Sunday, July 31, 2005

OK, this is just too good...

So today I open my journalismpro mailbox, and I discover that my friend Tony Robbins is soliciting me to order a video headlined as follows:

(For those whose eyes may need some self-help, the title is Relationship Revival--a canny play on Dr. Phil's very successful Relationship Rescue--and the subhead is "connecting with those you love." The body copy goes on to ask "how much of a priority is your relationship with your significant other?" It then informs me that "each part of our lives meets each of our human needs at a different level," before inviting me to "watch as Tony helps a man determine his own levels to save his marriage." (The way I get to do this watching is by ordering the program, of course. For $210.)

What makes this mordantly funny is that Tony is spamming his community (which I evidently joined back when I registered for his discussion boards, while researching SHAM) with this save-your-marriage product at the precise moment in history when he's finishing up a libel trial that revolved around a newspaper's allegations that he stole the wife of businessman John Lynch while he (Robbins) was dumping his own wife of many years. Now, Tony denies the first part of it; that's what the trial was about, and in fairness, his primary accusers later recanted. But it's beyond dispute that in 2000, Tony unburdened himself of his first wife, the dimunitive Becky. (At 5-2, she stands, or stood, a good 17 inches shorter than Mount Anthony.) And it wasn't long before he began being seen in public with the former Bonnie Lynch, now known more colorfully (and, no doubt, profitably) as Sage Robbins.

Maybe somebody should've given Tony his own video back then, huh?

Amazing. Simply amazing. Wonder how many copies he'll sell...

Speaking of Dr. Phil and rescuing relationships, in his book he asserts, among other things, that "your relationship is in trouble because you set it up that way." It's a typically simplistic observation that allows no room for unforeseen circumstances, "growing apart," or the myriad other factors that play havoc with long-term relationships... And it is just me, or does it not also remind you of that classic line of twisted reasoning that domestic abusers have always used in blaming their wives for provoking their own mistreatment: "Now see what you made me do!?"

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Brave new whirl

Did my very first podcast tonight, using Skype net-conferencing software. Naturally, like most astounding, revolutionary, paradigm-shifting, must-have technologies, it failed halfway through the interview...though my hosts didn't realize it at the time, so we'll need to re-record at a later date. But it was an interesting experience nonetheless. No one who interviews me seems to understand why anyone with an IQ higher than a tangerine's would "fall for" self-help. To me, though, that's the point in a nutshell: that otherwise intelligent, even skeptical individuals will suspend disbelief in this one area, and this one area only. Guys who'd refuse to pay a certified public accountant $200 to help them prepare their taxes ("what do I need him for, and it's all a big scam anyway") will fork over $10,000 to watch Tony Robbins jump up and down on-stage and pontificate on the "energy frequencies" of foods. Like the running gag in Saving Private Ryan, it's definitely FUBAR... Oh, as to the title of this post. Go to, scroll down to find the noun form of the word, definition 3. It fits all-around.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Proof of the pudding...or the sauce, as it were?

It's interesting to me that almost every time I do a call-in show--and I've done more than 60 of them now--I'll hear from people who chastise me for my critical take on Alcoholics Anonymous. They'll swear by the role that AA has played in their lives, telling me that they still "fight the fight" every day, that even decades after their first AA visit, they still consider themselves alcoholics (or "drunks," to quote several of them). Just yesterday, a woman told me, "I don't know where I'd be if I didn't have that lifeline." And yet--as I've tried to gently point out once or twice--do they not see the paradox/irony of such remarks? Sure, it's possible that AA is correct: that alcoholism is indeed a crippling lifelong affliction that one never really escapes. But isn't it also possible that AA's approach to alcoholism is simply ineffective, and that's why these poor folks still feel locked into their addictions, and their unforunate self-image as "drunks," even 20, 30 years later? Does this not, just maybe, prove (or at least testify to) my point about self-help and helplessness?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Getting curiouser all the time...

Two things today...

First, I was doing a talk show and a caller mentioned a rather bizarre, horrific experience that was visited upon her and the hubby by Tony Robbins, or so she recalls. She said that after they showed up at the seminar venue, they and the rest of the attendees were promptly loaded onto buses and shipped off to an airplane hangar, where they basically were held as prisoners for the next 12 hours. During that time, she says, they were forced to lie on the cold concrete floor (often in the dark), were deprived of food and water, and were continually berated by the seminar leaders--i.e. kind of like an old-style est seminar gone totally berserk... Now, to be honest, this doesn't sound like Robbins to me...but does it ring a bell to anyone? If so, I'd love to hear from you.

Second, I'm working with the producers of a well-known TV show to do a segment on SHAM. We're trying to find someone who feels he/she has been damaged by self-help, is addicted to self-help, etc. I have a candidate or two of my own, but if you think you fill that (regrettable) bill, or you know someone who does, by all means post here, or email me through my site. Obviously this person would need to be willing to appear in all his/her glory on national TV.

More soon...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

maybe I need a self-help book on blogging?

First, apologies for not keeping the blog up to date. Been crazy "doing media," which I guess is a good thing, even if you sometimes wonder who's out there watching/listening. (I say this because I haven't exactly been doing The Today Show or GMA, at least not as of yet. Tony Snow's weekend show for Fox has been the biggest TV hit so far.) Still, there's always some positive correlation between the TV/radio I do, and the book's current standing on Amazon. Same thing with reviews, good or bad. Which I guess points to the truth of the old PR line, "I don't care what you say about me...just spell the name right." On the other hand, I do get annoyed at reviewers like, say, Chris Lehmann, who can't meet even THAT minimal standard (i.e. spell the name right). In the course of panning the book and just about everything it stood for in his Washington Post review, Lehmann said the title acronym stood for "self-help and motivation"--which doesn't even really make sense, in the context of how I use the term in the book... Lehmann's bio says he's a former editor of Congressional Quarterly. Hope he was more attentive to detail in chronicling the goings-on in the halls of government... More later...another crazy day tomorrow...

[continued from "a note about comments..."]

...has been to reject such comments. But from now on, if a comment falls into this category, I'm going to take the liberty of editing out the objectionable material and reposting it (still as "anonymous," obviously). If you post
by name I will consult you first (assuming I know how to reach you) and ask you to reconsider your remarks and submit again.

Click to return to front page of SHAMblog.

Monday, July 18, 2005

["thoughts," continued from main page]

There are things that I believe deeply and unshakably to be true. The founding of this blog proceeds from one of those beliefs: that organized self-help, on balance, does more harm than good. I am sure I'm right about that—while also knowing on another level that I shouldn't think like that, because inherently, none of us is right or wrong. As I see it, there is no right or wrong—certainly not in matters of ethics, and surprisingly less often than you'd think even in matters of so-called fact. Then again, I can't even be sure of that much, because certitude about there being no right and wrong is itself a subjective feeling.

During this last election cycle I was certain that Obama was the right choice for America....At the same time I recognized that others felt quite differently, and that their feelings were every bit as legitimate as my own—even though I was incapable of receiving them that way. I would fight tooth and nail to defend my point of view, while recognizing that I might very well be wrong (if there is a "wrong"). If that sounds bizarre and hard to follow, consider a very simple, apt analogy: My wife hates the mere smell of parmesan cheese. She can't understand how anyone can eat it. In the heated discussions of parmesan cheese that tend to arise at each major family function, she'll be quite vocal in her distaste for it and her astonishment that people put it, voluntarily, on their food. Yet she realizes that many of us do put it on our food, so she accepts the fact that she cannot—therefore—trust the legitimacy of her own feelings about parmesan cheese, even though those feelings may be as strong as the scent of the cheese itself.

What's true for parmesan cheese is equally true for the war on terror, the choice/life debate, capital punishment, etc. This duality in the way I see life extends to the largest questions facing humankind. I'm an American and I have strong patriotic feelings about America; therefore I get angry, for example, when terrorists try to kill us. That does not mean I think the terrorists are
inherently wrong to try to kill us. They're as entitled to want to kill us as I am in not wanting to be killed. Perhaps in some cosmic, objective sense, we deserve to die; perhaps the U.S. is "the great Satan." Who knows. Do you? Does anyone? But I live here, and I like it here, so I want to protect my literal and emotional investment in the life I lead.

Finally, I also recognize that some beliefs probably are emotional in nature, even though we think they're the result of rational analysis. One of the reasons I feel this way is that I see positively brilliant people, working from the same ostensible set of facts, arrive at polar conclusions. That suggests to me that rationality alone is not what governs the inferences we draw from life
about life.

I believe that these few paragraphs go a long way toward explaining the level of "contradiction" that visitors sometimes think they find on
SHAMblog. To my mind, none of these apparent disharmonies needs to be resolved.

Click here to return to front page of blog.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Welcome to the wild world of SHAM...

This is the opening post of what--I hope--will be a spirited, (relatively) no-holds-barred give-and-take on the self-help-and-actualization universe. I have created this blog in response to overwhelming consumer demand. (OK, a few people who'd investigated the book or caught one of my media appearances took me to task for not having one.) That book, btw, is SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless. It's available on Amazon, of course (follow the link) and at major bookstores everywhere, as we authors like to say when we're tying to sound like we're all Stephen King...

I'm eager to hear from anyone on any aspect of self-help. Whether you've been saved or scammed, helped or harmed, this is the place to talk about it.

So fire away...and let's see what happens.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

[continued from front page] the slant of my book,
if you want to read or hear glowing reviews of any and every independent guru or motivational enterprise doing business today, just turn on your TV, open almost any paper or magazine, and/or browse the Web, with its zillions of human-potential blogs. This blog is my (modest) rebuttal to all that. Then again, in some cases—like the Breatharian Institute—is a rebuttal really necessary?

Click here to return to SHAMblog.