sold on Amazon.com here or Amazon.co.uk here.

No copyright infringement intended for the quote below - for illustrative purposes only. I recommend everyone to purchase the book Principles yourself from Amazon. (sold on Amazon.com here or Amazon.co.uk here. )

30) Don’t treat all opinions as equally valuable.
Almost everyone has an opinion, but many are worthless or harmful. The views of people without track records are not equal to the views of people with strong track records. Treating all people equally is more likely to lead away from truth than toward it. People without records of success who are nonetheless confident about how things should be done are either naïve or arrogant. In either case, they’re potentially dangerous to themselves and others. However, all views should be considered in an open-minded way, albeit placed in the proper context of experience and track record. Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding: can you handle your responsibilities well? As a general rule, if you can, then you can have an opinion of how to do it—if you can’t, you can’t.
                30a) A hierarchy of merit is not only consistent with a meritocracy of ideas but essential for it. Not only is better decision-making enhanced, so is time management. It’s not possible for everyone to debate everything all the time and still get work done effectively.

31) Consider your own and others’ “believabilities.” By believability, I mean the probability that a person’s view will be right. While we can never know this precisely, we can roughly assess it according to the quality of a person’s reasoning and their track record. Of course, different people will have different views of their own and other’s believability, which is fine. Just recognize that this is a reality that is relevant in a number of ways. Ask, “Why should I believe you?” and “Why should I believe myself?”

                31a) Ask yourself whether you have earned the right to have an opinion. As a general rule, if you have a demonstrated track record, then you can have an opinion of how to do it—if you don’t, you can’t, though you can have theories and questions.
                31b) People who have repeatedly and successfully accomplished the thing in question and have great explanations when probed are most believable. Those with one of those two qualities are somewhat believable; people with neither are least believable. At the same time, people’s ideas should always be assessed on their merit in order to encourage them to always think in an open-minded way. I have seen that inexperienced people can have great ideas, sometimes far better than more experienced people, though often much worse. So we must be attuned to both the good and the bad and allow people to build their own track records and their own levels of believability. Because of Bridgewater’s radical openness, you can see how we make our assessments of that. Someone new who doesn’t know much, has little believability, or isn’t confident in his views should ask questions. On the other hand, a highly believable person with experience and a good track record who is highly confident in his views should be assertive. Everyone should be upfront in expressing how confident they are in their thoughts. A suggestion should be called a suggestion; a firmly held conviction should be presented as such. Don’t make the mistake of being a dumb shit with a confident opinion.

The reason why this blog post came about is because the more I come about these ads, the more I am concerned by these kinds of unethical self-declared experts and how they could mislead people, not only with false information but also with their lack of integrity. Therefore, despite battling with my inferiority complex from the Dunning–Kruger Effect for a while, I have promised myself in 2018 I will put myself out there more for my audience so that at least I can contribute my small share of decent quality information out there. Beyond my recruitment-focused book on Amazon, I have two upcoming plans which I will try to arrange time for:

1. I’ll start a Youtube channel - speaking in Vietnamese with English subtitles - in talkshow/podcast format about certain educational topics that I feel could be value-adding to your daily life/thought process. Especially, I'll focus on my experience-sharing talks for to inspire females from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as young professionals. I hope I can kick-start this mini project in April and produce contents more frequently than this monthly blog, e.g. weekly talks. 

2. I’ll also release an Udemy course of c. 25-30 hours of video of me teaching the technical skills of an Investment Banking Analyst (See table of content below). This was based on the actual materials and experiences training my own analysts. I also hope this can be released by end-April or within Q2 2018.

Part 1: Accounting

  • Financial Statements Overview
  • Relevant topics to note about Assets in Balance Sheet
  • Relevant topics to note about Liabilities in Balance Sheet
  • Relevant topics to note about Equity in Balance Sheet
  • Relevant topics to note about Income Statement
  • Relevant topics to note about Cashflow Statement
  • Constructing Financial Statement from scratch

Part 2: Financial Modelling and Excel

  • Financial Modelling - Excel Basics, Relevant Skills and Most Important Functions
  • Financial Modelling - Building the 3-statements
  • Merger Modelling

Part 3: Valuation

  • Overview of Valuations
  • Ratios and its Importance
  • M&A Accounting
  • Trading Comparables - From Basics to Advanced
  • Transaction Comparables - From Basics to Advanced
  • Discounted Cashflows - From Basics to Advanced
  • Summary - Compare all valuation types

In general, my goal is to produce more content in 2018. I hope that my audacity putting myself out there more will be met with positive reception and your continued support. I’ll never be able to declare myself an expert; however, I hope some others will be able to consider a thing or two from my experience-sharing pieces.

Illustration: One of the handwritten/signed books sent in posts to those who pre-ordered my Amazon books. Thank you so much for your support. 


 

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