I’m Screwed, and I Did it to Myself

This is not something I would have chosen to write about but circumstances are unfolding in a way that makes it necessary for the truth to come out, and I’d rather you heard it from me.  I have had and continue to have a lot of great opportunities, and a lot of people have placed a great deal of faith in me, and I would hate for that trust to be tarnished in any way, this is by far one of the hardest things I’ve written about in my life.

In the Big Time

18 months ago, I began working as the community manager for a website called Biglife.ws. In theory, the site was a great idea, hundreds of coaches specializing in very specific niches attracting clients that were interested in that particular niche of personal growth. In practice however, it was quite a production to get the site functioning and teach the coaches about the importance of digital literacy. (I didn’t learn the terms community manager and digital literacy until much later, at the time I was “just helping out”)

In time, my work at Biglife was so valued that I was given part ownership.  In fact, Victory Darwin, the site administrator, was so impressed with my passion for empowering the coaches, that soon he and I were working on several projects together, one of which was Life In Perpetual Beta, only not in the form that most of you know it, in fact, the film didn’t even have a name then.

The film that Victory and I intended to make was primarily to highlight the coaches on our site,  I would create original content, and he would sell interactive spots to life coaches.  One could watch the movie and click within it to reveal some interactive element involving steps on how to achieve said mode of thinking the core content made mention of. Victory had some success selling the spots, although truth be told, I think the concept was a little too technologically advanced for most of the coaches we contacted – that and none of them had heard of paying to be in a film before, but Victory persevered.

Around the same time, Victory convinced me that we should do some consulting together, or as he put it: “Melissa, you be the heart, and I’ll be the brains.  I hoped to learn a lot about marketing and was thrilled Victory was willing to teach me ( and boy did I ever learn.) My coaching practice, Think Without The Box Coaching became Think Without The Box Coaching and Consulting and we landed our first client right out of the gate. In no time I received the biggest single check I’d ever received in my life, $10,000 made out to Think Without The Box Coaching and Consulting (Sole Proprietor – Melissa Pierce). I was in the big time, or so I thought.

Face Plant from 100 Miles Up

I’m not sure which of these things happened first, but the cumulative effect pretty much was a face first dive at 100mph firmly tied to all Victory’s loose strings.

  1. Victory started changing the marketing plan of our film on the fly while talking to prospects, sometimes promising headlining interviews, taking their money, and then telling me we could change it later “marketers do it all the time”  (Note, I still stupidly accepted the money in my paypal account, always sending him his part.)
  2. Think Without The Box Coaching and Consulting was “all heart – no brains”, half way into our first project, Victory disappeared, said he couldn’t work with our client, didn’t do the work that he said he would do, and incredibly enough, did work that our client asked him not to do. I,  had no idea what to do, I ended up calling my vendors for advice.
  3. Lastly and most importantly, I kept filming. I realized there was no way the film I intended to make and the film I was currently making were the same film, this last realization was probably the only good thing to come out of this whole ordeal with Victory.

After Rock Bottom

My confidence was shattered, tucking my tail between my legs, I quietly quit as community manager at Biglife, warned the coaches, deleted my profile, my posts, and my videos all with the press of a button (This is why on LIPB there is no first Dan Pink video, it was hosted on Biglife.)

My first and last big time client at Think Without The Box Coaching and Consulting and I settled on a fair amount of services received vs. services rendered that I have yet to repay. (If you think the rock bottom face plant hurt, try having a karmic and financial debt you can’t pay back immediately follow you around.)

What hurt the most though was closing my coaching practice, I just couldn’t concentrate on my clients’ needs anymore. I had zero confidence, I was supposed to coach my clients to follow their gut instinct when clearly I had not been following my own.

I pressed on with my film alone, searching for answers as much about what was happening in society as what was happening in me. (That’s when you guys came to my rescue, encouraging me to keep going, thanks for that.)

A few months later I got a flurry of phone calls and emails informing me Victory Darwin had committed suicide. The entire Biglife community was in mourning. I somehow tracked down his dad, and amazingly enough, Victory was alive and well. Turns out, “Victory” was one of many online pseudonyms he’d used and killed off when his online persona was no longer believable, or when he was looking for publicity. I know it’s going to be hard for you to believe, but it was in that moment, even though I had cut off all ties with him months before, that my heart truly broke, and I saw Victory for the first time for the scoundrel he was. Certainly I’m not the only person who has  sullied their reputation and injured their pride by associating with Victory, I know I’m not the only person who didn’t want to talk about it. I’m sure he’s still out there, online, scamming some other sucker who, like me, will be too ashamed to admit she’d been had.

Why Now?

I’ve been getting angry hateful emails, blog comments, and phone calls for the last several months from people who were scammed, just like me, by Victory. And while I understand there is a price I have to pay for playing a game that I inherently knew I couldn’t win, I draw the line at threats and harassment. I’m putting this out in the open in the hopes of ending the harassment against me, helping other people in this situation and moving towards closure. I’m sharing this now because I finally have enough confidence in myself and my ability to move past it that I know it won’t destroy me to admit that I screwed up and am, have been, will be paying for it for some time.

Although no one died (at least, not in the literal sense) it’s with a heavy heart I write this post. Each time I sit down to type it out I feel completely powerless, embarrassed, and ashamed that I let it happen to me , after all, I am MRS. FOLLOW YOUR HEART,  certainly I would have paid attention to said heart repeatedly beating out the steady warning signals of impending doom.  In hindsight, there were a lot of red flags that I could have easily paid attention to, but I chose to ignore. And as much as it shames me to say, once in a while I don’t let my intuition lead, once in a while, I screw myself by ignoring the eureka of instinct just for the thrill of it, and this is a story about one of those times.

UPDATED POST  12/21/09 8:20pm –  I received this email from Victory’s personal email address two hours after I posted this, note that it’s signed “Brent” – possibly another identity. (I originally included it in the comment, but was advised to include it in the posting)

hi Melissa, 

I was so disappointed to see your blog post about Victory.

Looks like you need a way out and this is the best you’ve got.

I still wanted to like you because you’re smart and funny and all, but this really destroys anything left that was good.

The lipb project is all yours. Own up to it.  None of this has anything to do with Victory.

You made a lot of slanderous statements and outright lies that can be proved to the contrary.

I’ve downloaded the source code and the screen capture of the blog.

I’m going to make one last nice gesture.

Remove the names of the people and the websites and all the tags.

…actually, just delete the entire post.  That story just makes you look bad. I don’t think you realize how most people would read it. Just one big lame ass excuse for your failure.

If you delete the post, then good…

If not, you’ve just created your worst enemy, and I’ll be happy to show you how effective I can be, both online and offline at settling debts.

It would simply be wrong of me to let this stand.

And as destructive as I will be, I’ll do it with love. I owe it to Victory.


30 replies
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  1. Past dealings with Victory
    Past dealings with Victory says:

    I came across your website’s post, as I was doing a Google for Victory Darwin. I remember getting an email over a year ago saying that he had committed suicide. I never believed it. In my entrepreneurial discussions with him, he always had an ‘angle’. He loved conspiracy theories, and always talked wanting to do something that tapped into that. There were no boundaries there.

    I never believed he was dead. I also knew that he had legally changed his name at one point to ‘Victory Darwin’, because it was a good memorable marketing name. My gut instinct told me that this suicide was one of his conspiracy theories. I couldn’t find anything online at that time to say otherwise.

    But today, he popped into my head, and I thought I’d do a Google to see if he was showing up somewhere.

    Looks like he is still alive and well.

  2. Jeremiah Taylor
    Jeremiah Taylor says:

    What a great post!
    Great job delineating the series of events, and exposing the fraud that is Victory Darwin. What a scoundrel. It’s a difficult thing to expose, but you cover all that in your post. I simply agree. That he threatened you is disgusting. I’d love to play a friendly game of tiddly winks with the guy; you know, to the death. Completely joking on that, but in all seriousness, what scum. I’m glad you came through it; standing. Thanks for contributing to the Society for the Prevention of Scams & Cessation of Spammer Accounts.

  3. Dave Friedel
    Dave Friedel says:

    It’s tough to get screwed like that. Even without the Internet, there are so many bullshit artists. I worked with some folks once in a startup, that did due diligence on an investor, who was very turned off by the process. In that guy’s background check, we found addresses that did not jive. After months of working with him (before legal agreements) we found he was just a lying, marketing-type guy, who not only spoke well, but knew his stuff. But it was all a lie. It’s so hard to find out that way. And it’s a shame that even when going into business with friends, you need background checks, credit reports, and references. Never stop believing though. There are so many good people out there, who really are honest. But it’s a big world…

  4. Tre ~ (@thoughtbythought)
    Tre ~ (@thoughtbythought) says:

    without knowing how sleuthing the lures were, and not knowing you in person yet at all but ‘meeting’ the substance you represent now, sometimes the pull of outcome pulls at us stronger than our intuition but the red flags are always there. and my fave part of this post is you shared that. and how many times have all of us seen and felt the red flags but out of belief in our integrity that we’d see the project, relationship, job, situation through and make it turn out well, we pressed on anyway. fraud hurts and is a huge wake up that there’s many ways we can be taken advantage of. i used to be ms follow your heart to. and i still am. but i surround that heart is wise bold wisdom that knows now to take lots of proactive protective steps, not the least of which is owning every single last thing in my name i’m able to. bank account, car title, home deed, and so on. probably my now solopreneurship based in that ethic as well. but therein is a beautiful thing: you / we own our inklings and those red flags are the knock knock and they always come. always. so you’re that much more no holds barred bout listening to em. and to me that’s your only victory but we shall from hereon refer to it as triumph. i’m grateful to know you. truly.

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