Friday, October 10, 2008

Sub-prime optimism.

UPDATE, Saturday morning.

And as a public service to those of you who are fearful enough over the economy to care what Sir Robbins might have to say, I hereby
present the text of an email I just received from Tony & Co.:


We are excited to announce that Tony Robbins will make a guest appearance Monday morning, October 13, on NBC's TODAY show, America's #1 morning TV show. In an interview with Matt Lauer, Tony will be discussing how to deal with your fears, educate yourself, and find the new opportunities, even in this time of crisis. Tony's first segment will air at 7:40 a.m. and second segment at 9:05 a.m. PST. Check your local listings.

As we wait to see what the stock market has in store for us todaythe omens from overseas are worrisomeI find myself thinking, and not fondly, of Tony Robbins. I'd been wondering when Tony would try to make hay out of the prevailing chaos, and the answer arrived in my inbox at 4:13 p.m. yesterday under the title "Break Through in The Current Crisis." Tony, as regulars know by now, has a knack for finding or inventing tie-ins between his spiel and any/all atmospheric circumstances, from normal holidays like Thanksgiving to one-time (let's hope) disasters like 9/11. So with business mavens finally beginning to whisper the word crash in describing what's happened to the NYSE and other major markets over the past week, here he is again.

To me, though, Tony
more specifically, the sky's-the-limit mentality he sellsis part of the problem. It is directly related to the analysis I presented in my Journal piece last week at this time. I blame Robbins for being a major contributor to the climate of faux optimism that seized hold of America roughly a decade ago and is just now being revealed for the, well, sham it is. What's wrong with faux optimism? Who does it hurt? It hurts everyone, and in surprising ways. It makes people far less inclined to have a Plan B (since they've already put their full faith in Plan A). It bullies people into sticking with a given course of action until long after its dangers have been revealedbecause after all, if they "just keep a positive outlook," how can they fail?

There are more subtle dangers as well. The headline in my local paper today summarizes yesterday's activities on Wall Street as follows: "Optimism turns to panic." The headline writers at the Morning Call don't realize how right they are, because recent studies of psychodynamics show that that's just what can happen in settings that have depended on optimism for its own sake: When people in such settings are finally confronted with a problem that they can't ignore or rationalize away (e.g., bank failures and even the looming failure of an iconic industrial giant like GM), they tend to overcorrect in the opposite direction: With their illusions shattered, their optimism morphs into a virulent form of fatalism. Psychologically, they're worse off than they would've been if their hopes and expectations weren't so damned (i.e. unrealistically) high all along.

We shall see what takes place today. In the meantime, at the risk of qualifying for that stuffy fraternity the old New Yorker used to call "writers in love with their own words," I'll throw in a passage that got cut from the end of my Journal piece: "Realism isn't the same as fatalism. Not necessarily expecting the best isn't the same as expecting the worst." America had no reason or right to think things were as rosy as they were to begin with, no matter what Tony or Joe Vitale or anyone else said. If we'd been a bit more realistic, we wouldn't be so panicky now. More to the point, we wouldn't have taken some of the precarious courses of action that put us in this position in the first place.

(Can you say sub-prime mortgage?)


FOLLOW-UP, 10:33 a.m. As I write this addendum, Pres. Bush is addressing the nation from the Rose Garden, on the subject of the economy. When he began speaking, the Dow was down about 70 points. As he prepares to wrap things up, the Dow is down 196-and-change.

I guess there's nothing quite like hearing the calming voice of your president.


Steve Salerno said...

Just a quick reminder about the things I will publish and the things I won't: Though I have been highly critical of Tony and his overall impact on society, I will not, under any circumstances, approve comments about Tony Robbins (or any other SHAM guru) that I deem libelous. And of course, profanity is always an automatic "reject." So if you're going to combine the two...why even bother?

Your cooperation is appreciated.

seriously amused photoblog said...

Meanwhile, Tony Robbins is sitting back enjoying his life because he's made a lot of money selling empty promises.

On Tuesday I was out for a late lunch. The food was mediocre (I don't eat out often and hate paying for mediocre!), and as an added bonus there were several TVs playing in the background. On one of them Bush was giving one of his bogus pep talk speeches about the economy, while on the other TV our lovely prime minister was shown talking. Fortunately, the TV with Harper had been silenced. The only thing missing was a TV with Tony.

Cal said...

McCain was roundly lampooned for saying a couple of weeks ago that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." He actually copied Bush, because George W. had been saying the exact same phrase from the beginning of the credit crunch last summer. Bush only stopped saying this a few weeks before McCain's gaffe.

Anonymous said...

Bush is a disaster, he has absolutely zero credibility anymore. The best thing he can do from now on is just sit in the White House till his time is up and keep his mouth shut or else he'll probably screw things up even worse. I heard someone on Fox talking about Bush's legacy the other day. Are you kidding me?

Steve Salerno said...

Cal: So wait now...are we actually saying that McCain isn't even as "plugged-in" as George Bush? Wow. Now that's an indictment if I ever heard one.

Anon 1:00: I hear ya.

Cal said...

Just a quick Web search where I found hits about W. saying "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" (and I did the search and not get those with McCain's identical statement):

1) 8/9/07 - White House press conference (found on site)

2) 12/29/07 - President's radio address (also found on

3) 1/18/08 - said on NBC (found on -- Bush had a minor variation saying "The long-term fundamentals of our economy are strong."

Chad Hogg said...

Sorry, no insight. But I am glad wikipedia has a disambiguation page, because I was shocked to hear that Joe Vitale was involved in anything sham-ful.

Cosmic Connie said...

Steve, I hear you re the warning about comments that are libelous and/or profane. I have to censor those kinds of things on my own blog. The thing is, both are so unnecessary because the SHAM-sters' own words and actions speak volumes. The Tony Robbins link you provided was an excellent example of craven opportunism. Tony is far from the only one, of course. You also mentioned Joe Vitale, and he’s another great example of what you’re talking about.

Not surprisingly, Joe has become one of those crash opportunists. (I suppose you could say that Tony, Joe and their fellow SHAM-sters are creating new “crash cows.”) They are dispensing financial advice…oops, I mean they’re sharing inspiring thoughts… left, right and sideways. It all seems to be a variation on the same theme: “Don’t worry, be happy, and keep spending your money with us, because WE’LL tell you how to get rich even in a bad economy.”

F’rinstance, Joe discusses “money myths” on a recent blog post, and shares these bits of wisdom:

“Investing in real estate isn’t as rewarding as investing in *yourself*. The more you expand your awareness and education, the more you can see the opportunities to make more money.”

A benign message on the surface, but do I even have to explain the implicit message in “investing in yourself” and “awareness and education?” (Hint: He probably isn’t talking about taking a nice vacation or going back to school and getting a real degree from an accredited university.)

Then there’s this:
“Stocks are not as secure as *acting* on ideas. Money making ideas are gifts from the Universe; act fast on them and you can prosper fast.”

Joe likes to say, “The Universe likes speed,” a phrase he apparently borrowed from someone else and has made his own. It’s a not-so-subtle tactic to encourage impulse purchases of whatever he happens to be peddling that day.

And here’s my favorite:
“Practical spending isn’t as wise as enthusiastic spending. When you buy something that helps you feel good, you increase your energy vibration, feel better about yourself, and tend to do more things to make more money.”

Apart from being perhaps just a tad irresponsible in today’s economic climate, not to mention self-serving in the way the previous two quotations are, this sounds like yet another rationalization for his latest car purchase. That would be a Rolls-Royce Phantom (starting price US $340,000), which he has added to his stable of BMWs and assorted exotic sports cars. He recently bragged about buying a $150,000 Scorpion, which is now presumably being built for him; he said the Scorpion is a “green” car because gets excellent gas mileage. I guess the Phantom, with its mighty five to six mpg, will cancel that out.

But never mind the lousy gas mileage; the Rolls has upped his vibe level and he’s now using it to “inspire” others to reach for more, as reflected in recent “Tweets” on Twitter:

“Rolls-Royce Phantom arrives tomorrow after 2. Got film crew and photographers lined up. This little Texas town has never [seen] anything like this.”

“Driving a Phantom is turning heads and making me feel like a royal tycoon.”

“Staring at a black Rolls-Royce Phantom in my driveway. The local folk think a dignitary spent the night here.”

One person on Twitter asked him why he feels the need to brag about his possessions. To which he replied, “Why do you consider it bragging and not inspiration to reach for more?”

Indeed, if you’re to believe Joe, his Rolls kick clearly has nothing to do with egotism. After all, according to the infomercial for his new Awakening Course, he has reached “the fourth stage” of awakening -- a "stage" he only recently found out about -- and has transcended his ego.

To show how devoted he is to helping you succeed too, Joe is now offering to take you for a ride. For several thousand bucks you get to ride around in the Rolls with him, go to dinner, and participate in a MasterMind session to brainstorm on some great moneymaking ideas. But even if you can’t afford the MasterMind session you can still be inspired by the fact that there’s now a Rolls-Royce sitting in Joe Vitale’s driveway. Say, the economy can’t be that bad if a regular guy like Joe, once homeless, now drives a Phantom, right?

And just in case you are starting to feel uncomfortable about your own greed and materialism, you can take comfort in Joe’s words:
“If you don't have over the top goals, desires and wants, how will you leave your comfort zone? Aude Aliquid Dignum. (Dare Something Worthy).”

Crash, schmash. What economic crash?

As I said, no profanity or libel is necessary. The words and actions of the hustledorks tell us all we need to know.

Steve Salerno said...

Connie, I tell ya, you don't post here often anymore...but when you do.... I don't think anybody quite nails the tenor/texture of the SHAMscape as well as you do--and that probably includes me nowadays, much as it pains me to admit it. (Several hard-core SHAMbloggers have taken me to task for "losing my focus," as I think you know.) What I'm particularly impressed by is the specificity of your examples, and the way you bridge to more universal truths. Thanks for "visiting" again.

RevRon's Rants said...

"For several thousand bucks you get to ride around in the Rolls with him..."

Connie, there's nothing new here. Joe's been taking folks for a ride as long as I've known him... going on 15 years or so. High dollar taxi rides, with no destination save the next ride. And as long as the folks are gullible enough to think they're actually going somewhere, he'll keep collecting the fares. :-)