Three Things the Self Help Industry Needs to Change

ImageI’m having a shitty day.

I shouldn’t feel ashamed to say that, but I do.  A little bit.  More than a little, because I’ve been on a positivity trip of late for various reasons I don’t want to get into.  I’ve blogged about this way, way, way back, but today’s beef goes further than that, to the core of how the self-help industry operates.

Now, even in my crap-ass mood, I still adhere to personal development practices.  I continue building my repertoire as a coach and I hope to make money helping others become the next best versions of themselves.  But I’m not drinking the same Kool-Aid that everyone else tells me I need to in order to make it in this business.  I’m doing it my way.  Here are three things the personal development industry needs to change, and that I will do differently as a coach.

1. Use ordinary people language to market yourselves.  One thing you learn in any good coaching program is that word selection matters.  The ideas you hold in your head about yourself and the world matter, and that both will always create your results.  I believe that, have seen it, and that’s great.  So it’s no surprise, then, when you find that most coaches market themselves, they are congruent with themselves, emphasizing the positive, focusing on the future, and sharing the vibration they’re in with their potential clients.

Trouble is, when I was first looking at hiring a coach, I wasn’t in that vibration.  In fact, thanks to the plethora of frauds and scams out there in the self-help industry, there were times I couldn’t distinguish who was the real deal and who was just out to make a quick buck  without offering any real insight.

This is important, because even the authentic coaches and programs always start off sounding too good to be true to anyone not in that vibration. Both of my mentors I met personally before hiring them, and it’s a good thing I did, because they, too, use the lofty language to market themselves on their websites.  In person, they talked to me like a real fella.

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The lofty language was a surprising turn-off for me, because if I’m not getting the results in my life that I want, if I am feeling down on my luck and lonely and sad and broke, what all of that prosperity talk did for me was make me feel even more shitty about my life.  Without intending it, the language made me feel inferior and almost ashamed to seek mentorship.

When I am properly certified in a program and ready to open my own full-fledged coaching practice (currently I coach informally, and mostly for free) it’s my intention to market myself using my own authentic voice.  If you read my stuff, you may have noticed that even I come across like that at times.  Hopefully, you’ll have also noticed I tend to balance it out with a fair share of cuss words, colloquialisms, and my own oddball style.

If I coach you, I’m gonna recognize and validate that you’re not where you want to be, and you’d like someone to motivate your ass.  I will tell you up front that you’ll be at a place where you can talk in that same lofty language, but I’m willing to speak your language to help you get started.

2.  Drop the hard sell tactics.  This isn’t the ’70s.  I’m amazed so many people in programs, such as Landmark Education, still think this is the way to go.  I went to Landmark Toronto’s Community Sunday back in the summer time by the invitation of a friend there.  I actually did enjoy it, and I saw that Landmark, contrary to some of its bad press, is a pretty decent personal development school.

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Everything went swimmingly until near the end of the free day, I had three people trying to sell me on a program at a time when I had $500 to my name.  One of them even literally took me by the arm and dragged me to the sign-up desk.  This is where Landmark gets its “cult” reputation: when these positive, high-vibrational people teach you about lofty ideals one minute, and then literally strong-arm you into signing up the next, it creeps the fuck out of you.

Today, I get the basic idea behind such techniques: when make a clear decision to do something,  the obstacles fall by the way side.  Again, the idea is to bypass your paradigm’s tendency to throw up obstacles to intentions your paradigm believes are impossible, so I see why the Landmark people encourage a quick decision: they’re being congruent to their own beliefs.

What they’re missing is that it has to be your decision to sign, and some people take longer to deliberate, especially where large sums of money are concerned. I went into Landmark’s Community Sunday expecting a timeshare presentation and I ended up getting it, but only after a full day of seeing that there was so much more to the organization.  (By the way, I never signed up for them myself).

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The incongruity is obvious. You can’t demonstrate and market yourself as a progressive, easy-going, and pleasant organization devoted to authenticity and joy and unlocking human potential…..then literally strong-arm me into signing up.  Frankly, had that incident not happened, I very well may have considered the foundational course on my own because the direct experience I had being at the session was eye-opening.  The demo alone sells the program.

And this goes for more than just Landmark Education, by the by:  you can find a shit load of coaches, schools, philosophies who’ll build a rapport with you, then try to take advantage of your current challenges to brow-beat you into a coaching term.
Seriously, drop the hard sell tactics.  I get that many sales people go into personal development because it helps their own confidence and people skills, and yes, sometimes the sales people jump ship into promoting the organization. But those who sell for these organizations need to stop relying on the “Boiler Room” tactics that they learned from the places they left behind. These tactics contaminate the whole industry, and the authentic, honest living that many coaches, like me, would like to make by providing these services.

Anyone who considers me when I’m ready to start charging for my services will get a simple choice: you like me, like what I’m teaching, have a rapport with me, feel I can do good for you, then great, we sign a contract and set a payment plan that works for you.  If not, no worries, just refer me to someone who you think would benefit, or if you’d like, shake hands and go our separate ways.

Reason for my slack?  One, I hate sales and I’m not a salesman. I worked one sales job in my whole life for a grand total of three months and even then, all I had to do was talk to someone and ask them questions: I didn’t close.  Second, if I’m truly walking my own talk about the Law of Attraction, if we’re not a match, I’ll attract another client who is.  I don’t need to tie you to a chair and force you to sign your life away to make a living.

3.  Sell Your Humanity, Not Your Image.

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The last point is a big one for me personally.  Professional coaches are indeed professionals, so it’s understandable that they’ll always show you their Sunday best when you’re in session.  But I’m not looking for Superman or Wonder Woman.  I feel far more comfortable when my coach has flaws.

The point of personal development isn’t to create superheroes, but to create optimal human beings, and imperfection’s a basic job function of being human.  Flaws humanize my coach, and help me to relate to what they’re saying. I resonate strongly with my coaches because they have cleaned up 95% of the shit in their lives – they came from humble roots but used these principles to create prosperity; they were lonely and single or divorced and now live with the man/woman of their dreams; they were obese or otherwise unhealthy, and now have rockin’ hot bodies.

That being said, that 5% of their lives that isn’t quite working out gives them something in common with me: despite everything they’ve achieved, they’re still working towards something more. They don’t have all their shit together, and yet they can still live this way.  That’s my connection point right there.

But an interesting thing happens when I meet coaches who claim that a 100% standard of integrity, congruity, and success is the only way to go: I just stop listening.  Maybe it’s my own limiting belief, but I really don’t think so.  I’m the most positive person many of my friends know and I get shitty days.  It’s definitely the same for any coach.

So, when they say that they have a 100% consistent routine of functionality and congruity, I smile and nod politely…..then contemplate taking out my Cylon Detector. You know, just in case.

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My objection, aside from calling out the obvious bullshit, is the implicit lesson that in order for me to be considered a “success” or an “effective” coach, I have to become some kind of superhero who refuses to acknowledge negativity when I experience it, or allow myself to take one day to wallow in my own crapulence because I know I will feel better the next day by doing so. I will not coach with anyone who implies, or flat out tells me, that having a bad day and being honest about it means you’ve failed or are failing.

Anyone who coaches with me will know when I’m having a bad day.  I’m talking the full spectrum, starting at stubbing my big toe out of bed to a full-on, Bruce Willis “Yippee-Kay-Yay-Motherfucker” kind of bad day where people fall out of exploding buildings. Because I have needs and flaws, too, but the best lesson I can teach is to show you that you can be imperfect and still have a great life.  That you’re allowed, chiefly, to be your authentic self, and that means that when that authentic you is pissed off, sad, or otherwise not having a good day, that’s okay.  We’ll get back on track after you’ve venting it out properly. Image

It’s not rocket surgery, guys.  I really could give a crap if the personal development industry as a whole implemented any of these three changes: this is what I’m doing for myself, and what I’d advise anyone of you thinking of becoming a coach and mentor to do for yourselves.

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