The bulk of this blog has been written for some time, but until yesterday I had decided that I wasn’t going to publish it. In fact I had decided that I wasn’t going to publish any blogs in the foreseeable future for a few reasons: Firstly, I’ve become a little disenfranchised with the whole formulaic blog and permanent social media presence thing. I have a lot of tailored news feeds and it dawned on me a while ago that it was becoming increasingly hard to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of content and value. Worst still, I noticed that somewhere along the way I had become a little ‘chaffy’ myself (note: not chavy although I am sure many would disagree) and was becoming prone to publish what I thought I should write rather than what I wanted to.
I love writing, but I have become loathe to write for the sake of writing and for this reason decided that I would only address the topics I wanted to address. However this just made me want to sit on my hands even more because the truth is, the stuff that I wanted to write about were all the things that were annoying me and getting on my nerves.
So for the best part of this year I thought it best to adopt the stance of ‘If you haven’t got anything good to say, don’t say anything at all’ and keep my irritated thoughts to myself, that is until I read the brilliant BASTARD LIFE COACHES blog by Andrew T Austin and realised there is a difference between ranting and ranting constructively whilst being very entertaining. Now I don’t presume to think my blogs are entertaining (feel free to click on Andrew’s link if you want to be entertained), but I think some elements of my rantings in this one will at least be constructive and may even prove to be of value if they stop just one more bozo parting with their hard earned cash.
If you have already taken a detour and read Andrews piece above you will see very quickly as you begin to read mine, just why it resonated with me, had me chuckling and encouraged me to share my own rants. It has also encouraged me to consider trickling out some of my older dormant drafts of blogs that have never made the light of day, or maybe not, we shall see.
Anyway below is one of the more recent blogs that had only been gathering a few weeks of dust before Andrew’s blog changed my mind and I decided to give it an airing.
A FOOL AND HIS MONEY ARE SOON PARTED ….
And it would seem there is almost no end to the people lining up to exploit the naive, gullible, desperate and stupid on their blind and ignorant search for financial freedom and happiness.
For those that have ever had the unadulterated pleasure of reading some of my older ‘Advanced Hypnosis’ blogs, you will be only too aware of how I have a real problem with vulnerable people being sold bullshit by unscrupulous conniving salesmen posing as therapists and trainers. The therapy world is awash with hypnotists (ahem) and therapists (ahem again) offering advice and miracle methods to desperate clients (and even more desperate therapists via the offer of training in said methods) and talking all kinds of nonsense and headline grabbing shit to get their attention. Two days ago I wrote a new blog continuing the former theme of ‘hypnotherapy versus other therapies’, highlighting how hypnotists have a special knack of putting themselves and their profession on the lower rungs of credibility with their empathic need to convert clients into cash (though even for me its so barbed I am not sure if I want to publish it).
Yet as annoying and cringeworthy as I find therapists and therapy trainers, there is a certain type of fuckwit that seems to have invaded and infected every facet of my social media experience, with not a single day going by without me encountering their cheesy, gurning, insincere, very pleased with themselves faces on instagram, Facebook or twitter and of whom I hold a particularly high level of disdain for – Who are they? Well my friends, they are the Fake Gurus – a collection of people about whom my level of car crash fascination and intrigue is only surpassed by a seething and growing contempt.
Who are these Fake Gurus?
If you find yourself asking that question (especially if you consider yourself a professional, or consultant or coach) then let me warn you that you are already in danger of being taken for a fool by them.
These people are the new false profits (that was hilariously misspelt on purpose) offering endless financial stability, wealth and fortune, abundance, dream fulfilment and a life full of as much meaning and money as you can eat. Except most of what they offer isn’t their own work, hasn’t worked for them and almost certainly will not work for you. They themselves, just like the gullible people they exploit, are as desperate for all of the aforementioned things but, so desperate, so motivated by ego and so completely shameless in their pursuit, are prepared to sell vacuous and intangible promises to others, to make their own financial goals a reality.
If they aren’t selling specific skills in investing and trading to wannabe investors and future Gordon Geckos, they are selling a wider more generic set of skills to wannabe entrepreneurs, ambituous wealth hunters and people seeking an inspirational new direction in life. They are all utterly shameless marketers and self promoters, all amazingly thick skinned (as long you aren’t probing them too deeply) and all continually promoting their promises and aspirational dreams incessantly via every social media avenue possible. Yet worryingly, for every person who must immediately recoils with a look of incredulity after every new promotional drive from these morons, there also appears to be a continual abundance of subscribers to their bollocks (though I have no doubt this is mostly for perception and is actually a list that consists of friends, family members and the odd few who have taken the plunge and drunk the kool aid).
In fact if it wasn’t for the fact that they were forcing naive, gullible and desperate people to part with their savings, or in the case of a number of former clients, borrow money and get themselves in serious debt, they would be nothing short of hilarious. Yet I don’t find them funny at all and even taking into consideration the fact that, like an mentally challenged psychic who genuinely believes in their gifts, there will be a small minority who believe they are doing some good, the evidence is clearly there to suggest that virtually all of them know they are peddling shit and simply just don’t care and it is this that really bothers me.
It bothers me a great deal because I have a problem with people who’s services and methods are incongruous with the needs and aims of the client seeking and retaining them. I often encounter evidence in my own work how seemingly established and very qualified life, executive and business coaches arguably exploit and extend client relationships, but I rationalise in many of these instances that although I do not agree with their methods or their timeframes, most of the organisations they do this in can bear the financial burden and hey, if they aren’t going to challenge why the coach has been working with the same employee for twelve months with minimal impact, well – more fool them. But most companies will not recruit blindly and these coaches, mentors and consultants often bring a fair degree of expertise and knowledge to the table that they have harvested over years in the real world.
But the fake gurus, life coaches and wealth dragons (ahem) I am referring to in this piece are those that are exploiting and raiding the pockets of individuals and do so with no experience of pretty much anything at all.
Unsurprisingly they all tend to work off of a very similar Modus Operandi, all eventually have something to sell (though for many not straight away) and all who have a real penchant for taking other peoples money to talk.. and talk…… AND TALK …without ever saying very much at all.
They generally are all male too, though I have noticed a growing number of women getting in on the act too both in the capacity of trading gurus and lifestyle mentors and who, for the sake of equality I find equally as irritating, cringeworthy and full of crap as their male counterparts.
Yet as frustrating as these women are (and trust me they are – I’ve met a couple and you can smell the bullshit over their Chanel No.5 as soon as they start to talk at you), I will refer to them collectively in the male tense from hereon, because as you will see below on the very first of the ‘TWENTY FOUR TELL-TALE SIGNS YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED A FAKE GURU’, it clearly seems much more appropriate to do so.
The below list is an examination of the young men parading themselves as experts, gurus and life coaches. They are not the messiahs, they are naughty boys.
24 TELL TALE SIGNS YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED A FAKE GURU
- Most fake gurus have – and I don’t know if its just a coincidence or not – the kind of faces that you simply feel an overwhelming urge to slap. Hard.
- All fake gurus love microphone headsets, marker pens, projectors and white boards, but forced to choose, they will pick their microphone headset (pictured) every time.
- They are invariably all millennials. Though you do stumble across the more mature idiot.
- Being mainly millennials, most look as though they have only recently emerged from puberty, some are still stuck in it, and the odd few overlooked by it entirely.
- He will sound well spoken, middle class and privileged and will expend a lot of energy trying desperately to convince you he isn’t well educated, middle classed or ever has been privileged (bonus point if you hear the term ‘silver spoon’).
- To emphasise the point he will have a heart wrenching back story or a history of overcoming adversity and failure which may include some or all of the following:
- Being poor or destitute
- Harsh or deprived upbringing
- Being down to his last tin of spaghetti hoops / thirty five pence in their pocket / cant pay the rent / granny needed medicine
- Lost it all, before discovering the secret (which was subsequently simple and transferable) and making it back after learning
- May speak of spiritual journeys and life lessons learned
- He may talk of the number of books he has read (if he does he will also almost certainly be a speed reader) or of the innate abilities he has in digesting and assimilating information others cannot.
- If he doesn’t focus on his ‘gifts’ he will almost certainly try to convince you he was born with a desire to help others.
- He will name drop like its a disease and reference all of the people he has allegedly worked with (he almost certainly hasn’t) or shared a platform with (maybe), presented alongside (so what) – or mention all the events he has ever spoken at (even if he sometimes hasn’t).
- With regards to speaking, he will speak only in cliches, soundbites and anecdotes that sound strangely familiar (like you’ve heard them before…like on social media….over pictures of stones and flowers and sunsets and stuff)
- He will love talking head videos, in which he will consistently and permanently speak in a clearly affected voice, almost as if he was playing the role, or doing an impression of, someone doing a talking head video.
- His website and marketing material with have photos of him either with:
- a fast car or big, fuck-off house in the background
- a buddy shot with a celebrity or established entrepreneur guru – that absolutely doesn’t look posed or uncomfortable at all from the point of the celeb (minus points if the celeb looks harassed/in a head lock).
- He will mention how many companies he has started, how many he owns or how many he as turned around.
- When pressed for details on the companies he has started, owns or has helped turned around he will avoid answering directly, never respond over social media directly and often block or ignore his inquisitor.
- He will generally have no discernible track record in anything but often use adjectives such as ‘leading’, ‘top’ and ‘foremost’ liberally, despite not having anything tangible or credible to attach them too. This will not deter them in anyway.
- Mathematically the timeline of their personal history and list of achievements, will be disjointed, wont add up at all and as such, their story will have more holes in it than a standard colander.
- If they are marketing themselves as trading or investment specialists, they will not have enjoyed any gainful employment at any trading or investment companies such as banks, brokers, funds or investment institutions, but have instead gained any limited trading knowledge they have shamelessly using the family money that they’ve already gone to grain lengths to tell you they never had (see point 5).
- Or they may have used the money mentioned in (points 5 and 17) to initially enrol on a trading course held previously by another fake guru (covered in all points) to discover:
- Bloody hell trading is harder than they said it was
- But making money from gullible saps seems a quicker and easier route to making a buck
- They will try to block and redirect any criticism by proactively addressing the obvious criticisms themselves (in talking head videos see point.11) explaining that the criticisms are absurd and unsubstantiated, but offering no evidence why they are or to the contrary.
- He may have a few misguided people around him that he condescendingly refers to as ‘his team’ who originally got the job by not wanting much in the way of money and showing an abnormal propensity for borderline moronic naivety.
- They will have a very disturbing, misguided and unhealthy obsession with Anthony Robbins*
- They will have a great working knowledge of using the web and social media to proliferate stories that can be traced back to them as the original source (and Anthony Robbins as the original inspiration see point. 21).
- He will go to great lengths to convince you he’s not selling you anything.
- Once he’s convinced you he’s not selling you anything, he will go to great lengths to sell you as much as your inability to say ‘No’ and bank balance will permit him to.
On a serious note, too many people are being influenced, snared and scammed by these self styled trainers and educators and I think we all have a responsibility to challenge them whenever we feel it appropriate to do so.
For the ones offering additional or alternative income from trading, too few people seem to be questioning why that aren’t just leveraging up and doing more of the same themselves.
Because the simple answer is this – they would if they could. But they can’t and the reason that they cant is that it simply does not work like that. They play a numbers game knowing full well that they can use the tiny minority of success stories (that would have happened anyway over a minimal time frame) as poster boys and girls. With the majority which fail happy to drift back embarrassed into the shadows without making a song and dance about it.
The exact same approach is used by the generic investor, coaches and life style gurus knowing that the tiny minority of those who’s short term fortunes have changed for the better after parting with their hard earned cash (a number which I’m pretty convinced would be bigger without the input of these dickheads) will make more of a noise than the ones who leave empty handed and empty pocketed.
Even more disturbing is that because of psychological fallibility of people, they will be endorsed by the punters they have exploited even when those punters know on some cognitively level that they have had their proverbial pants pulled down.
Crazy as it seems, this is something I have written and spoken about before in the world of therapy training and I am sure I will continue to get irritated and angry about for years to come. The exploitation of ‘buy in’ whereby, despite not delivering anything of value, a trainer can manipulate the student, or paying customer into believing that they themselves are missing something, often by eliciting false positive testimonials by addressing the group of students as a whole, to the point that they reinvest even more money – is a shameful tactic that fake teachers and fake gurus are using with increasing frequency and social media gives them the perfect opportunity to do so.
These fake coaches play the numbers game in every facet of their business too and not just in the free loss leading seminars and free downloads designed to whittle down the first batch of prospective fools to attend a training event en-masse. Go onto their websites and you will find offers of premium exclusive coaching opportunities to work with the gurus on a one-to-one level. Out of curiosity (and for shits and giggles), a very successful trader and businessmen friend, who I have been working with recently emailed one such ‘leading’ (ahem) ‘Coach’ (ppffff) seeking their coaching services. A few days later he got the response and quotation of eight grand for an individual coaching programme. He paused before exploding into laughter and using an expletive even I wont use in my blogs, before getting serious again and telling me that I really needed to consider upping my prices. I explained to him that for these arseholes everything is a numbers game and if they don’t get any private clients they still are projecting the perception that they’re high end and should a complete fucking idiot bite the bait he’ll probably be stupid enough to have the wool pulled over his eyes and think he’s got his 8K’s worth anyhow.
Its the same stupid numbers game that tells these (un)experts that they can invest a lot in their marketing budget because it has nothing to do with the quality of the product they are selling and all about getting people to initially bite.
If you see a ‘leading’ coach or ‘guru’ selling something, a series of balanced and well thought out questions should give you all the evidence you need as to whether they are the real deal or playing at being coaches or wannabes. There are plenty of super smart young people but the experience and knowledge that comes with time having lived should not be under-appreciated or underestimated either. I can call myself a coach and mentor people in the City, because my experience and learning as a therapist NLP’er or Life Coach, actually plays second fiddle to and compliments the decades of experience I have working in banking up to a respectable level of productivity and professional accomplishment.
Unfortunately, too many of the people I see are naive victims of the get-rich quick training and coaching programmes this article is poking fun at, albeit in a deliberately acerbic fashion.
There are only so many aspiring yet emotionally and financially bankrupt FX traders you can meet, who have paid their money and drank from the Kool aid only to implode when everything the 24 year old snotty dick with a headpiece (see point. 2) told them to do didn’t come to pass, before you feel its your duty to challenge the life coaches and gurus going to great pains to screw them out of their dough.
The fact is that with the ever-hastening evolution of technology, those trainers and service providers who are the most prolific on social media and prepared to use questionable marketing techniques, aren’t necessarily proving to be the best at anything other than selling shit while drowning out the competition – Good for their business but not entirely great for their students and clients base who want to actually invest in something tangible. The wider implications of this is that, just as we are witnessing at an ever increasing rate in the world of hypnosis and therapy training schools, they aren’t just drowning out the competition, but destroying the public perception of therapists, or in this case coaches, as a whole.
As I said earlier, disappointing as it to see people kept in open ended coach-coachee working relationships, often it is companies with OOD and HR budgets not individuals being exploited or even encouraging it.
But social media is now becoming awash with these new fake charlatans, making false and unfounded claims (most of which can be exposed with a simple visit to Companies House website) setting themselves up as trainers and coaches and business mentors, often reinventing their own version of get rich schemes that personally failed for them, but always looking to separate a fool and their money.
* I mentioned Tony Robbins, who has proven so successful as the worlds leading personal development specialist that it is natural that over the years, numerous people have tried to emulate him. For the sake of total disclosure I do use a number of techniques developed by him and Chloe Madanes in my work, but there is much which I also do not think its either adaptable to the UK audience, or should be seen as anything other than showmanship. As a private coach, Robbins also has an entirely different persona to the one on stage and his clients have included numerous successful people not only from the world of show business but also industry, including some of the worlds most successful hedge fund managers whom I have been fortunate to do business with in the past.