From the Aloha State to "Zero State"
Break out the pineapples and coconuts, and don your gaudy shirts, grass skirts, and leis, Dear Ones; Hawai’ian Week is on again. After our tropical vacation was cut short a couple of weeks ago, in deference to Steve Jobs and his iPhone, we’re back on track. And what an opportune time for us to continue Hawai’ian Week, for tomorrow is also the official launch day of a new Hawai’i-related book that one of the book’s promoters asked me to mention on my blog. As it happens, that book’s big blast-off, originally scheduled for the end of June, was also delayed in order to keep it from upstaging the iPhone. Small world, eh?
The work in question, as you may have guessed, is Zero Limits: The Secret Hawaiian System for Wealth, Health, Peace, and More, by Joe Vitale and Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len (Wiley, $24.95 US). The "secret system" that will lead you to wealth, health and the rest is a modern – and proprietary – version of a traditional Hawai’ian technique called Ho’oponopono. The title of the book is an allusion not only to a limitless life, but to what is known as "zero state," which in this case has nothing to do with electrical circuit theory. "Zero state" in this latter-day incarnation of Ho’oponopono refers to "the source, where there are zero limits," as Joe explains in his introduction. Or, to put it another way, it is the place "where nothing exists but anything is possible. In the zero state there are no thoughts, words, deeds, memories, programs, beliefs, or anything else. Just nothing."
Which, I suppose, is as good a place as any to start. Accordingly the book begins with a quotation from Danish writer Tør Norretranders, author of The User Illusion, who wrote: "The universe began when nothing saw itself in the mirror." Right away that got me asking questions. Did mirrors exist before the Big Bang? And how could nothing see itself if there was nothing to see? Oh, wait, I think I just answered my own question there. But I still have other questions. For example, how would nothing know whether it was seeing itself, or if it was looking at something (or nothing) else? A person could drive herself crazy with such questions. For me, that would be a short trip.
But the big question you may be asking is, "Why was Cosmic Connie, of all people, chosen by a member of the Vitale publicity team to write about Zero Limits?" It all started when I got this email from an alert book publicist the week before last:
I noticed that you recently blogged about Joe Vitale’s book, "The Attractor Factor." Do you know that he has a new book coming out in a couple of weeks called "Zero Limits" that takes his message a step beyond "The Attractor Factor?" I’d be glad to send you a copy of the book if you'll consider mentioning it on your blog. We’d be extremely appreciative if you could do so on, or about, the book’s publication date, which is July 10.
Now, my first thought was that the publicist (1) had not taken the time to actually read my blog; (2) has a rich sense of irony; or (3) subscribes to the old and possibly outmoded belief that "there’s no such thing as bad publicity." It’s true that I have mentioned The Attractor Factor a few times. But it was not exactly in the most complimentary terms. As it happens, I had also written about Zero Limits…well, sort of. And believe it or not, I had half a mind to send an email back, advising the publicist to actually read a few posts on WM before being so quick with the free-book offer.
But my second thought was, "Hey, a free book is a free book." And as my friend Tony Michalski pointed out to me, getting free books to review is one of the perks of being a "journalist." Not that what I’m doing here on WM is anything remotely close to journalism, and I’ve never claimed it is. But why quibble? Besides, publicists are generally very busy people, and they don't have the time to read long-winded posts on silly blogs. In the end, I accepted the publicist’s offer to send me the book. It arrived via FedEx a couple of days later, and I noticed on the air bill that the FedEx charge was billed to a third party – I’m thinking the publisher. No problem; I’m sure they can afford it.
The truth is that I had seen quite a bit of advance hype about Zero Limits, mostly on Joe Vitale’s blog. Among countless other mentions of the book, Joe recently wrote that when he finally got the finished product back from the publisher, he was stunned all over again by what a splendid book it is. "I am beyond excited," he wrote. "I’ve seen the published book and it is beautiful. It’s a true miracle, as it’s the first book to reveal the updated form of ho’oponopono."
But we don’t have to take his word for it. The back cover, for example, is filled with praise from various pals of his who declare Zero Limits to be everything from "a stick of dynamite" to "the most mind-altering reading experience of your life." The latter comment is from BluBlocker king, direct-marketing master, and Maui resident Joe Sugarman, who opens his home to Vitale when the latter visits Maui. Marc Gitterle, MD, who happens to have co-founded a nutritional supplement company with Vitale, wrote, "I love this book! I feel it will be the definitive personal-change/self-help book for at least a generation and viewed as a watershed event by historians. There is real potential for this book to start a movement that will end war, poverty, and the environmental devastation of our beloved planet."
But what else would you expect from the man who, a couple of years ago, led a movement to redirect Hurricane Rita so it wouldn’t harm Houston or the Vitale estate in the Texas Hill Country? (Um, sorry, East Texas and Louisiana.) Could one expect anything less than an astonishing breakthrough work from a man who is known, at least to himself, as "The Buddha of the Internet," due to "his combination of spirituality and marketing acumen?"*
Even if you haven’t heard any of the advance hype about Zero Limits, you don’t have to read beyond the dust jacket to discern that it is not a scholarly study of ancient Hawai’ian belief systems. The subtitle is the first clue. Then there’s the copy on the inside front flap, which begins with the standard come-on to the legions whose frenzied pursuit of happiness** has sent them over the sometimes fine line that separates divine discontent from malcontent: "Are you overworked and overstressed? Are you doing your best but finding professional success and personal fulfillment frustratingly difficult to obtain?"
And then we’re off and running with the now-famous capsule version of the Joe Vitale story. In the tradition of many of today’s New-Wage gurus, Joe seems to be getting impressive mileage out of his rags-to-riches tale.
He was once homeless. Now, he’s the millionaire author of numerous bestselling books, an Internet celebrity, and an in-demand online marketing guru. What happened to create all of that success? Was it hard work, divine providence, or both? The answer may surprise you…
The answer may really surprise you if you subscribed to the belief that the secret to Joe’s success was the Law Of Attraction, as he said and implied on The Secret and in countless references to that hit infomercial and its companion book. Turns out, though, that it wasn’t really LOA after all. The real key to truly unlimited success for Joe lies – you guessed it – in the ancient Hawai’ian secret he writes about in Zero Limits. Joe verifies this in his introduction, presenting a laundry list of some of his proudest achievements over the past ten years. These include his 1997 Nightingale-Conant audio program, The Power of Outrageous Marketing; his BMW Z3 sports car (which he acquired in late 2000); his purchase of a Texas Hill Country estate, which he says he first set sight on when he was "broke and going through a divorce" (his divorce was final in January of 2001); his huge weight loss of 80 pounds (early 2000’s); and, of course, his appearance in the hit "movie" The Secret, which was released in March 2006 but was conceived in 2004.
Granted, most of the events listed in the introduction actually occurred before Joe hooked up with Dr. Len in the fall of 2005 and picked up the secrets of Ho’oponopono – quite a few years before, in some cases. And if you pay attention to details on the links to his old e-newsletters above, you'll see that he had his BMW Z3 when he was still going through his divorce. He must have been past the "broke" stage by then.But those are just details. What Joe is trying to communicate in the intro to Zero Limits is that he achieved all of the wondrous things on his list because he was acting upon inspiration – accessing zero state, in other words – even if he wasn’t aware of it at the time. Just as, for the purposes of promoting The Secret, he was using the Law of Attraction to achieve those things, even if he might not have been aware of it at the time. And just as, when he makes his next big discovery, he will no doubt decide that he was using or accessing that miraculous technique or law or force or source to achieve his goals, even if he wasn’t aware of it at the time. And so on.
The most charitable way of viewing Joe’s personal and publishing histories is to look at both as a chronicle of shifting awareness. Giving him the benefit of the doubt for the moment, most of us change our minds, alter our perceptions, and learn and grow as we go along in life. (Except for me, maybe. I'm stuck on snarky for now.) And, to his credit, Joe does acknowledge and address some of the inconsistencies between his writings in previous books such as The Attractor Factor, and some of the things he writes in Zero Limits. (I’ll discuss that in Part 2.)
That said, most people who have taken the time to read my blog – and have not simply relied on keywords unearthed by Google or Technorati – know that I am rarely in a charitable frame of mind when dealing with New-Wage gurus. When someone is constantly selling something, it is difficult for me to separate the heart from the hype and hustle. Even in moments when I am least "skeptical" (in the classic critical-thinking, science-geek sense) – and most sympathetic to those engaged in the search for meaning – it is hard for me to take even the most potentially profound message seriously if the messenger is so transparently in pursuit of the next big cash op.
And so to the miracle breakthrough du jour: under the tutelage of Dr. Len, Joe has learned to reach "zero state" and wants to show all of us how to reach it too, using this modern version of Ho’oponopono. Or at the very least, he wants to get us fired up enough about it to take a thousand-dollar seminar to learn more. As the jacket blurb says, "It works so well…that Vitale had to share it with the world, so that others could experience the fulfillment and happiness he feels every day."
According to Joe, Zero Limits was an Amazon bestseller twice even before its release. The press sheet that accompanied my copy of the book suggested that the system Joe teaches in Zero Limits seems to be working, because the book was a bestseller on Amazon six months before its publication. As an expert on neither marketing nor spirituality, I am about as far from being a Buddha of the Internet as a person can be, so I could be wrong about this. But it seems to me that the pre-sell frenzies could have been a result of aggressive Internet marketing – which centered around a story that spread around the Net like crabs on '60s hippies – rather than Ho’oponopono. The book is doing quite respectably now, hovering around in the top 100 on Amazon as I write this. But its success on Amazon doesn’t really surprise me. Could we expect anything less from a man who is
a long time Amazon gamer the author of too many bestselling books to mention here? By the way, Zero Limits has received mixed reviews so far on Amazon, though one negative review has already been removed. See the "comments" section on this post for more information.
I read Zero Limits – and yes, I did read it – with as open a mind as is possible for one whose distrust of such books comes not from ignorance of the terrain (as I’ve been accused by some) but from extensive firsthand experience with New-Wage/New-Age culture. Cynical and distrustful I may be, and it may seem here that I am being anything but open-minded, but the truth is, I liked some of Joe’s earlier books. What did I think about this one? More on that tomorrow. And I'll warn you right now; Part 2 will be even longer than this post.
I'm just getting warmed up.
PS - Joe is already reacting to some of the negative Amazon reviews of his book. He was sitting around with friends over the weekend getting a big laugh about the bad comments. His friends were sympathetic, of course.
They pointed out how people are sensitive to my success, that it makes them more aware of their not trying or not succeeding. It’s easier to blame me than to take responsibility for themselves.
Someone remembered the famous quote by German physics professor Georg Christoph Lichtenberg,
“A book is a mirror: If an ass peers into it, you can’t expect an apostle to look out.”
But this just raises the question: What if an ass writes a book?
PPS - While you're waiting for tomorrow's post, mix a tropical fruity drink (or pack the pipe with some Maui Wowee – whatever floats your moku), and sail on over to Walter Terry's ROI Copywriting blog. Today Walter begins an eye-opening series on some Internet marketing misfires that are somehow relevant to all of the above.
Thanks to my friend Blair Warren for helping track down the URLs to some of Joe’s old e-newsletter articles. I used to be on Joe's mailing list, and I remembered that he was writing about his BMW around the time he was getting divorced, but I didn't have the exact references. In any case, if Joe was broke during those years, he sure hid it well from those of us who were on his mailing list. Hey, fake it till you make it, right?
Here's the link to Part 2 of my Zero Limits write-up.
* No less an entity than Google seems to have Buddha aspirations as well. Google supposedly sees itself as "The Buddha Of The Internet Age." Does this leave Google open to being sued by Joe for infringement… or vice-versa?
** There have been some interesting discussions of the "happiness" issue on Steve Salerno’s SHAMblog.