I come from a land often associated with blarney. We, the Irish, are known for being great storytellers and to exaggerate from time to time. That is part of our classical stereotype as well as the drink side of things. Of course there is a grain of truth is most stereotypes. But my country is also a nation that holds a particular sense of cynicism in our attitude towards the world.
We value skepticism and cynicism where I come from. Notions such as ‘The Secret’ will wash with a certain audience in the country but many will dismiss it as ‘American shite’ as they say over here. We have the idea that the cynical you are the more intelligent you are and the less likely you are to be ‘conned’. We are bombarded by the media with ads and through the internet with continuous marketing of products that will make our lives better. The idea is that we need to watch them with an eyebrow raised to make sure we don’t all buy snake oil.
Now, I find myself in an area that can double as a field day for the average cynic. I have had my fair share of cynics attack what I do with the usual ‘intelligent’ skepticism. I have been presented as being a proponent of the idea that we just have to think positive and we will become happy, healthy and rich. For the record, I don’t believe that.
I read a post of a friend’s facebook page. She and her husband (another friend) promote fitness and health bootcamps. Someone commented on there that there was no need for their bootcamps. Instead, he suggested getting fitter and losing weight was about two things ‘eating less and exercising more’. Very intelligent. With those two tips he managed to solve an age old problem that has become a multi-billion dollar industry. He then went on a rant to attempt to get society (or at least the readers) to ‘free their minds’ and stop falling for the ‘new fads’. I am going to call my actual friend in this ‘good friend’ and the very intelligent one line cynic my ‘learned friend’ for the duration of this post. ‘Learned friend’ is an expression heard used a lot in debates back in school and I always wanted to use it.
Indeed, I am sure my learned friend would solve the world’s emotional problems with a similar nugget of genius. Just think positive and stop thinking negative. There we have it. No need to make it any more complicated. No need for any products, advice, wisdom, education. All you need to do is think positive and stop thinking negative. Voila.
Oh and let’s solve the global financial crisis while we are at it. ‘Stop being in debt. Start improving the economy’. Brilliant. This is so good. Let’s go for one more. World peace. ‘Stop killing people. Start helping people’…….It’s that simple friends. Get with the programme and stop supporting all these charlatan charities that try to help people.
Now, relax, before you start into my gross oversimplification of this kind of advice or my seeming lack of awareness of the existence of real charlatans in the health and fitness industry… I know, I know… there are plenty of rip off merchants out there that feed off the overweight and unfit. They sell them products they don’t need, systems they don’t use, memberships they never avail of. It is business and a thriving one at that. I, myself, in the past have often paid for gym memberships or supplements I rarely used and, even worse, things that made big promises but failed to deliver.
But here are the facts of the case. My learned friend’s advice doesn’t work for everyone. I know that because I have met many, many people who did eat less and exercised more but they ate the wrong kinds of foods for their metabolism and exercised in a way that wasn’t very productive for them. I know of people who have lost weight with walking and eating less but I also know plenty who haven’t. So the advise ‘eat less, exercise more’ is actually pretty good to start with for some people.
The problem is where does that leave all the rest of the people who have tried it and it doesn’t work. The more choices we have the more likely we are to succeed in the best possible way. So the advise that my good friend proposes is a different method that has got good results a lot quicker than walking and hiking more and eating less and good testimonials to back it up. The bootcamps have become popular and the method tested on Irish television. So, it seems to work, at least for many people. But here’s where I think my learned friend has a problem.
You see, the world we live in has become a world where competition is intense. If you work for yourself as many of us do you have to grab attention. You can’t shout the loudest as you don’t have the money like some of the biggest companies. So you have to get attention some other way. How do you do this? You make big claims. You give counter intuitive advice to get attention. You make big promises.
Imagine my good friend was to promote their system like this ‘It can help some people lose weight’. What would that do for their business? Nothing of course. The truth is that if you want to succeed in this world, you have to grab attention. You have to give value, show value and make yourself stand out.
I am sold on my good friends system because I am actively trying out most of their suggestions. It works for me. Now, of course, nothing works for everybody but I also know and have met plenty of people it works for. I know my friends. I don’t agree with everything they say but they have done their research, have a lot of experience helping people and have come up against and helped a lot of people who struggled to lose weight even though they knew and applied the simple suggestion ‘eat less, exercise more’.
My learned friends worry was that ‘like the catholic church’ (now there’s a true Irish argument… it’s like for years we would blame Britain for everything… now to add to your argument bring in the Catholic Church… we are all brainwashed yada yada) we would find ourselves offered the promised land by yet another guru and I can understand their concerns. The model is simple and prevalent. Want to be X? Well, I was a loser and then I achieved X by following a simple, proven system. Now, you can too if you just follow me. Join me on facebook, twitter, subscribe to my page and buy everything that I sell and you can be X too.
Yeah, yeah I get it but guess what? It’s the world we live in. That is how we must get the message of what we do out to the world. Your alternative is to let the world come to you. In the marketplace we have those interested in making a quick bit of cash and they desire to promote themselves to the masses so they can sell whatever to whoever. They don’t care about people. When Bill Hicks did his wonderful rip on marketing executives and advertisers he was talking about these people.
Then you have people with the guts to put their hat into the ring (is that how the expression goes). Entrepreneurs who believe they can help others more effectively, more cheaply or more quickly than others. Some of them are misguided and some of them are wonderful people to know. I can vouch for my friends. Not just because they’re my friends and I have an insight into their values but because I follow their system and it works.
Anyway, enough of my argument for health success. I’m far too self absorbed to waste an opportunity to talk about myself!!
Here’s me. I’ve a website promoting charisma, confidence and personal improvement. I’m not a failed actor or comedian. But I promote ‘charisma’ workshops. There is nothing more arrogant I’m sure than telling people that you can teach them to be charismatic ‘just like you’. But here’s the thing. My background is in psychology. I studied the most charismatic people I could find for my masters thesis. I’ve worked with thousands of people in therapy and many of them I have helped them boost their self esteem and become more confident. (incidentally I did try and tell them to ‘be confident and not be shy’ to start with but they needed more for some reason I still don’t get ;-))
Anyway, based on that I developed a model of charisma and what it takes to be charismatic. Here is my theory in a nutshell. Some people tend to be naturally more charismatic than others. All of us have charismatic potential in different contexts. Charisma is an impression you create in the mind of another person. You can learn to become more charismatic by becoming more comfortable with yourself and understanding how to make a better impression with people. In my workshops that what I teach. The Charisma Bootcamp is where I also bring in 7 other experts to help participants master skills of style, comedy, performance, voicework, social media, leadership and effective presentations.
I teach NLP with my friend and colleague Brian Colbert, author of the happiness habit. We have both learned from and been recommended by Dr Richard Bandler, co-creator of NLP. NLP has been used and raved about by most of the best known companies, sport stars and well as millions of people across the world including the likes of Google, Apple, Microsoft, Serena Williams, Greg Norman… etc… etc
We talk about how you can become happier and more successful. We have cheesee photos up and impressive bios. Yet here’s the thing. The vast majority of people that we have worked with report that they have felt happier than ever before since working with us. Readers of Brian’s book ‘The Happiness Habit’ have raved about how they have been enjoying life more since applying the wisdom in the book. I know Brian personally for the last fifteen years and he’s a happy guy.
So yes, it’s easy to label someone a charlatan if they offer coaching, therapy, NLP or suggestions on happiness and charisma. Yes, it’s easy to tarnish us all with the same cloud munching brush of yet another positive thinking proponent. But here’s the reality.
I ain’t always perfectly charismatic or happy. I don’t have my personal life sorted perfectly. I have my problems. But I’m doing good and I wasn’t always doing good. At one time I wanted to end my life. Now I don’t. I am actually lucky enough to travel the world teaching people how to make the most of themselves and their lives.
What actually turned it around for me was my decision to change, followed by me learning how I needed to change the way I thought, felt and behaved… and then practicing it.
So, my if my learned friend or anyone with similar opinion drops by this article, I hope you take it in the right spirit. I agree with your concerns. I agree that there are far too many people out there in the self improvement and personal fitness industries offering perfect solutions from perfect gurus that are too good to be true. But sometimes the only way to beat these people is beat them at their own game. They are being listened to so we must grab the worlds ears and get them to listen to something valuable. To survive, we find ourselves caught into the necessary evil of blatant self promotion in order to stand out. It’s stand out or die.
So, in a world full of snake oil, be mindful that some of it actually works and makes a wonderful difference to the quality of peoples lives. My friends in their industry and i in mine do our best to do that. Long live that kinda snake oil.
PS. I have no interest in arguing about this. So, any attack wasted on me will be fruitless. Here’s the facts in advance. I’m not perfect. Some people don’t like me. I’m sure people out there think I’m a ‘fraud’ while others think I’m a manipulator. I know many more people who would disagree with them.
I will promote myself with big promises and counter intuitive suggestions and big claims because I want to stand out. I will offer free advice to people and give them value and I will ask those who have benefited from my work to praise me on my site to show my value. Then maybe I will have your attention and then I can help you improve your life. And I can do it for some people out there better than anyone. That I am convinced about.