I had the opportunity for a long face-to-face discussion with Dean Letfus yesterday, as earlier forecast.

For those of you who haven’t met him, let me say first off I find Dean an intelligent, personable chap, with good communication skills and a sense of humour. (I’ve never subscribed to the ‘Say no good thing about your political opponents’ philosophy held by many politicians.) Nah, I’ve said it before: Dean can be good company.

EMPATHY makes the world go around (image: princetonprofs.blogspot.com - click)

We discussed a wide range of topics, some of which we disagreed about including, naturally, the fact that I have referred to some of his marketing statements and activities here on thePaepae.com from time to time … and I also comment on various of his partners and business alliances past and present (i.e. his track record) … and sometimes my comments can seem pretty negative.

I have, apparently (and understandably) cut or bruised Dean’s feelings at times by expressing my views as I have done and also with some juxtapositions. (I don’t want to overstate the ‘injury’. He seems OK.)

Reflecting on our conversation, which involved some to and fro over several hours but could never be described by an observer as ‘confrontational’, (Jeez, I’ve had Kieran Trass shouting at me in a café … a little awkward!) I want to say this, using my word of 2011 again: It’s good to empathise with others. We are all human, we all have emotional responses to the events that occur in our lives, and to our interactions with one another.

Shakespeare expressed it so wonderfully in The Merchant of Venice (Act 3, Scene I):

… He hath disgraced me, and
hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,
mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my
bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine
enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath
not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that…

It’s that bit about bleeding, that speaks to me.

Dean and his spruiker mates Steve Goodey and Shaun Stenning et al are human beings with feelings. Of course they are. Like all of us, they have emotional responses to the frustrations and stresses life throws at them. Like each of us, those responses themselves can aid or hinder their ability to ‘deal with’ those events. (This is ’emotional intelligence’, to use the term Daniel Goleman popularised.)

Now, just like you, just like me, some of their wounds are self-inflicted. For instance, some of their choices in business partners or business practices have been, it turns out, … well, less than ideal — OK, they’ve been appallingly BAD choices, some of them, in hindsight. These things have been like time bombs waiting to explode … dodgy devices skating close to and over the moral edge in some cases. I personally have had reason to doubt their truthfulness at times. (That’s only my honest opinion).


Those bad choices have consequences. Loss of reputation is one of the consequences (e.g. Geekversity), public criticism (like, um, from me) is one of the consequences. As I explained to Dean, I think of that as ‘feedback from the Universe’. (I’m sorry to be going slow on this, it seemed useful/necessary to spell it out during our session.) It’s not a case of me, Peter, being ‘sanctimonious’, ‘nasty’ or ‘malicious’, nor deliberately misrepresenting facts nor ‘bashing competitors’ in ‘the industry’. Honestly. See it as feedback.

Dean filled me in on some of the background to his involvement and what’s been going on in the ‘internet marketing’ circus in Asia — the verdant meadows he and the Stenning performing troupe have gambolled through over the last year or so. Based on what he told me, it seems there are considerable economic and other, more personal strains coming to bear on people involved. Some of those stresses — most — are tensions with which I can fully sympathise, of course. I’m not heartless.

As always in our lives (and love lives), some of these pressures are of our own making — and, in the case of this gaggle of ‘internet marketing experts’ — some result from actions or choices that other people (bad people? Yes, in some cases IMO) have taken — or refused to take … despite their commitments, promises, even legal contracts. Untrustworthy people can really do you over in business.

It all sounded pretty dog-eat-dog to me. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific. The detail doesn’t matter for the point I want to make which is this: It’s a messy, messy situation, and it’s not a good ‘place’ for anyone to be in … however one arrived there.

I came away from my discussion with Dean realising more fully that some of the people who ‘cop it’ from me (‘Mr High and Mighty’ as a sock-puppet once described me) feel hurt, aggrieved, and misjudged. At times they feel facts are ‘twisted’ and unjustifiable links made to make them look bad. They just can’t work out why the hell I DO what I do here at thePaepae.com.

I’ll leave my explanation of that for another time. For now, please just take it at face value. For my part, thePaepae.com IS what it looks like: a personal weblog with sometimes pointed and idiosyncratic commentary, following broad themes of interest to me. That’s it. It’s not part of a business model or a strategy to ‘get ahead’ by pulling others down. And I genuinely do try to be fair. Maybe I fail sometimes, but I try.

As I’ve mentioned before here and elsewhere, I would hate it if some of the things I’ve said and written about certain other people were said about ME — that’s why I don’t do what they do! (And, as noted, I don’t see myself as operating in their ‘industry’. Gawd no.)

How it looks to me

For now, my point is: Yes, sure, there are sociopaths in the world, people whose moral compass is completely warped and twisted. Those people exist … just like evil exists, as Jon Stewart said so eloquently — but I’m NOT saying I put Dean Letfus and the Stenning gang into that category. I DON’T say that about them. (In fact, I try to defend them from unfair accusations of that and of being ‘criminals’.)

To err is human
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

These roosters are on the learning curve, having made some mistakes and poor business decisions, including hyperbolically over-promising things that it turned out they couldn’t deliver — or, for all sorts of reasons, didn’t deliver to the hyped-up expectation. There have also been some broken promises. They’d probably admit that themselves.

But do I think they’re blameless? No. They’re not totally innocent, in my view.

There’s a culture of cynical exaggeration in ‘internet marketing guru’ circles — ‘Copy the best — look how crooked they are!’. Hyperbolic style and NLP-sales techniques over substance. Perhaps they got infected by it? That, and the ‘rules’ keep changing, and some of their business alliances turned out to be a big disappointment, too. Yeah, you get that. BTDT.*

It’s the next steps — the ‘putting right’, if that’s possible (not a certainty by any means) — that will be worth watching and, ultimately, character revealing, in my opinion.

– Peter

(* BTDT = Been there, done that.)

Facts are stated to the best of my knowledge and commentary is my honest opinion. Corrections or clarifications are always welcome by email. Comments are open.
– Best wishes, Peter Aranyi © 2011 All rights reserved.