Why Are We Still Listening to Self-Help Gurus?

Jason Weiland

I know what you are thinking; I’m going to attack Tony Robbins.

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Tony Robbins is a billionaire from the advice and motivation he peddles, and although he is a big target, I don’t want to focus on him. I followed him for some time, and if his story is true, he did start in this business with good intentions. I also give him the benefit of the doubt because he never denies that he is in this business for the money.

After all, the self-help industry is a business. Estimates put it at $11 billion a year in 2018.

With that kind of money at stake, there are going to be quite a few crooks.

As someone who is continually learning, I can’t tell you how often someone tries to sell me a course that promises a piece of the personal development pie. It’s unfortunate, but many of the crooks in this industry are at the entry-level. They are the self-appointed gatekeepers who try to convince you that you must pay them before you can make money on your own.

They are the ones who have made a name for themselves for passing out dubious advice. They freely admit you can make a fortune by rehashing many self-help tropes and presenting them in a way that looks new and improved.

They make money doing that for a while until they realize there are easier ways to make money because the life of a self-help guru is stressful, and most people are fickle. They start teaching others to grab their own portion of the billions at stake.

They have no problem teaching others how to hand out advice that is not useful and sometimes downright dangerous and get paid a lot of money to do it.

Who are these people?

One is a failed digital marketer who saw the money available and got greedy. He had never done anything positive in his life. He never made changes for the better. In was, in fact, a terrible person.

He read a bunch of self-help books and took the most marketable ideas from each. Then he hired ghostwriters to create his blog, books, and social media presence.

I should know; I was one of the ghosts.

He often bragged about the size of his network. He bragged there were hundreds of budding gurus like himself, all willing to pay for someone to create their social media persona and teachings. If we did right by him, we would have more work than we could handle.

The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. Money is fantastic, but my conscience wouldn’t let me work for someone like that. Friends told me I should have done what I needed to do and took his money, but I felt dirty.

I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t do it because I had been a consumer of self-help material at one time, and I remember how desperate I was to find any answer to my problems.

My Addiction to Self-Help Nonsense

After years of trying to deal with a mental illness on my own, I was in a used bookstore and slid into the self-help section. I usually avoided this area of the store, but that day I lingered.

Call it a cry for help.

I spent the next few months reading and studying every book I could get in my hands. Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Stephen Covey, Viktor Frankl, Dale Carnegie - I absorbed them all. I even spent a week with Rhonda Byrne. The Secret is a time I’ll never get back in my life, and I will always hold that against her.

I read and read, but nothing in my life ever changed, and that’s when I learned my own secret:

Everyone wants change, but change is hard. People like me are looking for an easy way to have everything we want in our lives without having to put in the work.

The Self-Help Industry’s Main Selling Point

Most of the industry players make money by convincing you that they have the answer you’ve been looking for all these years. They have a method you can practice that can finally cause lasting change in your life in just a few simple steps.

People like me are willing to buy whatever they offer to find the secret to having a good life - as long as we don’t have to break a sweat.

I was lazy. People are lazy.

Gurus are laughing all the way to the bank because they know you won’t even finish the book you just bought before you clamor for another. We have weak constitutions and short attention spans. We will keep moving on to the next best thing as long as they promise a simple solution.

It’s time we stopped financing these gurus lives and started doing something to make our own better.

The Secret to Lasting Change — In 30 Words

If we break down precisely what a person needs to do to have a better life — a different experience - it is not complicated at all.

  • Decide you want your life to change
  • Make a plan to change your life
  • Take action and put in the work
  • Improve a little each day

I’m now on a journey to change my life. Instead of reading about what I should be doing, I am doing it every day.

I make goals for myself. I measure my successes and failures daily. I adapt and create newer and more challenging goals.

For example:

  • I decided I wanted to make a living from my writing.
  • I made a plan to write and publish every day.
  • I wrote and published every day, even when I didn’t feel like it. I’ve had success, and I’ve had failures. I learned and created new goals.
  • I keep writing every day and improve as a writer little by little.

You can easily do the same thing yourself. Commit to doing the hard work, and every day will get you closer to your version of success.

I’m No Guru

I started this article by condemning the people who hand out advice, and here I am, passing out my own.

What makes me think I’m any different?

I’m only passing on what works for me. I am an advocate, but I’m just a regular guy. I don’t have a book for you to buy or a course to sign up for on my website. I don’t have hidden motives or agendas.

I don’t want others stuck in the same self-help trap I was. I was reading and never changing. I was learning but never taking action.

You don’t need another guru to tell you how to change your life.

All you need to do is put in the work.

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Writer and advocate interested in mental health, health, family, culture, creativity, and success.

Los Angeles, CA
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