Sunday, March 18, 2007

Borderline wisdom.

Guy from Canada's largest daily newspaper, the Toronto Star, interviewed me earlier in the week for today's front-page story on self-help (anchored, as so many such pieces are now, in The Secret). Some good quotes here and a nice overall showcase for SHAM, though the writer, Murray Whyte, mislabels Empowerment as the "apotheosis" of Victimization, rather than a backlash against it. Maybe it's just a semantic, depends-on-your-POV kind of thing.

I'm still bemused by the fact that—with the obvious exception of cultural supernovas like The Secret—journalistic interest in self-help as a topic, and me as a source, seems far stronger outside the U.S. Most of the interview requests I get these days are from Canada, Australia, and the U.K. (You may recall that Maclean's, Canada's answer to Newsweek, also did a major piece on self-help, specifically life coaching, last December—which is to say, even before The Secret hit its stride.) As one of our contributors put it quite early in the going, it must be easier for others to laugh at us than for us to laugh at ourselves. We've also noted here that many of America's major media outlets are functionally in bed with self-help, to one degree or another. Still, with so many journalists ever on the prowl for great feature stories that illuminate "the American experience," the dearth of copy devoted to self-help is puzzling. In my view, the self-help movement may just be the defining social trend of the past half-century, someday to be remembered as having had an effect on the conduct of daily life approaching that of the Industrial Revolution itself. You think I overstate? Take another look at the second half of SHAM and draw your own conclusions.


Anonymous said...


Perhaps Marshall McLuhan was correct when he observed that self-observation is predictably unreliable.

1. Although no one knows who discovered water,"we know for certain it was not a fish.";

2. Or that..."Canada is a Distant Warning System for the American experience."

I note with great interest in seeing how suspending critical thinking is encouraged when franchise investments are marketed. Indeed, the phrases ("take a leap", "Believe & Succeed", etc.) are right out of the self-help/false hope lexicon.

It seems these increasingly illusory, Potemkin village "opportunities" rely more and more on invoking a this form of magical thinking.

The Horatio Alger archetype is not as benign as is commonly thought.

Les Stewart, MBA

Steve Salerno said...

Les, thanks for joining the dialogue (multilogue?).

I would add only: Benign? Who said magical thinking was benign? I think the net-net of the self-help movement definitely is a negative number, as I try to demonstrate in the second half of my book.

Keep the cogency coming!

Anonymous said...

I didn't really know where this should go, but I've taken the steps necessary to recallibrate my inner vibrations to mirror a harmonic resonation with the universe. At least that's what Bob Proctor has says I should do.

More importantly, I've published my "order on the Universe" as Joe Vitale suggests. You can find all this on a new blog called Extreme Makeover: Spin Edition.

URL provided:

Cosmic Connie said...

It's interesting that "The Secret" was actually spawned in Australia...

But I think the backlash against "The Secret," and perhaps against self-help in general, is just beginning. It's circling its way to America, and as American media wake up to the fact that more and more people are disgruntled with the industry, there will be more coverage of the 'naysaying' side.

So SHAM (the book, that is) may be getting a very large second wind. We can only hope...

PS - I love the blog, Mr. Spin. Keep us posted on how it's going.