Thursday, May 04, 2006

And, in the category of Most Shameless Attempt to Capitalize on Someone Else's Name and Following....

...I give you Manny Ibay. Or, more pointedly, I give you his book, Thank You, Tony Robbins: How Tony's Success Programs Helped Me Design My Life So I Can Do What I Want When I Want. Now, I confess at the outset, I know nothing specific about the contents of this book or the circumstances of its conception. For all I know, Ibay, who in his day job is a Los Angeles trial lawyer with an interesting clientele, could be working as a shill for Robbins, either formally or informally, which would make the book Tony's way of applying a nice, hearty pat to his own broad back. It wouldn't be out of character for a guru to do something like that. As a class, these guys (and gals) just loovvvve to talk about what a boon they've been to humankind; they tend to accept tribute from their admirers and proteges with all the humility of the Pope granting an audience (or maybe the Godfather having his ring kissed). At the very least, you gotta believe that Ibay cleared the whole thing with Robbins, who is fiercely protective of his name and public image these days. Trust me on that.

But even if the book is thoroughly "legit"...can you imagine a more unctuous slant on self-promotion? It's as if, say, some years back, at the height of Thriller-mania, some groupie-cum-aspiring-pop-star had come out with a CD titled "Songs Michael Jackson Loves to Hear Me Sing!" Or maybe this is Ibay's way of ingratiating himself with Robbins in hopes of getting some special quid-pro-quo. (It could mean nothing, of course, but his offices in Culver City are within fawning distance of those of Lavely and Singer, the venerable entertainment-law firm that lists Robbins among its top-tier clients.) If nothing else, Thank You allows Ibay to recycle (and resell) Robbins' material via the ingenious device of showing how the author applied it in his own life. The irony of all this is not entirely lost on the members of Robbins' happy little web community. As one of them, "Spaceman," begins a post, "So here I'm going to quote Manny Ibay who was quoting Tony Robbins who probably got it from Jim Rohn...."

Whatever the case, this strikes me as pretty tacky stuff. Even for SHAMland.

Speaking of tacky, and Tony, I received more spam from the Large One yesterday. The (nominal) subject of this latest outreach is spirituality. Bet you thought you knew what spirituality meant, huh? Not so fast. The pitch begins, "while some of us might equate spirituality with praying, meditating, or even reading enlightening literature, it's actually more complicated than we think." We learn that Tony* defines it as "the depth and expansion of your caring. Spirituality, in its simplest form, is your level of consciousness, or the way you connect with and care for those around you." He goes on to say that "to develop real connection, you must first get in synch with your inner self, becoming more aware of who you are on a deeper level." From there, he segues into some TR boilerplate about the "six levels of mastery," which include the physical body, work/career/mission, finances, and so forth. See the clever little game of connect the dots? Each mini-leap of faith (as it were) takes us a bit farther from where we started, and a bit closer to where Tony wants to maneuver us. Clearly by the end of it we've left spirituality--by any classic yardstick--in the dust. It has become whatever Robbins wants it to be.

This is another common SHAM ruse: Take a generally understood concept and redefine it in a way that supports one's aims; in this case, it starts to sound as if spirituality was invented for Robbins' personal convenience in selling his Mastery products. And that may be the least objectionable part of this outreach. Many from spirituality's more traditional camps would argue that Robbins' riffs on the concept, emphasizing self-awareness and self-fulfillment, represent the antithesis of true spirituality; true spirituality, they would tell you, upholds timeless goals and principles that bespeak maybe a wee bit less self-absorption than what Tony appears to have in mind....

* which, of course, means it must be so...


Rodger Johnson said...

“I can recall no parallel in history where a great nation recently at war has so distinguished its former enemy commander,” said General Douglas Mac Arthur. There is much to learn from the words of this general that are of great importance to addressing the onslaught of self-help on American culture.

I presume the publishing of SHAM was the declaration of war against the snake-oil salesmen and soothsayers of self-help. If that’s the case, then it’s time to quit fanning their flames and inadvertently arming them with your blog.

Mind you, your blog is a good idea and a vital weapon to use against SHAM sages. But the lesson the good general was trying to teach politician of his era is one we have had difficulty learning – even today. Create something new that competes for a spot in the marketplace of ideas.

Throughout your blog, and in private e-mail conversations, you have eluded to something real. A message that is honest. For example, just having the mindset to do X, doesn’t cut it. You have to do A,B,C, D … to accomplish X.

So, I think it’s time to start writing about that. Whatever that it.

Otherwise, by ranting about books such as "Thank You, Tony Robbins: How Tony's Success Programs Helped Me Design My Life So I Can Do What I Want When I Want," and connecting readers to its Amazon home, fuels the curiosity of the potential reader who is really seeking help. Why not start a discussion about how destiny is uncontrollable and how determinism really frees us to be what we are designed to be. While some are plumbers and other’s baseball superstars, we can all be happy in letting the soul be what it may.

The concept Mac Arthur tried to teach Washington bureaucrats during World War II is simple to apply here. Stop talking about what self-help sages are doing, because that only reinforces what they do, what they say and why they say it. Let me give an example. Ever go see a movie someone told you was the most horrible cinematography produced by Hollywood? If you have, then your ticket supported that awful moviemaking. The same is true for the sages of self-help. The more you talk about how stupid its ideology is, how the sages are stealing the shirts off of American’s backs and leaving them with nothing but airy, hifalut’n foolishness, you’re just like they guy or gal (let me try to keep this politically correct and still have some style), that told you how cheezy “Mission Impossible” was, but you spent the money, bought the extra-large popcorn, supersized the Coca-Cola and left the movie wondering why you wasted that money.

As you told us several time at IU, think about your readers. You have to devoted few that understand the empty sanguinity of self-help. But what about the one who happen-chanced on to your blog looking for help? You’re sending them right back into the enemy’s line of fire.

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks again, Rodg, for your eloquent assessment of one of the fundamental catch-22s of this blog (and the entire SHAM crusade, really). You're not the first person to suggest that the blog can't (and shouldn't) just be "all rant, all the time"--that I should use it for more "utilitarian" purposes. In fact, as I've noted in SHAMblog and during my media appearances when the topic came up, there was originally a 12th chapter to the book itself, titled "Where to go for real help." We (my editor, agent and I) spent a fair amount of time debating the pros and cons, deciding in the end that we didn't want to risk having the book perceived as a ruse--just another self-help book in disguise. But you're right, a lot of time has passed since then, and we've succeeded at getting out our core message--at least among those who were willing to listen (which, admittedly, isn't a lot of people). So maybe it's time to give this whole enterprise a bit more thought.

Anonymous said...

It would be great if you had actually listened to what Tony Robbins says. In the pursuit of taking care of one's self, he teaches that you have to stop worring about what you are not getting from others and connect with those you care about as well as your community, country and the world on a real level. The self part is being honest about who you really are and live it rather than playing games and pretending to be something you are not. You cant really connect when you have pretective walls built up. Why is this so hard to see or to accept? I dont beleive everything tony robbins says nor do i think i know him or his motivation deeply, but i do know that my life and relationships have been helped immensely by his work and i thank him for that while you bash him and take cheap shots. What are you so afraid of? (oh, i know, thats just me using standard Tony boilerplate crap, right?).