What is a True Personal Story…

That people have a hard time believing?

Every so often I prowl around the internet to see what is out there about Synanon. Mostly I find what we might call the “same old same old” There are good stories and bad stories. What I’ve endeavored to do on this website is give a more well-rounded view of Synanon. What I’ve been calling the “The Good, The Bad, The Beautiful, and The Ugly”. I have focused more on personal stories. Every so often I run into something novel and this little tale came to me through a social media site called Quora, where people ask and answer questions. This story is in answer to the question above.

I learned to successfully sell as part of an experiment by a cult, Synanon.

Synanon was a groundbreaking residential program for drug addicts and alcoholics started by the charismatic Chuck Dederich in 1958. Please see,(Synanon) for the back story. Later, it came off the rails and got quite crazy. That’s when I fell into it.

1981 and I was in grad school at Michigan, burnt out and broke. I was also a recent immigrant from Scotland, a serious student who hadn’t sold a thing in his entire life, from a culture that held selling at the lowest rung in society.

The ad in the Detroit Free Press, (daily paper) read,”$1000 dollars a month, will train, no experience necessary”. Right, that’s for me. When I got to the Penobscot Building in downtown Detroit it was like a scene from American Idol. Hundreds of people lined up waiting for a shot. Madness.

We got paraded in and ultimately were given 20 seconds in front of five ex-heroin addicts (I found out later). Twenty seconds in front of a large ticking clock to say why. I remember saying that whatever it was they wanted I’d do it, how ever they wanted it done, and I’d do it for a week, free. No questions asked. Turned around and left.

I got through to the next round. I was part of a group of what I thought was 20 people, (it turned out to be two groups of twenty, but that knowledge would come in the afternoon). We were at the Holiday Inn at the Detroit Airport, 7:00 am in a large conf room sitting in a circle and not allowed to take notes. One Synanon member was standing at a board writing action items describing the sales process and the other member would walk around the circle constantly asking people to elaborate and having us internalize the lesson.

We were part of a group dynamic Synanon had created known as, “The Game” which was attack therapy. Each one of us was attacked and critiqued by the rest of the group. We had to defend our performance and attack others in turn. The only rule was that you couldn’t get out of your seat. If you did, you were out of the program. The reverse of love bombing. By lunchtime, we were down to 10. That afternoon we blended with the other group for a new group of 20. At the end of the day, we were down to 15 or so, with multiple people having stomped out of the room.

Day two comes around and two people are locked out of the conference room because they’re 5-10 minutes late. At the door, I hear, “Let me in, I’ll do better tomorrow”. Sid shouts back, “There are no tomorrows, get lost”. End of the day we’re told that we’re going to be selling ad specialties, (imprinted pens, etc.) door to door. Synanon would drop us off in vans at 8:00 am in industrial areas, and pick us up at 4:00. No using your own car because you’d just hide in it. Half the group quit.

After the third day, we had six people. So many crazy experiences after that but this story’s already getting TL/DR. I lasted six months, made $30,000, went back to school, paid off all my bills, and bought a car. The experience set me up to never have cold call anxiety.

Synanon had non-profit status and set itself up as a church, those stories are exponentially crazier than mine.

From Quora by Keith Jolly a self-described lapsed Scientist, lifelong learner, and outsider.

One response to “What is a True Personal Story…”

  1. WWWhhhhaaaattt??????????????????? Can anyone make head or tail out of this one?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: