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The personal development industry

The personal development industry

My opinion of the personal development industry is this –

From where I look at it, people seek out personal development gurus in order to be able to live a better life.

Now by better life I mean more wealth, since that’s what it comes down to (really). People don’t go to personal development seminars to learn about character development. They are taught some mental techniques that are supposed to develop positive mental traits, but let’s not kid ourselves. The end goal of these seminars for the participants is to use the mental traits taught to better themselves financially.

Of course the problem with these seminars is that people leave them all motivated to change their life, but that motivation doesn’t last any longer than a couple of weeks. Then they’re back to being the same person they always were.

Cui Bono is Latin for “who benefits?” It’s a great question; it’s a prism you can use to trace people’s motives.

In this case, who benefits more from a self weekend seminar? The person who shells out several thousand dollars to attend or the guy taking several thousand dollars from several hundred people to give them a bunch of hype and make them feel good for a weekend? I know which side of that ledger I’d rather be on. By the way, on that note, the self help industry is a 10 billion dollar a year industry in the US alone.

And on a related note.. the financial gurus. Teaching people how to get rich. But they got rich by teaching people how to get rich. Rather circular isn’t it? Is this a repeatable pattern? How many people can make money this way? One in a hundred thousand perhaps? Doesn’t really look like their stuff is going to give me a blueprint on how I can get rich does it?

I don’t believe in self help seminars. Not one bit. I don’t believe they work that’s why.

But hang on, you’re into all this self development stuff aren’t you? And now you’re putting it down?

What I am into is results. Pure and simple. And in the case of so much self help stuff, there are no measurable results. There are no examples that I am aware of that can show someone going to one of these seminars and suddenly having their life move from shit to wonderful.

I’m sure it happens that some people’s lives take off, but I would contend that they were already on the success trajectory to begin with.

So going back to results. What do I mean? I mean if I write about health I have done it. I have pushed the weights, I have done the Tabata, the yoga. I have also then done the research and found out the optimum way to do stuff. Trial and error has got me to the point where I can create routines that are very effective, but also very efficient.

When I write about mind tools, they are an end in themselves. If I write about meditation it is because it has real results. If I write about visualisation it is because visualisation is real tool that can be used to shape your future. These are practical tools that can be used to improve your life. They are likely to lead to more money if you direct them that way, but even if they don’t they are an end in themselves.

When I get round to writing about money it will be real stuff. Stuff that can actually make you more money.

As for the self development industry, my advice is approach it with a healthy dose of skepticism. As Bruce Lee said, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own”. That really should be the template for everything you do.

Image Source: Greg Henshall (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About The Author


A guy obsessed with stripping down whatever field he studies to get the optimum return from effort expended. Sort of like Tim Ferriss, except with zero fame.

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