Since my layoff last year, I've had a lot (not "alot") more time on my hands. As a result, I've been spending a huge amount of time online surfing various social media sites. And I've noticed a disturbing trend:
Everyone is a guru these days.
I get it -- I truly do.
In my younger days, I too was a self employed "professional speaker" who passionately provided motivational talks and seminars to anyone who would listen. While I still believe in the basic message of my talks (yes, we should "follow our dreams" and having a sense of purpose in life does go a very long way towards staying healthy), I also now realize that the drive to "help others" in such a public manner is often (always?) tainted with self interest and at least a touch of narcissism.
Nothing beats the rush of getting applause from thousands of people.
(Well, maybe getting paid money by millions of people would; my limited "gurudom" never extended that far and never paid that much.)
But here's my point. Not that many people are truly ecstatic about their jobs, their finances, their bodies, their relationships ... most of us are just walking packages of insecurities waiting to be targeted by savvy personal development authors, internet gurus and "success" coaches.
We can always improve: strive more, work harder, become stronger, sexier, healthier, richer, more efficient, more effective, more talented, more beautiful, more fulfilled, more balanced, more organized, more evolved, more successful, MORE EVERYTHING (with the help of the right coach or seminar, that is).
It's the American Way.
And as more and more of us are leaving corporate America (voluntarily, or not) many are deciding to give gurudom a run.
So we become consultants.
Don't get me wrong. In many instances, self-employment becomes the only viable option, and some people truly do have original thoughts and wisdom that should be shared with others. (I have personally benefited from the shared wisdom of many, many teachers whom I must gratefully thank for creating their work publicly.)
Do we really need to sign up NOW for the next amazing money-back-guaranteed life changing seminar from every new author/coach/consultant/guru? (I've been personally invited to at least ten such events just today!)
Perhaps this is my cynical lawyer mind kicking in, but when you start researching the backgrounds of many of these online (or even well published) personalities, you quickly learn how dysfunctional many of their own lives were prior to (or even after) becoming gurus.
Not to mention their ethics. (Remember James Ray ?)
Perhaps my favorite movie of all times is Little Miss Sunshine because it so well illustrates both the sincere desire for fame and success of a would-be guru with nothing new to say, as well as the quiet desperation of his family members who keep striving to become "winners" despite obviously lacking the requisite talent or physical abilities to achieve their goals. I won't spoil the movie if you haven't seen it, but Sinatra's line "Here's to the Losers, Bless Them All" would not be out of place (they are very lovable characters).
And maybe that's what we need more than another pep talk from another success guru -- just the people we love in our lives to offer comforting words (without charging for it):
You have enough.
You are enough.
Or in the words of my favorite poet:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
-- Mary Oliver
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What has your experience with gurus, coaches and/or personal development enthusiasts been? Have any profoundly changed your life for the better? Have you ever regretted money spent on such products? Do you think the personal development industry needs better regulation?