Don Lapre and the Possible Pitfalls of 7-figure Status


When I was 18 a friend and I bought one of Don Lapre’s infomercial programs.

If you don’t know Don Lapre, he was a slick, if cheesy, late-night salesman. Most of his infomercials were about how to make thousands of dollars per week from your bedroom. You know the drill. It was nothing new then and it’s nothing new now. Mr. Lapre was just really good at it.

One of the things Mr Lapre’s program taught us was how to sell advertising to local businesses.

My friend and I went door-to-door to local businesses and did just that. After a day we only made about $100, which amounted to less than minimum wage. If we’d kept at it we might have been able to refine the process and make more, but neither of us enjoyed face-to-face selling.

Even though this initial business was a success (it did turn a profit, after all), as the years passed I lumped Don Lapre and most other informercial “make money” marketers (including those who only work online) into the scam artist category. Let’s be honest, they were/are. Most of them. Even some of your favorites. The ones you might look at through the proverbial rose-colored glasses.

Don Lapre died yesterday in an apparent suicide while in Federal custody for fraud.

He was looking at up to 25 years in prison, most likely well-deserved.

I can only speculate, but my observation is that his unofficial motto was, much like it is for many marketers, “Make money by any means necessary.

It’s sad that it came to what it came to, but it’s just more proof that striving for just money isn’t worth it. When all your self-worth is tied to your bank account’s worth you’re playing a very tricky game. While it won’t always end in suicide it will always end in unhappiness.

And yet, when I talk to people who want to start businesses the biggest reason is usually, “I want to make a lot of money.” They don’t get it. There has to be something more to it than that.

Money is great and I’m not advocating living like a pauper. If you want to be filthy rich, more power to you. But don’t expect life to improve any more than you can improve it right now.

It doesn’t take much to improve your life.

You obviously need enough money to not worry about money. For most of us that’s not an incredible amount. Rent/utilities in many great cities can be had for less than $1,500/month (usually much, much less). This is even true in really expensive cities like NYC if you look hard enough.

Then you need enough money to feed yourself quality food. Along with that you need to stop eating the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.). Quality food (whole food, not restaurant/fast food) costs $50-$100/week. By the way, it doesn’t have to be organic to be nutritious and you don’t have to shop at Whole Foods to eat whole food.

Then you need enough money to do things you love. Sometimes those things don’t cost much, like reading. Sometimes they cost a bit more, like traveling. Whatever it is for you, you need that much. For most people I’d say this is less than $500/month. Actually, for most people it’s probably less than $100/month. I don’t have any data to back this up as this is my own observation.

You also need to exercise, but that’s nearly free. If you don’t like exercise then read this.

Relationships are important as well, but quantity pales in comparison to quality. So add one or two good friends into this mix and you’re set.

I hope people look at Don Lapre’s death as a wake up call. You have the ability to do good things, get paid to do those good things, and inspire others to do good things.

Doing good things does not require being filthy rich or giving up your integrity and ethics. I know it’s difficult, but, if nothing else, I’m in your corner.


  1. I’ve recently decided to set up a side business and it’s funny, I’m going through that exact exercise now, trying to work up a plan that lets me do something valuable for other people, is enjoyable to work on, and oh yeah, makes money too. Not so easy!

  2. The beauty about doing good things is that you have unlimited options. There are many ways that you can help people. There are many ways that you can monetize this so that you can make some money.

    I find that the greatest challenge for many beginners is that when you have debt it becomes difficult to focus your time on helping others when you’re stressed about trying to pay off your debt. Do you have any advice for those in this situation?

    • Yes, get out of debt. Fix yourself first. Not that you can’t help people along the way, but you can’t give fully when you’re worried about your own situation. It comes back to focus and working on one thing at a time.

      • That’s good insight Karol. I fortunately do not have any debt. I just find that many of my readers happen to be in debt and I’m always looking for new ways to help their reach their goals.

  3. Karol, you have always been a breath of fresh air over the years.
    It’s sad what happened to Don Lapre. Someone who had the world by the balls but really had nothing.

    I gave up on being “filthy rich” some time ago.
    Now, I’m looking to make enough to live a lifestyle.
    Retire from a job, grow my vegetable gardens, raise my chickens , probably get a couple goats, read and live life on my schedule.

    I am tired of being owned by the boss

    • Larry, I just want to encourage you that, even if you are not in a position to quit your present job today, it may be possible to have a backyard (or frontyard) garden and a few chickens right now. You’d be surprised at the amount of produce I have raised this summer from 6 raised beds.

    • As Deb mentioned, you can already do a lot of this right now. No need to retire to do it. That’s part of my point here. Don’t put off what you want because of fake obstacles. True, you might not be able to raise chickens in your current situation, but maybe you can help with other people’s chickens and learn about the process. The examples could go on forever. :)

  4. Everything we do has a consequence, good or bad. I guess he didn’t want to face his. It has inspired me to keep working on my business because I know the consequences that will come my way. Thanks Karol.

  5. It is too bad that the developed world has become so commercial and materialistic. People will work jobs they hate for decades just to accumulate more stuff.

    My wife and I can generally keep our monthly expenses to around $1000. That shoots up when we buy airfare, but on average we can keep it very low.

    We have to make some minor sacrifices, but overall we are happier than ever. Low expenses mean we don’t have to work as much. I can pay for all of our expenses with 5 to 10 hours a week of work. That means the rest our time can be spent volunteering, exercising, or on personal interests.

    It is so liberating not always thinking about the next thing we ‘need’ to buy.

    • “People will work jobs they hate for decades just to accumulate more stuff.” Part of the issue isn’t even necessarily stuff. I think people just don’t realize what they need to be happy, or at least happier. When you break it down it’s simple and it doesn’t cost an exorbitant amount.

  6. “When the power of love overcomes the love of power …”
    Thank, Karol. Enjoyed it.
    $1500 … I really have to focus to believe that … but it’s true.

      • Haha. Sorry. That’s (part of) a Jimi Hendrix quote that your piece reminded me of … and I mean it’s hard for me to believe that 1500 bucks will do the trick, but you’re right, it will.
        Thanks again! = )

        • The quote isn’t what confused me. :)

          As for $1,500: it really depends. My lifestyle costs far more than $1,500/month when I’m in the US. The point is when we know what we really need and what we really want it’s easy to figure out that it doesn’t cost as much as we think.

  7. Good thought for today, as I am brainstorming to come up with a name for the business I am creating.
    Integrity and value are essential to me, so it’s good to hear from others who think the same.

    • The interesting thing is I think most marketers go into it with honesty and integrity, but they get side-tracked somewhere along the way. It happened to me. It happened to Don Lapre. (As I recall his original classified ads sold something that helped people, but I forgot what it was.) It can happen to anybody. I hope people read this and know that there’s always a way back to the good side.

  8. Hi Karol,

    I was hoping you were going to elaborate on the pitfalls, and yet the genius and great influence of Don LePre…how he went down the
    “take value path”
    instead of using his talents on the
    “give value journey”

    I admit I felt saddened when I found out he died and the pain he was going thru previous..deserved or not. He had some great energy!

    that is all.
    e pax et bonum
    J A H N

    • Pitfalls: prison, suicide, depression.

      He did have great energy and he was a great sales person. No doubt about that. He would’ve made millions if he decided to create something positive and he would’ve never gone to prison.

  9. Hi Karol!

    I’ve enjoyed reading your article. Good job!

    and it’s true, once you realize that you don’t have to have millions of dollars, euros or drachmas on your account to live amazing life, you will be free.
    All the best!

  10. When you know how to laugh at yourself, even when life hurts, no situation is beyond repair or salvation

  11. Deb and Karol.
    Thanks for your response

    I already do have 3 gardens and 26 chickens on my little farmette.
    I’d just like to have a little more time to do a better job and more of it.

    On my job, I am accountable to them for 154 hrs every 2 weeks and only paid for about half of it. (On call)

    $5000/month would be rich for me

      • I recently moved back into the house I grew up in. I have 3 acres and no close neighbors. I can only see one and he’s pretty far.

        Not exactly “going Galt” but working toward partial self-sufficiency and being a semi-hermit

  12. I’ve gotten by when times were a bit tight on about $1500/mo in NYC. It can certainly be done. Living in Brooklyn or Queens helps, eating simple helps & seeking very low cost or NO cost (they do exist) music or art events .

    Karol; I’ve followed your example for months now; I’ve donated so many things and could move/travel with a backpack. The easy/simple life is the best life.

  13. Hi Karol,

    When I saw your subject line in my email, I had a flash of memories from my teen years and early adult life. I tried similar programs and you are right, when the main motive is to make money, the results are pretty predictable…failure. I have started businesses where the motive of helping people was still just a thinly cloaked motive to make money. And guess what, I had some degree of success, but not the satisfaction I expected.

    I appreciate your view on doing good things, getting paid for truly doing good things for others and inspiring others to do the good things for others. I believe the “good ” things we do, should leave no doubt that they are beneficial to others. We ALL have so many great abilities I am sure if we ask ourselves the right questions we can bring those talents to the surface and not squander our gifts on projects that do not bring goodness to others.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Miles. We must be of the same generation. :) Every time I hear the phrase “classified ad” I think of Don Lapre. (Although it’s rare to hear “classified ad” nowadays.)

  14. Karol…I have had everything materially that one person could ever need and the Great American crash came as well as my bank account. I have to tell you it was the greatest thing to ever happen to me because I realized exactly what you wrote in this article. You don’t need much! I sold everything as fast as I could, and have almost no material possessions, except only what I really need. I have to tell you…I am free buddy!!! The American SAD(Standard American DEBT) plan is a total illusion and you find that once you arrive there…the next question is…That’s all there is to it? Now what? And your over all your stuff in a week, after which you realize it is like a prison cell within a prison cell weighing you down as you’re fighting like hell to maintain it the illusion. I just let it all go Lol!!! Free at last, free at last!! Good article!!

    • Mike, I’ve definitely felt like I built my own prison cell before so I can relate to your examples. Congrats on getting out of the SAD plan!

  15. Amazing story Karol.
    I have life as a minimalist all figured out. I haven’t figured out how to get all my wants and needs met just by online ventures but I AM getting there.
    Sad that money and fraud cost Don Lapre his life. I wonder some of his last thoughts I wonder if he felt a victim or sad due to his actions? We will never know.

    Thanks for the message and the principles that you stand for!!

  16. Thanks for the post Karol.
    This is the sort of lesson that should be read to every child in kindergarden.

    • Not sure kindergarteners would grasp this concept (actually I’m quite sure they wouldn’t), but I know what you mean. Thanks Stuart!

  17. You rock Karol!!

    ..I smile whenever I see your email in me in-box – it must be great to have that effect on people :)

    we love you too

    Michelle ((Australia)

  18. Agree with you that it doesn’t take as much money to live a great life as most people think. What’s up with the hatred of Don Lapre though? Innocent until proven guilty…

    You made money with his system, which says there’s something of value there, doesn’t it?

    • Assuming you’re the David Hooper I think you are I know you’re not naive enough to come at me with this drivel. (If you’re not the David Hooper that has been involved in internet marketing for a dozen or so years I apologize for the following.)

      I didn’t want to get into it because it would just muddle the message, but here’s how that industry works (as you well know):

      1) Sell a product for $40 on TV (or the internet).
      2) Sell the leads to a call center in Utah that sells overpriced coaching packages taught by people who don’t know anything.

      Not a scam? Let me go further.

      *Part 1*

      ~10 years ago I got a phone call from a company offering coaching services.

      “Hello, can I speak to Karol?”


      “Hey Karol, this is X from Y’s Team and we’ve got an incredible opportunity for you. First, we’d like to thank you for picking up Y’s product. Second, we’d like to coach you step-by-step how to make thousands of dollars with this system from your bedroom.”

      “Oh that’s cool, I already make thousands of dollars from my bedroom.”

      “You do?”


      “What do you do?”

      “Well I …. [insert my explanation here].”

      “That sounds awesome. Can you teach me?”

      So the call center employee / person who would probably coach me wanted me to teach him my stuff. Why would he do that when Y’s product worked so well?

      Selling outrageous claims taught by people who don’t know anything = innocence?

      *Part 2*

      Don’s program was about how to make thousands of dollars from your bedroom. The thing we learned about in his program required not only face to face selling, but printing, and then distribution. Our profit ended up being about $1 per hour. I didn’t include that in this article because it wasn’t necessary for my point. The point is, I don’t know a single person who made money with his “classified ads system” or from the call center coaching.

      *Part 3*

      Call center coaching: They ask what your credit limit is and, surprise, surprise, that’s exactly what the coaching costs! Lucky day!

      *Part 4*

      Innocent until proven guilty? Come on man. If I punched your daughter (I don’t know if you have a daughter), broke her nose, and sent her to the hospital I’m 95% sure I would get away with it. High priced attorney + no priors = you lose, I win. The “system” doesn’t work the way we’d like it to work and you know it. We all know it.

      Note: I’m a non-violent person and would never punch your daughter. Or son. Or wife. Or brother. Or girlfriend. Or mother. Or father. Or cousin. Or neighbor. Or postman. Or you.

  19. I remember seeing commercials for this guy years ago.

    There is a fundamental problem with every person who selling courses, books, ebooks, videos about how to make money: if it was that good, their time would be better spent doing it, rather than selling books on how to do it.

    You don’t see Warren Buffett selling courses on his secret investing tips. It would be a waste of his time. He make more money actually investing.

    There is a new breed of Don Lapre’s online who cloak what they do under “interent marketing”, “make money online”, “affiliate marketing”, etc. The story is the same. If it is so damn good, then it would be more profitable for them to actually do it than to sell crap to people about how to do it.

    I refuse to believe that someone’s passion in life is really to sell “make money online” courses to other people. If it was, they’d give it away.

    • I don’t mind anybody teaching people how to make money any more than I mind teaching people how to bake the perfect cake or how to do yoga. There’s more to it that simply the sale of the product. I’ll bet if Warren Buffett created a $10k course he’d sell a billion dollars worth. I’d buy it. :) The point is, it’s not the product, it’s how it’s sold. False promises, overstated claims, etc. I have friends who sell “how to make money” products who make millions doing what they teach and “only” $XX,XXX selling the product. But it’s rare that somebody practices what they preach. It’s even more rare that what they teach is sold with integrity and a real desire to help others.

  20. I’ve met lots of successful people in my life. Some were billionaires. Not a one got anywhere by 1) following these courses, or 2) selling these courses.

    The difference between baking a cake and doing yoga is that you usually have to demonstrate your aptitude before someone will plunk money down. I have yet to see a landing page, ebook, or online course for yoga or cupcakes. (maybe they exist, i don’t know) Moreover, information on yoga and cupcakes are available freely. Most people don’t sell “the secret to making great cupcakes” via ejunkie.

    The thing is, if you are making millions doing something and only making a fraction of that telling people how to do it, why bother selling it??? If you like helping people, give it away, especially if you are making so much more doing it yourself. The “make money” industry has such a bad reputation that it seems it would be a far more noble thing to give the information away, instead of selling it which just makes you look like a scam artist.

    • I see your point and I know what you mean. (Sidebar: There are tons of yoga landing pages, btw. Cupcakes? Not sure!)

      As for why someone would sell the info? Unfortunately, we are imperfect creatures. When something is free we don’t value it as much as when we have to make a sacrifice (payment, in this case) to acquire it. You value a book you paid $10 for more than a blog post you paid $0 for. I do as well. Not always, but most of the time.

      So I can completely understand selling the info instead of giving it away. More people will use info they paid for than info they got for free.

      Again, I have no issues with selling information products. It’s how they’re sold, the motivations behind the sale, and treatment after the sale that irks me (among a few other things).

      And so, I fully support people selling whatever it is they’re selling if it’s sold with integrity and good intentions. Be it a money making product, a yoga product, a photography product, or a cupcake. :)

      • I don’t have a problem with selling information. My problem usually come from the expertise and authenticity of the person selling it.

        Most of the people who sell tips on how to make money, make money from telling people how to make money.

        Most of the people who give marketing advice have only marketed their marketing advice and nothing else.

        Lifestyle design people who have done little more than read Tim Ferriss and then think they are experts on life even though they are still in their early 20s.

        Travel bloggers who try to tell people how to travel around the world after spending a month in Thailand….partying.

        SEOs who’s knowledge of SEO comes from reading other sites about…..SEO.

        Most of the type of sites I have listed are usually filled with fluff. No data. No case studies. Often just rhetorical questions. “The sky is blue. Don’t you think the sky is blue? How can the blue sky help you in your marketing efforts?”

        The issue of experience and expertise is a huge one online. Many people are quick to write an ebook based on some singular, marginal success and claim expertise off of that.

        The problem is most people want some sort of success online before they really deserve it. They want the rewards before they have paid the price. It takes years to do and most people don’t want to wait. The mantra of “create great content” totally forgets the step of “do great things”. If you haven’t done anything, then whatever content you create is ultimately going to be pretty empty.

        • We’re on the same page for 98% of this and, at this point, I think we’re beating the proverbial dead horse. :)

          Yes –> “Many people are quick to write an ebook based on some singular, marginal success and claim expertise off of that.”

  21. that’s why i like heart based businesses. and things like the One Minute Millionaire book which shows you how to be an “enlightened millionaire”.. someone who isn’t in it just for the money, but cares more about giving back, and making their profits a win/win for everyone. THAT’S sustainability to me. and that’s what I want to achieve.

    • While I like the general story in The One Minute Millionaire (I read it ~10 years ago when it came out) it *was* written by Robert G Allen … and, well, he’s involved in the same call center coaching swindle as the others. (He used to be anyway, maybe he really did become enlightened and stopped.)

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