Recently I was sent an invitation to attend a fund raising event for breast cancer featuring wildly successful author of the ‘Chicken Soup’ series, Jack Canfield. While it is a good cause, and the opportunity to network is enticing, I am no longer a fan of motivational gurus – aka success snake oil salesmen – such as Jack Canfield. For me, the value proposition of listening to someone who has become rich selling ‘the secret’ to getting rich and being happy easily with minimal effort is simply not significant enough to pay $275.00 for a ticket.
Don’t get me wrong, I respect his motivational speaking abilities and fully commend his role in spreading the message about being the best you can be. There was a time when I was a big fan of Jack Canfield and others like him. I bought their books, I went to see them speak and even considered shelling out $3495 for one of his success seminars. I have spent much of my life searching for the magic answer to success, wealth and happiness from such sources. Then I had a two crucial insights – one that many of you I imagine may say, ‘ – of course – what else is new!
The first was that they are not they are not saying anything new. It is the same thing they have been saying for years, just wrapped up in a new book jacket. In truth, it is not anything new since the time of Socrates, Lao Tzu or any of the other ancient master philosophers. The second related insight was that they weren’t telling me anything I hadn’t already learned or knew. I am in total awe of the business and marketing savvy to build a multimillion $ enterprise on an illusion. That illusion – anti up a good chunk of change and you will receive the magic answer – the silver bullet – to easily and effortlessly become fabulously successful and rich too. Sometimes I wish I had the chutzpah to mass market perpetuation of the myth that health, happiness and wealth is an easy 10 step program.
Then I think….if its that simple, how come everyone in the world isn’t fabulously healthy, wealthy and happy? Oh yea, I forgot…actually changing and putting things in to action is always much harder than talking about it. Furthermore, success is not totally in our control as motivational speakers need you to believe so that they can get you to buy their books and listen to them speak. Success is much more complex than we have been led to believe. Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers does a good job of explaining how success is a group project predicated on the “contributions of lots of different people and lots of different circumstances” – “culture and community and family and generation“¹ as much as their own efforts. Oh yes, Gladwell is credible – an award winning journalist who does extensive research providing facts to back up his discovery of something new. Him, I would pay to see. Not so much the motivational speaker/ modern day snake oil salesmen selling success snake oil – a secret magical recipe that has no power at all.
In the end, what I now know for sure is that the most precious thing I have is time. Life is a temporary condition and time is a true fixed non-renewable resource. Every moment gone can never again be recovered. I think I will invest my time and money into action to make my own success. I’m not totally sure what that success will trun out to be or look like given my knowledge and circumstances, but I figure I’m already a winner by not spending $3495 for Jack Canfield’s success snake oil.
1 & 2 What is Outlier’s About, Gladwell.com, http://www.gladwell.com/outliers/index.html