There has been a lot of talk about belief lately, from the whole God debate starting up around the US Pledge of Allegiance, to newbies asking if a certain offer is believable. Belief is an interesting creature, coming easily to some, while others need evidence and proof to believe...
While this is not the time, nor the forum, to start a debate over faith and religion, I want to delve into the concept of belief in general terms, and talk about why people should question things, and how to go about gathering evidence for yourself in order to make educated decisions.
It is funny; as a child, we were most likely to question authority and prove things for ourselves. How many of us just had to touch the stove after our mother told us that it was hot and that we would burn ourselves if we touched it. I know I did. The burn was the proof that mom was right, the stove was hot, and from then on I believed her.
This same approach should be taken throughout life as well, I think, since there are too many people willing to suck down anything you tell them. There was a reason Mr. Barnum commented on the birth rate of suckers; he had obviously met more than a few. And with the wide variety of get rich quick schemes out there on the Internet today, the birth rate must be increasing.
To avoid becoming a sucker yourself, take the time to think about and question anything that does not appear to make sense. Do you really believe that sitting at home and stuffing envelopes will make you $100,000 a year? If it did, why the hell are so many people suffering through long commutes to go to jobs they hate? If it was that easy to stay home and get rich, why aren't more people doing it?
They aren't doing it because it isn't possible. Maybe if you could stuff 13,000 envelopes a day, working 27 hours a day, 8 days a week, you could do it. But since that is not even remotely possible, it is safe to say that it is impossible. This is the first thing you need to do when faced with a claim that defies logic; stop and have a good think about it. Does this make sense to you? If not, then it likely is not a reasonable claim.
If, after having your little meditation session, the idea does not seem impossible, then it is time to check out the facts for yourself. Do some research, look around for more information about the issue and see if you can find anything that either supports the claim or refutes it. Talk to your peers, to other Webmasters, get on the boards, and see if anyone has knowledge that relates to the issue at hand. Ask them straight out for their opinions or experiences to help you form your own, informed, opinion.
The goal is really to know this industry, to get to know what is believable and what is not. Since rationality is the most reliable means of thinking, you have to be rational at all times and question the validity of particular claims by calling for statements of fact to prove or disprove such claims. When you hear a fantastic claim you should say, "that's nice, prove it."
This is all important for the newbie, for those that have not been in this industry long enough to know what should or should not be believed. I feel bad for many new Webmasters who do not question things and get ripped off or screwed over. It is not fair, but there are a lot of people in this business, or in any industry for that matter, whose sole purpose is to go after the novice.
So, to help newbies and anyone still thinking themselves to be a little green, or even for those with experience that feel they have been burned one too many times, I ask that you do the following when confronted by something incredulous. I ask you to do the following when confronted by something incredulous
1. Research: Gather data through whatever avenues you have available. Search online for information, call your friends, post questions on BBS, etc. Use the tools you have available and gather information to help you with your issue. A bit of searching will likely show you that stuffing envelopes only pays $0.01 per envelope. Simple math shows you that you would need to stuff 10,000,000 envelopes (over 27,000 per day) to make the $100,000 promised in the ad.
2. Analyze: This is the process of creating general conclusions from the data you gathered above. This should lead you to form a hypothesis about the claim you are investigating. From the above research, it should be obvious that stuffing envelopes at home will not earn you $100,000.
3. Predict: Make some predictions based on the general conclusions you have reached above. From your analysis, you have found that envelope stuffing is not a profitable business. This should lead you to believe that envelopes do not equate with money. With this prediction in hand, it is time to see if you are right.
4. Verify: Check your prediction against actual real world information. You can test and see if your prediction about stuffing envelopes is profitable by checking with other people. See if you can find anyone who actually did stuff envelopes and see if they made any decent money at it, or just slaved away for peanuts. This should give you your answer and show you if your bit of research was worth it.
Now, this does not have to be a long process, it could be minutes, hours or days, depending on the nature of the claim you are checking. But, it is worth doing, since it could save you time or even save your ass. Take a bit of time and question the world around, that is all I ask, and make your life better informed.