riffs & rants blog

PKA Episode 77: Illana Burk of Makeness Media

I’ve known Ilana Burk for quite awhile. I think it was 2008 when a mutual friend introduced us. Not sure precisely what the conversation was about, but the theme was about creating good, solid work to the world without bullshit. As you can see, this is a theme in most conversations I tend to have with other people. This, I like.

On the Powder Keg of Awesome, and in our business, CDK Creative, Jerry pointed out we strive to be clear and above the board in our endeavors. We wanted to have Ilana on the show because she is always clear, above the board and is not afraid to call out the bullshit artists, by name. She does so regularly on her blog.

She said she’s been following the online business space for quite some time, not only because she has her own business, Makeness Media, but because it is such a new environment for doing business. She noted “any time there’s easy money to be made, people will try to make easy money and anytime there’s people striving to live a better life, there’s people there to sell them bullshit.”

There are a lot of people talking about these types on the internet, but the online culture is to do so anonymously. Ilana bucked this trend by calling out two so-called “gurus” by name on her blog.

Because it is so easy to craft a persona online, people can make themselves look “big” and “important” fairly easily. So there is what Ilana calls, a “fear of the guru wrath” that just feeds unethical behavior. She noted that people called her “brave” for doing so. Given some perspective, these people are just like anyone else, what is there to fear?

Having a particular affinity for calling bullshit on people who profit from manipulating people’s emotions and basic needs, this resonated strongly with our crew. This reminded Jerry of the old used car salesmen stereotype. Years ago these guys were everywhere, capitalizing on people’s very real needs for inexpensive transportation. Nowadays, they are considered a joke. We can only hope this happens in the internet sales space.

Ilana pointed out that because the possibility for running an online business is relatively new, there is a knowledge void and fear of this “new thing” that predatory folks are running to fill. People are eager and willing to spend thousands of dollars to buy information and “coaching” they really cannot afford because their new businesses do not have the liquidity to support an investment at such a high level. Ilana finds this highly unethical and we agree.

Instead she focuses, not only on bringing valuable information in at a more reasonable price point, but also on getting people to look very closely at what they want to do and create in the world. So much weight is placed upon “freedom” and “making money while laying on the beach” that very little consideration is placed on looking at what gets you charged up, what makes you want to make stuff. Any business should be built around what jazzes you, not escape fantasies.

This got us wondering if the gaggle of “make money while laying on the beach” hucksters have ever experienced getting a charge out of helping people do things or solve problems. I think this is a direct result of living in a time and place that conditions people to hate their jobs and promotes a culture of escapism as a viable alternative.

Ilana pointed out “the paradigm of work is changing rapidly. There are major growing pains for everybody”. As we move out of the industrial age, the ideas and trends around concepts such as long-term employment and retirement and equating value with hours are changing rapidly. Some people are stepping up to try stuff out and make new definitions. Others are freaking out and clinging to the old ways.

Michael (our producer) took it a step further adding, “we’re all conditioned to believe that work means going through the motions as well as desensitizing ourselves to the misery and expectation of getting something better other than a raise. I would rather be poor than have to desensitize myself to misery and never experience joy.”

I think we need to stop thinking of it as an either-or proposition and let go of the idea that if we’re going to choose to be happy (your own definition of happiness) that we will also have to choose be poor. Since the rules are changing, we can create a newer world where we can be wealthy and live happily. What can you do to try and bring the two together?

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