February 1, 2008

“Team” of Destruction

Category: News — Ira @ 7:06 pm


“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the
lie – deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the
myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”

—John Fitzgerald Kennedy

He stood there at a little table in the foyer of the Vincennes University Student Study Hall building. A large man with side-swept dark blond hair, dressed in suit and tie, his stomach bulging over the front of his pants. He was giving away free phone cards, after you filled out a little paper with your name and address.

I ignored him the first day. The second day, I returned his smarmy greeting and stopped to chat a bit. He wanted me to fill out the paper and get a free phone card. I refused, but chatted amiably with him for a few minutes. As I moved to leave, he stopped me. He was having a meeting that evening, he said. I looked like just the kind of guy he needed, charismatic, outgoing, and clearly intelligent. A go-getter. Would I be interested in attending?

I should have known better, but his flattering words swelled my head. So I assented. He gave me the place and time of the meeting, but evasively refused to divulge any more details. Nevertheless, at 7 PM, I showed up to see what it was about.

There were about a dozen students attending. All of superior leadership quality, of course. The large-stomached man now had an accomplice, a short chunky man with a crew cut who was obviously a superior. The meeting began with the short chunky man introducing himself. He was from Kentucky (the next state south) and ran a successful business helping other people. That’s exactly how he phrased it. He owned two houses, drove a Cadillac, and earned several hundred thousand dollars annually. He was rich. And didn’t mind preening about it. All by just helping other people, he reiterated again and again. It all sounded a bit loopy, I thought.

Eventually, after talking about every single aspect of the business, after drawing charts and graphs on a little chalkboard about all the products people use and how much they are expected to consume in the next umpteen years, after much discussion about every detail except the company they represented, the truth emerged. These guys were Amway men, and we were their targets.

My heart sank. All this time wasted, for this. After they opened for questions, I raised my hand. “You gained all this wealth just by pushing Amway?” I asked.

It was an unfortunate question. The short chunky man shot straight up like someone had stuck his butt with a pin. His bristly hair actually stood on end as he glared at me. “I am NOT PUSHING Amway,” he snarled angrily. The transformation was astonishing. From piously talking about helping others to seething rage in less than ten seconds. And he WAS pushing Amway. But I shut up.

Somehow, before the evening was over (and I could never figure out quite how it happened), I found myself in a room with the large-stomached man and two other students. Large-stomach wanted me badly as a rep. He intoned a five-minute speech, then a dramatic closing statement. At its conclusion, the first student leaped to his feet, grasped the man’s extended hand and said “YES,” he wanted to join. Large-stomach welcomed him and smoothly turned to the second student, who also leaped to his feet with an excited “YES.”

Large-stomach then turned to me. Two down, one to go. I was the real target. I could feel it. In response to his dramatic closing, I ignored his outstretched, inviting hand and simply said, “No.” The poor man deflated visibly like a punctured balloon. The other two students looked askance. I looked defiant and soon got out of there. And so ended my first encounter with multi-level selling.

From that and one other experience I learned what to do when someone approaches and claims to have a “consulting” business and wants to talk to me about working for him. I run, not walk, out’a there as fast as I can.

I have wondered briefly at times over the years where Large-stomach and the short chunky man ended up and whether they are still pushing Amway. All to “help” others, of course. I’d guess Large-stomach is not, as he was desperately trying to get his own “network” off the ground when he accosted me. The short chunky man may well be, since he did achieve a measure of success. If the stories he was spouting were true, that is.

Amway has been around for a long time. And it has always sold quality products, usually at quite inflated prices. Still, I have no problem with that. You don’t have to buy. But I do have a problem with its method of recruiting salespeople.

From the Amway/Quixtar foundation (although the connection is deliberately clouded, and technically may not exist), Orrin Woodward spun off a new entity some years ago. It was called “Team of Destiny.” In the years of its brief but baneful existence and meteoric ascendance, it ensnared and severely damaged the lives of thousands, all single-mindedly pursuing a shifting grand illusion that never existed in fact. The pro- mised land, where milk and honey flows, always over the next hill. Weekly meetings. Tapes. Rah, rah. Work five years and you’ll never have to work again. The money will just roll in.

It was all a lie, of course. Some lost all they owned. And more. Much, much more. Including some people I know from way back.

After sweeping through the land like a raging wildfire, devouring the hopes and dreams and tireless efforts of a multitude of entry-level peons, Team of Destiny morphed again. Now it’s simply named “Team.” And it’s skulking and slithering around out there like an insidious viper, inflicting its mind-numbing poison into a lot of very impression- able but otherwise decent people. The Team version is particularly dangerous because it infuses into its presentation a generous sprinkling of “Christian” teachings.

I don’t claim to know all the intricate details of either organization. But I do know this: Membership involves reading the foundational motivational materials, listening to an endless stream of tapes that must be purchased, and meeting at least monthly with other Team members to discuss what you are learning and how you are applying that wisdom. And one more thing. You must proselytize with all your heart. And soul and strength.

The “Team” Bible

For all I know, the Team leadership materials have a lot of truths in them, and the concepts applied may be quite beneficial. I will even concede that as fact. Why, then, attack Team as destructive?

If you are a Team member reading this, you may be turning purple and screaming at your computer by now. Such colossal ignorance, you may be thinking. For any current Team members I have a simple question: Could you spend one evening, or even one hour with me, socializing or just hanging out having a beer, without once mentioning Team in any way? Without trying to recruit me to join? Without returning to the subject again and again, regardless of where the conversation would naturally flow? I’ll answer my own question. You could not. You would not. You know it. I know it. And something about that is very, very wrong. Disingenuous, skewed, weird, creepy, out of whack.

Are you, as part of the Team, increasingly associating only with other Team members and not so much with old friends you have known for years? Don’t you ever pause to wonder why some of your old friends no longer answer their phones when you call, and why they seem to avoid you or make excuses when you want to “get together?”

I’ll tell you why. It’s because you are a pest, a blight, mindlessly spewing a perpetual flood of formulaic gibberish. Because your relationships are now based almost exclu-sively on others’ acceptance of your message, you are no longer real. Or genuine. You think you’ve found the truth. The rest of us haven’t. And people can tell. The fakery. The plastic smile. The forced cheerfulness. And always, always, your obsessive insistence on discussing the Team leadership concepts. Trust me, it gets old, fast. You are undermining existing, long-standing relationships. And you are destroying the core of who you really are. Soon there will be nothing left but a hollow caricature of what you were or might have been.

To really become involved, you must surrender your soul to the cause. With each monthly tape, each monthly meeting, you must get pumped up for the next. You have to live it. Breathe it. Speak it. Keep yourself psyched up. Preach the message, both to gain new converts and to sustain your own faith. It’s one-dimensional. It’s cultish. It’s religious.

And it’s a shame that good people are losing their friends and their credibility by spout- ing an endless stream of “leadership” psychobabble. They are not leaders. They are brainwashed sheep, pretending to be leaders. People who feign interest in your per- sonal well-being, but who really aren’t, because they are no longer interested if you reject their overtures to join them in smoking the Team leadership “crack pipe.”

Anything that requires all your conscious efforts all the time, to the exclusion of almost all other aspects of your physical and emotional and spiritual well-being, is dangerous and ultimately destructive. Any scheme that promises “you do not have to work, the money will just roll in” is deceptive, and ignores the most basic of economic principles. And appeals to the lowest common denominator of greed and sloth. That, in a nutshell, is why I so strenuously oppose Team (of Destiny). That, and because I know its source.

If you are a Team member and absorb nothing else on this post, absorb this: In my opinion, Orrin Woodward is a false prophet, leading you to a place you do not want to go. Sooner or later you will reach that conclusion. Probably later, after you are strand- ed alone in the wilderness, your life and relationships in shambles at your feet, your $65.00 per month, or whatever amount it is, frittered away like so much dust in the wind. It will happen. In a year. Or two. Or five. I have seen it all before. I will see it again. You can choose not to let it happen to you.

Ultimately, the Team version, too, will fade away. Into oblivion, as the last one did. Once its leaders have fleeced their tens of millions of dollars from their naïve and gull- ible flocks, they will be off on something else. Preaching a repackaged message to a new flock, a fresh group of impressionable souls desperately searching to fill a gaping void in their lives. The leaders won’t hesitate. They will close Team down. Pick up and move on. Leaving in their wakes the decimated ruins of thousands upon thousands of devastated relationships and damaged lives, strewn about like so much twisted wreck- age after the storm has passed.

Last Monday evening I watched President Bush deliver his final State of the Union Address. Well, I watched a little of it. Just enough to taste the history of what was his last such speech. Mr. Bush has aged greatly in his seven years as the most powerful man in the world. As they all do. He looks just a little worn. But he defiantly went after Congress on several issues and defended his decision to invade Iraq. While I’m greatly irritated at Mr. Bush for his prolific spending, I can’t help but like the guy. He is who he is, with few pretensions. And somehow, I think history will judge him much more kindly than the current crop of nattering liberal talking heads. In fact, I’d stake a sizable bet on it.

We were honored this week to host my brother and family, Titus and Ruth Wagler and their active little boys, Robert and Thomas. Elmer and Susie Yutzy and daughter Kayla Joy (and baby whose name I failed to note) traveled with them. They stayed at Steve and Wilma’s while here. As owners of the Midwest Truss Company in Bloomfield, IA, they came to the area to check out a few truss factories for ideas for expansion. Guess things are booming the southern Iowa.

All pictures below taken WITHOUT permission.

Ruth, Titus, Thomas and Robert

Thomas and Robert

Thomas, Johann Lapp, Robert and George the dog

Elmer and Susie Yutzy and Kayla Joy

They weren’t around long, arriving Tuesday afternoon and leaving Thursday morning. But was good to catch up with my brother, as I do not see him that often. He came and spent a few hours at the office with me on Wednesday morning.

Happy Birthday to my oldest brother Joseph, who hit the Big-60 Wednesday, Jan. 30th.

Finally, GO GIANTS. Kick the vile Patriots. We can all dream.




  1. I say “Amen” to your description of Team and such. I have a niece and nephew hooked up in that thing and people have talked to them about the evil of it until they are black and blue and it has done no good. They will have to see it for themselves.

    I like the photo of Titus & Ruth.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — February 1, 2008 @ 7:42 pm

  2. Thank you for the timely warning of another version of a “cult”. I wonder how interchangeable Team and Scientology teachings are? Could you take a Team text and Scientology text, mix them up in a random parsing program and not change either text significantly?

    Do we admire the Patriots for their quest for excellence or do we cheer the Giants as the underdog giant killers? How interesting that Americans will cheer on the contender, the Patriots of years ago, the fictional Rocky Balboa, the Microsoft of the 1980s but then we turn on our former heros when they become the institutionalized establishment. The Patriot organization may be aloof, cold, even sinister, but they have striven for perfection and a single minded will to win. So, do conservatives stand and cheer excellence or not? I would prefer to see the Steelers win Sunday, but given the teams that will be there in Arizona, I support New England in their quest and look forward to another AFC team in the 2009 Super Bowl.

    Comment by Mark Hersch — February 1, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

  3. I was at at a “Team of Destroy” meeting last winter, mainly to make sure the guy I went with didn’t sign up. The fella kept saying, this is easy, this is easy, the poor guy was obviously trying to convince himself. I did not openly tell him he was full of cheap baloney, but I did have such thoughts. They make their money selling the poor guys they sign up CDs and books every month. What a crime, preying on some poor soul who is dreaming of hitting it big.

    Comment by gideon yutzy — February 1, 2008 @ 8:19 pm

  4. We seem to have a “team leader” that keeps the road between her home in another state and (shall we say slightly gullible) Kalona, Iowa quite hot!

    A few years ago she (I will call her Pam) came through selling those Blue Bible story books and as a side note got quite a few hooked on the sure-fire Millionaire plan, Quixstar. After the plan was exposed for what it really was and some got out with their money and some didn’t, Pam came through again, this time with a no fail plan that included buying long distance, cable TV, and lots of vitamin pills. Once again, despite her copy of her monthly $9,000ish check stub and her new truck, another Amway was unveiled!

    Most recently, As I was in the hospital giving birth, a certain cell phone supposedly shut off, rang with the request to rent our private room so Pam could have an important meeting, this time to sell those fabulous, smell-like-moth-balls gas pills that are supposedly able to enhance gas mileage….A close member of our family actually recieved a free sample bottle from a team member trying to recruit a team, and tried them in his old and new vehicals and saw absolutely no difference!

    You’d think we’d learn…My two cents worth..I think Proverbs in the Bible actually has great wisdom on get-rich-quick schemes!

    Comment by Dorothy — February 2, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

  5. I had the “pleasure” of listening to those tapes during my teenage years. A certain family member of mine bought into the whole scheme, and it wreaked more havoc then I’m sure he ever thought would be possible.

    I abhor all those schemes.

    Comment by Marylou — February 2, 2008 @ 4:30 pm

  6. A few people always make money in these schemes at the expense of many. It can be a legitimate marketing plan, but most often they might as well be selling a bridge.

    We got some of Nate’s “infamous cocktail weenies” cooking along with lots of other food for America’s unofficial food holiday. Go Giants.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — February 3, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  7. I’m happy to report the party was a success, as was the game. All I can say is, WOW.

    Ira’s response: I certainly second that. Don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep tonight, I’m so wired.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — February 3, 2008 @ 10:29 pm

  8. Just to set the record straight. Posted on Nov. 2,2007. @ 5:05 pm.

    “In football, there will be a clash of Titans this Sunday at 4:15 PM. New England at Indianapolis. Two unbeaten teams. I’m hoping Payton and the boys can pull it out, but I’m afraid the wicked Bellichek’s team will prevail. Brady has been on a real tear this year, with some real receivers for a change. He’s on pace to easily break the single-season touchdown record. Put this in your pipe and smoke it, put it in your drink and drink it, take it to the bank and deposit it: The team that wins this Sunday’s game will have home field advantage in the playoffs and WILL win the Super Bowl. Period.”

    As Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrain on the Dukes of Hazzard would say, I love it, I love it, I love it. Have a great week.

    P.S. I waited a long time to dig this out of the archives.

    Ira’s response: I’ve never been happier to be wrong.

    Comment by Bear — February 3, 2008 @ 10:47 pm

  9. Ira – thank-you for having the courage and candor to write what many of us know in our hearts to be true, but have always been too ‘polite’ to say. Again, thank-you.

    Comment by patrick — February 4, 2008 @ 12:37 am

  10. Sock it to ‘em, Ira. The ‘Team’ that is. Your evaluations of the schemes are correct.

    The Giants won. ‘The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.’ It’s nice to feel the thrill this time.

    Comment by Mervin — February 4, 2008 @ 5:37 pm

  11. I hear you, and the implications (intended or otherwise). Evangelicalism is often ugly for the same reason. Not for the true message and real sense of purpose in believers’ lives, but when it has a shallow concern for “scalps” of those they can get to attend meetings (which is a misunderstanding of the message of Life).

    When I was in college, with new found faith, I still sat with my pothead friends and we conversed. Jesus came into the conversation naturally. I did not cut myself off from my friends, but many cut themselves off from me.

    “The eyes of the Lord search to and fro throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are completely His.” That this doesn’t sit well with the world only shows where they are sitting.

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — February 4, 2008 @ 9:16 pm

  12. Yeah baby, victory is sweet, especially when the Patriots are the losers.

    I don’t know much about Quixstar, but you can’t throw out the whole bushel of apples because a couple are bad. Multi-level marketing concept is very sound and efficient. There are some network-marketing companies that are legit. My family has been involved with a network-marketing for 22 years, and it has treated us very well.

    Comment by Andrew Yutzy — February 5, 2008 @ 12:14 am

  13. Well Spoken. I remember when I was in undergrad I responded to an advertisement written on a chalkboard for “Part-time workers needed; $16.50 MINIMUM/hour.” Being a poor, unsuspecting, desperately in need of a job, college student, I called the number listed. An “interview” was arranged, and I went to the meeting place thinking it would be just me. Imagine my suprise to see about 35 other people there. After listening to 2 hours worth of bull crap about nice vacations, nice cars, even nicer homes, yaddee, yaddee, we were told we would be selling knives. Door to Door. And we had to find “interest-ed” (ie, gullible) customers. I walked up to the head-honcho, told him I wasn’t interested, and that their advertisments were misleading. He wasn’t too happy with me; not sure if it was because I was no longer a potential rep, or that I told him what I thought of his operation.

    On another note, I anxiously await your analysis of the Super Bowl. I predict that the play where Manning escaped the rush to complete the pass to Tyree in the 4th quarter will go down in history as one of the best, if not the best, play of the Super Bowl.

    Its been an absolutely awesome time to live in NYC. In fact, we just got back from the Giant’s ticker-tape parade in Manhattan. We were 4 of the million + they projected to be there. We were about 2 rows from the barriers; The players passed about 15 feet from us. A great experience, to say the least! Go Blue!

    Comment by Gary S. — February 5, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

  14. I’ve been waiting three days for your take on the Superbowl. I watched it even though the Browns weren’t playing (for the 42nd consecutive year). Great game!

    You wrote a good sized blog on your one hit by Amway. Since I’ve been schnookered a dozen times (I know- I’m gullible) I guess I should write a book. I’ve learned a great method of tricking you into buying it (what are your dreams?…).

    Ira’s response: Kind sir, I post on Fridays. My Super Bowl thoughts will be forthcoming then.

    Comment by John Schmid — February 5, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

  15. Brings back memories….

    My wife and I had been attending a congregation in Sarasota for a few years, and one eve a couple that had never tried to get to know us, asked us to come over. We thot…what a nice gesture…here they are wanting to know us better…become friends…become closer.

    So we went.
    Turned out it was a ‘surprise’ Amway [or maybe it was ‘Old World’ ?? ] meeting.
    Left a rather huge distaste in our mouths. They could of at least asked us if we wanted to attend such a meeting.
    I never signed up…somehow I never trusted such schemes.

    Want to throw such people for a loop?
    When they ask you if you want to become wealthy, or make x amount of easy dollars, just tell them ‘no I don’t’.
    They won’t know what to say!

    And, it wasn’t that I was against becoming wealthy, :) it was just my way of letting them know I didn’t want any part of it.
    There have been lots of get rich/money making schemes…and it seems the Amish/Mennonites are prime targets.
    Probably because they are raised to trust people. Don’t know….haven’t really sat down and tried to analyze the matter.
    Brings to mind one of my favorite jokes.

    Some mad engineers built a bridge out in the middle of the desert. In just a few days, there were Amish fishing off of it.

    Comment by fritz — February 6, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

  16. As a huge fan of network/multi-level marketing, all I can say is…


    Comment by RagPicker — February 6, 2008 @ 10:28 pm

  17. This is coming in late, but Peggy Noonan opines Bush destroyed the Republican Party, in her double-edged commentary here:

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — February 8, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

  18. I would love to speak with you about your writing. I believe you have my email. You are brilliant.

    Comment by Joe M. — March 10, 2008 @ 1:09 am

  19. This blog I couldn’t be quiet about! Yes, there is money to be made, but only if you are already at the top of the pile, kinda like those emu, red deer, magnets to purify your water & a myraid of other schemes! I know too many people personally that bought into these marketing ploys only to lose most everything, first of all their friends.

    Comment by Mike Weirich — November 11, 2009 @ 3:42 pm

  20. I’m aware of Amway but not the other thing mentioned. The owner, or possibly adult child of the owner, lives not far from my mom’s home. It’s a big honking white pillared house with some rust colored beefy cattle romping around. On a few acres but I’ve seen much better in mom’s neck of the woods.

    I was accosted by an Amway rep. a year or so ago. She was a college graduate- chemical engineering- and needed extra money to pay off her loans. Taco Bell’s wages just weren’t cutting it. Being her former neighbor I felt sorry for her plight, but not enough to buy her overpriced clothing detergent. I have no problems saying no to such things. It’s all manipulation and I resent it.

    “Large stomach welcomed him…” You would have made a great Native American.

    I am always in awe of the beautiful woodwork in Amish/former Amish homes. I priced a few dining tables and chairs while in Shipshewana, IN at a place called Weaver’s, I believe. Absolutely breathtaking pieces. Way out of my league in the financial arena, but oh, so beautiful. The photos of Steve’s home reminded me of the fine workmanship.

    What sweet little boys and the little girl sitting at the table. You are so blessed to have the family that you have.

    Comment by Francine — July 24, 2014 @ 2:52 am

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