All Sleazy Self-Help Gurus Must Die

Okay the title of this post might be a little shocking.  I don’t actually think all self-help gurus should die – Well, maybe just the ones who prey on people’s gullibility and use it for their own gain.  Here’s what I mean…

A German Infomercial

I was in Austria last week watching a bit of late night T.V. in my hostel.  When I say “watching”, I really mean I was completely confused by the German-speaking show on the television.  Now as the show ended, a German infomercial came on.

How do I know it was an infomercial?   Well it had the same elements like the infomercials from back home:

#1- A slick looking self-help guru talking to the camera, with pictures of his former, miserable self

#2- A video/photograph montage of his wonderful life; complete with snaps of him sitting on a fancy, tropical beach

#3- Video testimonials of recent customers who achieved their dreams all because they bought the product

#4- Camera zooms on the product that ‘changes your life.’

This infomercial made me kind of sad because I thought Americans were the only ones who were victims of this junk.  But it turns out Germans/Austrians are susceptible too.

Here’s a Little Secret…

…You don’t need self-help gurus teaching you how to improve your life.   In fact, listening to them is the worst thing you can do.  What works(?) for them probably won’t work for YOU!  The truth is most of these courses are designed with the knowledge that over 90% of the people purchasing won’t do a damn thing to take action.  Then they’ll be too ashamed to ask for their money back.

Furthermore, following someone else’s blueprint teaches to not think for yourself.  You’re following their blueprint for success…Not your own.

My secret to success has always been learning from my mistakes.  Failure is actually a great teaching tool.  You quickly learn how to not do something and this lesson is something you’ll never forget.  I honestly don’t think you get this kind of information from following another person’s “success cookbook.”

Become your Own Life Guru

You don’t need another person telling you how to be happy and live your life.  Traveling and running marathons makes me happy.  But I’d be insane to make you believe these activities will make you a happier individual.  They work for me but they probably won’t work for you.

Only YOU know what you want from life.  Don’t listen to the sleazy guys in 3-piece suits telling you they have the “magical” secret to success.  Usually the only magic involved is a wonderful trick where your money disappears.

Getting Information for Specific Problems

This isn’t a rant against all information or self-help products.  I firmly believe in their value for both the customer and the owner.   My gripe is the proliferation of the “your life sucks, mine is awesome” gimmicks I see every single day.

I love information products.  I’ve probably spent over $20,000 on information in my lifetime and I’d say most of it has given me real, legitimate value.  What separates the good from the bad is a simple question… “Does it solve a specific problem I’m experiencing?”

For instance, I would never buy something like the “EZ Internet Marketing Riches Accelerator Program.”  But a few years back I paid $20 for a course that JUST taught the principles of writing email subject lines that get high open rates.  You see the difference?  One screams, ‘I’m a sleazebag who thinks you’re stupid,’ while the other provides quality information I was dying to know.

You Already Have Everything

I bet you already have everything you need to succeed.  It’s human nature to feel like the “successful” people of the world know all the secrets.  The truth is they usually achieved it by following a good plan and working hard.  So unless somebody is offering to teach you a specific skill you don’t possess, you’re better off alone.

It’s simple economics… When there’s no demand, there’s no supply.   It’s about having confidence in our ability to succeed.  When we stick to our own plans, the sleazy self-help gurus of the world won’t have any customers.  Then they’ll pack their bags and move to a farm somewhere…far away from decent, hardworking people.

Take Action. Get Results.

20 thoughts on “All Sleazy Self-Help Gurus Must Die”

  1. Hi Steve,

    There are benefits to self-help programs as you mentioned: the difference between legit and shady programs seems to be in the presentation.

    When a guru comes off as a shill it can leave a bad taste in my mouth. That being said showmanship is a part of the game. The key is to speak to a person on level; be honest with them and let them know that yes, you have to practice personal development, *in your person*, to become successful.

    The get-rich-quick or it’s easy to become successful pitches are rubbish though, doesn’t work that way.

    Thanks for sharing your insight.

    Ryan Biddulph

    • It is presentation and I also firmly believe ‘what they offer’

      word like:

      overnight success
      incredibly easy

      Any true blueprint to success involves work and effort and if the ‘gurus’ lay out the notion that there will be no effort involved for incredible results, well pardon my french, but they are likely to be selling you a sack of shit.

      I have sold a few info-products and real products myself (never claiming to be a guru) and I understand hype is important. You need to get people excited about what you sell. The difference is between pointing out how the real value can enhance their lives rather than giving a boatload of BS solely aimed at their fears and needs.

  2. I agree with you in part Steve

    We do have all the power inside of our selves for change and improvement. That however doesnt mean we all know how to use it and sadly sleazy guru do tend to pray on this but I think there are a lot of great self help guru’s out there.

    I think part of the problem is society’s view of a quick fix. People jump at self help products because they think they’ll “fix” them instantly and really we both know that’s not what happens.

    • Sure, there are good ones. Usually a telling difference is what they say it takes. If it is ‘swallow this pill’ and all your worries will disappear they are really snake oil salesmen.

      Guys like Jim Rohn and Tony Robbins (and many lesser knowns) really do not fall into my ‘sleazy’ category. They would be more of the offering a quality product for a specific problem area. Some of the lesser knowns are so full of “hype” it may be hard to tell the difference sometimes…but most often “change and improvement from within group fall safely in the “valuable product side”

  3. Hey Steve the wise learn from their mistakes the genius learns from others. Like you I am wise and I learn from my own mistakes but I also learn from what other people do.

    Being the owner of such a large social network I get to see things most bloggers don’t and such an advantage comes with benefits on what not to do when trying to make a success when blogging.

    Very much like your article states what works for them or doesn’t work for them may or may not work for me either. So one bloggers mistake when done slightly different can be my success.

    I enjoyed the article it’s rather inspiring in it’s own way. I can make a difference and I will.

    • Thanks for the great words Brian, and thanks for dropping by and commenting.

      Learning from mistakes, both yours and others can be one of the simplest and most effective means of growth and learning.

      There may very well be some “good” products that do not work for one but do work for another.

  4. Ugh, the ‘G’ word – probably one of the most hated words in my vocabulary. I think for one to immediately call themselves a Guru instantly lands them in my BS-o-meter.

    In many ways so does ‘expert’ but the difference is that Guru comes across as this holier-than-thou teacher that will guide you without any trouble while an expert is one that has the experience (back by social proof) in an industry or talent which they can clearly convey in definitive messages what to do.

    For example, what makes more sense:

    “I gain my internet riches by harnessing the power of search engines! I said goodbye Google and it was mine!”


    “I used search engine optimization to create a highly targeted niche website related to moon-shoes in which I later promoted through Adwords and social media – here’s how I did it”

    It’s a lot of hype marketing. A person releases a product and affiliates are like rabid dogs. You’ll see a “scam” site pop up before the product is launched so an inexperienced person would land on this page – find that every part of it is actually positive and meant to market the product – then buy.

    As for self-help; the best self-help comes from within. Yes, there are times when you need someone to help make you realize what you’re missing (Tony Robbins is the master of this) but it still relies on you. Either do that or enjoy the wonderful experience from…*deleted for legality sakes* 😀

    Anyway, it does suck that this type of stuff shows up no matter where you go. I hope it doesn’t infect 3rd world countries – it’s almost like creating a cult (via scamming).

    • Really it has been around forever. I watched a history channel show about how people were selling tonics “proven to prevent” the Black Death in the 1300’s : Crookery, pure and simple.

      These type of Guru’s are the worst, as they solely prey on the weak.

      For the “Guru” word itself, I agree it can often immediately brings up negative connotations, unless it is a “title” conferred by an Indian religion. Those Guru’s are fine, of course.

      Being an expert with proof is great, your second example is one I would totally consider buying and I feel would likely have value (specifically if it filled a need)

  5. Reminds me of an old episode of King of the Hill I saw a few months ago in which one of the neighbors falls for an infomercial hosted by a guy named Dr. Money. It’s just a cartoon but had the same exact set-up. Dr. Money was lounging around in his mansion with a bunch of women to convince viewers that they could wind up just as rich. Funny that people fall for all that stuff.

  6. Hi Steve, I totally agree that one person’s vitamin is another’s poison. We have to figure out what works for us personally. Working for other people was an unmitigated disaster for me, but lots of people couldn’t stand the stress of having their own business. I think many of these “gurus” just prey on the desperation of miserable people, and sadly, there are plenty of them around.

  7. Really powerful post Steve,

    In fact it speaks for many who have experienced the burn of being cheated by wanting to live a dream that never seems to exist. Then to furthermore question our being that we’re failures. Kind of like a sad mind control trick the media has put upon us. However, I’ll be honest, it takes something like that to sometimes snap us into place. Here’s where the majority of the masses are flocking to and regaining that composure to differentiate ourselves from that can be a lifetime journey.

    I salute you for saying the things many don’t have the courage to say yet, including myself.

    • Yeah it really is true that like PT Barnum said, there is a sucker born every minute. I think most people are savvy enough to filter out 95% of the crap and see through the BS to the truth. But everyone has that 5% where they are really vulnerable and may be caught up by overhyped or outright scammy products

  8. Hey Steve,

    Love your post. This is freaking awesome man…

    It is sad but true that all these so called ‘gurus’ prey on ordinary hard working people everyday all around the world. Hell, I have even been the victim of these self help gurus couple of times…

    I do agree with Ben about all these problems being created because of society’s view of wanting a quick fix. It is in our nature to think that all the successful people know all the secrets of being successful. Media is definitely to blame. But just because it works for them doesn’t mean it is going to work for everybody.

    It is indeed all about having self confidence in ourselves and the desire to take action to make it all happen……that is the only thing that is stopping ordinary people from becoming a successful…

    Really enjoyed the article as well as the discussion here Steve..

  9. Adam,

    You got it. You can be successful. There are secrets. But the secrest aren’t some magic word or internet tool. the secrets are hard work, dedication and maybe some guidance to find your way. The guidance rather than a pat solution can be what separates the true gurus from the scammers

  10. Good message – we should strive to be our own guru, but isn’t it the case we need *some* guidance on the correct path? I mean, for me I wouldn’t have discovered concepts such as mindfulness, and consciousness, and being in the present moment if I haven’t discovered Buddhism and blogs like Raptitude… I think most of us just need a nudge in the right direction.. our human nature is very flawed and will lead us astray at times. I guess mentors are needed at times, wouldn’t u agree?

  11. Steve,

    Your post reminded me of when we were visiting France, we were watching TV in french out of boredom once, while Zenguy knows and speaks broken french, I was clueless but it was fun to guess what they were saying!

    I think most self help gurus or self help book can not help, until we are ready to make change and being aware of things we want to change. How do I know? I have read many books before, but I finally understood a few things many years later and changing on my own slowly. Great read.

  12. Agreed – some so called guru’s a sleeze bags preying on the weak, BUT the problem is telling the good from the bad. I don’t believe in get rich quick schemes or overnight success, and anyone who promised me those things would be someone I’d avoid, but I did benefit greatly from working with a coach at a time in my life when I really didn’t have a direction.

    We became friends and he mentioned briefly that his business was declining – he was going to have to go after corporate work rather than private clients. He wasn’t into promising overnight success and avoided hype. Other didn’t. They got the clients.

    I hate the get rich quick boys, but they’re there because people still believe them, go to them, pay them, and even think they’ve had value from them. The worst thing is that the guys who give real help and value suffer as a result.

  13. You know it is crazy for a guy to get as old as me and still be looking for the secret. I will still bite once in a while because I like seeing the whole picture. I still view the web like the blind men view the elephant. I think I understand whatever I am into at the moment but have no idea how everything fits together or that there might be some connections between what to me are unrelated elements.
    Then, of course, I don’t have time to actually study the stuff so I end up learning from my mistakes-if I can recognize them as mistakes. I am past get rich quick but not yet ready to accept getting rich too slowly.

  14. I agree with Ralph, what I think is understanding content of internet is not so difficult, it seems that we can also do it but when we set to do it then it becomes very difficult to accomplish it and the main thing is the continuousness, discipline, maintaining quality etc.

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