Journey of Life

the place formerly known as control your destiny

Monthly Archives: October 2009

Self Help Gurus or Marketing Experts?

When I got home from work last Thursday I was  “encouraged” to take an honest look at how I feel my life is at the moment. By that I mean writing with no self censoring, no self lies or justifications for previous actions. No blame or excuses, just honesty and facts without any kind of judgment.

The “encouragement” came in the shape of a thought. A thought telling me to sit down and basically just find a starting point. A place from which to look forward instead of moving blindly in all directions. For a very long time I have wanted to change things but have never really worked out where to start from.

I started and found it difficult to stop. There is no particular order to what has come out so far. Memories from when I was a child, back to present-day, then back to childhood again. Then I somehow got side tracked into the area of self-help and gurus and whether or not it actually works.

The hot topic on the news, at least in the US is the tragic events that occurred at a sweat lodge session in Sedona during James Ray’s “Spiritual Warrior” Seminar. The title itself kind of make alarm bells ring with me as the 2 words, in my mind, don’t belong together. I decided to dig further into this. Not so much the event itself but what made people pay between $9,000 – $10,000 to a guy no one had really heard much about until he was featured in “The Secret”. I am speaking from my own viewpoint here. If he was a well-known “guru” prior to “The Secret” I stand corrected!

I then wondered ; What credibility does he have, other than the popular culture seal of approval, that will make people part with that kind of money. What problem(s) were they hoping to alleviate or what kind of experience were they hoping to have. If they were hoping to alleviate a problem, how much therapy or counselling can $10,000 buy you?

I am not here to pass judgment on James Ray, it is the industry as a whole I want to question. To be precise I want to question the validity of what these self-proclaimed experts and gurus teach. What qualifications and experiences do they have that gives them the right to label themselves experts in this field? How many of them actually have a real doctorate degree? A lot of them seem to use the “Dr” title! Is this what gives them their credibility? Or is just our perception?
More importantly, why did I believe that everything I read would propel me to great heights where problems simply could not exist?
The answer to that question for me lies with the field in which these gurus really are experts; Marketing!
In order to get an idea of how I viewed this self-help stuff in the past, I had a read through old journals and old posts on here and as much as I hate to admit this; I was astonished to see the naivety with which I was absorbing this information!

The interesting thing is that the self-help guru can’t really lose out because they have a safety valve in terms of validity.
To give you an example, one book suggested that in order to feel better about myself I should affirm to myself a certain phrase. I did as instructed and continued to do so for months and months. Did it work? Well, this is where the safety valve comes in, because there is absolutely no way of measuring it. The only way it can ever be measured is if I had the facility to live a dual existence in which I could compare how I felt after I had followed the instructions for a given set of time with how I felt had I not followed the instructions for the same amount of time.
Compared to how I was a few years ago, I feel better in myself I feel more confident in my abilities, I feel less afraid of saying what is on my mind even if that results in conflicting opinions of others. Normally I would credit positive improvement to whatever book or programme I was following at that time but now I am thinking that other factors had a part to play. If, however, it didn’t work or I didn’t experience any improvement, did I draw the conclusion that the material was rubbish? No, I put it down to the fact that I must have done it wrong, safety valve has kicked in again!

I was having a conversation with a friend the other night about some of this and she raised a very interesting question. If their knowledge and expertise is written into a book, why the need to keep churning out book after book covering pretty much the same stuff? I know of a particular couple of gurus who have released in excess of 20 books saying pretty much the same thing.

I am not here to start a crusade against the whole self-help industry nor do I suggest that they are all a bunch of excellent marketers with only financial gain in mind. I know there is excellent high quality material available. Material that offers real and honest help and opportunity for growth.
But it may be worth remembering that the self-help industry is a multi billion dollar industry. In 2008 it grossed $11.3 billion in US alone. Personally I have no problem with people making money, quite the opposite.
What I do have a problem with is how a selection of individuals in this industry prey on people desperate for a quick fix to whatever problem they have, who will buy into whatever the “experts” are selling because it gives them a sense of hope, (I am talking about me here) at least until they realise that the quick fix promised on the packaging failed to deliver on its promise. Leaving one (well, me) confused as to why it didn’t work when it so clearly worked for the “expert” who wrote it as well as the hundreds of happy customers who were conveniently kind enough to write a testimonial.

I also think that there’s an element of transference operating here. Again I am speaking from personal experience where I would get drawn in to the point where whatever Guru I was following at the time could say or do nothing wrong!
If, at the sweat lodge session, people had exercised a measure of common sense, how many of them would have stayed in the sweat lodge as opposed to leave in the interest of personal safety? I also questioned if I would have exercised common sense and questioned the methods adopted by the guru or would I have conformed to the sheep mentality and followed the majority? I fear the honest answer would have been the latter!

I have left out specific books and authors (except of course James Ray, whose material I have never read or followed) purely because, what I think has worked for me may not work for you and vice versa. The only other one mentioned of course is “The Secret”, which in my view is the worst load of nonsense ever written, the sole purpose of which was to line the pockets of Rhonda Byrne, who in the space of approximately 3 weeks became an expert in the so-called “Law of Attraction” on the basis of Wallace D Wattle’s The Science of Getting Rich. The worst part of the secret is the fact that I believed in the concept when I first read it!! And I cringe when I think about how I walked around like a complete fucking moron repeatedly saying some mantra while cosmically ordering things from the ever so generous catalogue of the universe. By the way their delivery service need some work!! Or maybe I just did it wrong again!!

I could write an entire blog about my views of “The Secret” but in the interest of reader safety I won’t. If reading or watching “The Secret” helped you, disregard anything I have said.
There is, however, an excellent article on it HERE (Scroll down a little bit to get to the article)
Statistically there is something like 3,000 new self-help titles being released every year, which begs the question; How much of it is quality based on real experiences as opposed to just another marketing exercise?
Another worrying fact is that anyone can write a self-help book under the pretence of it being expert advice often derived from ancient wisdom or whatever fancy metaphor you want to add to it to make it sell!
In fact one doesn’t even have to write the book. There are places available online where you can buy pretty much any type of ebook along with rights to rebrand it as your own work!

As I have mentioned before, I know there is real quality material available out there and it can be found if one applies some common sense filtering before buying the quick fix! Why it took me so long to learn is no longer important!

Comfort Zone, Perspective and Gratitude

I am on day 2 of a 2 week training course basically learning how to do a job I have been doing for the last 8 years but for a different organisation. I started the job 4 weeks ago most of which was spent studying in preparation for this course. The studying involved getting used to the policies, processes, products, systems etc, which I actually prefer to learn on my own.

A few people have questioned why I have had to go through so much training when I have the experience and I understand the reason for the question and have questioned myself. The main reason is because  the government body that regulates the financial services industry in the UK stipulates that any organisation has to have enough evidence that whoever they employ, regardless of experience is sufficiently competent to do that particular job, especially when it involves giving advice to the public. I am completely in favour of that and since we live in a “blame culture” I can understand why any organisation would want to minimise the risk of liability claims from clients.

From a personal perspective it has provided me with a great opportunity to learn stuff again. Stuff that my ego had convinced me I didn’t need to learn because I already knew it all and it worked very hard to try to convince me that this is still the case.

I have chosen to park my ego and learn with an open mind. I may know a lot of it but I may also learn it from a different angle.

The past 2 days have been quite an interesting journey, not so much in terms of the curriculum but more in terms of how being forced outside of my comfort zone made me feel. On day one it involved a very sudden attack of anxiety as I first arrived in a room full of complete strangers. I decided to get a cup of coffee from the vending machine and when I picked it up my hands started shaking so much I had to put the coffee down in the hope that no one had seen this whole event. The day did improve although I somehow lost interest in coffee for a while, which in my book is like a heroin addict giving up heroin!

London Tube Rush HourThe training course takes place in London, which is normally just over an hour on the train and then another half an hour on the tube (subway). I got there 15 minutes early on day one but felt slightly stressed about not knowing exactly where I was going. Today I decided to leave earlier (6.30) to have plenty of time and also avoid rush hour. I did have plenty of time, which for the most part was spent on the train that was supposed to get me there in just over an hour but took 2 hours instead. This then triggered a spell of “worst case” scenarios in my head which in turn then made me on edge again!! I did get there on time (just) and had another slight flurry of “coffee anxiety” but only slight.

When I got back this evening at 7.30 I was so tired and grumpy.

I know that my comfort zone is expanding with every day. I am really enjoying the course and the people I have met are genuinely nice.

These past two days have turned out to be a lesson or reminder to myself.  A lesson or reminder of gratitude! I have a 25-30 minute walk to work or a 5 – 10 minute bus journey. I don’t have to spend 2-4 hours every day just to get to and from work and if I do it will only be until next friday.

If you hear nothing from me until then, I’ll be on a train!!

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