Close Your Eyes And Write A Cheque

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Things aren’t going too well for humanity at the moment. But just because the ice-caps are melting and everyone’s losing their jobs doesn’t mean we can’t think positive, lose 10 kilos, get that promotion, make money fast, get in touch with ourselves — and, while we’re at it — with God and the universe too.

This week Blogwatch turns to the only people who can show us how to do it: motivational speakers.

We’re not going to piss about either — we’re starting at the top with Mr Tony Robbins:

"Dear Friend,

"The ‘bad times’ we’re in can easily be a time of prosperity and opportunity for you and your family.

"I realise that may sound like a shock to you right now … especially considering all the ‘bad news’ we’re getting hit with day in and day out.

"But the fact of the matter is this: More millionaires were created during the great depression than any other time in history.

"I’ll bet you don’t hear much about that on the news. And I’ll bet they don’t tell you that these so-called ‘hard times’ are actually a time of wonderful opportunity for those few people who have the psychological strength to take advantage of any situation."

Wait a second — the psychologically strong will make money, as opposed to the weak … Ipso facto, you’re weak if you lose money in a global depression. Robbins goes on to offer you free advice on how to make money in these difficult times, if you just subscribe to his mail-out. We don’t know how his advice is going to help someone who’s been kicked out of their home, is living in a caravan with three kids and surviving on food stamps, but then again, we didn’t sign up for the email.

Robbins, a "brushed aluminum cyber prick" in the words of Hugh Abbot, has become increasingly hollow and inhuman over time. But Mr Robbins isn’t the only creature crawling out of the 1990s swamp to cash in on the despair of 2009. A host of motivational speaking icons is returning to top up their investment funds and keep the creditors at bay.

Deepak Chopra, for one, has a funky new website with micro-blogging features like "Daily Inspiration", which on 4 June read "Wisdom has become the new criterion for our own evolution. Make the breakthrough using human creativity, imagination and intention."

Although we can’t find the promotion on the website, we assume Chopra gives a prize to the first reader to decode this. Deepak also has a blog at HuffPo, where he deposits little nuggets of insight now and then:

"Billions of poor people with little hope for advancement now are getting a place at the table where only the wealthy once sat. I’m thinking of the so-called BRIC — Brazil, Russia, India, and China — whose economies have surged and will continue to after the great recession is over."

Readers can see the power of Chopra’s "creativity, imagination and intention" at work in his apparent belief that those "billions of poor people" really do have "a seat at the table".

Some speakers drop the pretense and cut to the chase, taking the "pay me, earn more" approach. One of the chief chequebook wavers is Robert Kiyosaki. In the 90s he wrote a book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad, about how his father never taught him anything good because he worked for a living, but his friend’s dad taught him so much about making money that he took to calling him "Dad". Robert has a blog but unfortunately he doesn’t write it — the blog is just an RSS feed of anything that trips the Google alerts for his name, which might explain this article that appeared on the site recently:

"Do you know what a wealth guru is? A wealth guru is a guy who is usually quite wealthy himself, but whose money principally comes from the sales of books, CDs, and other programs that dispense the unconventional advice that supposedly makes him unique and which is certain to make you wealthy, too.

"Robert Kiyosaki, he of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad brand, is one of these gurus. His own success as a business owner, before fashioning himself as a financial ‘educator’ was mediocre, at best. He is supposedly a highly successful real estate investor, but there are few publicly-known details on that. In short, Kiyosaki appears to be a wealth guru on the basis that so many others are — he has managed to successfully market himself as such.

"Kiyosaki recently wrote an article entitled ‘Why the Cheap Will Never Get Rich’, and it’s horrible.

"It’s about suggesting that the way to wealth is to be ‘bold’, to leverage yourself to ridiculous levels in order to buy real estate, stocks, businesses, etc., and if it all doesn’t work out, go bankrupt and try it all over again. Haven’t you heard that real winners are ten-time losers before they become mega-rich? Well, haven’t you?? Get out there and be a winner!!"

Then again, Kiyosaki can hang himself quite adequately with his own ropey prose. Take this knotted example, from an article published on Yahoo! Finance:

"… the difference between ‘God’ and ‘gold’ is a simple ‘L’ — as in ‘lazy’, or ‘looting’. The conquistadors who looted the Inca Empire in the name of God weren’t lazy. They were thugs with guns, but they had ambition.

"Over the years, I’ve met many losers who pray to God to give them gold. God helps those who help themselves. Again, the conquistadors may have been killers and thieves, but at least they knew how to help themselves."

Amen to that. Robert Kiyosaki and Tony Robbins market their "philosophy" to middle- and upper-level earners with the means to pay the very large sums they usually charge for it. The commercialisation of motivation and inspiration makes one wonder whether any of these gurus have pure intentions. There is, however, one man whose intentions are beyond reproach. Sometime after a motorbike accident in 1988, actor and regular Nick Nolte stand-in Gary Busey became a quack motivational speaker. He is virtually unimpeachable, because if his goal was making money, he’d come up with something a little less crazy. His philosophy revolves around seemingly limitless acronyms which he calls ‘Buseyisms’. Beststuff.com lists some of his most impressive:

"FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real

"TEAM = Together, Everyone Achieves More

"DOUBT = Debating on Understanding Bewildering Thoughts"

They also mention some of his remarkable sayings:

"When you get lost in imaginatory vagueness, your foresight will become a nimble vagrant.

"Your imagination is the hood ornament on the car of creativity.

"Nothing changes like changes, because nothing changes but the changes.

"Drinking your own blood is the paradigm of recycling."

The full effect of Busey’s wisdom can’t really be fathomed until you see him evangelise:

One of the founding fathers of today’s motivational speaking is Richard Bandler, the founder of NLP, a new age Californian pseudo-psychology which has infiltrated just about every corner of the motivational market. During the 1980s Richard became a cokehead and was accused of killing a woman, but now he’s back. And he was acquitted. It’s totally safe. We promise.

Bandler promotes the use of hypnosis as a way to overcome repetitive behaviour, from phobias to schizophrenia. It’s something he calls "trance-formation", and he even has a website where you can be hypnotised free of charge. Just click the belt buckle on his freakish cartoon. We’re guessing you stare into the blue eye, but even if you do get the magic eye effect, we’re not sure what’s supposed to happen next. We suppose you probably need some kind of cognitive therapy to fill the vacuum created by the hypnosis. Funnily enough, Bandler doesn’t provide that stuff free of charge.

If these guys are at the top of the motivational food chain, who’s lurking around the bottom? Let’s look at someone closer to home — Sydney motivational speaker Anders Sorman-Nilsson. His bio is revealing:

"Anders is a thought leader on innovation, change management and generational trends.

"His keynotes, Thinque Tanks and mentoring provide GPS directions for organisations and individuals that want to successfully navigate a constantly changing business landscape and successfully position their creative ideas in a whacky world."

Sorman-Nilsson’s approach includes using the word "funky" a lot, misspelling words (presumably to demonstrate "creative thinquing"), and flashing lots of questionable word definitions onto a screen behind him as he talks. His incisive take on the GFC and the world in general is that "in fact, it’s a bit out of whack" (cue definition of "whack") — but that also, thrillingly, this is "exactly where it’s meant to be". 

We have no way of knowing if a speaker can make a living with this kind of product, but it’s always surprising just how many people can be convinced that the young bloke moving energetically around on the stage in front of them actually deserves the huge fees they charge.

Accoding to Sorman-Nilsson’s website, rugby league great and current coach of the Roosters, Brad Fittler, seems to be one of those persuadable people. Fittler is quoted saying "the training project we engaged [Sorman-Nilsson] for was great and equipped the players with a new way of going forward." The Roosters’ new way of going forward seems to be going backwards, and this might be why:

In the end, the most reliable life coach we could find was Matt Foley, the extremely negative motivational speaker who used to appear on Saturday Night Live:

"You kids are probably saying to yourself, ‘Now, I’m gonna go out, and I’m gonna get the world by the tail and wrap it around, pull it down and put it in my pocket!’ Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re probably gonna find out, as you go out there, that you’re not gonna amount to Jack Squat! You’re gonna end up eating a steady diet of government cheese and living in a van down by the river!"

It might not be motivational, but it speaks to us — and it’s less irritating than being told to "thinque funky".

New Matilda

New Matilda is independent journalism at its finest. The site has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004.

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