Wednesday, January 6, 2010

This Is Why You Should Pay For Advice

I wrote a huge blog post recently, where I was selling people on the idea of paying me for advice, and where I also talked about a variety of other things, including how I lost weight.

After a few notes, I've extracted the piece of the post that deals directly with weight loss. You can read it at the bottom of this post. The "long story short" version: I bought some books, paid to join a Web site, and lost 75 pounds in six months. That's what you get when you put your money on the line to find something out.

You want to know what you get if you don't put anything on the line to find things out? If you go on discussion boards and forum web sites?

Check out this Hacker News link, where they're discussing the same doctor who saved my life for $7.95 per month (or whatever).

For example:

I'd like to tell you this was the stupidest bit of bickering on there, but it doesn't even come close. There are many bits of stupid bickering either stupider or more bicker-y. This was just the first stupid bit of bickering which fit very concisely into a screenshot.

If you ask on Hacker News, "should I pay for this doctor's advice?" and people on Hacker News tell you, "no, ask a doctor instead", that's pretty much a best-case scenario. It's a best-case scenario because you can see immediately that they didn't even read your question - whereas most people on the internet make you wonder if they even read your question - and because they answered in a grammatical sentence, in the same language you asked the question in, without mentioning Viagra or porn. By Internet standards, you're doing great when somebody answers "should I pay for this doctor's advice?" with "no, ask a doctor instead." But that only goes to show that Internet standards are the wrong standards to apply when you're looking for good information.

I'm pretty sure it's my epic blog post that indirectly got this thread on Hacker News started. My giant blog post saw at least 17,000 visitors, and many came from Hacker News and its cousin community, Proggit. I think what happened is, somebody read this stuff about Dr. Fuhrman, decided they were interested, but decided that rather than pay some money to buy a book, they'd see if they could get some advice for free. So they did exactly that, and they got what they paid for. They put nothing on the line in their search for information, and the information they got from this search was no good.

When you pay for advice, you communicate something to yourself about the seriousness and value of that advice. Say for example that you pay somebody $97 to help you analyze some questions you have. You're saying to yourself, "answering this question is worth at least $97 to me." What do you say to yourself when you go on Twitter looking to solve this problem? "This question is worth at least as much to me as finding out that a random acquaintance just ate some peanut butter."

This really goes to the heart of integrity. Your subconscious mind is always listening to everything you do and say, and the only way to do what you want to do in life is have your subconscious committed to it. Spending $97 to figure out a question is a committment of action. If you tell yourself with action, not just words that a question is serious, you'll find the answer. But if you tell yourself, with action (or more accurately inaction), that a question isn't important, then you won't find the answer, or the answer you find won't be very good.

Weight loss blog post excerpt:

I've recently lost about 75 pounds (since around April).

Scotland on Rails 2008. Photo by Graeme Mathieson. Approx 255 pounds.

Thanksgiving 2009. Photo by Dad. Mom's worried about the turkey. Exactly 178.5 pounds.

It started with a terrifying health scare. I had heart surgery, twice, at the age of 35 - and this was after I had heart surgery for the first time at the age of 33.

So I went on a book-buying spree. I did a lot of reading. I ended up with a great book by a doctor specializing in nutritional medicine. I ordered another book by the same doctor, adopted the doctor's diet plan, and lost 75 pounds - along with at least 100 points of cholesterol, 78 points of triglycerides, and similar dramatic improvements in blood pressure and other relevant metrics.

For perspective, both my father and my uncle have achieved similar improvements in their cholesterol levels. They did it with statin drugs as prescribed by their (more conventional) doctors. It took them each about ten years. My 100-point cholesterol drop took two months.

Some links in this blog post are affiliate links, which pay small sales commissions. The FTC requires me to tell you what a typical consumer's weight loss results are with Dr. Fuhrman's dietary advice. Literally every single person who I have persuaded to try this diet has lost at least six pounds in the first week. One friend lost 20 pounds and my mother lost 30 pounds. Another friend only lost six pounds, last time I checked. However, they stopped losing weight because they went off the program. The discipline to eat right is rare. The system itself is excellent. Several other friends have lost weight using this system as well. I think one of them lost about 40 pounds. Another, I don't know her exact weight, but she did say she's the lightest she's been since she was 19, and I think she's in her 30s. That's a total of 171 pounds lost between five people, so I'm going to say the typical results are 171/5 = 34.2 pounds lost.

This amazing doctor, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, has a members-only Web forum. It's $35 to join, including your first month, and $8/month thereafter. The signal-to-noise ratio is fantastic, and the financial incentives all drive towards accuracy and truth. This man not only very probably saved my life, not only enabled me to effect an extraordinary physical change, he's also got the most honorable Internet business model I've ever seen in my life.

Update: A pair of interesting responses to this:

Luke said: I am sending this e-mail to agree with you, and mention something that supports your idea. I attended the NYC Tech Meetup last night - there was a startup presenting called BlazeTrak (I have no affiliation). Aspiring musicians can, for a fee, submit their demo to one of many successful music industry people who have chosen to accept and review them. BlazeTrak gets paid, and the reviewer gets paid. Apparently most people charge $30-$100 per review. The founder said during the presentation that the reviewers are all professionally successful, don't need the money they are charging, and are basically using the cost element to filter out people who are not serious about improving their work. Even though the site has been live only a few months, they mentioned that they have had 6 reported success stories so far, where the reviewer chose to continue the relationship with the musician.

E said: I've been tracking my own weight since October (Hacker Diet idea) and have been on a flexible ETL diet since December (e.g. more pasta, <1lb veggies, some oils). Attached is my graph: the dots are actual weight, red line is the 20-day moving average.

(The iPhone app is called FatWatch.)