So, first off, before we dive into the world of extremely loud “You Need Change!” and “Success is just perception!” and blah blah blah, lets talk about how successful some motivational speakers actually are. Are they the self-help gurus that they claim to be or do they just tap into the ingrained human desire to acquire wealth quickly. Join me as we step through the looking glass of the motivational speaker, which might be a bit more tarnished on the other side than you may think .
James Arthur Ray
Usually, you don’t associate motivational speaking with negligent homicide, but J.A.R. will help you challenge your preconceptions. In October of 2008 Ray convinced participants to pay him $10.000 each to be part of a New Age retreat, which involved fasting in the Arizona countryside for 36 hours, being sent out to the Arizona desert overnight with just a sleeping bag and an optional Peruvian Poncho (for an extra $250 or course) and then gorging themselves at a breakfast buffet before going into a sweat-lodge. This resulted in two people dying on location and a third going into a coma and passing away shortly after.
But, this was not the first time the “Spirit Warrior” severely injured his “pupils” with quasi-spirituality. In 2005, a woman severely fractured her hand after she was told to break a board by Ray after multiple unsuccessful attempts. Another man had an arrow deeply embedded in his eyebrow as a result of an exercise that had participants put the tip on their neck and push forward. Luckily and unlucky at the same time, the man’s arrow broke resulting in the aforementioned injury. Finally, another person came close to death in a sweat lodge exercise similar to the one that claimed the three lives. Ray protected himself (until he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter) by having the participants of the “Spirit Warrior” retreat sign waivers.
Usually organized crime and motivational speaking aren’t exactly considered bed-mates. The gentleman in the photo above would beg to differ (fo’ git about it). Michael Franzese was a former mobster and captain in the Colombo crime family and was involved in his fair share of racketeering, embezzling and fraud. In fact, he was involved in a tax fraud racket that made him the Colombo family’s highest earner since infamous mob boss Al Capone. He also dabbled in counterfeiting (man this guy had quite the beef with the Federal Government!).
Afterward he became an enforcer for a talent agent, by intimidating that same agent to keep a singer on his roster. The two later became partners in a sports management agency. He now tours corporate events, gives life skills seminars to college athletes and speaks at Christian Conferences, church services and events. Forgive and fo’ git about it I guess.
From Felon to talking at a secretive meeting
Hey! That’s not how any of this works! However, the real Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, spoke at the Young Presidents Organization. An extremely secretive networking event for the who’s who of the financial industry. After destroying himself with greed, shady financial dealings, drugs and an excessively lavish lifestyle, he has made millions from the movie rights to his autobiography. On top of everything else, he gets paid a respectable 30.000 dollars per speech. Not bad considering he’s a disgraced stockbroker.
Try to tell Belfort that crime doesn’t pay as not only does he make money from his other endeavors, he also consults companies on ethics and sales technics. And these aren’t some little mom and pop set-ups either, his past clients include Delta and Virgin Airlines, Deutsche Bank and Fairfax Media to name a few. Although seeing how airlines and German banks treat their clientele it makes sense that they consulted and pilfering crook.
William G. Hillar
Most motivational speakers are superfluous about their life experiences; Hillar’s life story was just completely fabricated. He claimed to have had a long and heroic career in the military, and extensive experience in counter-terrorism. The icing on the cake though was his claim that the Liam Neeson action flick, Taken, was based on an experience he had in which his daughter was taken, coerced into the sex work and then killed by her captors before he could rescue her.
To give him a tiny bit of credit he did serve for a total of 8 years in the Coast Guard. On the other hand, he was pawning off his faux expertise to people in the Armed Forces, Law Enforcement and at Universities which is problematic because his inaccurate knowledge could result in the loss of life. Luckily he was caught and prosecuted for his misdeeds and hopefully the people he “trained” found out that he was a charlatan. I mean come on, if you’re going to misinform people at least choose something that won’t get them killed, like knitting or aquaculture.
Although his backstory isn’t as damning as the other people on this and he has an actual medical degree, he is also a strongly contested figure in the self-help industry. Chopra is such a controversial personality because he actually believes that maladies, illness, and sickness have more to do with the state of mind, than physical medical treatment, which his opponents say can make people leave effective pharmaceutical treatment. He has even gone on record saying that spontaneous cancer remission is a result of entering a new level of consciousness that does not allow cancer. He is a proponent of non-materialistic life, but at the same time charges 25.000 per lecture or speech. Another fact that might indicate towards his quackery is the fact that he treats his followers that suffer from A.I.D.S. with vibration, since he actually believes that the body does not recognize the virus as hostile, due to its frequency. My favorite tidbit he offers is that aging is not an inherently biological function, but a learned behavior, and you can tell your body not to age.
So let’s make a little catalogue of things people have written novels, made movies and dedicated their life’s work to. Immortality? Check. Perpetual health and recovering from an illness by simply willing yourself to? Check. The fact that a reality beyond our sphere of perception can help us with personal, physical and mental tribulation? Double check that last one for good measure. Zealously embracing spirituality while misinterpreting science to reinforce you and your followers zealot ideologies? Not enough checks in the world can cover it. Especially for a guy that believes in the pseudo-theoretical-physics of quantum healing.
Do you know of any other “gurus” that deserve a place on this list of shame? Let me know in the comment section below.