How to Spot a BS Self-help Guru

March 10th, 2010

I think self-help is fueled by a person’s desire for guidance and comfort.  Unfortunately, these desires make self-help a breeding ground for charlatans and people who exploit these desires for their own personal gain.

This is a shame.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell who is really there to help you and who is there to take you for all that you have.

I’ve already written about how you know the self-help book you’re reading is BS.  But today, I am putting together a new list on how to tell if a self-help guru is a BS artist or not.

Well, this checklist should help you.  I suggest printing it out and taking it to the bookstore or a seminar (or read it on your mobile phone, Kindle, iPad, or whatever portable device you have with an internet connection).  Go down the list and see if you’re heading down that super-stinky road to BS-ville.

Note that I use “he” as a pronoun, but I do that for convenience and not because I think only men are capable of BS.  I believe that both male and female BS gurus are equally full of BS.  With that out of the way, let’s begin:

1. His book has a shiny cover

I find that some of the worst advice comes in the prettiest package.  If it’s got gold foil on it or made to look fancy, then it’s probably BS.

2. The title contains words like “cosmic” perfect” “surefire” or “in X days”.  Or the dead giveaway: the title has the word “secret” in it.

Look there are no secrets anymore.  Read every book with the word “secret” in it, and you’ll see the same old recycled garbage.  Also, anything “cosmic” should be in the religion section.  The X days thing is pretty popular, and I’ve used a time reference in posts before.  But you should really be able to deliver on it and most books simply do not.

For example, if I wrote a post on how to get rich in 1 minutes, it would go something like, “a lawyer gets up and tells you that you’ve just inherited a fortune.  BAM!  You’re rich!  In only one minute!”

I delivered on my promise.  It was poop, but I did deliver.  Most crap books don’t even do that.

3. The book features a person with some serious cosmetic dentistry

Is there some correlation between the ability to lie convincingly and  awesome chompers?  Think about it for a bit and then come back to me.

4. He’s not a  big fan of traditional education

It’s funny because one of the BS artist’s selling points for expensive seminars is that you need to invest in your “education.”  I laugh out loud when some blowhard compares his get rich quick seminar to Harvard.  Apples to oranges…but then again they know this.  I blogged about this just the other day.

5.He constantly advertises his more expensive products

I love books.  I love a good seminar.  I love college courses.  But if some guy keeps telling you that his book/course/etc. is not enough, then he’s a BS artist.  You can get a general idea from a book.  If you finish a book and still can’t figure out what to do, then you’re being played.  Refer to my post How to Go Broke Trying to Get Rich to get a taste of how this is done.

6. Instead of answering critics, he denounces them as “negative thinkers”

This is a big one.  If someone cannot engage in a debate, then it means they know their stuff is BS.  I know a lot of people who disagree with me.  Some of my close friends believe in the Law of Attraction, which I think is poop.  We discuss it here and there, and we remain friends.  Because that’s what people do.  We have different beliefs, religion, etc.  But the BS guys label anyone who disagrees with them as “negative”.  It’s a quick and easy to both avoid answering critics and to look “positive”.  Of course, in a pinch they could always compare their critics to Hitler.

7. He sells religion or co-opts religion to sell products

I’m probably going to get in trouble with some people for saying this, but I think religion or “spirituality” should not be for sale.

Religion should NEVER be for-profit.  Charging people thousands of dollars to learn “stuff” is not ethical.  I’ve been to meditation retreats before.  I went on a 10-day course and the whole thing was by donation only.  You cannot put a price tag on Truth.

Worse, a lot of the BS artists appropriate religion or religious symbols to look more “spiritual”.  But upon listening to them talk, it becomes apparent that they have no idea what the religious symbol/idea/ceremony actually means.  Of course, using certain religious ceremonies doesn’t always work out, as James “sweat lodge” Ray found out after 3 people died during his “sweat lodge”.

I’ll be sure to update this list as time goes on.

I’d like to acknowledge a couple of good sources I looked at.

First, I like John T Reed’s Real Estate BS Artist checklist (quite long and thorough).  It’s an interesting checklist when trying to see if a real estate guru  is on the up and up.  I can’t say I agree with everything on Reed’s list.  But reading his list saved me thousands of dollars.  And some of his points overlap mine..I guess these tactics run rampant everywhere.

Also, Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit.  It’s Carl Sagan.  What more can I say?

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