Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Demonic wealth. Or...

...the "elegant (a)whole"?

Once again I'm late to the party, but I did have a point I wanted to make in my few moments of downtime this morning. What tend to get overlooked amid the more sensational aspects of the James Ray case are the implications of the eyebrow-raising financial disclosures that have emerged from this whole debacle. As has been amply documented by now elsewhere (indeed, everywhere), the picture Ray pain
ts of himself in bail hearings is a far cry from the way he portrayed himself on-stage as recently as four months ago, which is to say, before three followers became perfectly balanced in one of his sweat lodges. (For those of you who don't get the reference, Ray was fond of saying, "The only people who are perfectly balanced are six feet under.")

We are told that James Ray
who hinged his very business model on a phrase containing the word wealth; who paraded his insights in front of 200 paying audiences per yearis too broke to make bail; we are told, among other things, that he has $14,000 in his checking account, which is less, a lot less, than it costs to buy just one wheel from a set of four of the high-end type that most of these jokers put on their cars.* For our purposes here, it doesn't really matter whether all of that is true (some have suggested that Ray was never as successful as he pretended to be) or false (others have suggested that the assets Ray liked to tout during his programs are now lovingly sheltered in Andorra or wherever). Either way, the implications for Rayand by extension, for the genreare grim and revealing:

If Mr. Harmony Hisself, the maestro of wealth-building, managed his portfolio and his low-overhead empire so poorly that he now can't raise $500,000 cash bail** even by liquefying assets
if the guy couldn't make his failsafe methodology work, even for himthen he's revealed as a fraud.

If Ray put his money illegally out of reach of the IRS and/or other regulatory bodies and, to compound that sin, is now lying about his actual circumstances
also with the long-range goal of making himself lawsuit-proof when it comes time for his day(s) of reckoning in civil courtthen he's revealed as a cheat and a scoundrel.

Maybe it's fitting that James Ray had his comeuppance in Arizona. The place is just crawling with snakes.


And on that note, I am reminded suddenly of something that happened, once, when I was covering a seminal figure in the success-training movement. There was this magazine piece I planned to write (it later became a book), and the guru gave me an unusual
—and, really, recklessdegree of access to him, his people and his programs. So I'm backstage at one of his seminar gigs, and there comes a point where he says to the audience, very dramatically, "Write this down: People who answer the telephone within three rings make 20% more than people who don't." Immediately that sounded suspect to me; I couldn't figure out, for starters, how such data would've been compiled. So I asked him about it later: "That thing you said about answering the phone within three rings? Is that really accurate?"

He sort of snickered and shrugged. Then he replied, "Who gives a shit? People eat this stuff up. It works, so I use it."

There's your self-help movement in a nutshell, folks. S

* I grant you, a lot of affluent people don't keep a lot of money in their checking accounts. But come on. As part of the overall picture Ray paints
especially when he gets into descriptions of his monthly nutwhy would he have only $14K on-hand to pay it?
** He would have to collateralize the remaining $4.5 million, of course.


NormDPlume said...

Let's not confuse wealth (an accumulation of assets) with income (money earned in a period of time). My bet is that this assclown doesn't have much wealth: he probably squandered his income on a lifestyle of conspicuous consumption.

Savile Row suites, fancy cars and Patek Philippe watches are just expensive marketing costs for sham hucksters whose first order of business is to make themselves look more successful and together than they really are. Shamsters won't attract followers if the portray themselves as living in a van down by the river.(allusion to the Chris Farley motivational speaker.) Consumers of self-help must first envy the sham artists and think - "those cats really have their act together. If I give them my credit card, they can help me."
The use of all the expensive props to connote wealth and success actually keeps the said assclown from achieving wealth.

It's all a show, folks.

Steve Salerno said...

Norm: Good points. And as we've discussed before, they have much wider application than merely in the case of profligate self-help gurus.

roger o'keefe said...

I always detect a note of contempt for the well-to-do which I think is unfair, Steve. We're not all scumbags as you put it in your recent solicitation for new gurus to skewer. Some of us actually build companies, pay taxes and employ people. We'd likely do even more of that if the government didn't keep getting in the way.

RevRon's Rants said...

Roger, unless you're a self-help huckster, I think you're incorrectly personalizing Steve's assertions. I've not detected any disdain for the wealthy in any of his posts; only disdain for those who come by their wealth by way of deceit and/or at the cost of others' well-being.

If the shoe doesn't fit, don't rush to put it on. Or was this just another opportunity to nit-pick and complain about those darned Democrats, whom we all know to be the sole source of all our economic woes? :-)

roger o'keefe said...

Ron, instead of risign to the challenge of your "shoe fits" remark I thought I'd answer your question in a more straightforward way. How about the title of the post for starters? Or don't you consider "demonic" a loaded word, especially when paired with "wealth"? And the talk of "parading insights," which to my ear makes fun of the whole idea of people being interested in wealth building in the first place, as if it's an insidious thing to do. Then there is the obvious distaste in Steve's description of the wheels on the cars, the implication that affluent people always look to screw the IRS on taxes etc. In fact if you go back through the blog I'd venture that all of the symbolism in his posts about wealth is negative or at least smart-alecky. You don't see it?

Steve Salerno said...

(FYI, for Roger and anyone else who didn't get it, the title is a play on Ray's proprietary theme of "harmonic wealth.")

Martha said...

Got it!

Mike Cane said...

Oh how I would like to know the name of that guru you shadowed. I think I can guess, however. Nuff said.

RevRon's Rants said...

"if you go back through the blog I'd venture that all of the symbolism in his posts about wealth is negative or at least smart-alecky. You don't see it?"

Smart-alecky? Sure... when appropriate. After all, if a blog doesn't entertain as well as educate and stimulate discussion, it wouldn't be read. Negative? When individuals come by their wealth by (at best) questionable means, I think it only appropriate to point out the "negativity" of their behavior. And that is what I see Steve doing.

You're right that I don't see some underlying resentment in his attitude toward wealth, which is what you seem to imply. On the other hand, you seem to be a bit defensive in your response, Roger. Perhaps you might consider looking at your own reaction with as much enthusiasm as you devote to criticism of Steve's postings. Just a thought...

Steve Salerno said...

Rog/Ron: I gotta say--having read this little back-and-forth--and trying to be as fair as I possibly can, stepping outside the blog to the best of my abilities--I just don't see it, Roger. Am I being snide, maybe even brutal, about James Ray? Of course I am. But that's not a diatribe against wealth! It's a diatribe against ill-gotten wealth, against con men whose wealth accrual is rooted in hoodwinking people and--manifestly, now--putting their lives at risk. How do you not see that distinction?

I have to go with Ron on this one. I think your sensitivities on the general topic of affluence are coloring your reactions to this post...more than that you're simply reacting to what's actually in the post. If that makes sense?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Roger, I am brazenly resentful regarding the wheels. What a distasteful display of conspicuous wealth. Anyone sporting those rims will be advertising his own complete lack of humanity.
And we will all snicker delightedly when some street punk 'liberates' the gems.

Rational Thinking said...

What I don't understand is this: would JAR have to have had some sort of insurance cover - what we'd call in the UK third party liability - in regard to participants in his events? The reason I ask is because I have read that in the past he has made payments to people who were injured. If so, would that money have come out of his own (company's) reserves, or would insurance have covered it? I'm just wondering if he's made some very big payouts in the past which have depleted reserves.

I can't really understand why he would choose to stay in jail unless he really is 'broke'. It makes no sense to me, because his credibility is now shot, one way or another.

Steve Salerno said...

RT: Certainly he is damaged...but I'd let this all play out before deciding that his credibility is "shot." You may be giving his followers (or at least some of them) far too much credit; read the message boards. And while it's true that at the moment, most of the gurus are keeping their mouths shut (or actively trying to distance themselves from Ray), if he pulls out of this, how much you wanna bet that the rest of Gurudom closes ranks around him and gives him a hero's welcome upon his return? After all, look what he's "been through."

E.g., have you seen the way Joe Vitale pimps for convicted felon and much-fined scam artist Kevin Trudeau? Throughout SHAMland, the operative mentality is, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." And we--the rationalists; the people who insist on thinking this stuff through--are the enemy.