The Master Salesmen of Self-Help: Pitching Vague Concepts, Which Can’t be Measured, by Means of Savvy Messages and Emotional Tactics


By James D. Roumeliotis

In a Mad Men episode (Season 5, Episode 12: “Commissions and Fees”) actor Don Draper stated: “What is happiness? It’s the moment before you need more happiness.” Life should be a “do-it-yourself project.” Each level has its obstacles and perks, and you will be required to have a plan in order to navigate through it. With that said, the business of selling hope has been here since the bible. According to Marketdata, estimates are that the self-improvement market was worth $11.6 billion in 2019 ─ profiting off people’s problems. Not totally against this as it may actually help some individuals. However, most of the information provided is far from objective. The extravagant promotions (i.e., hype) utilized to stoke-up interest for the overrated and undervalued costly courses, as well as the 2-3 day “success concerts”, disguised as a business event with secrets to offer, along with all the hoopla on display, seem to be working for their intended target audience ─ mainly those with insecurities and inferiority complexes who believe they have been offered something of value and anticipate getting inspired. Needless to say, not everyone is a good fit for the schemes being sold.

Sadly, the euphoria, from success preaching concerts and sessions, wears off after several days, thus the attendees return to their pre-session selves. Evidently, you can’t be motivated by not being dedicated. Think of what was gained watching/listening to the “masterminds.” Possibly doses of motivation and common sense with a placebo effect.

Sold are also rehashed success “blueprint” programs where methods to become triumphant, on paper ─ in theory are scientifically unproven. Such recommendations are not blanket solutions to everyone’s challenges which one may be actually facing.

Then there are the coaching sessions which most of the time are not conducted by the extremely busy and prohibitively priced charismatic motivational “guru” himself or herself. Instead, the coaching task has been outsourced to a trained soldier who, despite his or her best effort and intention, does not possess the same persona compared to the one who had you sold on the overpriced sessions in the first place.

Master Salesmen at Manipulation & Emotions

There is a big difference between telling people what they like to hear and telling people what they need to hear. The new-age motivational gurus know exactly how to create a sense of urgency. Their charisma, voice inflection, observable passion, stage animation, audience engagement, and presentation skills are traits that create the buzz and draw crowds. They are most certainly very clever in marketing and packaging their personal image/brand. They put on a fancy light show accompanied by dramatic sound designed to evoke an emotional response in oneself creating the belief you are getting transformative change. There is no evidence to support the idea that those types of seminars have long-term positive changes in people attending them. People go to them because there is something about themselves that they want to change. There are other options and modes of therapy that are far less expensive that have been proven to be efficacious (think clinical psychology). What does it mean, for example, “to have a date with destiny”? Feel-good advice is a vague concept and an illusion. It does not solve anything or explain “how to” do something such as to overcome adversities in life or in a business.

Success trainers, income experts, and business coaches preach personal success systems. They supposedly know and share methods/strategies that will help you dream big and achieve your goals along with a substantial income. They do so by encouraging their audience to look at things from a different perspective and to become more attentive to their own talents and abilities. Yet most personal development coaches at motivational events often sell products including courses, books, and coaching. Apart from this, most built their success by selling rehashed advice. 

The Use of Verbal Jujitsu

Straight talk and common sense only go so far. Apparently, sometimes it pays to overcomplicate a simple message by using simple terms into scientific or eloquent lingo as a good way to sell ideas. As a result, this should make the success guru a thought leader or mastermind on that specific subject which in turn will cause his or her reputation and authority to surge. They use this in their favor to communicate to their audience what it must do to achieve success by seeing things from a different viewpoint using vague concepts which can’t be measured. It sounds good!

Alternative and Practical Complimentary Advice

On stage, the ‘Masters at Manipulation & Emotions’ deliver glorified common sense, stirring tales of how they attained success, as well as package their most important concepts and turn them into a compelling manifesto.  On social media, they deliver videos speaking about how they earned their millions. Likewise, those (self-proclaimed) success authorities use remarkably effective strategies to sell them in the form of books, talks and consulting engagements. Essentially, the takeaway from them should be how to approach personal branding with splendor.

Consider that life should be viewed as a “do-it-yourself project.”  Be proactive and responsible for your own destiny. No one has a silver bullet to offer you or do for you what’s necessary to progress in your life. Furthermore, no one owes you anything! Every single one of us (barring those with physical or psychological handicaps) is capable and should be responsible for self-development and for each of our outcomes.

There are some who have stated that they have spent a reasonable amount of money on Tony Robbins books and watched free videos on YouTube. They didn’t spend anything on his costly and at times reworked courses. Perhaps this is how people should learn from such popular motivational personalities. Avoid joining and following pricey cults and simply avoid parting with your money.

As a process, this is how one should essentially consider when working on thyself (from my perspective):

1. Define/find your purpose. Discover what drives you and pursue it…relentlessly.

2. Define your goals (short and long-term).

3. Deconstruct your goals into stages and steps.

4. Create a plan with specific date targets.

5. Execute consistently. Keep pushing yourself!

6. Fail, adjust and improve.

7. Persist until achieved along with the aid of practical resources (a tenacious mindset

    development is an important benefit).

8. Move on to the next.

As a final point, consider applying the SMART goals acronym to assist you in guiding your goal setting. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Details of this here.
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Filed under Business success, lifestyle marketing, Marketing, niche marketing, push marketing

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