I hadn’t seen Dave in almost 20 years. He was my dentist when we moved to Boca Raton in the early 1980s. He continued to take care of K and the kids after we moved to Delray Beach 10 years later, but I opted for dental care closer to home.
Dave contacted me when he discovered that I was the man behind the “Michael Masterson” pen name. He’d been receiving ETR for a while and liking it. One day, he went to the website and saw my photo. “I know that guy!” he thought. So he got my e-mail address from K. “How about lunch?” he wrote. “I’ve got a bunch of things I need to ask you.”
Several weeks later, we were eating chopped chicken salads at City Oyster on Atlantic Avenue. Dave seemed nervous. It was as if he was intimidated by the Michael Masterson persona. I did my best to assure him I was the same person who used to wince in pain when he cleaned my teeth. We talked a bit about family news, but it was clear he had something else on his mind.
On his mind was a decision he was trying to make: Should he spend $100,000 on the highest level of an Internet marketing program he had been looking at?
“I’ve been studying their stuff,” he told me. “It’s really good. But I’m not sure it makes sense for me to invest that kind of money.”
“A hundred grand is a lot of money,” I said. I felt like Sam Spade talking to Gutman about the price of the Maltese Falcon.
“But you get an awful lot for your money,” Dave explained. “They do all the technical stuff for you, which I’m not very good at. All I’d have to do is come up with the ideas.”
“Well,” I said, practicing my best Sam Spade drawl, “what ideas do you have?”
In fact, Dave didn’t have a single one. “All I know is that I am in the wrong business,” he said. “I took this self-test online – and I found out I’m in the worst business in the world for me.”
At nearly 50 years of age, Dave had just concluded that his entire career had been a waste. “I wanted to be a dentist since I was eight years old,” he told me. “If I had known then what a bad business it was for me, I would have done something else.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“Like what you do,” he said. He was smiling, but he looked serious.
“Look,” I told him. “My business is a great business – but I don’t think you should conclude that your life has been wasted simply because you took some pop quiz that was probably designed to sell you something.”
“But it was right,” he insisted. “It proved something I had always known but was afraid to admit.”
The waitress filled our drinks. We ate in silence for a while.
“So what I’m thinking is that, since I’m not into the technical stuff, this Internet marketing program would be very good for me.”
“How much time have you invested in learning about Internet marketing?” I asked.
“About three years,” he answered.
And how many information products on the subject have you bought in that three-year period?” I asked.
Dave laughed. “I can’t even count that high,” he said.
“How much money have you spent?”
“Tens of thousands. Probably more.”
“And yet, you haven’t actually started an Internet marketing business,” I said.
He nodded, then rattled off the names of every Internet marketing program he’d bought – all the ones that I knew and dozens of others I had never heard of.
“That’s a lot of buying,” I told him.
“Tell me about it,” he said.
Dave explained that when he reads an advertising promotion pitching a new Internet marketing product, he is “totally taken in by it,” even though he realizes he is just reading “a sales pitch.”
“But even though I know that I’m being seduced by a professional wordsmith, I can’t stop myself from buying.”
“I hear you,” I said. “You are an information junkie.”
“What about you?” he said. “I read that you read a lot of informational books – about one every week.”
“I do,” I said, “but I’m not an information junkie. I’m an information user.”
“So what’s the difference?”
I explained that the difference is huge. An information junkie is addicted to the process of buying information. Although he may delude himself into thinking otherwise, he has no intention of ever using the information he buys. An information user is very practical about his purchases. He buys information for specific, pragmatic purposes. He uses the information he buys to achieve specific goals – to start or grow a business, to learn a new language, to improve his negotiating skills.
An information junkie is happiest at the moment he is buying the information. His enthusiasm soon wanes, however. Within hours or days of receiving it, the information junkie is on to other things. The new product goes up on the shelf with the old products. He’s excited about the next new one.
An information user makes progress. See him reading a book about nutrition, and there’s a very good chance (if he likes the book) that his eating habits will change in the immediate future. The information junkie, in contrast, may have 26 books about nutrition in his living room. He may have even read them all – while he was lying on the couch eating potato chips.
An information user is someone who consumes information to profit from it. If he invests $100 in learning about some subject, he expects to see a substantial return on that investment – perhaps a thousand dollars’ worth of value, material or spiritual. An information junkie consumes information like drugs or candy bars. It gives him an immediate rush and then nothing afterward. That’s why he needs to buy more.
The information user has long-term expectations when it comes to knowledge. He believes the knowledge he acquires now will compound over time as he learns more and is in a better position to leverage what he has learned for greater benefit. The information junkie is in it for the here-and-now. He doesn’t believe in saving. He’s always on to the next hot thing.
What about you? Are you an information junkie? Take this test and see…
1. In the past year, I’ve purchased more than 12 books that I haven’t read. (If your answer is Yes, give yourself 2 points.)
2. In the past year, I’ve purchased:
- Only information products that I have used. (Yes = 1 point)
- Between 1 and 3 $100 information products that I haven’t used. (Yes = 2 points)
- Between 3 and 5 $100 information products that I haven’t used. (Yes = 3 points)
- More than 5 $100 information products that I haven’t used. (Yes = 5 points)
3. In the past year, I’ve purchased at least one $1,000 information product that I didn’t use. (Yes = 5 points)
4. I am most excited about the information that I buy:
- When I am ordering it. (Yes = 3 points)
- When I receive it. (Yes = 2 points)
- When I begin using it. (Yes = 1 point)
5. When I read a book, I feel compelled to read it from cover to cover. (Yes = 2 points)
6. I generally take notes when I read something. (Yes = 1 point, No = 2 points)
Well… how did you score?
If you scored 8 or above, you are indeed an information junkie. You might think the good people at ETR would like that (since they are in the business of selling information). But they don’t. The people at ETR know that their business will grow most strongly if they develop a customer base of information users rather than junkies. That’s because information users benefit from the knowledge they buy. This means they are more discriminating (which favors ETR’s products, since they are some of the best in the business), they buy more products in the long run, and they request fewer refunds.
If you are an information junkie, don’t despair. You can convert yourself into an information user simply by following two rules:
1. When you buy an information product, set specific deadlines for reading it and implementing what you learn. For instance, set a goal that you will take one of its recommended actions within 24 hours of receiving the product. Then resolve to take at least one more recommended action each week thereafter.
2. Don’t buy another product until you have made some progress with the one you previously purchased.
That’s all there is to it. Obey these two rules and you’ll not only break your addiction, you will radically improve your life.[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]