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I will never forget the day I was offered the “opportunity of a lifetime“ — unbeknown to me at 25 years old, a couple years out of college, wet behind the ears and eager to begin “adulting,“ what that would actually entail. Looking in from the outside it seemed as though this “new opportunity“ would be the holy grail. It could end my broke streak and vanish a mountain of envelopes of bills. All I had to do was talk to people and get them to sign up for what I was offering, because they needed help and I was the expert to provide it for them. Seemed easy enough, right?

I was lured in on the promise I’d be “financially free,” provided a lifestyle I’d never seen before with the ability to live wherever I wanted to live. I'd walk streets glittered in gold with pearly gates in front of my million-dollar home — and a diamond mailbox, too, if I wanted. This was an opportunity of a lifetime!

Once in, I was the newest indoctrinated member. I was assigned a lieutenant (who was dating the H.N.I.C., and half his age). There was a lot of suspicious chatter, but I was lasered focus. I was given blessings from the generals, a meeting with the H.N.I.C. and met all the troops. All was a dream come true! An environment of thriving Black people, working in a unit to help others. It was a family-like work environment, where family members worked together — attending pep rallies twice a week, conference calls three times a week and GroupMe team messages. Wow, I thought to myself, this group really wants me to succeed! Fancy dinners, fancy gatherings and the generals showcasing their items of "luxury,“ explaining that we, the troops, could have it too. Boy, was I sold the story!

My first month in, by pure will and determination, I did make the most money I had ever seen in life at the time. About $5,000 cash in my pocket. I wondered why I was then coached to say I made a couple thousand more. “Say the gross, not the net,” I was told. I didn’t care and followed suit. Hell, I was living on cloud nine, considering I came from Wells Fargo earning about $1,100 every two weeks.

I was showcased as the breakout star, put on a pedestal for hope to the other agents who were struggling with their quotas or newbies, as I had once been. I started to feel myself. I walked in a whole new confidence that they had given me — I talked differently, I started giving out advice as if though I was, in a sense, “better than you” because I’m the golden star child now. I was the limelight of the organization. I was the one invited to all the general’s events. I was the one at the table. Boy, was that short lived.

Soon, I found myself with no work-life balance, depressed and filled with anxiety because I never knew what the outcome would be with my pay. If I was going to lose 50% of my pay because a client couldn’t afford to keep the higher than market premium, I was strategically taught to sell. I so badly wanted to move up the ranks, to receive that gratification, confidence and fame of being the best.

I even thought I found love in the workplace, but was duped. It was just another vague tactic, not promising anything in detail. Even still to this day, that particular guy snoops on my profiles. I’m sure he’s probably reading this article with a nicely stuffed $20 weed raw cone, just finishing a recruiting meeting/pep rally, sending the work horses to work while he heads home to smoke his blunt after changing into his sweat suit — with his fake ass Rolex watch on that his general parents bought. (He was a young lieutenant.)

I realized I had joined a multi-level marketing company.

With years under my belt, I convinced myself to “stick and stay.” (This is what they taught at all the meetings.) I became a part of the machine; I had to think like them, I couldn’t speak my opinion and if I did, I’d be blackballed. They knew the turnover rate with members was high, they knew greedy generals were targeting the underserved, poor and barley educated to present low contracts. In manager meetings they called these people “work horses.”

They’d target an individual like myself by saying, “That’s what family before me has been through, but I know a little something and I’m seeking a vehicle to make a lot of money to invest in my dreams.” Relating to me in this way was premeditated. And during the not so good times, when they felt me contemplating leaving, I was always given a hand out, a check written as a “bonus commission.” It was actually just tax money — a deduction on their tax bill, but a charge on mine! However, it was just enough to get caught up after being months behind. Yet, the next bill would be due next week, forcing me to get back to work for them.

Sometimes the H.N.I.C. would go out and work with someone, and this was considered an honor. This happened one day when I worked in the field servicing some poor old lady who was living off of $800 a month. She couldn’t make her payments to us. I was forcing her in a nice way to go with the minimum payment possible. She then asked if the H.N.I.C. was my daddy? He said yes and I said no — at the same time. The lady looked at us bewildered and he said, “Yes, I am her daddy.” I said nothing. To this day I’m not sure if it was a joke or if he actually felt like that since I was specially picked to train as a lieutenant.

“By year five you’d be financially free,” I was told. They were still selling me.

I had let my daughter live with her father at this point, and I was working seven days a week. I was eating mayonnaise sandwiches most months, and Ruth’s Chris steaks seldomly. My standout star shoutouts had faded and new troops had taken the title. I was approaching year five and it was still the same picture. Then the story then changed to year seven. It was at that point when I opened my eyes and saw a whole different group than what I started with years ago.

Over the years, I opened my ears to the other agents as to why they were leaving. It was a cult-like environment. I looked at the definition of “cult”: a social group that is defined by its unusual beliefs, or by its common interest in a personality, object or goal. Very vague, right? At that point I realized everything that was said to me was vague, from how I could earn “a small fortune“ to becoming “financially free,” and using God and scriptures for motivation. It hit me that this was nowhere near the actual reality many of us in the group wanted.

During my time with the group, I experienced my fair share of evictions and car repos, owed to my undying dedication of being the best. I’d go out of town to work $40 leads, and sometimes sleep in my car because I couldn’t afford a hotel. I just knew I had to work to get a sale to pay my mountain of bills.

I attended more and more pep rallies as I climbed up the ladder, this time as a manager in training. The H.N.I.C.’s son took over the ranks, even with his fair share of alleged prostitution ring busts — news we were afforded of learning about through a hack in the computer system, sending out the news article to everyone’s emails. The process of recruiting was terrible. Either we'd go out and find “work horses“ to do the work for us, or we do it ourselves. I then realized why I was told to “stick and stay“ — to finally arrive at the point to pass on what I went through to a underserved, uneducated fool. I could buy in and sell the dream to another.

At that point, I knew my career with the group would be short lived. I could never knowingly put someone through what I, and the majority of others, went through — because 90% of the room was broke. We were smiling and laughing during these meetings, trying to get by, trying to get to the next sale, to the next recruit. The truth was, we were broke and living advance to advance. I wasn’t willing to sell the dream to anyone else.

After finally hanging up my hat after nearly six years, throughout it all the biggest lessons I learned were (1) all that glitters isn't gold (the Jones may have the house on the hill, but no furniture in that b***h), (2) love yourself (when you love yourself first, you don’t need any, and I repeat, any cheerleaders) and (3) the chains that bind us is all mental, not physical.

Be free, be you. It's beauty in individuality. And if you can’t be you and take a stand for what you believe in, you’re in the wrong place.


Now 31, Alisha Mcbride uses her calling to teach others how to start a successful business thru a free masterclass teaching her method T.H.E P.R.I.C.E S.C.H.O.L.A.R.S P.A.Y proven method. Learn more by visiting TheWholeAgency.com .