A few days ago I went through my stored email and deleted a bunch of messages that I’d saved from various self-help blogs and seminars that I’d signed up for. I unsubscribed from all the newsletters that I had signed up for. I felt that it was time to clear things out, but it wasn’t about eliminating data from storage space so much as it was eliminating influences that just didn’t seem to be serving any purpose anymore.
You see, I’d signed up for a seminar about a week ago, and the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. I’d been questioning these self-help programs and the people in them for a while, but this was that ever spoken of “last straw”. You see, this seven day program offered 6-8 hours of material each day, but only for the one day. Quickly doing the math, I took our 24-hour day, subtracted eight hours for sleeping (16), 8 hours for the average work day (8) and some time for eating, bathing, dressing and other miscellanea (5), and realized that there was no way the average person (or even someone with a flexible schedule like mine) could reasonably take in that material in the time allotted.
Ah, but there was that brightly-colored box in the side bar reminding me that for the value price of $799, I could own the series to listen to on my own schedule. Oh, and for a low $1299 I could get the full, unedited version with the content no one else was seeing. Once again I was presented with the sad fact that these supposed life coaches and spiritual teachers were more interested in my money than they were in me (or you, or anyone, really). There’s no need for these programs to cost so much, and baiting people with small amounts of free content just to try to rob them of money they probably can’t afford to spend seems wrong to me. But that wasn’t the only deciding factor.
I actually took the time to listen to what I could during that week. I was not impressed. Many of the videos were just short interviews that served no purpose at all. They didn’t teach me anything, they didn’t even really give me a better feel for the people being interviewed. One of the videos even showed a teacher singing the praises of wheat-free living to gain better health and lose your belly, while sitting there with a fat gut, stumbling to remember simple words and names of things. I listened to some of the audio offerings, only to find that they were thinly veiled pitches to buy the person’s program to learn more, pathetic quick-fix ideas that would never offer long-term improvement, or just outlandish nonsense that I couldn’t see helping anyone.
So, my faith waning, I closed out the browser tab, deleted my bookmarks for those sites and cleared out my email. Obviously, there was nothing left for me here. Interestingly though, I was less worried for myself and more sad for all those people out there looking for guidance who would find these teachers and end up poorer, but no better off in the end. Even what’s available for free on many of these sites is just a teaser to get people to buy something, and doesn’t really provide anything that will make your life better.
I think the problem is that self-help has gone from something actually intended to help people, into an industry. It’s now about celebrity status and fame and money. Why give people what they need to truly become better individuals when you can give them teasers, then string them along until they fork over their precious little money? Then you can give vague information that will leave them wanting real answers, which you’ll also gladly charge them for. It’s just like the medical industry. It’s more profitable to keep people sick than to heal them, whether it’s a matter of their bodies or their minds.
It’s giving me a lot to think about. I had kept up with these programs not because I really need it, but because, for a time at least, they helped me to gain new ideas and insight that I could use for myself and others. A good teacher never stops learning, so I kept wanting to take in new ideas and methods. Unfortunately, it seems the industry has pretty much run dry for me. I feel like I’m searching for one honest person in a sea of posers, which is what most of these gurus have become. I used to want to be one of those people, to be one of those self-help “masters” that people look up to, but now I don’t think I want to be lumped in with a crowd that I’ve developed such a low opinion of.
There are two things that I know for certain though. One: I still want to be a teacher, sharing my lessons and helping people to become better, and in that do my small part to make a better world. Two: I’m not, at least for the foreseeable future, going to charge for what I do. I need money to live, but I’ll have to count on donations given by people who appreciate what I have to offer. You shouldn’t have to pay someone to help you be a better person. That knowledge should be freely given. And I suppose I feel that when you work from the heart rather than the wallet, it keeps you more honest.