The network marketing community." Is that an oxymoron? Shouldn't be. Doesn't have to be. In most ways, times and places, has been.

Network marketing is a strikingly American phenomenon, and there is something inherently inimical to community in the makeup of the American myth. The American hero draws his (and I do mean "his") identity from the fact of not getting along with others. The misfit, the underdog, the one-man show. Clint Eastwood's "Man with No Name." Superman: Nobody even knows who he is!

(In our iconography, when we do raise "community" to hero status, it's usually by evoking its more insidious qualities. Da Family. The Firm. The Stepford Wives. The Matrix. Get thee behind me, blind conformity....)

This is, after all, how we got here: one man with a vision...which worked out to include the systematic elimination of the millions of people already living here in a strikingly well worked out socioecosystem...oops. We are, in a real sense, constitutionally anti-community.

Besides, isn't community...well, boring? The community-minded guy is usually the one who gets killed by the end of the first reel. It's much more exciting to be Dirty Harry.

Ever notice how network marketers love to describe our opportunity in terms of how we don't do things the way everybody else does? In opportunity meeting jargon, "corporate world" is a phrase roughly equivalent to "police state." We are, as the mom sings so sweetly to her child, "You and me against the world."

It is extraordinary how often we each define our own companies as being different from those other companies, how consistently we breed a culture based on the proposition that network marketers are pretty scurrilous characters--only we're not like the rest of the bunch.

I consulted to a startup group a few years ago who wanted to base its company philosophy on the concept of a "river of hate" flowing from American consumers to our industry. Their plan: define this new company as the one swimming heroically against that toxic tide. (I'm not making this up.)

The CEO of another company I consulted to over a decade ago put it this way: "We're not like all the other MLM companies: We care about more than just money." Can you imagine house-shopping and having your realtor tell you, "This is the house you need--'cause all the other houses in this neighborhood are about to fall apart..."?

The three interviews in the center of this issue (like this publication in general) all represent the effort to transcend the mythology of do-it-yourself, me-against-the-world, and help forge a true ethos of community within our profession.

"The network marketing community...." What a good idea.


is Editor of
Networking Times.