This book review is part of a mini-series on multi-level marketing businesses.
I came across this book as I met an enterprising young man hawking Life Leadership, seemingly a new multi-level marketing business. when I first laid eyes upon this book I was confronted with mixed emotions, ostensibly it sounded like a conspiracy book, after all most conspiracy theories or literature couch their arguments in language belonging to the Matrix franchise, concepts like the red pill, the matrix (i.e., systemic deception), adherents of these conspiracy theories often feel they are liberated or otherwise free from what everyone else is trapped in. It was no surprise that a book that has its front cover decorated with floating currency signs draped in sci-fi green coat would heavily use and abuse the Matrix narrative. My initial thought that it would be a conspiracy book was mostly untrue, but the book does definitely stray into conspiracy territory, especially with the dubious explanation regarding fractional reserve banking (explained more below).
Alas, the start of the book opens with a cringe inducing exchange taken straight from the Matrix where the author adds in brackets [Financial] next to the word Matrix into the dialogue between Neo and Morpheus. The author sums up what is going on, everyone is taking on debt and being buried, the author uses his own personal anecdotes to give a personal taste to his argument. His wife is pregnant and the news is troubling to the author because of the mounting debt, no surprise by the end of the book the author is relieved from his crushing financial obligations and presumably is willing to sell his plan to you at a subscription rate (Life Leadership). The problematic part with this is the over use of Matrix clichés (no surprise given the cover), the tired memes of blue and red pills, the awakening and escape and seeing the truth, ostensibly it sounds novel and prolific but it’s bromidic. The ‘truth’ he sells is this: a system has been constructed to enslave you to debt and to keep you down. To bolster his claims he borrows from history and references slave systems and feudal systems, the modern debt paradigm is the just a new revision of that according to Woodward.
While Woodward probably figured that using the simple-to-digest Matrix narrative was best to connect with his audience, I feel this over simplifies the complexities of economics and finance and waving your hands and decrying that a cabal holds immense power and seeks to enslave you is a bold claim and I don’t think Woodward’s account is convincing. While Woodward and I can probably find common ground on how the deck is stacked against the average joe, to allege there is some grand conspiracy or system that enslaves everyone analogously to the Matrix is an over extended enterprise. I suppose it is not as sexy to suggest that the global financial system is complex and nearly undecipherable. But admitting that it is complicated with no easy answers doesn’t sell as well if there is a concrete enemy: the oligarch. The Matrix was easy to understand humans vs machines, Woodward (unoriginal in this regard) boils down the narrative to be everyone vs. oligarchs.
Probably one of the biggest flaws of this book is the rather sketchy reasoning to explain why the people are drowning in debt. Instead of directly blaming people becoming more self-centred and ostentatious focused, or keeping up with the joneses, neoliberalism, or other typical suspects, Woodward puts the blame at the doorstep of Fractional-reserve banking. Woodward’s reasoning is rather simple: fractional-reserve banking works by a bank only having to have a fraction of money on hand held as deposits while it can loan out that money many times over. This allegedly allows a superfluous amount of credit to be created. While Woodward isn’t attempting a serious economic tract on monetary policy, I found this proof to be too simplistic. Not to mention that credit wasn’t invented with the ditching of the gold standards. I do agree that people are too trigger happy when it comes to swiping their credit card or too eager to buy another watercraft, but can you really blame fractional reserve banking? The inverse being that, if you removed this type of monetary system, would this problem go away? Probably not, credit would still be profitable to banks and Visa, so I would require more to be convinced of Woodward’s thesis on fractional-reserve banking. I found his explanation unconvincing and even if fractional reserve banking was to blame I wouldn’t be convinced from the arguments presented in this book.
The rest of the book is a blue print for financial success, this is where the author utilizes other billionaire’s experiences, referencing Warren Buffet, Sam Walton and Robert Kiyosaki. Woodward references the common financial tricks: attack/defence (i.e., the standard accounting response to budgeting: reduce spending, increase revenue). Woodward lays out a few more, but I’ll let the reader discover them, because at only 120 pages or so this book is fairly short. I believe Woodward made a calculated move to have a short book, as the gentlemen from Life Leadership told me many people do not like to read and the sales pitch has to be made in account of a short attention span of potential readers. Woodward is just writing to his audience, which is fine. But I found of only 100 pages of actual material the book was lacking. But as I got to the end I was surprised to see a 25ish page FAQ about MLM, Life Leadership and a falling out Woodward had with some others, I skimmed this part because I was wholly uninterested in joining a MLM and had no idea who Woodward was, so it was uninteresting.
As way of summary, I am not the target audience of this book. I am convinced this book is for prospective Life Leadership recruits, or people who are entirely new to financial self-help books. In that case you may find this book interesting or informative. For those people I would suggest picking up a few other books as well , as this is only really a small taste of the literature that is out there. For people who are uninterested in joining Life Leadership, or have a solid or even basic grasp of financial skills, I would suggest not spending the $11 on this book and save it instead.
Submitted to Amazon on 04/06/2015