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Extortion, Manipulation, Fraud & Deceit: Breaking My Silence

In: Confidence, Pet Peeves,

For nearly a year now, I have not slept.

My fingers are constantly in motion, as I pick and pull and peel from the anxiety. When someone I love grabs my fingers and holds them down against my will, my body automatically defaults to using my teeth to skin my own lips, shred by shred, before moving on to force my tongue along my bottom row of teeth, catching on the crooked parts, over and over and over and over, to the point of madness.

This is not me. But this is the me that appears when danger is near; it’s my mind’s way of expressing its angst and agony.

There are things I’ve been prohibited from sharing with you—things that have been happening to me in the background for the entirety of the year 2014—that have included varying degrees of what many people might view as extortion, manipulation, fraud, and deceit…by someone I know. And someone you know, too.

I have kept my silence in an effort to resolve these issues in the only way I know how—ethically, and fairly—as ironic as that seems. I’ve spent far over $100,000+ to date—$100,000 that has been comprised of your money as customers and clients, money from our company savings, and money from my personal retirement savings—to hire some of the world’s greatest attorneys to help me. To help us.

I have been tortured without being able to tell anyone. 

Last night I sobbed for hours.

I haven’t been able to publish new pieces here three times/week according to our regular publishing schedule. There are reasons for that. There has been little left for anything less than the imminent essentials: Clients, the creative projects I’ve given my heart to (I am proud to say we’ve developed something amazing that’s on a whole new level for TMF coming in November, that I’ve happily and tryingly offered every last cell of brilliance to) and doing everything in my power to make sure we will have enough financial reserve, and enough heart, to continue to fight for truth, and for fairness, and for the safety of you, me, and online businesses everywhere.

Because I still believe in good.

And I still believe that, despite the threats that will inevitably arise as online business becomes more and more a legitimate and real option for many of the world’s population, it is still worth it.

I started The Middle Finger Project many years ago because I believed it then, and I believe it now. Not only has technology made it possible for us to do the kinds of things we only could have ever hoped for in the past, it’s made it possible to have the kinds of careers we only could have imagined in the future.

And that is why I’m rising up—and bolting my feet down to the floor.

Because most of us would have never been in a financial position to be able to fight this battle. Most of us would have been forced to become prey. And as a result, most of us would have likely suffered even more devastatingly than I have.

Which is why I’m incensed to have recently learned that several members of this community have been suffering—behind the scenes—at the hand of the same source.

And it’s with that knowledge that I draw my strength—and a thick, red, permanent line, right here, and right now. 

Predators are not welcome here. But in the event they arrive, make no mistake—I will go head to head with you.

You can mess with me all you want, but you cannot, and you will not, mess with the innocent people of this community.

This community has supported me throughout the years in many ways—you’ve read my work, you’ve shared your own, you’ve interacted, you’ve pondered, you’ve started discussions, you’ve implemented ideas, you’ve joined me for classes I’ve given, you’ve spent the last $20 you had in your bank account, you’ve sent me emails pouring your heart out, you’ve drawn your own lines in the sand, you’ve gotten the guts to stand up, you’ve taken risks, you’ve trusted me, you’ve succeeded, you’ve failed, and you’d do it all over again if given the chance, because that is WHO YOU ARE.

And right now I’m going to continue to show you who I am.

As I write to you today, I want you to know that I am, as we speak, going head-to-head to fight a gruesome battle on your behalf and mine—legally, financially, emotionally, mentally—and I am taking every measure to do what is right, and what is just, and I will not stop until we show the world that even though you might try to bully us into submission?

We’re scrappy as hell. And we’re united. And we won’t let you get away with it. 

It’s the only reason I have not, and will not, cave into a heap of despair: Because we don’t do victim. We do backbone.

I’ve trained myself to be high functioning in the face of debilitating stress…dating back to the day I watched my mother die as I prepared my college thesis project. Or later, when I stubbornly finished writing my first book in the weeks after having been choked and attacked. Or just recently, when I gave the Cocksure workshop as my way of marching ONWARD—despite being noticeably shaken from a malicious strike made on me and my business and this community just prior, and connected to the story I’m telling you now.

I’ve trained myself to be high functioning in the face of the horrifying by learning to plant steel beams of faith in the people I’m paying to do their jobs, as that is what I’m paying them for—to help support the burden. I’ve kept on by learning that when I most feel vulnerable and alone, during long nights of endless tongue scraping, I should let the weight of my body sink into my mattress and tell myself that the covers are my protection and I am safe…which is surprisingly soothing and irrationally helpful. I’ve learned that doing the creative work first thing in the morning certainly isn’t a luxury, because it’s a necessity right now, before the day’s events pummel me with the latest distress, and I’ve also learned that my sharpest moments of creativity come when I am not staring at a screen, or a piece of paper…but straight at the wall. I’ve learned that a glass of the finest wine I can afford is the one I should have, and that focusing on one big goal a day is probably how successful people have been doing it all along. And I’ve also learned some other things I’ve probably always known, but ignored, like when waking in the morning feels like waking from the dead, my brain probably need more rest—and I should really stop giving myself such a hard time about it. Or that Bose noise canceling headphones might be ugly, but who cares? Or that taking a walk is not a sissy’s way of exercising, but a strong person’s way of taking care of themselves when they cannot muster much else. 

You know, a work ethic requires both work, and ethics, and not all of us maintain the same standards. –

But that’s okay, because the only ones you need to worry about are your own.

The internet is a small place, and so is the world. When you do the right thing, it will always come back to support you. When you choose otherwise, it will always come back to haunt you.

And right now, I’m up to bat to play ghost.

It’s my responsibility to make sure that what is happening will not happen to anyone else, and it’s my obligation to break the silence that poses a risk to us all. 

Because it’s through my voice that I get my power back. And it’s through my voice I also give you yours. 

And rest-assured, I will.

So get ready. And stay tuned.

I’m just getting started.

TMF community and the online community at large—RISE UP.

Give me your strength. Give me your support. Give me your voice. Give me your FIRE.

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607 thoughts on "Extortion, Manipulation, Fraud & Deceit: Breaking My Silence"

  1. There’s one resource that I believe is invaluable to the business owners of the world, that almost no one will tell you about and that resource is Dan Kennedy’s “NO B.S. BUSINESS SUCCESS” book.

    This book paints a picture of the ugly shit you will encounter as a business owner and what you can do to overcome it.

    Here’s a quick excerpt from the book that gives you an appreciation for a lone voice in the woods of “Business Success” authors who only talk about unicorns and rainbows . . .

    “Mental Toughness Required

    The autonomy you develop will stand you in good stead when your business hits some of the rough roads. Which it will.

    One sad truth about business is that you never finish with the same people you start with. Partners, friends, key employees, and others will fall by the wayside for one reason or another as you go along. You will outgrow some. Others will become jealous and resentful of you. I can assure you that at some point, you will have to make a decision that will be very unpopular with everybody around you. Then you will ultimately decide that the only indispensable person in your business is you.

    Recently, a member of one of my coaching groups came to grips with his need to get rid of a soured employee. He procrastinated for over a year, tolerating her bad attitude, sabotage of his authority with other employees, and almost constant criticism of his ideas. He argued with me that she was indispensable. She’d been with him for 13 years, knew his business inside and out. She managed the office, interacted with clients, and he relied on her daily. he had erred in letting this one person become so apparently indispensable, but it ultimately turned out she wasn’t quite as indispensable as she or he thought. In the two months immediately following her departure, the number of new clients dramatically increased, revenues increased, other employees stepped up to the plate. She had been blocking the flow of money into the business just as surely as if a giant boulder had been placed in the doorway. This is a situation all too common; the business owner reluctant to rid his business of a person who has long ago morphed from asset to liability. Turning the blind eye and deaf ear to this is mental weakness.

    I once had to end a 5-year relationship with a business partner who had been my closest, best friend. At another time, an 11-year working relationship with a lawyer who had become a friend and who had gone through many battles with me also had to be ended. I’ve had to fire long-time employees who I liked personally. And I’ve had to put my foot down, have a confrontation, and endure temporary anger and tension in the work environment. But, ultimately, business cannot be run by committee or consensus. You’re it. Being it is not always fun. But always necessary.

    I have also fired clients, and encourage my clients to let exceptionally troublesome or unprofitable customers go. I have killed Pet projects, and encourage my clients to welcome the swift sword; to get out of bad situations sooner rather than later, with only egg on their faces and disappointment in their minds rather than blood all over the floor and a gaping hole in the bank account. Any mental weakness, squeamishness, hesitation, or procrastination over tough decisions will be costly and can be fatal. One of the worst things you can possibly do in business is be late.”

    I love Dan because he’s willing to talk about what’s real.

    I’ve come to love your message here as well Ash as I feel you do the same thing and I honor your mentally tough approach to this challenge of yours and I wish for valuable lessons to come to you from this situation that come to your rescue in the future and that by sharing them, also come to our rescue in the future as well.

  2. Pema Chodron helps me and I share this with you, beautiful soul Ash.

    “It’s said that great suffering creates or brings great compassion. I’ve always been struck by this particular phrase because, more commonly, great suffering brings great bitterness, great anger, great wish for revenge, and great hardening. You can sieze that moment: you can cherish that moment of pain, and rather than letting it harden you in the habitual way and create great suffering, that moment can create great compassion. Instead of hardening into revenge, you shed a tear, and you start going in the direction of love and kindness–for both yourself and others.

    We find the love in ourselves. This is the point. Love is not “out there”; it’s not in the relationship, and it’s not in having the “right” relationship. It’s not our career or our job or our family or our spiritual path. On the other hand, if you begin to connect with the fact that you have this good heart, and that it can be nurtured and woken up, then all of that–career, family, spiritual path, relationships, everything–becomes the means for awakening bodhichitta. Your life is it. There’s no other place to practice.”

    Bodhichitta = awake heart.

    Sending a tight squeeze your way.



  3. Matt Sutton says:

    I’m so grateful you were brave enough to share your truth and experience.

    You are not alone.

    This past year and a half I have been threatened physically, blackmailed, extorted and here’s the best one… publicly framed for grand larceny after having a beautifully successful launch of an international creative brand I created and launched in three international cities.

    Why were these threats launched against me you ask?

    The demonically possessed humans responsible for the attempts and threats wanted me to turn over the reigns of my brand. They attempted to destroy me by threatening my life and attempting to frame me for a crime I didn’t commit in order to do it. (People are that evil and it blows my mind).

    My personal embargo about my situation has been rooted in absolute mortal fear for my life.

    The story goes on and on, BUT…. the purpose of my message is to say THANK YOU.

    Thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone.

  4. Sammie Rogers-Brown says:

    I just came across the Middle Finger Project a couple of weeks ago and immediately fell in love with your style and your message…I’ve probably spent a couple of hours since then, absorbing all of your posts…and then I came across this….This stand you are taking is incredibly inspirational…..and it resonates within me, reminding me to stand my ground and be bigger and better within my own business.

    I started my business 13 months ago with friend…we were partners, each bringing our own pieces to the overall puzzle….Fast forward to now… I just launched a major re-brand….sans partner….sans friend. The separation was ugly…or I should say “is” ugly. We’ve finally made an agreement last week for the dissolution of the gear/equipment/materials, but I gave way more than was required all for the sake of not destroying a friendship…..damage was definitely done, but I’m hoping that it can be repaired with time.

    With all that said….thanks for sharing your story…..It reminds me to remain steadfast and make this next venture bigger and better than my last.

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