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Let me tell you, I absolutely love to laugh. I love memes, I love funny twitter threads, I love funny facial expressions, and one of my favorite things is watching people trip. Idk what it is, but that gets me EVERY time (as long as the person is ok).
But tonight, I realized something that really makes me laugh. The absolute audacity of scammers and fraudsters. Like…their utter and complete gall just really gives me a good chuckle. But not like an “omg that’s so funny” chuckle. But more like “omg is this person really delusional enough to do this?” and “omg are people really buying this??” chuckle.
I love a good scam story. Not because I love scams, but the make-up of the scammer, the personality traits that leads people to fall for scams, and of course, the trail of events that leads to the scammer being caught…I just love it all! American Greed is my favorite show, and I’m obsessed with cults…which for me, is just another scam.
I’ve been a victim of a white collar crime, and luckily for me, things worked out ok. I was in college, and this was back in the 90s when I was young and naive, from a small town but went to school in the big city, and I had no idea that people like this even existed. Someone passed me a stolen check for a couple thousand dollars, and I cashed it when the bank made the money available. A few days later, I was being sat down by the police. Shocked, confused, overwhelmed…my naivetee diminished. Now as an adult, I know how easy it is to be sucked in when you don’t know better. And I know how horrible people can be when they prey on those that don’t know better. And it’s disgusting. And yet still very fascinating.
I had been hearing Elizabeth Holmes’ name for a while. But never in a way that interested me enough to actually pay attention to what she was in the news for. Until this week when the story broke that she was found guilty of four counts of fraud. I had some time to kill and decided to read up on what this was all about.
If you’re like me, you intentionally select what news stories you allow into your life, and maybe this story has not made the cut. So let me tell you about Ms. Holmes.
Elizabeth Holmes is a Stanford drop-out who went on to found a revolutionary company, Theranos, which boasted having the technology to prick a finger, obtain a small vial of blood, and then analyze these small amounts of blood for over 200 diseases by way of a small box called Edison. This small box, Edison, would be the analytical powerhouse that conducted all of these tests, taking up only a small amount of counter space. The vision was that this tiny vial of blood and small box would then result in these blood tests being made affordable and accessible for any and everyone, and it would ultimately give people more control over their health and life, which would, as she always said it, “change the world.”
I’m not mad at this vision. Anything that gives people more tools for life-saving health screenings at an affordable price…what’s not to love?? The affordability, the accessibility, the innovation could save lives which WOULD change the world! This could be awesome!
The next layer to this story is that Ms. Holmes aligned herself with some of the most powerful men on the planet, convincing them to invest and be ambassadors for her vision and for her company, Theranos. We are not talking famous actors or social media influencers or athletes. We are talking literally presidents, secretaries of state, presidential cabinet members, and billionaires. Bill Clinton, George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, Rupert Murdoch, The Walton Family (aka the Walmart dynasty), Carlos Slim…I mean…these people sat on the board, touted her achievements, and heavily invested in her company.
So now she’s got the vision, she’s got the media attention, she’s got the funds, and she has tremendous support for something that could be absolutely amazing! As she repeatedly says, Theranos could change the world! When all was said and done, this company was valued at $9 billion! She was a Stanford dropout in her 30’s doing the damn thing!
Ms. Holmes modeled herself after other great visionaries such as Thomas Edison and her clear idol, Steve Jobs. She even wore a modified version of his black turtleneck uniform.
Ms. Holmes was featured in Forbes, gave Ted Talks, and had her own security detail. She was living the dream. She was a dropout to billionaire success story.
However…things were not what they seemed. Long story short, the technology was faulty, inadequate, and it just did not do what she promised. And the reality was that it probably never was going to do what she promised. Ever. The results of her company’s labwork was at best, right about 50% of the time. But patients were being given the results as if they were guaranteed correct, and people’s lives were at stake. Because Theranos was a private company, she did not have to divulge certain information to government agencies regarding its technology, she did not have to have audited financial statements, and she basically could control the narrative under the privilege of keeping trade secrets.
Companies like Walgreens were starting to try out her technologies in their stores and inaccurate and unreliable test results could result in a potential nightmare for patients.
Employees, terrified by threatening lawyers and cease and decist letters, finally started speaking out and jumping ship. They spoke to reporters and they whistleblew about what was actually happening at Theranos. And Ms. Holmes’ house of cards crumbled.
I love reading and learning about white collar crimes. I just cannot believe that that kind of audacity exists. I’m always intrigued by the narcissism that leads to the crime, and the investigations that eventually bring the whole enterprise down. And this story is right there on my list. It checks all of my boxes.
- Charismatic and odd leader that somehow convinces people to get on board with a big-vision plan (and don’t get me started on how this is extremely similar to my other fascination, cult leaders) – CHECK!
- A following of people totally drinking the charismatic leader’s kool-aid – CHECK!
- A fraud scheme that just makes me shake my head – CHECK!
- Lots of money being thrown at said fraud scheme – CHECK!
- All of the red flags that the charismatic leader is a fraud that people should be picking up on but aren’t – CHECK! CHECK!
- The slip-up that leads to the subsequent downfall – And CHECK!
While there are so many white collar criminals and huxters that are just plain evil, I feel like this at least was a well-intentioned plan. At least initially. Life changing healthcare being made accessible to all–honestly this is what society needs. But most successful scams play on the vulnerable and the weak, and provide hope to those that truly need it.
But Ms. Holmes didn’t double down on her fraudster ways by preying on the elderly or vulnerable people that couldn’t afford to invest in her company. So at least there’s that. She sought out the ultra rich and ultra powerful. Those that could invest tens of millions and not even miss it.
But everything crumbled and at the end of it, I’m doing my “omg did people really buy this??” chuckle.
Do you love true crime and white collar crime stories? Why do you think people believe they will get away with scams like this? Do you have any favorite shows or stories that intrigue you?
This is a really hard prompt because there are truly inspirational and admirable people everywhere. But it’s pretty fair to say that most of the people I admire are women. And even more specifically, they are women in my family. You can close your eyes and pick pretty much any one of them, and you will find someone who has set and amazing example of being a good mother, sister, aunt, matriarch, trailblazer, free thinker, supporter, etc. It is truly hard, no…impossible, to pick only one person to write about. And frfr, I don’t want to poke the hornet’s nest of picking out just one person.
So instead of picking one particular person that I admire, let me tell you five traits that I find are common in the many people I admire.
They choose kindness. Every woman in my family has been through something. And yet they are all the sweetest, kindest people on the whole planet. Yes, I said the whole entire planet!
They stand up for themselves and for others. They all do it in different ways. Ranging from timid and subtle to brazen and spitfire, they have their own approaches, but they speak up. And their approaches are actually quite fascinating. I’ve noticed that there’s a time and a place for each method, and I’ve even used some myself.
Despite obstacles, they persevere. Life is clearly full of challenges. Being able to face those challenges, no matter how big or small, and come out ahead is no easy feat. Watching the women in my life tackle challenges and come out being better and stronger is so powerful and encouraging. They tackle motherhood and marriages and the workforce and entrepreneurship, and of course all of the daily nuances that life can present. Being able to watch them face challenges and persevere gives me so much strength in my own life.
Through actions or through words, they impart wisdom. There is a takeaway from every encounter. Whether it’s a recipe, a history lesson, a mantra about life, a tip for the daily struggle, or a lesson in what not to do, there’s always something to learn.
They love hard. There is never any question about who they love and how much they love them. They express it in their actions and with their words. Often. And without shame.
It may be hard to pick one or even three top people that you admire. But do you notice a commonality among people that make your list? I’d love to hear what you admire about the people you admire!
I should be more embarrassed about this but I’m not…lol. One of my favorite toys growing up was a portable chalkboard. You could write on the top, then the top flipped open and inside was a place to hold things like papers and chalk and erasers. Which means for fun, I played school.
My dad, to this day, loves to tell the story about how a friend of his came over one day, and his son was about my age. So we went off to play. I asked the son if he wanted to play school and he was completely and utterly disgusted. “PLAY SCHOOL!?!?! YUCK!!!”
But me…I loved handing out papers, and writing on the board, and having a fake grade book. I would line my stuffed animals up and discipline them, which is weird because I never got yelled at in school or anything. I don’t think it’s that I wanted to be a teacher, but this is what I considered a good time back then–handing out homework assignments, bossing my animals around, and washing the chalk board.
So that’s it…the geeky kid me loved pretending I was in school.
Did you have a favorite toy? Does it uncover any embarrassing childhood secrets…like…for a good time, you played school? Let’s hear it!
The fall is the perfect time for road trips. Something about the leaves and the air just enhances that wanderlust craving. And with people about to hop on the road to grandma’s house for the holidays, there will be a lot of road travel over the next few weeks.
For me, hopping around to different Airbnb’s can easily be hours on the road. Music is a great distraction but sometimes it just doesn’t fit the bill. My boyfriend and I are together ALL. THE. TIME. and it feels like we’ve covered every discussion topic known to man. So when we’re riding along, and we get tired of music, that’s when we read advice columns.
I know, I know. Ummm what!??! But forreal. We read them, and we discuss our take on each situation. And honestly, it’s a wonderful way to get to know more about your partner without being judgmental.
Here’s what we do. We set up the hypothetical situation using the advice seeker’s information and then we fill in our assumptions based on the unknowns. Then we sliced and dice every sentence, debate our viewpoint, and sprinkle in our past experiences, our boundaries, our hopes, etc. It’s such an interesting and entertaining way to see what we agree on, where we differ and why.
There are so many times I’ve said “wow, I can see how that is something I’ve done and it seems horrible,” or “I was once in a situation similar to this and this is what I did”.
There are things about our pasts that we didn’t know about each other and may not have had a reason to even bring up. But when we’re reading advice columns, it jogs our memory and sheds light on the situation we’re discussing.
Our favorite columns are Dear Prudence and The Moneyist. Dear Prudence is a good way to dive into some social, relationship, and family topics, while The Moneyist helps to delve into your thoughts about finances, investing, budgeting, etc.—all things that are extremely important in relationships. You may not realize that your significant other had a specific view about money, or that they were brought up thinking certain things about home life or vacation or work life…so many things are brought to light just by reading these columns!
Reading advice columns and using them as prompts for discussions actually may even help you hammer out some compromises about situations that haven’t even occurred. Knowing how you will address a situation before it even arises*could* help eliminate future headaches down the road. It may not help at all but you never know…it could.
Among our many outcomes, we’ve agreed that rescue is the way to go for pets, that we’ll never co-sign for anything for anyone ever, and that we’ll try our best to put kids in their own bed as soon as possible. Sounds random, I know…lol…but they were all the result of conversations we had after reading advice columns.
Why don’t you give it a try? Here’ a scenario from Dear Prudence. Chat about it with your significant other and see what you guys think!
Dear Prudence, My cousin’s daughter is getting married in November. We’re not particularly close, and I don’t believe I would have been invited if this were a formal, in-person wedding. Due to the current pandemic, however, the entire event is occurring on-line and the guest list appears to number in the thousands. The happy couple have published an extensive gift registry, with the cheapest items starting at about $200, and have sent a series of mass emails expressing their excitement that we’ll all get to share on their special day, with glossy images of their lives together. I have to confess that I feel a little mean-spirited about the whole affair, as this feels more like an aggressive marketing campaign to maximize the return on investment than a family celebration. Is there a polite way to quietly disengage? Would it be rude to not send a gift (and to RSVP that I can’t make it)? My cousin is notorious for holding grudges and will almost certainly kick up a fuss.
WWY?? Do you see that situation the same way or do you feel differently about it? Have you ever tried this? What are some ways you entertain yourselves on road trips? Let me know!