As much as we like to believe that life is simple, we should also recognise that it can sometimes be quite complicated. There is usually more to what we see than meets the eye. At least once in your lifetime, you will find yourself in a position where you need to change your mind about an earlier determined course of action. When you gain new insight or fresh perspective that necessitates an action which you had hitherto not considered or maybe even spoken against, don’t be too proud – or abashed – to retrace your steps.
The story is told of an esteemed cleric who denounced television as ‘the devil’s box’ for several years. Today, the denomination he leads owns a TV station. But has that changed his message or character in any way? No, it hasn’t. The point here is to base our lives on a firm foundation of core values and principles to which we will always stay committed instead of guiding our behaviour by plenty of rules, policies and public opinion. Like John Maxwell says, “Policies are many, principles are few; policies will change, principles never do.” Paradigm shifts are a part of life. Your perspectives will change when you’re exposed to fresh insights or new experiences. It is therefore important to understand the context of any situation before attempting to interpret it.
When you look at the image above for example, you would see a frog. Bend your head or rotate the picture to the left by 90 degrees and you see a horse. That is the power of perspective – how you look determines what you see. That is why we must learn to accommodate other people’s opinions even if we don’t agree with them. The fact that we don’t see what they are seeing does not invalidate their perspective. The best way to relate with people whose point of view differs from ours is not to insist on a superior argument. What we should rather do is seek to enter their experiences so we can see things from their perspective.The fact that we don’t see what others are seeing does not invalidate their perspective. Click To Tweet
That brings me to the issue of MMM, a Ponzi scheme that has attracted cult-like followership within a few months of debuting in Nigeria. Nigerians are not unfamiliar with Ponzi schemes but the most recent resurgence of this phenomenon in MMM is quite perplexing. The scheme sells itself as a social network where people give and receive financial help, with the promise of increasing the ‘donated’ sum by 30 percent in 30 days.
True to its pyramid scheme model, existing members are expected to refer other members for a 10 percent bonus. Now, the question is where does the 30 percent increase come from, together with all the other bonuses? Since participants are made to pay directly into one another’s bank accounts, it is obvious that there is really no economic value being created. And that’s a major problem with Ponzi schemes.
But again, is there really a problem here? Most people would answer with a resounding Yes, backing up their assertion with statements like ‘The business model is not sustainable.’ Well, that’s true. But it’s only true if you’re talking about a business. MMM has made it very clear that it is not a business but a social network. Now, pause to think about that.
If someone chooses to give out his ‘spare money’ in the hope of getting one percent increase per day, knowing full well that he could lose out, how is that anyone’s business? I find it interesting that the Nigerian government which makes so much money from gambling (euphemistically referred to as lottery) as to create an agency to regulate that line of ‘business’ can suddenly turn around to issue threats against promoters of ‘wonder-working bank’. Does government approval make gambling better than Ponzi schemes?
Are the lawmakers indeed concerned about ‘saving Nigerians from ‘financial disaster’ or are they simply bothered about the fact that the scheme is not structured in such a way as to generate revenue for government? How about creating a Wonder Bank Regulatory Commission or a Ponzi Scheme Agency to regulate this ‘industry’? I’m literally giggling as I write this. A government that warns citizens against Ponzi schemes should also warn them against gambling which is known to have serious effects including loss of jobs, failed relationships, severe debt and even mental disorder. Ultimately, severe gambling can lead to suicide. Yet, government approves gambling and warns against ‘Wonder Banks’.
I’m reminded of a certain church in Lagos which organises an end-of-the-year raffle where people buy tickets for 500 naira and hope to go home with a brand new car or some other prize like refrigerators, TV sets, bags of rice, etc. I know people who would excitedly buy these tickets year after year without bothering to ask how their 500 naira creates so much value as to make them entitled to a brand new car or refrigerator. Yet these same people would strongly resist a scheme like MMM without even bothering to understand the psychology behind it.
Yes, MMM is probably not creating any real value – from a macroeconomic perspective – but it is obviously creating psychological value. And that’s fine, because it’s not supposed to be a business; it’s supposed to be a social network where you give out your spare money and get others to reward your giving at the risk of losing your money. Simple enough; isn’t it? And that’s where most people miss it. We all lament about the peculiar kind of greed that causes people to keep loads of money in their private vaults without having anything to do with it when they could have easily introduced that money into the economy. Now, some folks have created a system to redistribute that wealth and we’re crying foul.MMM may not create macroeconomic value but it's obviously creating psychological value. Click To Tweet
Participating in MMM is not necessarily a manifestation of greed as most naively assume. The real greed is keeping money that you don’t need when you could easily loan it to someone in need and recoup it at a later time. Is MMM a perfect system for doing that? Certainly not! Is it working for people? It certainly is, as far as my sample size can tell. However, it’s also clear that when the number of new entrants can no longer sustain the payment structure the scheme will collapse with most of the participants losing the money they put in.
Now, if you had followed the rules and put in only your spare money, would you have any problem? It would only be as though you have ‘sown to the universe’ in which case you would recoup your investment in another form, in line with universal laws. The problem is the vast majority of people are seeing MMM as a means to accumulate quick wealth, instead of the help system that it is conceived to be. So they go as far as putting in their life savings, taking bank loans and doing other greedy stuff in a bid to quickly milk the system while they can. Again, it is a matter of perspective. I have made politically correct and socially acceptable decisions that set me back financially by seven figures, costing me several months of anxiety before I regained financial stability.
The point here is that people lose money every day in the course of pursuing their day-to-day activities. So, if people are willing to stake their money on a crazy scheme, how is that anyone’s headache as long as the participants totally understand the risks? At first, I was very critical of the scheme to the point of almost publicly dissociating myself from friends who were involved in it. But I got a broader perspective and decided that it’s their choice as long as they understand the risks and take necessary precautions especially by making sure they only use their spare money, knowing that greed always loses what it has gained.
So, should you invest in MMM? That’s your decision to make. I simply wrote this piece as a comprehensive response to enquiries that I have received about MMM, following extensive discussions with Samuel AY, an MMM hater turned promoter. If you’d like to have more specific information on this scheme, check out his information portal. My goal in this post is to give you a broader perspective so that if you choose to get involved, you know what you’re getting into and if you choose to stay away, you’ll be mindful of your attitude towards the people participating in it.
People have all sorts of financial issues and I wouldn’t crucify them for exploring any solution that works for them as long as it is not criminal, does not hurt anyone and does not violate their conscience. Wisdom teaches me to be comfortable with different points of view without necessarily agreeing with them. Like one of my friends recently said, “What is ‘9’ to you is ‘6’ to me. And that is the beauty of life.”
PS: While I am no longer overly critical of schemes like MMM, I absolutely believe that the best way to make money is to use your skills and intelligence to meet needs and solve problems. That way, you are creating value that can be converted to cash any time, any day instead of relying on a system that is only as stable as shifting sand. Read this sequel for further advice.