Monday, March 20, 2006

Holy serendipitous synchronicity!

As those of you who've read SHAM already know, I've been tracking the self-help movement, in its inglorious diversity, ever since I began writing for a (non) living back in 1982. You'd think that in that great a span of time--now coming up on the quarter-century mark (gulp)--I'd have heard and seen it all. And yet no sooner do I begin to think that way...than along comes someone like Joshua M. Zuchter, Empowerment Specialist. (That's not my label for him, but rather one he chooses for himself, right under his name at the top of his professional website.) Toronto-based Zuchter is among the new breed of life coaches/success trainers who, in the tradition of, say, Wayne Dyer, incorporate large doses of spirituality into their patter. But Zuchter takes things to a whole new level. I quote, here, from his promotional materials--and I find myself falling back once again on Dave Barry's pet line when I say no, I am not making this up.

"The system Joshua uses," says the marketing copy, "came to him in an epiphany. In an instant the entire system unfolded in his mind that explains creation and in essence synchronicity or what some call serendipity. It is a blending of ancient wisdom with modern day techniques and has since formed the foundation for his seminars and coaching sessions."

Explains creation? Came to him in an epiphany? And in "an instant," no less? Even Jerry Falwell never claimed to have his finger quite that close to God's pulse. Notice, too, the utter contempt for traditional training and/or pedagogy embodied in that line. The whole system unfolded in his mind in an instant. I guess that pretty much makes all of the past century's painstaking groundwork in psychology and human motivation outmoded and irrelevent, then, huh?

Moving past the buzzword blather-fest, Joshua, we learn, "refers to himself not just as a coach and international speaker, but as a researcher. He constantly studies...and refines old and new cutting edge techniques so that he may assist people in letting go of limiting thoughts, developing deeper awareness of who they are and ultimately helping them to discover deeper fulfillment and meaning than they ever have before."

But something doesn't quite add up here. Elsewhere on his site, Zuchter, unlike most New Age gurus, seems to be less about getting you to a place you've never been than about helping you recapture the magic of what you once were. "Do you often wish that you could be the 'old' you again?" he asks. "Do you sometimes worry that you don't know who you are anymore?... Have you tried to figure out how you lost the old you in the first place?"

Stop worrying! "Life can be magical again!" asserts Zuchter, who owns, all to himself, a bachelor's degree in psychology from The University of Western Ontario.*

So it's reasonable to ask: Which is it? Is he going to help people "discover deeper fulfillment and meaning than they ever have before"? (This implies that you have always been somewhat dissatisfied with your life.) Or is he going to show people how to rediscover "the old you," so that "life can be magical again!" (This implies that you knew true bliss once, but lost it.) I don't think the asnwer can be, "both." The two aims would seem to entail two altogether different sets of assumptions and methodologies. The fact that in different parts of his site Zuchter will tap-dance over to one side of the stage or the other suggests to me that he's simply out to cast as wide a net as possible, while still trying to sound nichey. It's akin to the approach our friend Phil McGraw employs on Love Smart, which he subtitled, Find the One You Want--Fix the One You Got. If you really think about it (and as several alert readers pointed out, at least before Amazon took down their reviews), that's two different books, folks.

Further confirmation of my suspicions: Highlighted among Zuchter's offerings is a "2 Day Playshop" titled "Transformation From the Mystical into the Practical." The program has been designed specifically to meet the needs of those who face financial challenges, or seek better health, or feel disconnected from their significant others, or aspire to "greater peace, direction, passion and meaning" in life. In other words, the program is designed specifically to meet the needs of--everybody. But what else would you really expect from a guy who wants prospective clients to know that he "has been referred to as the Tony Robbins meets Dr. Deepak Chopra of the 21st Century"? (Presumably he sees this as a plus.)

One more comment--and I grant you this is completely gratuitous and unfair, but I found it too amusing to resist. Zuchter says his corporate clients subscribe to the "1+1=11 Rule," which is his way of saying that when you do things right, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Still, my first thought on reading the line was, "Remind me not let any of his clients work on my taxes."

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The visitor-tracking stats for SHAMblog tell me that many of you have been following the blog faithfully each day, checking for new content.** More often than not it's there. For the next week, however, beginning tomorrow, I'll be in Florida, fulfilling a wish I've had for just about all of those same 24 years I've been writing: I'm going to take in the final week of baseball's spring training, traversing the state to catch games in various training venues. Technically this is for an assignment, which developed quickly on the heels of my controversial Barry Bonds piece for the L.A. Times. But for me, it falls under the heading, "labor of love." If I don't get a chance to post many new items between now and March 29, I hope you'll rejoin me again after the hiatus. And by all means, keep the comments coming. I'll be checking the blog whenever I can.

* And even that modest credential puts him one up on Dr. Laura, whose degree, as often noted here (as well as in SHAM), was in human physiology.
** And thank you for that. I try to keep the blog worthy of being read by an intelligent audience such as you.

1 comment:

thera said...

Indeed, I'm also a frequent visitor and enjoy your blog. I also started reading your book. It's a thorough job of investigative journalism so far.
But I haven't read enough to air a balanced opinion yet. Have a great time in Florida!