Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Coffee/Tea Reduce Diabetes risk?

Good news for coffee drinkers. Its a health drink again! Or at least a beverage you can enjoy guilt free.

A review of recent studies from the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that consumption of coffee and tea significantly reduces the risk of developing Type-2 diabetes.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Call Me Back After the Holidays"

If you are in sales (and all network marketers are in sales) and you are not yet a fan of Jeffrey Gitomer, you should be. What are you waiting for?

In this article he offers 11 1/2 winning ways to deal with this classic pre-holiday stalling tactic. Try them out yourself, they really work.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a happy Holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

video

Are Network Marketers behind the Social Networking Curve?

Despite what often seems like reluctance and resistance from established network marking companies, NETWORK Marketing and Social NETWORKS are natural partners. As businesses of all stripes pile onto the social networking bandwagon, will 2010 be the year that Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. finally go mainstream in the network marketing ecosystem?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Genetics Role in Obesity Minor, New Study Finds

A study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition casts doubt on the importance of the contribution of genetic heritage to the growing incidence of obesity. The study suggests that as little as 1% of obesity may be due to genetic pre-disposition, with diet and lifestyle choices accounting for the rest. “The obesity epidemic we are facing today unfolded over the past few decades and can clearly not be explained by changes in the frequency of risk alleles,” wrote Claude Bouchard from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “It is more likely due to a changing social and physical environment that encourages consumption and discourages expenditure of energy, behaviors that are poorly compatible with the genome that we have inherited.”

This is a good news/bad news situation, of course. On the plus side, the study seems to conclude that reducing obesity - which is implicated as a contributing factor in many chronic diseases like cancer, coronary disease and diabetes - is largely under our control. This would have a huge and positive impact on not only our health as a society but on the cost of our healthcare system, since the lion's share of the cost is a result of treating chronic illness (about 75% of 2007 US healthcare expenditures). The bad news is, of course, that we can't continue to blame our genes and delude ourselves that we cannot personally do anything about it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Which Twitter Type Are You?

Network marketing being, well, network marketing, social media tools like Facebook and Twitter can be incredibly useful for expanding and growing your business. They can also be an utter waste of your time and energy. Partly this is a matter of how well and appropriately you put these tools to work for you. And partly it is a matter of how these social networking communities perceive you. Here is an interesting perspective from social media maven Guy Kawasaki on "The Six Twitter Types". Which type are you? And which do you want to be?

Thanks to Gwen Baldinger at Lucky Penny Marketing for sharing this with me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

MLM Plans vs Pyramid Schemes

One of the reactions I often get from people when I bring up my Reliv MLM nutrition business is "Oh. Oh no. Steve! I thought you were smarter than that. You're not involved in one of THOSE!" "Those" being the pyramid scams that everyone knows MLM businesses to be. The idea that the MLM industry is a giant Ponzi scheme is deeply rooted and nourished by self-righteously ill-informed pundits, and unfortunately there are sufficient unscrupulous individuals and companies out there to lend credence to the belief. But is it really true?

A pyramid scheme is based upon paying returns to investors out of their own money or from money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from any actual profit earned. This is the crucial element, and we may as well admit that there are MLM businesses that follow that model. But that doesn't make the whole network marketing industry a pyramid scheme any more than phishing makes all internet marketing a deceptive scam. At its core, network marketing is simply another alternative for product distribution and sales. It relies upon layers of personal contacts to inform, sell and expand. The more extensive a network you can create, the more money you can potentially earn.

So how do you distinguish between a legitimate network marketing opportunity and a pyramid scheme? Its really not all that difficult. Consider the following:
  1. Avoid the "get rich quick" offers. A marketing network takes time and effort to build. You have to work, not just sit back and reap the rewards of having a big downline.
  2. If someone tells you that you have to "get in early" to build your business and make lots of money, watch out. A well run network marketing business built on a solid product allows you to get involved at any time.
  3. Beware of high fees to "buy in" to the business. If you are being asked to pay $100 or more for a "distributor kit" that is nothing more than a DVD and a few paper forms, or if your sponsor is making money when you sign up, look elsewhere.
  4. Avoid requirements to purchase a minimum amount of product every month. You may end up with a garage full of products you can't get rid of. If the product is good, and in demand, why is there a need to force you to buy it? (Hint: To help your upline make money.)
  5. Expect a money-back guarantee. Not just for your customers' product purchases but on your investment as well. If you discover 3 months into it that its not for you, you should be able to get a substantial portion (90%) of your investment refunded.
  6. Do your due diligence. You would not buy a franchise or business without working the numbers. Do the same for any MLM opportunity. No, not the numbers in the sales presentation. Check out the company. How long has it been in business? Is it the target of complaints or lawsuits? How does it earn its money?
  7. If anyone tells you this is not a sales job, or that the product "sells itself", thank them and walk away.
Certainly there are unethical MLM companies who prey on greed and naivete. The good news is that they tend not to last very long. True pyramids have a way of collapsing. There are also wonderful companies out there who have been in business 20+ years, have excellent products backed by ethical business practices and many happy, successful distributors. It you are considering a network marketing business, your first job is to recognize the difference. Every scam requires a willing victim. Don't let it be you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

More Good News About Soy and Breast Cancer

Increased intakes of soy and soy products may reduce the risk of death and breast cancer recurrence, says a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Another cautionary tale against too quickly extrapolating results from mice to humans.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Obesity Epidemic Tempers Good News on Cancer Rates

NPR reported this morning on its Morning Edition show that cancer deaths in the United States have been dropping since the 1990s. Researchers say that the decades-long effort to improve diets and reduce bad habits, like smoking, have begun to pay off. On the other hand, increasing obesity rates are contributing to increases in certain cancers. Listen to the entire segment here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

High Blood Pressure Linked to Memory Problems

A 2009 study by researchers for the American Academy of Neurology concluded that high diastolic blood pressure (the lower/second number in a blood pressure reading) was associated with cognitive impairment and memory problems. In the study, hypertensive people (diastolic pressure of 90 or greater) were found to be more likely to have problems with reasoning and recollection than those with normal diastolic pressures (80 or less). Every 10 point increase in diastolic pressure increased the odds of suffering some cognitive impairment by about 7%.

It's no news that high blood pressures are implicated in serious health risks such as heart attacks and strokes. Here is one more reason to pay attention. High blood pressure has genetic, dietary and lifestyle components. Are you managing the two that are under your complete control? Do you even know what your blood pressure is? Or did you forget?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Spamification of Twitter

I've been exploring Twitter for about a month now, and, frankly, doing so to evaluate it as a marketing tool. It seems to me to be a natural sort of tool to use in promoting a network marketing business, which really is a business that is built upon the strength of your real-life social networks. It was also highly recommended as a useful tool by Jonathan Budd in his (IMHO) excellent MLM Internet Marketing training program, which I am beginning to apply and finding both sensible and useful.

So what is my point? Just that Twitter seems to be overrun by people who think that bombarding their followers with an endless torrent of low value, blatantly promotional solicitations for whatever it is they want them to buy is a great idea. Does the fact the people elect to follow you mean that this is not spam?  Is sending the exact same tweet 20 times a day not spamming? Is sending 50 tweets a day with links back to your sales page or web site really effective? Is that the kind of Personal Brand you want to create for yourself? I think not. Take a look at this short video from Katrina van Oudheusden's blog on "How to Fail to Find Leads on Twitter". She says everything I wanted to say here faster and better.

For me the bottom line is this: People who use Twitter to bury me in solicitations simply become invisible to me. After the second day, I don't even see their tweets as I scroll past. They may have thousands of "followers" but how many of their messages even get seen, let alone read? Who really believes that anyone has "The Big Secret" that will make the rest of us rich, and that out of the goodness of their hearts they want to share it with everyone if only we will visit their web site? I want to stand out, but not that way. I want to to be one of the people who's tweets you will stop to read. If I send out five tweets a day, four of which are completely non-promotional, value adding, interesting messages; if I take a genuine, sincere interest in creating and building social connections and relationships; if my marketing messages are open and straightforward and not sneaky...... then over time I will build a Personal Brand that will attract the people who are looking for what I have to offer. And isn't that what marketing is really all about?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wishing Everyone a Safe, Happy and Healthy Holiday

I am taking off to Wyoming for a holiday clan gathering. So best wishes to everyone for a great Thanksgiving (or whatever you celebrate) and I will be back on Sunday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Technorati Claim Code

Here is the secret code:


N8EX9MJFC5SS

If you aren't Technorati you can just ignore this. So there.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Faith vs Science

While I personally do not see any essential conflict between science and faith, it sometimes seems like the two have been at loggerheads since long before the Catholic Church locked up Galileo Galilee for supporting the Copernican heresy that the earth revolved around the sun. We see this all the time today, from the unproductive argument among Creationism, Intelligent Design and Darwinism to the way science is routinely perverted and misrepresented in the cause of one political position or another.

I was at a nutrition related event a couple of weeks ago and the subject of soy came up in conversation. I offered as how I thought the issue of whether or not soy was beneficial or dangerous was unresolved, and that the science was as yet inconclusive. For example, there is no doubt doubt that soy contains phytoestrogens, which are known to promote the growth of breast cancer cells in animals. However soy also acts as an angiogenesis inhibitor by blocking receptor sites and so competing with the "bad" estorgens. As always in nutirition, thisngs are complex and trade-offs exist. But back to my point....

The group quickly divided itself into "pro-soy" and "anti-soy" factions and rational discussion came to an end. You would have thought that my suggestion that the jury was still out and that soy had some beneficial properties was an exhortation to go forth and kill puppies.

In a recent article on this subject in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Colorado College psychology professor John Horner writes, "There are some who for ideological reasons want to deny science its due. They instead want to pick and choose what scientific discoveries they are willing to believe." We face many serious challenges today. Global warming, malnutrition, viral pandemics, etc. If we are going to address these issues by first deciding what we want to believe, and then ignoring anything that conflicts with our view, we are all in deep trouble.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pills or Shakes?

One often observes a spirited debate between proponents of pill/capsule nutrient delivery systems and those who favor a liquid form. All too often the arguments are made and presented by those offering supplement products in one form or the other, promoting their own products and debunking the alternative. Here is an excellent discussion of the issue by Dr. Richard Drucker, a naturopath, and Dr. Michael Roth, a chiropractor. For myself, I will be using liquid form supplements for many of the reasons presented in their article. Whichever you decide is best for you, make it an informed decision.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wellness, Nutrition Cited as Key to Genuine Healthcare Reform

NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday host Liane Hansen speaks with Republican governor Jim Douglas of Vermont about that states experience with heathcare reform. He says Vermont's own state-initiated reforms could serve as a model for national changes in health care policy. Listen to the entire interview, then contact your Federal representatives and demand to know why nothing like this is even being discussed at that level.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Brace Yourself for Online Ad Onslaught from Drug Makers

Following up on my earlier discussion of drug advertising on television, yesterday the FDA opened a two day hearing to begin the process of  establishing rules and guidelines for how pharmaceutical companies should be allowed to utilize online information sources such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to "distribute information" online. Over 800 people showed up to make their opinions heard, including drug company representatives, consumer advocate groups, medical professionals and "web company" (Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, etc.) spokespeople.

If you have read my prior post you already know what I think of this cynical ploy to convince yet more people to take drugs they don't need. Nothing said at the first day of hearings makes me change my distaste for it. "Drug advertising “has been one of the few cash cows remaining for traditional media like television and magazines,” says the Wall Street Journal, going on: ”Drug companies spent $4.4 billion on ads for prescription drugs last year....” Google, Yahoo and the others apparently strongly supported the drug companies push for online access direct to consumers because they felt they were "missing out" on the fortune to be made from the ads.

Hopefully somewhere in this circus there will be time to discuss the lack of educational content in TV ads, the increase in consumption of drugs driven by consumers asking their doctors for them and the total absence of any discussion of alternatives to popping expensive pills.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Healthcare" Reform Clears the House

If you have never contacted your US Senator to express your opinion on impending legislation, this might be the time to take the plunge. The US House of Representatives on Saturday passed its "healthcare reform" bill by the narrow margin of 5 votes (220 - 215), only 3 votes more than needed for passage. Regardless of your opinion on healtcare reform or this bill in particular, its fair to say that it is not about reforming the US healthcare system at all but rather changing the rules by which Americans obtain heath insurance. How adding millions of additional people into a system that we already cannot pay for or afford qualifies as "reform" is mysterious to me. How another TRILLION dollars of healthcare spending that will eventually be financed by debt moves us forward toward the goal of affordable healthcare for all our citizens escapes me.

Attention now turns to the US Senate, which is working on its own bill. There are some key differences between the bill that the House approved and the bill the Senate is considering, including:

  • The House bill requires employers to provide coverage; the Senate does not.
  • The House bill pays for the coverage expansion by raising taxes on upper-income earners; the Senate uses a variety of taxes and fees, including a levy on high-cost insurance plans.
  • The House bill costs about $1.2 TRILLION over 10 years; the Senate version is under $900 BILLION.
By far the largest issue as the Senate crafts its final bill is the so-called "public option" to create a government sponsored health insurance program that would compete with private insurers. There is also considerable skepticism about the real cost of the program, particularly the $400B in "savings" to be realized by reducing Medicare program payments to healthcare providers. Current law already includes these cost cutting provisions but the Congress has never allowed a cut to be implemented, voting year by year to rescind them.

However this turns out it will impact YOU and your heathcare and your income. Whichever side of the issue you are on, don't wait until it is too late to make your voice heard.

Friday, November 6, 2009

There's Gold in Them Thar' Pills

Between 1996 and 2000 US pharmaceutical companies spent nearly $2.5 billion dollars on advertising aimed at consumers, a seven-fold increase in spending. Then it nearly doubled again, reaching $4.5 billion in 2006. Criticism of direct-to-consumer advertising has intensified since 2004, after Merck withdrew Vioxx, a heavily advertised painkiller, when a clinical trial showed that it sharply increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes. While accounting for only about 16% of the total spent promoting drugs in 2000 (the rest was spent on promotions aimed at doctors and health care professionals), television ads have come under intense scrutiny of late.

A 2007 study at UCLA suggests that TV ads may influence American consumers to over-medicate. Among the findings were that "the ads had virtually no educational value, failed to describe who is most at risk for which illnesses, what their symptoms might be, and whether non-medicinal alternatives such as changes to lifestyle like exercise and diet might also be viable options." Other troubling conclusions were that the ads: failed to described the symptoms and causes of illnesses,  mentioned the associated risk factors and how common or rare they are only about 1 time in 4; portrayed people losing control over their lives and then regaining it once they took the medication; used emotional appeals to influence viewers; and failed to show lifestyle and behavior change as viable alternatives except to suggest that changes to lifestyle would not be enough to deal with the illness.

For pharmaceutical companies there is a lot of money at stake here. According to the UCLA study Americans are exposed to as much as 16 hours of televised drug ads each week. As many as 1/3 of these viewers go on to ask their doctors about the drug, and as many as 2/3 of those who ask eventually receive a prescription for it. Since 1992, the number of prescriptions used by the average American has risen from 7 to 12. This is an increase of nearly 60% and has added about $180 billion to our annual healthcare spending. Sales of Seldane, one of the first drugs to be advertised on television after the FDA relaxed the rules in 1986, increased from $34 million to over $800 million. It was withdrawn from the market in 1997 due to serious (sometimes fatal) interactions and side effects.

There is no doubt that drugs can save lives. But we need to stop looking at them as harmless miracle cures for chronic conditions brought on by poor lifestyle choices. And when so much money is involved, we need to be doubly alert to look out for ourselves. Prescription medication is now the second-largest cause of "accidental" deaths in the United States, a 5-year 68% increase. Make sure you don't become part of these statistics.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I Can't.... I Don't..... I'm Not.....

The following link is must reading for anyone in network marketing who finds it challenging to handle the common objections that we hear all the time. I didn't know there were 13 of them, but a few of them I hear every day. Kudos to Network Marketing Review for posting this gem.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Nutritional Support for Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration (MD) is a leading cause of blindness among adults, especially those of European heritage. A recent study by the National Institutes of Health suggests that nutritional supplementation may be effective in reducing the onset of advanced symptoms by as much as 25%. The study noted that while there was no evidence that supplements helped to prevent MD in otherwise healthy people, those with intermediate age-related macular degeneration or advanced age-related macular degeneration in one eye should consider taking a daily supplement regimen consisting of 15mg beta-carotene, 500mg vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 80mg zinc and 2mg copper. The supplement program appeared to be successful in preventing the development of advanced age-related macular degeneration in the test group by 25%.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Some Links Worth Clicking

I thought I would post a few interesting links today on various related subjects.

Its often a challenge finding good produce. Either its waxed and sprayed to the point that it looks almost plastic, or else it wilts and rots by the time you get it out to your car. For those of you who would like truly fresh food and want to support local producers, check out Local Harvest. Its a great directory of farmers markets and family farms, and stores, co-ops and eateries that buy from them.

In 1998, prescription drugs killed 106,000 Americans and the number of deaths has been growing alarmingly since then. Here's a handy site where you can quickly and easily identify many prescription medications by shape, color or marking: www.webmd.com/pill-identificationwww.webmd.com/pill-identification. From there you can read about the purpose of the drig, appropriate indications, side-effects and drug interaction cautions. If you must take prescription medication, be a smart consumer. Your life may depend on it.

Finally, lest we forget, our home-based network marketing ventures are real entrepreneurial ventures. And we need to treat them that way. Here is a link to a library of guides and articles from the Harvard Business School that will be of interest to entrepreneurs like you:  http://www.hbs.edu/entrepreneurship/resources/ .

Monday, October 26, 2009

Is Network Marketing Right for You?

Nicole Woolsey Biggart is the former Dean of the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis, and is an expert in "social network" industries. She recently wrote an article for the Bottom Line Personal newsletter in which she shared some interesting statistics on the network marketing industry and offered some advice to anyone considering getting seriously involved in it. Remember, the following applies to the network marketing/direct selling industry overall. Any individual company may experience very different results. Caveat emptor.

According to the Direct Selling Association (DSA) the current economic downturn is driving sharp increases in the number of people starting network marketing businesses. At the same time, product sales by network marketing companies have been declining - $28B in 2008, down from a peak of $32D in 2006. There are 15 million Americans working in direct sales at any given time. Commissions paid on product sales typically range from 25% to 50%, with an additional 3% to 5% paid on sales from "downline" distributors you have recruited. After expenses (gas for your car is a big one), the typical distributor ends up earning about $10 to $15 an hour. A large majority (90%+) work only part time and earn a median wage of about $2,500 a year. Those who do forge a full time career, working 40 hours a week or more, can earn $30,000 and up annually. Once again, remember, these are only averages. People do make 6 figure incomes in direct selling, but typically this requires years of work building a large downline organization.

Dr. Biggart offers the following advice for anyone considering joining a network marketing organization.

  1. Know Thyself. At the end of the day, network marketing is a sales job. Is this something that suits your personality? Do you have the motivation and self-discipline to succeed?
  2. Love the Product. It's next to impossible to sell anyone a product that you do not like, believe in and use yourself.
  3. Due Diligence. You can't know too much about a company you are thinking about working with. Research them on the web. Talk to veteran distributors. Investigate them through the Better Business Bureau or your Chamber of Commerce.
  4. Target Market. Be sure the company has a payment structure based principally on product sales to end-user consumers, not recruiting and selling to distributors.
  5. DSA Membership. Companies must qualify for DSA membership, they cannot simply join. Members must subscribe to the DSA's Code of Ethics, submit to an audit and operate according to at least a minimal set of standard practices.
Network marketing can offer an incredible financial opportunity, a work from home lifestyle and unmatched control over your own time. But the industry is certainly not without its disreputable players. Be sure to do your homework.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Feel Better or your Money Back?

Not exactly. But if you are following Washington's "healthcare reform debate" at all you can be forgiven if the whole thing sounds more like "health insurance expansion". Proposals for, or even discussion of, actual changes to our broken healthcare delivery SYSTEM are more scarce than modesty at the Academy Awards. How about some innovation in the actual provision of medical services?

Here's an interesting idea from a PricewaterhouseCoopers study reported in the Colorado Springs Business Journal. What if instead of paying for how many different procedures a doctor ordered, we paid instead for the outcome? The RESULT of their treatment. Is it practical? Would it lower healthcare costs while maintaining or improving quality? I don't know, but it seems to me that simply adding more and more people to our unsupportably expensive system surely wont.

Monday, October 5, 2009

No Sell Selling

I may as well admit it. I hate salespeople. I hate being sold. I don't enjoy selling. Unsurprisingly, I have never been very good at it. Over the years I have had a lot of "sales training": Miller-Heiman, Sandler, coaches and consultants and classic selling books. I've learned all about "win-win" and relationship selling. None of it did much good. I still hate it. So I am more surprised than anyone to find myself involved (enthusiastically so) in a network marketing venture that is, however you look at it, a sales job.

I don't think I am the only one with this aversion to all things sales. Certainly there are plenty of people who both enjoy and excel at selling. But I think there are far more who find the whole thing just uncomfortable and distasteful. I understand and believe that "nothing happens until somebody sells something", that good salespeople are all about building social networks and long term relationships, and products and services have no value if they aren't ever sold. So what is it about selling that people dislike so much?

Most of what I hate about Sales comes down to this:

  • I don't care for the feeling of being pounced upon, whether that be walking into a store or picking up my phone. 
  • I don't like "spewing", wherein a salesperson launches into a carefully rehearsed routine designed to overcome my resistance without making the slightest effort to know me or my interests and needs.
  • I don't like to feel tricked into buying something I don't need, or "upsold" to a model full of features I will never use. Nor do I want to trick anyone else into making a purchase either.
  • The whole process often feels like a contest between the salesperson and me, one in which he is quite skilled and I am ill prepared to compete.
So is there really such a thing as No Sell Selling (NSS)? I think maybe there is. And I think it probably involves each of the following:

  • Integrity. You not only have to have it, you must project it. If the most important thing to you is closing that sale, then its not NSS. People want to trust the person they buy from, and trust is earned by performance.
  • Belief. You must absolutely and totally believe in the product you are selling, understand who will truly benefit from having it (and who will not) and, ideally, use it yourself.
  • Attitude. You must regard the process of selling as matchmaking. Of making a good match between your product and your customer. This means you must listen to and understand their needs (and wants). Success is not a sale. It is a good match. One that makes the buyer want to rush out and tell everyone he knows about it.
I am slowly beginning to appreciate and apply this to myself and my business. I sell nutritional programs that have produced real, measurable results for me and others. There are very few things that people care about more than their own physical health, so skepticism can run high. Couple that with it being a network marketing company and the wall of doubt can be thick and high. The temptation to try to overcome a prospects doubts with "selling techniques" can be pretty strong. And if that is what is required then I probably am doomed to fail.

Instead I am trying to learn to use NSS. I don't set out to "make a sale" but rather to share information that a prospect can use to make a good decision.  I listen to the prospect's interests and needs and only then talk about how (and whether) the products I can offer meet them. I share the results that I and others have gotten from the products. And I try, sincerely, to help people decided for themselves what to do and then support their choice. If I do it right, then I end up feeling like I just shared the discovery of a great new restaurant with a friend. That I can do. That's No Sell Selling.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stricter Regulation on the Way for Dietary Supplements?

According to a report on NPR this morning both the FDA and Congress are looking into the need for more government oversight and stricter regulation of the dietary supplement industry. The immediate precipitant of this renewed interest on the part of the government are the steroid abuse problems plaguing US sports, as many of the athletes caught up in it are claiming that they "didn't know" what they were taking and thought they were simply "supplements". The dubious merits of that defense aside, a new look at the need to provide a stricter and more consistent oversight of the industry is probably overdue.


I've been told many times that the dietary supplement industry in the USA is "unregulated". This is not true. The 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), signed into law by President Clinton, created a new regulatory framework for dietary supplements and implemented new Federal labeling requirements. It also established a new office within the National Institutes of Health charged with coordinating and assessing research on supplementation, and acting as a clearinghouse for consumer information. Even prior to DSHEA, dietary supplements were not "unregulated". Up until 1994, supplements were considered to be either "foods" or "drugs", depending upon their intended purpose, and fell under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration. A food had to be proven to have "taste, aroma or nutritive value" before it could be marketed or sold, and it had to be proven to be safe. If classified as a drug, a supplement also had to prove that it was effective.

In many ways DSHEA actually weakened oversight. According to Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, "Congress passed DSHEA on the basis of two quite questionable assumptions: that supplements are basically harmless, and that supplement-makers are basically honest. The law does not require supplement manufacturers to demonstrate the safety or effectiveness of their products to the FDA before selling them. Instead, the FDA must prove a supplement harmful by providing documentation from clinical trials or multiple case reports in court - a tedious process." Under the existing 1994 law, manufacturers cannot claim that their products "prevent or cure" any condition or disease. They can, however, claim to "support" various functions and structures of the body ("Builds strong bones!"), and they are not required to prove that their products can actually do any such thing.

"Wellness", of which dietary supplements are a part,  is projected to grow to be a trillion dollar industry over the next decade. Only the personal computer industry has passed that milestone. With an opportunity that large, and that much money being spent, we can expect a deluge of nutritional supplement products to enter the market. No doubt many of them will be of dubious health value. As we as a nation examine our entire health-care system, perhaps the time is right to take another look at the rules by which dietary supplement manufacturers play. At a minimum, companies should be required to substantiate any claims they make regarding the effectiveness of their products. We as consumers should not have to wait until after people die before an ineffective or even harmful product is removed from the market (ephedra, for example).

There are many reputable companies making and distributing nutritional supplements. For the most part they should be very supportive of new and more rational regulation of their industry. They have much to lose if the public loses all trust in their products because of the irresponsible actions of a few opportunists. Even with better standards, Americans still need to be adequately informed about what they're taking and purchasing, says Dr. David Heber, a supplement researcher who is director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of California in Los Angeles. He believes the FDA should form stricter rules for labeling and marketing, so consumers know exactly what they're getting. He says that supplement companies that do invest the time and money toward research should be rewarded.

Wishing doesn't make it real. What we don't know can hurt us.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Got Milk?

I am not an expert in nutrition, and don't have any plans to become one. But since I have gotten involved with a nutritional supplement business I have tried to become better informed and educated on nutrition issues. Talk about drinking from a fire-hose! I recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture on preventing and mitigating cancer through diet. The speaker was Susan Silberstein, Executive Director of the Center for Advancement in Cancer Education, and the talk focused on the important role that nutrition can play in cancer prevention and treatment. I am sure it was packed with useful and interesting information, but when I left the room an hour or so later all I remembered was the Powerpoint image of a milk carton with a skull and crossbones "poison" warning emblazoned on it.

Milk? Poison? Who knew?? Apparently a lot of people. And yet it was the first I had ever heard of milk and dairy products doing anything more than building strong teeth and bones. (If, that is, they are fortified with Vitamin D. But that's another story.) How could milk, literally the poster food for healthy eating, be bad for me? And if it was, how is it possible that I'd never heard anything about this before?

As hundreds of thousands of Americans literally die from what they eat each year (according to the WHO, as much as 60% of all cancers and 90% of diabetes cases are diet related), this is a perfect illustration of how difficult it can be to get reliable, unbiased, actionable nutrition information. On the one hand we have the $27B (2005) US dairy industry, various industry supported research organizations and the US Food and Drug Administration telling us everything is fine. On the other we hear the $14B (2005) US organic food industry, alternative wellness advocacy groups and numerous academic studies warning of the dangers of rBGH, IGF-1 and other scary sounding things found in milk.

Unless nutritional research is your career, and maybe even if it is, there is just too much conflicting information. It doesn't help that large segments of the nutrition industry are essentially unregulated. Or that nutritional labels are so intentionally misleading. If you can't trust milk, what can you trust?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Business Story

When I was introduced to the Reliv nutrition program in February of 2009, my personal financial situation was circling the drain. I'd been involved in an earlier entrepreneurial fiasco that had left my savings depleted, and the HR consulting business I had started in 2006 was not doing well. I was at the point of having to look for employment (a very unpalatable prospect to me as I had been self employed for most of the last 25 years and didn't relish the thought of having to explain myself to a boss again), start selling off personal assets (flying is one of my longtime passions and the thought of having to sell my 1977 Cessna 172XP for living expenses made taking a job seem almost delightful) or take money from my various retirement accounts (which would produce very negative tax penalties next year and leave me short of funds later). None of these were very attractive options. But the worst part of it wasn't even the money. It was the hopeless, discouraged feeling that my life was just not turning out the way I hoped it would at this age, and that I really had no good options for turning it around.

I was looking at Reliv for wellness and prevention, and had absolutely no intention of becoming involved with it as a business. But by April I had pretty much decided to use the products long term because of the health results I was seeing, and thought that it made sense to become a distributor simply to obtain the products at a significant discount. But by the end of May, having put no effort whatsoever into it (I'm not talking "part-time" here, I really made zero effort) I had "made" about $140 selling a few cans of product to family and close friends. I was in a position where even a couple of hundred dollars a month in extra income would make a big difference so I decided that I had better take a more serious look at the business potential of this.

In June and July I began to connect with my sponsor and plug in to the extensive training and support system that Reliv provided. There was a lot to learn, and I was seriously handicapped by a conviction that I already knew most of it. As I became more familiar with the products, the marketing plan and the compensation model I started to see that maybe, just possibly, a person could make some serious income at this. I began to devote some time to it, not a lot of hours but consistently. But I was also making a lot of mistakes, and while I was still making a little money, I wasn't progressing very fast.

Against my better judgment, I attended the Company's International Conference in St. Louis in August. I'd been to a lot of conferences over the years and frankly had very low expectations. I could hardly have been more wrong. Over three days I had the opportunity to see Reliv International up close (literally during the facility tour, and emotionally as it put its best face forward for the 4,000 or so enthusiastic distributors in attendance). But most important was the chance to meet with other distributors, to share their stories and to learn from their experiences. For me it was a completely unfamiliar experience to be among such a positive, confident, upbeat crowd. Almost uncomfortable. Perhaps it was contagious. Or perhaps it was the realization that there was nothing at all magical about the people who had been successful at this. They were sharing the exact same products as me. They had a compensation plan identical to mine. The training and support available to them were available to me. The only difference between me and people who were making a great living at this and having fun doing it was how hard and how long they had worked at it.

I am still circling the drain. My bills still outpace my income. But instead of hopeless and discouraged I am now enthusiastic and confident. Now I do see a way to the life I had wanted to have. Not a quick path, or an easy one. But a possible one. My goal is that by the end of next year, 2010, I will be making enough in the Reliv business to support myself comfortably. And then to become a little more successful and a little more prosperous each year thereafter. I don't see any reason not to be doing this for the rest of my life.

At least that's the plan. Check back now and then to see how it all really works out.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Health Story

When I was introduced to Reliv International nutritional supplements in February of 2009, I considered myself to be in fairly good health. I was perpetually trying to lose 10 pounds, but not really putting more on. I may have drank a bit too much but I ate well, exercised 5 days a week and had regular visits to my doctor and dentist to keep an eye on things. I had been struggling with borderline periodontal issues for years, but nothing serious enough to warrant therapy. My blood pressure had always been a little elevated, and now hovered right around that 120/80 dividing line. My blood glucose levels were creeping up a few points year after year, but at 106 not yet a serious concern.

My real concern was my genetic heritage. My father, his four sisters and his father had all died of cancer before they were 70 (some of the girls in their 40s). His mother died of heart disease. On the other side of the coin, my mother has advanced Alzheimer's and diabetes. Her brother died of cancer, her father of cardiovascular complications and her mother of Alzheimer's. As I closed in on 60 years, I could hear the clock ticking.

So I had always used supplements. Lots of them. Before Reliv I was taking 12 - 15 pills each day, including a multi-vitamin, fish oil, garlic, vitamin C, Vitamin E, Biotin, Saw Palmetto and various B-complex vitamins. I can't really say I ever noticed any results from lining up at this capsule buffet, nor did I really feel any different if I missed taking them for a few days. And the menu changed frequently as I read someplace about a new vitamin, mineral or supplement that was suddenly a "must take". I just figured that this is what prevention required.

I can sum up the attraction of the Reliv program for me in just four words: Simple, Complete, Optimal and Current. Replacing 12 - 15 tablets and capsules with two (more bio-available) shakes was simple and easy. The contents were complete, synergistic nutrition, with everything I needed in the correct amounts and proportions. They provided optimal nutrition, not minimum daily requirements. And finally, I could stop worrying about whether or not I was incorporating the latest nutritional studies and research into my diet. It was all done for me. Still, based on my experience with supplements, my expectations were low and it was only the 30-day money-back guarantee that sealed the deal. What did I have to lose?

One month into the program I realized that I was sleeping more soundly and waking up less tired, more alert and ready to start the day. I'd lost 5 pounds and was tearing right through the energy slump that usually struck around 3:00 pm. Not life changing perhaps, but results. I never knew nutritional supplements were supposed to produce results. By the end on the second month (March) I had shed 9 pounds and just felt "better", like I was more awake and productive all the way through my day. But was this for real? Or was I simply convincing myself of what I wanted to be true?

In April I had both my annual physical and semi-annual dental exam scheduled, and, being a numbers sort of guy, decided to await the outcome of these more objective tests before deciding whether to stay with this program or not. The results of my physical were surprising and, as far as I was concerned, conclusive.
  • Weight: down 12 pounds
  • Total Cholesterol: down 9 points to 167
  • HDL: up 8 points to 54
  • LDL: down 14 points to 90
  • Triglycerides: down 5 points to 126
  • Fasting Blood Glucose: down 12 points to 94
  • PSA: down 1/2 point to 1.23
For the past several years, it was typical for me to have one or two periodontal pockets of 7 and several of 6. These are borderline-problem values. This time I had only one 6, and my dentist commented that my soft tissue "was more improved than over any six month period" that he had been seeing me. He advised me to "keep doing whatever it is you are doing" as it seemed to be working well. The only thing I could think of that I had done differently was to adopt the Reliv nutritional program.

Its a very pleasant and empowering feeling to get these kinds of results. I'd never seen anything like them before. I certainly don't think Reliv makes any sort of "miracle product". Just basic, complete, optimum nutrition. I don't make any claims that there are no other products available that might do the same thing. But based on the results I have gotten, results I can feel and measure, I plan to be taking Reliv products for a very long time.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Welcome, and Thanks for Stopping By

In his wonderful book about building "a lifelong community of colleagues, contacts, friends and mentors", Never Eat Alone, networking guru Keith Ferrazzi suggests that there are really only three things that most people sincerely care about. He then identifies these as: their Health and the Health of the people they care about; their Wealth, at least to the extent of providing financial security; and the Time to be with those they love while pursuing their real passions. This resonated with me, but at 57 years old, I realized that I was not doing very well by this standard.

My health was generally pretty good, but trending in the wrong direction in many ways. I was carrying an extra 10 pounds, my blood pressure and blood sugar levels were slowly moving up out of the normal range, and my dentist kept warning me about my impending periodontal meltdown. I also knew I that I had inherited some risky genes. Cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Altzheimers..... if there was a way to die of it someone in my family had. So while I wasn't dealing with any immediate health problems, I didn't see any reason for confident complacency.

My wealth was circling the drain. After a disastrous, savings-draining three year entrepreneurial fiasco, I started a business in 2006 working with small businesses to help them improve their hiring results, employee retention and performance. Just as the world economy slid into the worst recession in decades and companies started to shed jobs like autumn trees did leaves may not have been the best time to start a business focused on helping companies add good employees. My previous venture left me with almost no financial cushion at all, and no matter how hard I worked and how much time I devoted to the new business my savings was slowly evaporating. I didn't even consciously realize just how much financial pressure I was under until I found myself seriously contemplating selling my most prized possession - my 1978 Cessna 172XP.

My time was spent trying to work more, and harder. Even if I had any "free" time, I didn't have the money to do anything with it. No eating out. No vacations. No flying. Postponing any purchase not urgently needed. Delaying care and maintenance on my aging home. Even the time I spent with my family and friends was shrinking - either because I could not afford to do much or maybe that I just didn't want them to see how bad things had gotten.

There is an old saying: "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got." Something had to change. And soon. And the only thing that I could change was .... me! And once I was ready, the opportunity to do so appeared as if by magic. And that brings us to my blog.

We'll be talking here about health, wellness and nutrition. About network marketing, working from home and starting over later in life. About making life fun again, and meaningful and what we want it to be. The ups and the downs. The great ideas and impressive mistakes. I don't know where this will all end up but I figure it has to be better than where I am now.

However you got here, welcome. I hope the name attracted you and that in time the content and community will bring you back. I'm looking forward to the discussion.