My favorite trend on the internet is a wannabe guru telling you to beware the rise of gurus. There’s a special place in hell for someone who thinks his mediocre story inspires you to action; however, there’s another special place in hell for the guy who suffers from imposter syndrome, writes how much gurus suck, and wants to be one.

TL;DR Internet sucks.

I’m impressed with people who get shit done. It’s hard to write and publish a book that’s read by over 125 people. It’s difficult to launch a blog, produce a podcast, manage an email list, develop your speaking skills, and communicate quirky ideas to a hostile world that prefers to make fun of you.

Throw in some exercise and diet advice, and the peanut gallery will eat you alive. Sure, the peanut gallery is chocked full of slow and chubby motherfuckers scared of their shadows. But they’re brave and loud on the internet. They’re also your target market if you’re a guru. Oh, the irony. Takes a lot to filter out the noise from people incapable of changing their lives, and, also, need your message. 

Funny enough, exercise helps.

I’m not here to write a love letter in praise of gurus and self-help authors who turn tricks at conferences and make a healthy living on your insecurities. But I am here to tell you I see your collective shame and vulnerability bubbling up to the surface of your social media accounts. It’s unproductive and unappealing to watch you criticize people who stand at the plate and take a swing.

The motivational speaking market is full of Amway-like products and services that benefit marketers at the bottom of the pyramid. Criticize how we got here in our society because people always get to a place where some huckster gives us a golden ticket or sells us a potion to cure our ails. That’s the American narrative.

You can also share your pertinent thoughts on the trend in self-help books that everybody is empowered and can change from the inside by rethinking X to get to Y. It’s the hero who emerges as a better version of himself through incremental change, but it overlooks systemic racism, sexism, and ableism. Assumes everybody is white, middle-class, and faces the same ingroup set of challenges.

A robust critique is long overdue. Start there.

But nothing worse than someone who is so sure of himself in the shadows but can’t stand his ground in the spotlight. Guard against taking to the internet and criticizing icons and celebrities who get under your skin for no good reason other than that you don’t measure up. 

Maybe you’re good enough, and maybe you’re not. Just don’t be one of those decent church-going women — with their mean, pinched, bitter faces — who sit in fear and judgment of something they don’t understand, something that’s created for them to save them. We see you for what you are, and we want to send you one of those self-help books. You need it.

3 Responses to In Praise of Self-Help Gurus
  1. Martin Snyder

    I dig the reference to ingroup identification. If the haters saw the strivers in their ingroup, the response would be amity, not enmity. It’s THE basic law of human nature.

    People have incredible, astounding faith in words. It still amazes me, however gray haired I become. Wielding the power of the word is a serious responsibility.

  2. Katherine Frank

    Well said Laurie! I admire your guts and your honesty. Refreshing.

  3. William Tincup

    “I’m quietly judging you.” Frank T.J. Mackey