Justin Cooke

May 21, 2013

There’s something about documentary film as an art form that’s fascinating. I was thinking about this recently – we can draw some clear parallels between bootstrapped entrepreneurs and documentary film makers that may help all of us perfect our craft. I’ve always watched documentaries but, in recent months, I’ve devoured most of the VICE documentaries and I’m digging their latest HBO series and recommend checking it out.  If you’re a fan of documentaries as well, I’d highly recommend you take a look at:

One of the things I find fascinating about documentaries is that they’re (usually) limited to the constraints of what’s actually said or done. They have to take those jagged, unfinished pieces and put them together to tell a story that makes sense and inspires, enrages, encourages action, etc.

Love The One You’re With

Living like a superstar Have you ever watched a blockbuster movie and thought to yourself, “Why isn’t MY life that exciting?” Beautiful people, extraordinary circumstances, heroes and villains – it all seems so dramatic and integral to the story. It probably wouldn’t be nearly as interesting watching our hero lazing around the house reading a book for a couple of hours, sitting in a coffee shop sipping a latte, etc. Just as it wouldn’t make sense to have a horribly sad ending in a feel-good story.

“Most of us are semi-flawed characters and large chunks of our lives are kinda boring”

Still, these things are what happens in “real life.” Most of us are semi-flawed characters and large chunks of our lives are kinda boring. (No matter what you see in your friend’s facebook photo albums) A blockbuster film can take whatever artistic liberties they like to make you seem more heroic, more fierce…but documentaries are much more limited. Sure, they can paint (sometimes amazing) pictures…but they’re forced to use snippets from the real world and real life.

Business are like that too.

Being able to hand-pick the best programmers or designers, the best finance guys/gals, etc – it’s a luxury only the largest businesses and startups can afford. For the rest of us, well…we have to roll with what we have available. It’s not just employees that can come up lacking. As the entrepreneur, YOU may not be the best choice for running your business.

There are thousands (maybe tens or hundreds of thousands) of people out there that might do a better job in building your company than you. Does that mean you shouldn’t even bother?

Hell no!

Sure, it might be nice if you had better employees, leadership qualities, or skills that you don’t have today…but those aren’t requirements for getting started. The uniqueness of your business and your company culture will come directly from you and your team. For most of us, this will require that we use our connections and build a team or business the best we can with the tools, resources, and people available.

Fake It ‘Till You Make It

The unspoken mantra of the Make-Monies-Online (MMO) community. The idea is to parrot the advice of others that are doing well (or at least faking it better than you) to those who don’t know better so that you too can rise through the ranks and (someday, maybe) ACTUALLY make it. Here are just a couple of examples I happen to know about:

  1. Sean King from CopySean.com – Gained a bit of attention by tricking some friends of ours online. Unfortunately, his story didn’t add up and he decided to “retire” from blogging.
  2. Tyrone Shum from TyroneShum.com – Fakes income reports and then owns up to it in a video. Puts plenty of (legitimate) online business guys/gals in the community in an awkward position.

Kumare False ProphetDocumentaries have this problem too. Aside from the obviously fake mockumentaries like Spinal Tap or A Mighty Wind, there was quite a stir regarding the movie Catfish. While the documentary is worth watching and does make some interesting points, the creators have taken a ton of flack for what seemed like contrived moments and a too-good-to-be-true storyline. They’re accused of faking it by critics and their peers.

So…is it worth it? Is it worth faking it to boost your credibility? I don’t think so.

Those who will go through all the hassle and have the ability to fake it and get away with it likely have the chops to make it happen without the bullshit. For the rest, the truth will likely come out so any gains are short-lived.

Both bootstrapped entrepreneurs and documentary filmmakers share some difficulties regarding having to use the pieces of the puzzle they have available. The trick is making it work without resorting to faking it.

“The trick is making it work without resorting to faking it”

The allure of quick or semi-guaranteed success is what drives both documentary filmmakers and entrepreneurs to faking it, many of whom are justifying it to themselves with the “ends justify the means” fallacy. After all, if their intentions are to show or share a truth, even if that means lying to get there…doesn’t that add value to the greater good?

The problem is their short-sighted (and often short-lived) strategy will inevitably end up blowing up in their faces. The end goal or truth they were looking to share becomes overshadowed by their deception. (And often hurts the cause, goal, or truth they were looking to highlight in the first place)

I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on this one regarding the “fake it ‘till you make it” strategy. Do the ends justify the means? Have you considered this approach?

Is “fake it ’till you make it” worth it? Do the ends justify the means in business? – Click To Tweet!

Also, I’m always looking for great documentaries to watch…let me know your picks on Twitter or in the comments below!



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Discussion

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  1. Hey Justin great post, definitely not a “fake it till you make it” guy. There are no long term benefits to lying about your business, I’ve ran offline & online businesses and have seen my competition try this a few times, it just makes them look pretty stupid. The best way, even when you’re starting out from nothing is to build the business up legitimately and watch it grow. Opportunities will come along without having to lie! As for Internet Markets lying about their income reports, it’s hard to believe people can be so easily deceived.

    With regards to documentaries I’m from the UK and love the Lois Theroux documentaries too, some others you might want to check out are Ross Kemp on Gangs, Ross Kemp Extreme World and a series of 1-2 hour long documentaries called Storyville. I haven’t seen many of the Storyville episodes but the ones I have seen were great. There was one about an American billionaire (David Siegel) who owns the biggest time share company in the world (rags to riches story), then when the recession hit he started to lose his empire bit by bit, really interesting. Not sure how he ended up, hopefully he pulled it back!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Agreed, Spencer. There are other ways to build authority and social proof into your business (interview experts, detailed case studies and analysis, get interviewed by experts on niche subjects, etc.) that I don’t think it’s required. Still…there are quite a few people that subscribe to this approach. (And it IS a bit of a gray area)

      Will have to check out Ross Kemp, for sure! The documentary about the guy and the timeshare business was great, it’s The Queen Of Versailles:

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2125666/

      Definitely worth watching!

  2. GREAT article bro, LOVE when you get your “hands dirty” like this.

    Oh and by the way, FUCK Tyrone Shum and his fake it till you make it IM pals.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, man…

      I particularly despise those who are not only lying…but that make everything seem SO easy. It’s a slap in the face to the rest of us that are hustling and working our butts off to build our businesses.

      I was talking to Chris Ducker about this a while back. He worked his butt off with a plan to “reward” himself with a nice watch when he hit 100 employees. It took him quite a bit of work and when he FINALLY made it to that level he bought himself a really nice (but not outrageous) watch.

      Compare that to the guys who borrow, rent, or purchase fake watches and talk about how “easy” it is, how many of them they own, etc. Slap in the face, man….F$#% those guys…

  3. Tim Soulo says:

    Hey Justin! I’m pleased to know that you were reading my blog :)

    At first I was very inspired by that guy Sean.. but after reading a few of his updates I felt he was way too shady. I guess any experienced IM would easily see his story is fake.

    And honestly I’m really tired of all these “make money by teaching how to make money” guys.. so my RSS Reader lost about a dozen blogs.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      No worries, Tim! Yeah, I think your post was the only one shining any light on the situation.

      Yeah – I thought Sean was a great writer and was pretty on-point with his marketing tactics. (and his approach to promoting his site/blog) Ultimately, though…he was full of shit.

      I’m not sure most people would see that with him, though. A cursory glance wouldn’t reveal all that much, which is why I think so many people were interested in interviewing him for their site. (And he refused any voice interviews, meetups, etc. apparently)

      I know Pat Flynn, Yaro Starak, etc. took a bit of a hit to their trust/credibility with the Tyrone thing. I feel for them…even if there wasn’t an explicit endorsement, it put them in a pretty awkward position. I think we have a responsibility to vet those we interview or work with, especially if you have a popular blog, podcast, etc. It’s something we’re aware of and trying to avoid ourselves.

      • Tim Soulo says:

        totally support your point!

        and actually it applies to anything you do online.. Do a wrong thing once and people will just leave and never come back.

        That’s why on my own blog I’m not trying to play a “game of being someone else” and I never will..

  4. Ha. Tyrone Shum. I wonder how many people checking out Pat’s NSD 2.0 remember him from 1.0. My guess is that most dont. Anyway, I agree. Those that take action and build will end up being successful. Those that try to emulate the pros never will, because most pros are teaching yesterday’s tricks, and they are usually just tricks.

    From working in marketing for 10+ years and running my own business and sites, I know this… Anyone who succeeds has failed miserably many times… but you many never know because they may never tell you. Those that tell you it is all great, all the time… haven’t tasted true success and are faking it!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      You’re exactly right about NSD 1.0, Adam. I thought that was kinda crappy for Pat…he did something really awesome that blew up, but just happened to have it attached to a guy that doesn’t share Pat’s values. :-(

      Totally agreed regarding the “great all the time” jokers. Now…I don’t think you have to share everything (or anything at all, for that matter) especially if you’re going through something that’s particularly difficult at the time. Still…I’ve found it’s WAY better to just lay out the good and the bad if you’re going to be sharing at all.

  5. Ashley says:

    Justin – I highly recommend Jiro Dreams of Sushi if you’re looking for an interesting documentary on mastery and how one can achieve greatness by devouting one’s life to something.

  6. Ophelie says:

    Love the documentary list — I’ve seen everything by Theroux as well, and was looking for more.

    In regards to faking it, one thing other marketers constantly recommend is buying tweets/Facebook likes and fake comments until your notoriety is high enough that you get a strong social signal for every single piece of content. It would certainly make a big part of my work easier, but I’m just not interested in playing that game. As a brand that’s under a fair amount of scrutiny in our industry, we can’t afford the cheap and easy way out.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Yeah, HUGE fan of Louis Theroux – glad to find another fan!

      That’s an interesting point about fake/purchased likes/followers. With our outsourcing account on Twitter, we did the follow / follow-back route and got up to 6K+ followers, but they were SO much less engaged. With our AF/EF Twitter account, I decided to go completely natural…only following those that I was interested in following and seeing what happened. It took a LONG time, but we finally got up to 2K engaged/interested followers.

      If you’re just starting off, you’d probably see some value in playing tricks to get up to your first 1K, but as an established brand I agree with you…probably a bad idea. There are plenty of people out there with legitimate Twitter strategies on getting a following. (Tom Ewer from Leaving Work Behind has one, I believe)

      • Iain Robson says:

        Yeah Tom has an interesting way of gaining followers. He uses Tweetadder and it seems to work for him well enough.

        I let people just know that I am not a pro. I just say that I do know some things, but not everything.

        It all comes with experience. You try things out and you see how they work and you build on that.

  7. Great commentary.

    Always good to call people out.

    I could never decide if i admired Tyron for coming clean or not. I guess we should be kind. Although hes still out there selling :-)

    • Justin Cooke says:

      I definitely didn’t admire him for that. It’s hard to know if he truly felt bad about it or not but, from my perspective…credibility was ruined. :-(

  8. Don Shelton says:

    I think there will be few fakers willing to admit it here (unless they too have a life changing experience). Observing those who I’ve found are faking it, I have noticed a couple of trends:

    1) It starts with small lies at first. Usually they build up to the whoppers.

    2) Because it starts with small lies, the fakers often convince themselves of the lie. On one level they know it’s not true, but on another they rationalize it to the point they believe it and act on it as if it was truth.

    3) When it gets completely out of hand they think they usually can’t on their own confess and come clean; they act as if they themselves are trapped in and by the lie and have to keep up the pretense.

    4) Once caught they either keep insisting there is no lie, despite incontrovertible evidence, or then become hyper-apologetic, but appear more sorry they got caught than really sorry.

    In this light, Shum seems more the exception. What I wonder is how many there are who fake it and make it. Hard to know. But integrity is a priceless commodity.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thank you for the interesting comment, Don.

      I think your “Steps To Self Delusion” seem pretty spot-on.

      I think the hyper-apologetic options is appropriate in the case. You’re right…I wonder how many fake it and then ACTUALLY make it. Anyone have any interesting stories of people who have long since made it and faked it when they started?

  9. Justus Lewis says:

    Previously I’ve seen Fake it till you make it as an exhortation to copy the mindset of successful people so as to encourage habits that support the results you want to achieve. Putting out dishonest information is something else again and a major disservice to oneself and others.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      That’s an interesting distinction, Justus.

      When it comes to copying mindsets (and even ideas and concepts) I think that as content publishers, we ALL do that to some extent. We’re all constantly borrowing off the ideas of others and putting our own spin or slant on things. I try to give credit to anyone where I know the idea came from someone else, but of course I forget and/or don’t want the message to be missed if I’m constantly referencing others to explain where the idea came from!

      You’re right in that there’s a difference between self-affirmation and making grand, sweeping claims that you can’t back up.

  10. Jeremy says:

    Documentaries! I love documentaries. When I log into netflix it’s the first place I start searching.

    Louis Theroux’s work is outstanding, over ten years worth of great material. His newer stuff is more serious, sometimes darker, but amazing none the less.
    180 South is great, especially if you are into travel and living the created and free life.
    As a vegan I fully support Forks Over Knives. It changed my life.
    Along the same lines as Forks Over Knives is Food Inc. Another game changer for me. Same with Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, Joe Cross’ film about health and juicing.
    Buck made me cry in the theater, not going to lie.
    The producer of Ace Ventura and other Jim Carrey comedies, Tom Shadyac, directed I AM. Another game changer for me.
    And West Memphis 3 was amazing.

    Vice is so good too. I shuddered when I watched the one on Krokodil. My fiance refuses to watch lol. Too many to name individually.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Another documentary fan…sweet! :-)

      Totally agree on Louis’s newer stuff…it’s gotten more serious, for sure.

      I’ve got some watchin’ to do! hehe

  11. Ian Pickering says:

    Thanks for the great post- I have never seen this type of thing addressed before.

    I am also a big fan of documentaries, and I am constantly looking for new ones to watch. The Invention of Dr. Nakamatz is one of my all time favorites, and worth a look.

    Also, Fat, Sick, and Almost Dead (i think thats right) is another really cool show.

    It really sucks that people will go to those kind of lengths to get an audience. This stuff is hard enough with GOOD information.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Thanks, Ian!

      I’m glad you dug the post. It wasn’t quite as “popular” as some of our others, but I heard from someone else the other day that really dug the connection, heh.

      Thanks for the recommendations!

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  • No Third-Party Beneficiaries. Except as otherwise provided, nothing in this Agreement will provide any benefit to any third party or entitle any third party to any claim, cause of action, remedy, or right of any kind. This Agreement is not a third-party beneficiary contract.
  • Sections and Headings. The sections and headings in this Agreement are for organization and clarification purposes only and should not be interpreted as part of this Agreement.
  • Choice of Laws and Venue. Parties and Broker agree that any and all claims arising out of or related to this Agreement brought by or against Broker, including its validity, interpretation, breach, violation, or termination, shall be brought in the exclusive forum of the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court and pursuant to Michigan law. The Parties expressly consent to personal and subject matter jurisdiction in this forum. The prevailing party is entitled to payment of its costs, expenses, and attorney fees by the non-prevailing party for actions, disputes, or litigation arising out of or related to this Agreement.
  • Entire Agreement. Except as otherwise provided, this Agreement is the entire agreement between the Parties. This Agreement supersedes any prior written or oral agreement between the Parties.
  • Severability. If any provision of this Agreement is held to be invalid or unenforceable for any reason, the remaining provisions will continue to be valid and enforceable. If a court finds that any provision of this Agreement is invalid or unenforceable, but that by limiting such provision it would become valid and enforceable, then such provision will be deemed to be written, construed, and enforced as so limited.
  • Amendments. This Agreement may be amended in writing if both Parties sign and date in writing.
  • Effective Date. The Effective Date of this Agreement is the date it is agreed to by Buyer.

Depositor Terms Of Use Agreement

Effective Date: April 1st, 2016

Introduction

Welcome to Empire Flippers. We take the friction out of buying and selling websites.

This is our Depositor’s Terms of Use Agreement (“Agreement”) and it contains important provisions regarding your use of this website, including provisions regarding your deposit of money in connection with a potential purchase of a website, app, or other online business (“Asset”). You should review this Agreement carefully before deciding whether to deposit money with Empire Flippers. If you do not agree to the terms contained within this Agreement, you should not deposit money or purchase an Asset through Empire Flippers.

This Agreement is being entered by and between you, the user, and Empire Flippers, LLC (“Broker”). Broker is the owner of an online marketplace for buying and selling websites (“Services”), which are provided subject to the terms of this Agreement. You are referred to as “You”, “Your”, or “Depositor”. Collectively, Depositor and Broker are referred to as the Parties.

THIS AGREEMENT IS A LEGALLY BINDING CONTRACT AND YOU HAVE A DUTY TO READ THIS AGREEMENT BEFORE USING THE WEBSITE OR SERVICES. WHEN YOU ACCEPT THESE TERMS, YOU MANIFEST YOUR ASSENT TO THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS CONTAINED WITHIN THIS AGREEMENT. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT, YOU MUST IMMEDIATELY CEASE YOUR USE OF THE WEBSITE OR SERVICES. EMPIRE FLIPPERS RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY, AMEND, REPLACE, SUSPEND, OR TERMINATE THIS AGREEMENT AT ANY TIME AND WITHIN IT SOLE DISCRETION. IN THE EVENT EMPIRE FLIPPERS MODIFIES, AMENDS, OR REPLACES THIS AGREEMENT, THE EFFECTIVE DATE, LOCATED ABOVE, WILL CHANGE. YOUR USE OF THE WEBSITE OR SERVICES AFTER A CHANGE IN THE EFFECTIVE DATE CONSTITUTES YOUR ACQUIESCENCE TO AND ACCEPTANCE OF ANY MODIFICATION, AMENDMENT, OR REPLACEMENT.

  1. Deposit Amount. You are agreeing to place on deposit with Broker the amount stated for the applicable listing (“Deposit”).
  2. Information. By making the Deposit with Broker, You will be given confidential information regarding the Asset, including but not limited to access to the URL (if applicable), detailed proof of earnings, and access to seller for questions.
  3. Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure.
    1. Depositor will be provided Confidential Information after making the Deposit. “Confidential Information” shall mean nonpublic proprietary information revealed by the providing party (whether in writing, orally or by any other means) to the Depositor including (a) information expressly marked or disclosed as confidential, (b) all forms and types of financial and/or business information, (c) any and all details relating to the Asset, including its URL, detailed sales and revenue details, and any other information related to the Asset.
    2. Confidential Information shall remain the property of the providing party and all applicable rights in patents, copyrights, trade secrets and similar intellectual property rights embodied in the Confidential Information shall remain in the providing party. The Depositor party agrees to treat all such Confidential Information as confidential and shall not disclose such Confidential Information to any third party; provided that the Depositor may disclose the Confidential Information to its Representatives (as defined below) who have a need to know such information in connection with the evaluation of the purchase of the Asset. The Depositor shall use at least the same degree of care to avoid disclosure of such Confidential Information as the Depositor uses with respect to its own confidential information of like importance.
    3. The Depositor shall not use Confidential Information for any purpose other than evaluation of the Asset for purchase and shall prohibit its agents, financial advisors, employees, officers and directors (collectively, “Representatives”) from using the Confidential Information for any purpose other than as specifically agreed upon by the parties hereto.
    4. This Agreement shall not apply to information that on the effective date of this Agreement has been or thereafter is: (a) developed by the receiving party independently of the providing party and not based upon or derived from information provided or delivered by the providing party to the receiving party; (b) rightfully obtained by the receiving party from a third party without restriction; or (c) publicly available other than through the receiving party in violation of the terms of this Agreement.
    5. In the event that the Depositor is required to disclose any Confidential Information, the Depositor will cooperate with the providing party and, when possible pursuant to statutory or regulatory authority, provide the providing party with prompt written notice so that the providing party may seek a protective order or waive compliance by the Depositor with the provisions of this Agreement.
    6. The Depositor acknowledges that the unauthorized disclosure of Confidential Information may cause irreparable injury to the providing party and that, in the event of a violation of any of the Depositor’s obligations hereunder, the providing party shall have no adequate remedy at law and shall therefore be entitled to seek enforcement of each such obligation by temporary or permanent injunctive relief without proving damages, and without prejudice to any other rights and remedies which may be available to the providing party at law or in equity.
  4. Right of First Refusal. If, at any time while Depositor’s Deposit is on account with Broker, the Seller associated with the listing connected to your Deposit receives a bona fide offer below list price from any party to purchase the Asset, Broker shall notify Depositor of the offer. If Depositor does not elect to match the offer in writing within twenty-four (24) hours, Seller may then sell the Asset to the first offeror, provided the sale is on the conditions specified in the offer sent to Depositor.
  5. Refund of Deposit. Depositor may request a refund of the Deposit at any time, for any reason, or no reason at all. Broker will refund the Deposit as soon as commercially possible.
  6. Deposit Not Used for Purchase. Should you choose to make a purchase of an Asset, your Deposit will be returned to you and will not be used as a potion of the Payment Price of the Asset.
  7. Wire Fees and Other Expenses. Broker does not charge Depositor any wire or transfer fees, however, certain fees and expenses may be charged by your financial institution and are solely your responsibility.
  8. Notices. All notices required under this Agreement shall be made to Broker at support@empireflippers.com.
  9. Choice of Laws and Venue. Parties and Depositor agree that any and all claims arising out of or related to this Agreement brought by or against Broker, including its validity, interpretation, breach, violation, or termination, shall be brought in the exclusive forum of the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court and pursuant to Michigan law. The Parties expressly consent to personal and subject matter jurisdiction in this forum. The prevailing party is entitled to payment of its costs, expenses, and attorney fees by the non-prevailing party for actions, disputes, or litigation arising out of or related to this Agreement.
  10. Entire Agreement. Except as otherwise provided, this Agreement is the entire agreement between the Parties. This Agreement supersedes any prior written or oral agreement between the Parties.
  11. Effective Date. The Effective Date of this Agreement is the date Depositor consents to the same.