Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Conversations with Peter Wink, Part 1


The first of several (who knows how many?) "Wink Wednesdays"

The wait is over.
For over four (!) months I’ve been teasing you about an upcoming blog post covering my talks with self-help industry insider Peter Wink. Well, I am finally making good on my promise with not one, not two, but an entire mini-series of blog posts based on our exchanges.

Peter Wink has been in the self-help biz in one capacity or another for nearly twenty years. He’s not a self-help guru himself, but he has worked with plenty of them, and he definitely has an insider’s view. He was with personal-development publisher Nightingale-Conant for several years, and says that his marketing, negotiating, and deal-making skills helped save their bacon in the early 1990s. (Peter is an expert negotiator, and wrote a book about that subject, Negotiate Your Way To Riches.)* He has also worked with numerous individuals in the business, including Bob Proctor, Brian Tracy, and Joe “Mr. Fire” Vitale. But his experiences reach beyond the self-help industry. In his long career Peter has been a consultant for BluBlocker Sunglasses (owned by legendary marketer Joe Sugarman); Jamba Juice (Peter says he was single-handedly responsible for saving their failing Midwest market); and even the Church of Scientology (no, no, he’s not a Scientologist; he only helped them with some online marketing strategies). He has worked with numerous other individuals in various professions as well. Currently Peter is working with infomercial pitchman Kevin Trudeau. Yes, that Kevin Trudeau (is there any other)? More about that in a little while.

Peter seems to have been born for sales and marketing. I’d call him a hustledork if it weren’t for the fact that he’s not constantly pushing his own stuff in people’s faces, so I will cut him a little slack in that area. It could be argued that he’s a hustledork enabler, or in some cases, the hustle behind the dork – and that may be true, but there’s more to him than that. He says that over the years he has helped a lot of people make millions of dollars. And I tend to believe him, in light of his résumé – plus the fact that one thing he has not done is spend his career churning out dozens of vapidly derivative info-products on how to get rich in one weekend while sitting on your butt.

A Chicago native currently residing in a suburb of the Windy City, Peter is an upbeat fellow – so optimistic and cheery, at least on the surface, that you sometimes almost want to slap him. I mean, this is a guy who used to work for Successories, and actually found inspiration in the motivational posters and other products they sell. (He told me a story of being inspired, many years ago, by seeing the famous “If you’re not the lead dog, the scenery never changes” lithograph in someone’s office. I have my own issues with that particular sentiment; for one thing, dogs have better peripheral vision than humans, so even non-lead dogs are surely able to see something besides the poop-chute of the dog in front of them. Moreover, if you’re mushing across the Arctic tundra, the scenery can be pretty drab and unchanging from any perspective. In addition, in the real world not everyone can or should be a leader. But I digress.) Despite Peter’s motivational pedigree, and the rather unfortunate fact that he reminds me of an insufferable positive-thinking enthusiast/motivational type I dated years ago, I can’t help liking the guy. “Yes, but Cosmic Connie, he’s working for KEVIN TRUDEAU!” I can hear you saying. Yeah, well, there is that. (Be patient; we’ll get to it.)

Above all, Peter is unabashedly a fan of self-help products, and not just because that’s how he earns his bread and butter. “I’m a product of these products, you might say,” he explains. “I was a consumer of the industry long before I was involved in the industry, and I believe I’m living proof of the value of the advice that can be found in self-help products.”

One of the things I have noticed about Peter is that while he has apparently done quite well for himself, he does not appear to be obsessively focused on materialistic pursuits. He lives a comfortable life but doesn’t seem to be centered on moving into a larger mansion every couple of years (or at least bragging about mansion-hunting), or acquiring an exotic car collection and making a second career of boasting about his acquisitions. I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s a deeper thinker than most of his public writing makes him appear. I suppose the same could be said of many of us (even me, on occasion, though I am quite comfortable with my self-described “profound shallowness.”). For his part, Peter assures me that he does publish “deep-thinking” stuff too.

Anyway, you can find out more about Peter’s background, philosophy, and tastes in cars, movies, and music by going here, and here, and visiting his Facebook page.

How it all started
I initiated the exchanges with Peter in October of 2009 because I was curious about something I had read on Joe Vitale’s blog. At the time, Joe had just published a blog post about his mostly disastrous trip to Russia in September of 2009. In the original version of the post, he appeared to be pointing a finger at his vice president of marketing, who at the time was Peter. Joe wrote about how his VP and other staffers had enthusiastically encouraged him to take advantage of an opportunity to go to Russia for a speaking engagement, although Joe himself was very wary of going. Joe wrote that as the time of departure grew nearer, there were warning flags popping up all over the place, but he said his staff was still strongly encouraging him to go ahead with his plans. Once he got to Russia the crap started hitting the fan. Things got rapidly worse, and, according to Joe, there were several times that his life and that of his traveling companion, Mark Ryan, were in danger. But, Joe said, his VP back home seemed dismissive of the troubles. To that Joe added, “He’s no longer working for me.”

I should note that Joe did not name his VP, but some of his commenters helpfully provided that information. The clear implication in the blog post was that Joe “let Peter go” because of Peter’s poor handling of the whole Russia trip. And I am not the only one who interpreted it this way. A commenter named Larry wrote, “Although I don’t support the firing incident, I don’t have all of the facts either…hopefully there were other problems with the VP.”

Not long after that, however, Joe deleted the parts of the post that seemed to be pointing the finger at Peter. But he didn’t delete the comments about this matter.

Call it intuition, but as far as I was concerned, something about that original story, and the responses, didn’t add up.

For one thing, Joe apparently hired Peter in January of 2008, at which time he described him as a long-time friend. He and Peter “split up” in October of 2009. If Joe had been having two years of problems with Peter – as he told his commenter Larry in the above-mentioned blog post – that means he would have been having problems since at least September of 2007. If that was the case, why did he ever bring him into his organization?

As a matter of fact, in September of 2007 he wrote a post describing Peter as a “guardian angel.” That’s because Peter had been Joe’s champion for years, using his influence to get Joe published with Nightingale-Conant, which was arguably Joe’s first really big break. Joe says that Peter is the reason he, Joe, ended up with his first Nightingale-Conant audioprogram (in 1997). He says Peter believed in him before anyone else did and worked for an entire year to make Joe a N-C author. He repeated his oft-told tale of how Peter put Joe’s pic up in every office at N-C, and in the men’s and women’s restrooms, and even on top of the company Christmas tree. Joe wrote:

He wanted people to know who I was. He eventually sold me to the company, and my program, The Power of Outrageous Marketing, remains a top bestseller for N-C even today.

Oddly enough, in Joe’s March 7, 2010 blog post on “How To Treat People,” he mentions his acceptance into Nightingale-Conant as a turning point in his life and career, but fails to mention the guardian angel who helped get him there. Probably just an oversight.

But back to that September 2009 post. I was curious about the splitsville story, not that it was any of my business, but you know me. I had also heard in the ethers that Peter had gone to work for Kevin Trudeau, who, as you know, has also been…ahem…a subject of some of my blog posts. (The most recent one is here; I began it in December and added updates in February and March.) So I sent Peter an email, not knowing if he would even bother to read it, much less to reply, seeing as how I am, after all, one of those critics, a.k.a. “haters.” Conventional “wisdom” in the New-Wage world has always seemed to be that truly successful people make it a policy to mostly ignore criticism and, above all, to never engage their critics in any way.

Turns out that Peter isn’t afraid of critics, doesn’t ignore them, and apparently doesn’t consider them to be “haters.” He not only replied, but we struck up a series of friendly conversations via email. He said he likes my blog and that I deserve a much wider audience. My first thought was that he might be blowing smoke, perhaps hoping I would let down my guard and spill some intel that he could take back to his pals in the self-help cartel. My second thought was that this was part of some orchestrated attempt to persuade me to soften my stance on the self-help industry.

Over the course of our communications he repeatedly mentioned that he enjoys my writing, that he doesn’t find me at all cynical, that I am simply writing what I feel. He said that he and I think a lot alike. I still wasn’t entirely convinced, having received numerous emails and comments from other people who were supportive and agreeable on the surface but had quite another agenda as apologists for people or organizations I’ve snarked about (e.g., the late Maharishi’s TM org). Yet I couldn’t completely dismiss Peter either, since I am, after all, a narcissist and somewhat susceptible to flattery. Money works even better than flattery (hint: see “Donation” tab above), but I’ll take what I can get.

Out of the corner
I also knew I had to take into account my own tendency to back people into a damned-if-they-do-and-damned-if-they-don’t corner. Actually, this is something we all do at one time or another, whether we’re dealing with politics, religion, New-Wage belief systems, or any other potentially controversial area of life, including our personal relationships. We get to the point where those with whom we disagree can do or say nothing right in our eyes. (At the same time, we conveniently ignore the shortcomings or inconsistencies of those with whom we agree. Funny how that works.) In this case, if Peter had ignored my communication or had been dismissive or terse, I would have told myself that his response was to be expected because, after all, he was “one of them.” Yet when he replied in a friendly manner, one of my first thoughts was that he was being manipulative.

I knew it was unfair to both Peter and myself to keep him in that metaphorical corner.

After a couple of months of emails back and forth, Peter suggested that I interview him and write a blog post based on our conversation. “But let’s make it positive,” he suggested (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the essence). “Let’s do something that will really help people, and maybe we can show them some things they might not be seeing about some of the self-help authors you write about.”

As you can imagine, my own flags went back up immediately. I thought, “Girl, he’s gonna try to play you like a cheap fiddle.” I figured he wanted me to be a conduit for some rah-rah pro-self-help propaganda – or at least a carrier of the message that the “bad guys” aren’t so bad. After all, if you read Peter’s blog, you’ve probably noticed that he does sound pretty rah-rah. (And for me, the fact that he resembles that inveterate positive thinker I dated years ago only aggravated the problem.) I also couldn’t help thinking of that classic bit of wisdom, alternately attributed to The Godfather and to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” Maybe, I thought, Peter’s friendliness towards me was just another strategy.

Or maybe his real agenda was – gasp! – to somehow persuade me to help plead Kevin Trudeau’s case to the world. Peter did mention at one point that he thought Kevin probably appreciates the publicity I give him, and that the Wimberley gang is enormously pleased to be associated in any way with Kevin – so my snarky blog posts are actually doing all of them a favor. Whatevs, as Salty Droid might say. I have never had any particular end in mind with this blog, and if my snarking happens to inadvertently benefit one or the other of my snargets, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

Anyway, after going back and forth with this stuff in my mind, I figured I was once again being unfair. For one thing, it’s not Peter’s fault that he reminds me of that guy in my distant past. More importantly, he had given me indications that he wanted our talk to be more than fluff, and judging by some of the matters he’d alluded to in emails, I decided it was worth a shot.

Peter had previously told me his perspective was different from that of most people. He says he has worked with some people who are a lot more screwed up than their faithful followers. He’s seen plenty of what goes on behind the curtain. He noted, “I’ve met the gynecologists who admit to being turned on by their cute female patients; the psychologists who admit to giving just enough advice to keep patients coming back…the relationship experts with a trail of relationships that were miserable; the financial guru who declared bankruptcy…do I need to go on?”

Oh, please do! was the first thing that came to my mind when I read that. But Peter really isn’t interested in doing a tell-all – not at this point, anyway. Let’s just say he has some really, really good material, should he ever go over to what most of his friends and followers would probably consider the “dark side” (which is “my” side). And I know of some really, really good ghostwriters or editors who could help him with that project.

Anyway. I could live with keeping things “mostly positive,” but I was still a bit up in the air about the focus of our conversation. I made it clear to Peter that I have no problem with presenting some positive aspects of the self-help industry, at least for a couple of posts, if for no other reason than to provide a counter-balance to my ceaseless snarking. On the other hand, I knew y’all wouldn’t be interested in mere cheerleading for the industry. On yet another hand (yes, like most issues, this one is a many-handed entity, somewhat like the goddess Kali, but without all the violence and flowers), Peter had and has clear limits to what he was willing to say about Kevin Trudeau, whom he considers to be a friend as well as an employer. Since I’m neither a hard-nosed investigative type nor a particularly skilled manipulator, it’s not my style to keep ruthlessly digging and harassing till I get someone to spill the beans about something they might later regret. On that level, I did and do fear disappointing some of you. (I mean, c’mon. Kevin True-dough!) And I won’t be too surprised if some folks on certain critical forums were to raise their eyebrows and speculate that I’ve gone over to what they consider to be the “dark side” myself, or that, at the very least, I might have some hidden agendas of my own. Regarding the latter, I will concede that pot-stirring just for the sake of it is an occasional agenda of mine. But I sense that some of you have already figured that out.

Still, I decided to respect Peter’s friendship and his need to be sensitive to others. I figured he had something of value to share even if he didn’t want to feed Kevin or any of his other past associates to the snark machine.

Amusingly, I wasn’t the only one having reservations about our conversation. Peter told me that after he announced the upcoming talk on his Facebook page, some of his Facebook friends were taken aback, asking him why in the world he would want to communicate with the likes of me. After all, didn’t he know that I’m one of those hateful critical peeps – the kind best left ignored? But Peter seemed determined to boldly go where some of his colleagues had been too cowardly to go before.

Peter did ask me to prepare a list of questions and send it to him in advance. Some might protest that at this point he was already trying to assume too much “control” over the interview, but since I wasn’t attached to any particular outcome, I didn’t mind. Given my habitual snarkiness about his current employer and that guy he used to work with, and given the fact that this is, after all, my blog and I retain ultimate control over what I publish, I didn’t mind a few concessions. Accordingly, I sent him the list of questions, but didn’t actually stick to it all that closely when we first spoke on December 6, 2009.

We talked for nearly three hours the first time. That should have been more than enough for a blog post of some kind, but when going over my notes later, I found there were still a few gaps. I confess that part of the problem was that I didn’t think the information I got was “edgy” enough, even given my self-imposed restrictions. So we made plans for a follow-up conversation. That conversation took place exactly two weeks after the first one, and we ended up speaking for nearly three hours again. The time flew by. (And no, he didn’t try any covert persuasion or hard-sell stuff regarding the self-help industry.)

The intervening time has flown by nearly as quickly, and here we are, four months later…and it’s high time I start publishing the “Wink talks,” don’t you think?

It was and is clear to me that Peter knows what side his bread is buttered on, as the idiom goes. Since I tend to look askance at the self-help industry myself, I’ve wondered if he has ever felt morally or ethically conflicted in any way by his own involvement. In our initial conversation I asked him if, in his nearly two decades in the self-help industry, he sometimes had to deliberately turn a blind eye to some of the stuff that goes on. He said no, because he has never been involved with anyone who, to his knowledge, did anything truly objectionable. Further, while some self-help advice (or advisors) may be questionable, Peter’s philosophy is pretty much to “take what you need and leave the rest.” He thinks self-help consumers should do that too.

That sounds great when you say it fast, as my partner Ron likes to say. Taking only what you “need” – and knowing just when to stop – are sometimes easier said than done, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of pages of blog posts and discussion forums dedicated to that very point. (One of the most recent is Steve Salerno’s exposé on yet more LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training) madness.) But we’ll get into that later on. Peter is clearly no fan of LGATs anyway, and certainly has no use for dangerous cults and cult leaders. And like most people with any sense of decency, he is appalled by the whole James Ray debacle (again, more on that later). Rather, it seems that he has always gravitated towards the less pricey or “extreme” self-help products, such as books, tapes, CDs, and DVD series. He likes to stick to the pragmatic material. “No matter what some of the gurus might try to tell you, you don’t have to spend your life savings to get the advice you need,” he says. “You surely don’t have to do anything to endanger your life.”

Despite the fact that Peter and I remain on different sides of the fence regarding some issues and individuals, it appears that once we go beyond the boundaries of my Whirled, we have many more opinions in common than we do differences. (F’rinstance, we both agreed that the whole Tiger Woods saga is completely unworthy of so much moral outrage from the public. It’s none of our friggin’ business. Shut up already about Tiger Woods and his wandering willy.) For that matter, I have quite a few opinions in common with other folks “from the other side” with whom I have been communicating.

Not that this knowledge is going to stop me from snarking about what I find snarkworthy, nor will it stop my friends “on the other side” from doing their thing. We may have very few differences, but the differences we do have are significant. Don’t think I’ve gone all soft and neutral on y’all or anything.**

Anyway. What follows are highlights of my conversations with Peter, both on the phone and, to a lesser extent, by email. In our conversations I picked up several tidbits I won’t share, simply because they’re too gossipy, even for this blog. I’m thinking some things are better left to the imagination. I’ll share most of what we talked about, though. It’s not exactly Shermer versus Chopra, but I think you might find something of interest nonetheless.

But…oops, it looks like we’re out of time! You’re going to have to wait until the next post for more.

* Peter is currently working on a couple of new books that sound pretty interesting. He told me he’d rather just pen a few substantial works about matters that he thinks others might find helpful or at least entertaining, than to keep spewing out books just for the sake of saying he has more books. “I’d rather get the one winner that’s heartfelt than just keep cranking them out,” he says. He considers himself primarily a businessman rather than an author.
** Also, in case you’re wondering – and in the service of, if not utter transparency, at least translucency – Peter has not paid me off. To date I have not received a dime in donation money or any other sort of compensation from him. I’m including this disclaimer not only because of the new FTC regs for bloggers, but also because I’ve received a few snide comments (to previous posts) asking how much in donation money it would take to control the content on this blog. I’m not sure if the person(s) asking that is/are miffed because of the actual content on the blog or because they think I’m selling out by requesting donations, but my facetious answer to their question is this: “Let’s experiment! Donate, and just keep on donating, and we’ll see what happens.” (Of course, the request for donations isn’t facetious, but the implication that I can be “bought”
is.)

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90 Comments:

Blogger Duff said...

Ah! I hate cliffhangers! Oh well, I'll be tuned in next Wednesday.

Regarding the topic at hand, I've had similar conversations with folks thoroughly embroiled in the self-help scene. No scene is perfect, and there are some genuinely good people mixed in with the scammers and frauds.

I do question this particular bit from this article:

"In our initial conversation I asked him if, in his nearly two decades in the self-help industry, he sometimes had to deliberately turn a blind eye to some of the stuff that goes on. He said no, because he has never been involved with anyone who, to his knowledge, did anything truly objectionable."

The Church of Scientology hasn't done anything truly objectionable? If that's true, then I'm an alien from planet Sirius of the R. U. system.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 3:08:00 PM  
Blogger The Seduction King said...

Hello Connie!

Been awhile:-)

Thanks to Google alerts and an email from a reader of yours...i noticed my Name in one of your most recent blog posts.

Much to my surprise i see that Joe's ex-VP Peter Wink is telling a tale about his 2 years with Joe and the self-help industry.

I have done my best to stay away from this myself...but i gotta tell you this series of yours has got my interest!!!!

I will be very interested to hear what Peter has to say and see how it lines up with my viewpoint directly and indirectly through what Joe said to me...and wrote me.

The Russia trip will be a dandy...i am sure. As you know i was with Joe day and night in Russia as he read Peter's emails to me..and then hearing Joe's responses that he did send Peter... and didn't:-).

One of the things i can tell you about Peter... that i like... is his ability to tell it to you straight. He may not have told you everything (understandable with his job)...but when he did tell you something...you knew you were getting an answer that didn't express much ambiguity. He would tell you like he saw it with details in no uncertain terms.
I liked this about Peter.
This was a welcome treat that was rare around some of the Wimberely crowd.

Peter and i didnt always get along. But when we would talk about it...it always seemed to be a missing piece of information that caused the issue...and we would resolve it in a professional way.

When Peter first came to Joe's employee...he confided in me and told me stuff about some of the people around Joe that was so direct that i was a bit offended and it caused some division between Peter and myself as i was...or so i thought i was..friends with these people.

Over the course of Peter's employ with Joe i ended up eating crow and calling Peter to apologize as his evaluation of those people was spot on!
Peter had held no offense at me and took it in stride. Which earned him more respect in my book.

After Peter left Joe's employ and after the infamous blog post Joe wrote...Peter called me to tell me that even though we had a few issues it always worked out and that he thought we had done Joe well and had created a bunch of good products for him that benefited him well.
I agreed and told him i still wonder (to this day) if Joe has any idea of the value he received from Peter and myself over those 2 years. How much we gave in so many different ways. And to have it end the way it did for both of us was sad.

Peter and i parted as Friends and i still think of him well.

I will wait to read all your posts to update my personal judgment ...but what i can predict now is that you will get the truth...as he sees it(and he sees it pretty good)... from Peter.
He may not tell you everything because of contract or ethics...but what he does tell you should be very straight forward.
Peter Wink understands character.

As for me..i am still reeling a bit from the untold truth of what happened in Russia and afterwords.
I was in contact a bit with Joe over the Christmas Holidays. He wrote and told me to take time and settle in my new home and he would be in touch so we could sit down and work out a win-win situation. He said he likes win /win.
Almost 4 months later i have heard nothing about his offer. Even after recently writing him about it.

Different people and organizations have asked me to "tell all" about my trip to Russia with Joe..and my time with him.
I have wavered back and forth and held out.

Why?
I guess the same thing that has gotten me into many adverse situations in my life.

The belief in good...and that people will come around to it.

The belief in what is right and that folks will ultimately see it.

Joe and i had a special relationship....and i think that has been worth some extra time....and hope!

Time will tell:-)

Thanks for the space on your blog Connie!

Mark J. Ryan

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 3:55:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hi, Duff, good to see you here. The point about no scene/industry being perfect has, you might say, been a prevailing theme in my conversations with Peter.

I agree with you about Scientology, though I will not attempt to speak for Peter regarding the consulting work he did for the international organization at one time. He did tell me that he was never part of the org and he never got close enough to the inner workings to see any objectionable stuff firsthand.

Plausible deniability? Maybe. Or it could be that he worked for COS at a time before the scandalous things were made public, so at the time he was working for them he really didn't know about the objectionable stuff. But again, I'm not speaking for him on this, just speculating.

And, of course, Peter is welcome to join in on this discussion too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 5:12:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hey there, Mark/SK! It's good to see you here, and I bet you're glad to see your name in a non-snarky context. :-) You and I have had our issues in the past too, but I am glad we worked them out. I really appreciate your insightful comment and I look forward to hearing about your experiences too, however and whenever you choose to tell them.

To tell the truth, despite the really dangerous stuff and the glitches, I still envy you and Joe for getting to go to Russia. I am FASCINATED with Russia. And good for Peter for making that trip come to be.

Peter seems to me like a pretty straightforward guy who isn't afraid to speak about what's on his mind, but I want to make it clear that he isn't out to throw anyone under the bus.

Even so, he does have some interesting insights. And I intend to share them. Well, most of 'em, anyway. :-)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 5:30:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Wink said...

Hi Everyone,

Connie is spot on. My association with the Church of Scientology was nothing but working on a couple projects. I have to tell you though - they treated me wonderfully and never pressured me into joining. My experiences were wonderful. As far as questionable behavior - it was NOT my experience, nor did I ever get exposed to anyone with bad experiences. I worked with some of their executives and found them to be very professional.

Also, glad to see Mark Ryan chiming in. Another pragmatist! :-)

Personally...Mark Ryan would have a better blog on Vitale than I could ever muster. He spent way more time with him. Sorry I did not go to Russia with him and JV - Mark and I would have had fun. I do know Mark's side and found the whole thing admittedly entertaining. Not because I'm a masochist - just because I know Mark. And he's a great storyteller. Leave the rest to your imagination - he's a great guy. Funnier than all hell. Mark - sorry i did not go. Not one encounter you guys had would have swayed me from going. Adventure wins me over. I will say ---- the promoter was, how do we say, a little liberal with the agreement.

I think it's important to see all sides of an industry before throwing the industry or certain people under the bus. There's good and bad in everything. Sometimes it's easier to stay neutral. I liked working with everyone. I had good days and bad days. Isn't that like anything else.

I'd be more apt to go after the big companies for being misleading and brainwashing people into buying drugs or products using actors. Do you think the sexy woman, the doctor or the erectile challenged man are real in Viagara ads? Or how about the woman cleaning her stove wearing white and smiling?

Anyway, I enjoyed my chats my the legendary Cosmic Connie. I'm also proud of our interactions. i think we both learned from each other.

She is a great gal and I'm glad to think of her as a new friend.

I don't have to agree with everything shes says - nor does she have to agree with everything I say.

Hence...these blogs! ENJOY SNARKIES!

If anyone ever wants to say hello, email me at contact@peterwink.com

Ciao!
Peter

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 6:05:00 PM  
Blogger The Seduction King said...

Thanks Connie!

Yes Peter is really responsible for getting and setting up the trip. And i am grateful to him for that.
I know he really wanted to go himself. Its too bad that he didn't go as things may have turned out differently and he could have gotten to benefit from the work he put into making this happen.
I could tell by the itinerary that he was hoping Joe would take him too..lol


I guess when i think about it some of my upset is that it really was a great trip with spectacular memories...and i would like to be able to see it more as that.

Unfortunately sometimes if a tragedy happens along the way...it seems to skew and maybe tarnish our view of the whole event as we look back on it.

So while there are many many great experiences to talk about in Russia...the process of healing involves cleaning the windows of perception to filter out the tragedy that seems to linger as an initial perception when thinking back on it.

A "prime" as our Friend Kevin Hogan would put it.

I think a lot of self-help (or professional help) is about just this very thing...in one way or another.

Since that time i have been doing lots reflection and work on myself about my own patterns and responses and have learned a bunch because of this.
It has also caused me to re-evaluate what i am doing and with who...and How.

I guess Peter was sending me on more than a trip to Moscow and Siberia.

I didn't figure Peter would throw anyone under the bus...i did however wonder if he would report on his ordeal being thrown under one.

More to come:-)

Cheers!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 6:31:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Wait, Peter... you mean, those commercials aren't real? Hey, I for one do wear white and smile when I clean my stove. Or I would, if I ever cleaned my stove. :-)

I've previously addressed some of my own reasons for going after self-help rather than other industries, but we'll save that for another blog post.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 6:39:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

You make some very good points, Mark, in your second comment.

As for what Peter reported about Russia, I guess we'll just have to wait for the next Wink Wednesday to see. (See, I can be hypnotic too, LOL.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 6:48:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

"Do you think the sexy woman, the doctor or the erectile challenged man are real in Viagara ads? Or how about the woman cleaning her stove wearing white and smiling?"

Big difference between the commercials and the hustledorks, IMO, Peter. If the advertised products don't perform as advertised, there are a number of entities ready to hold their feet to the fire and get them to either modify their claims or quit selling the products. No such official watchdog exists where the self-help industry is concerned.

Besides, if the oven cleaner doesn't work, all the consumer is left with is an oven that is as dirty as it was before. If the Viagra doesn't work, the doctor tries something else. No harm, no foul.

When someone is feeling even slightly overwhelmed by life, or wishes their life to be better, given the disappointment they feel when a product, process, or service doesn't deliver the promised turnaround, many individuals find themselves even worse off than before they began the magical program. I mean after all, if a supposedly respected "expert" claims to have "the answer," and the consumer still can't make it work, how well has the consumer been served? And what recourse do they have? Unfortunately, there is no mechanism in place to hold the "gurus" responsible for their actions, much less, their claims. The recent FTC disclaimer requirement is a step in the right direction, but I don't think it is nearly as effective as the perspective offered by any number of skeptical blogs.

And while I don't agree with the more acerbic (and frequently ad hominem) comments on some of them, I can understand the source of the acrimony. Connie and I have, after all, experienced what it's like to compare actual integrity versus what is professed by some new-age gurus, firsthand.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 7:06:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks, Ron. Excellent points, and in fact you've touched on some of the stuff Peter and I talked about that I'll be covering in subsequent installment(s).

What I find absolutely hilarious -- speaking of disclaimers -- are the disclaimers that are popping up on the sales pages of some of the New-Wage gurus. They're still promising miracles and wonders in their large-point-size sales copy, while explaining in the small-point-size disclaimer that you shouldn't really expect anything, but if you just believe hard enough or wish upon a star or whatever, then great things might (or might not) happen.

It's getting harder and harder these days to be a hustledork.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 7:13:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Wink said...

Hi Ron,

Viagara and drugs like them have terrible side effects. I've worked in more than the self help industry. I've marketed sunglasses, LenCrafters, Jamba Juice, Krispy Kreme, Telecomm Systems and spent three years w/Accenture. The public is being duped left and right.

If you knew what was in a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut, you may be shocked. We'll maybe not as you're pretty astute. :-)

I'm with you and respect what you say and appreciate your comments. Your gal roxxxxxxx!

Peter

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 7:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Lynn said...

I, for one, would really like to hear Mark's version of what happened on that trip. Just the straightforward truth, that's all. No need for snarking, but Mark sounds like he's more likely to provide a more truthful version of events and I'm kind of 'over' Joe's version of just about anything, frankly. Thanks for stopping by, Mark.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 11:11:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

I recognize that the public is being misled on a grand scale, but we each address areas that hit close to home for one reason or another. Attacking deceptions en masse is akin to shooting into a flock of ducks, hoping to hit one. You always miss.

We've gotten fired up about a number of other issues (don't ever get me started on the breast implant/FDA issue!), but from my own perspective, one who intentionally distracts others from their efforts toward emotional and spiritual growth inflicts greater - and frequently longer lasting - harm than do many who promote products of questionable efficacy or that cause untoward side-effects... and certainly do more damage than the makers of bad donuts. (For the record, I think Krispy Kreme is the Anti-Khrist of Konfections. :-) )

Developing creative and effective marketing practices is an art form. Identifying and appealing to consumers' "hunger" is a real challenge, and I've observed some brilliant examples. My biggest objections arise when it becomes obvious that those efforts capitalize upon consumers' deepest fears and/or most cynical cravings. And if I believed in the existence of hell, I would imagine it filled not only with the "usual suspects," but with those who mislead others on their spiritual quest for nothing more than their own increased cash flow.

That being said, my respect for you has increased since you left your last gig and went to work for Trudeau. Him, I find at least amusing. Plus, I've yet to see you close an argument with the blatantly passive-aggressive "blessings!"

And you're right... she does rock... more than you could even imagine!

Thursday, April 22, 2010 7:58:00 AM  
Anonymous mojo said...

What's going on, here? People on various sides of a multitudinously-sided fence actually TALKING? Communicating in a calm, respectful fashion? Where's the SHRIEKING? The knee-jerk DEMONIZING? The hopelessly misspelled protest signs? This is not the America *I* know!

It is indeed refreshing to talk with folks who don't automatically stick their fingers in their ears and start "La-la-la"-ing the instant they hear something they don't wish to hear. Which is why I've been a fan of Connie's (and Ron, too, but don't tell *HIM* that or he'll get a swelled head) for what must be years, now.

Although I must warn you all: due to what was initially simple geography and is now a concrete preference, we folks in Massachusetts tend to be Dunkin' Donuts people, NOT (barf!) Krispy Kreme. Blue-collar Dunkies over Yuppie Starbucks, too. So there. I said it. Deal with it. :-)

Thursday, April 22, 2010 9:19:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Peter (4-21, 7:59 PM): While I certainly agree with you about the potentially horrid side effects of many pharmaceuticals -- as well as the phony slice-of-life vignettes presented by advertisers in most major industries -- none of these things, in my view, excuse the shortcomings of the self-help industry or various New-Wage gurus. Looking at other industries can help put things into perspective, as we've discussed, but to me there are ethical as well as legal differences between the marketing of most of the stuff we see on TV, and the marketing of questionable products whose creators claim are the ultimate key to "having it all."

I think most of us pretty much know and accept that TV commercials are fake -- especially the humorous ones, but the more "serious" ones as well. Everyone over the age of five pretty much gets that the couple in the twin bathtubs in the middle of the wilderness aren't really smiling because the guy knew when to pop a Cialis pill. Most of us know that the two people aren't even a real couple. And most of us know that the guys sitting around in one man's garage jamming and singing "Viva Viagra!" aren't buddies in real life and wouldn't be caught dead singing about a hard-on pill. Moreover, the commercials for prescription meds, as revolting as they may be to many of us, do include those alarming disclaimers about the worst side effects even as they're showing those phony vignettes with smiling people going about their happy lives.

The New-Wage gurus, on the other hand, try to make it all seem so real, know what I mean, Vern? (To quote another old commercial). That's what bugs me -- that totally contrived authenticity. 'Course the gurus have their own disclaimers too, but they're either on separate pages from the sales copy, or they're in itty-bitty type at the bottom of the page.

But I expect that we'll get into that more in subsequent posts. Thanks again for helping me open this blog up to a larger discussion!

Thursday, April 22, 2010 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Lynn, I agree with you that Mark Ryan's perspective would be valuable and interesting. He seems a lot more genuine than many in the industry. I've been reading his blog over the past few months and he has shared some fascinating insights.

Thursday, April 22, 2010 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Wink said...

Hi Everyone,

Ron you rock and I'm with you.

I'm liking all the open-ended comments and that everyone is being respectful of each other.

The idea is not to trash talk anyone - even those I never got along with. I like all the people I've worked with. Joe Vitale was a very nice guy. I've known him since 1997 or so. I keep hearing about some silly blog post he wrote that mentioned me or alluded to me in a supposed negative fashion. I did not read it as I'm too busy working on "A" priorities. Joe is yesterday's news. Also...I have a slew of emails filed to back up any answer or claim I make to readers. This includes the Russia mess and my departure to Kevin Trudeau. Same with everyone else.

I like to look for the good in everyone. Seriously. Connie is especially appealing to me as I've been more critical than she has of the industry I work in. It's people like me and Connie that will help this industry move forward.

When it comes to Connie - don't shoot the messenger. She's a doll! Love her or not love her - she speaks her mind and is the real deal! You have to admire that.

This blog series will open up all sorts of good, bad and ugly thoughts. That's fine. Even when it comes to critics - they're good people just wanting to be heard.

I think it was Pat O'Bryan who said something in a past blog post that I agreed with. Why blame the self help industry for something like the James Ray incident. (Pat if I got this wrong - it is unintentional.)

James Ray is not a bad guy. Maybe he just pushed the envelope a little hard and tragedy struck. I feel awful for the deceased, those who were hurt and the families who were affected.

Also...one more thing I want to clear up as far as the Wimberley Group (per Mark's email). I think any problems with that group stemmed from miscommunications - not from anyone being malicious. To be upfront, I really never got to know any except Mark Ryan and Bill Hibbler. Both of whom i liked a lot.

Let's keep everything positive and in perspective as we go through weeks of blogs together.

This will make this fun and informative for all.

Peter

Thursday, April 22, 2010 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Ron wrote:

"Attacking deceptions en masse is akin to shooting into a flock of ducks, hoping to hit one. You always miss."

Exactamundo, Ron. I'm sure I've had my share of misses in the years since I created The Whirled, but as I noted to another commenter on another thread, I'm pretty happy with my niche in the blogosphere.

Ron, I think it's interesting that as close as we are and as much in sync as we are about these issues, we still have slightly different reasons for annoyance at the "misleaders" in the New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality industry. Since I'm not as spiritually oriented as you, I'm not quite as bothered by the pseudo-Buddhist shticks and such as you are. On a day-to-day basis, the things that bug me more than anything about New-Wage gurus -- I mean, besides the real harm that is done by people such as James Ray -- are the generally manipulative language and behavior that so many of them practice. Much of it comes back to sentiments I expressed in an essay I wrote years ago: I hate what some of these gurus have done to the English language and to communication in general.

http://home.swbell.net/moonshad/wet-blanket.html

Thursday, April 22, 2010 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hiya, Mojo! Good to see you here. I can't promise there won't be controversy here, or even the occasional misspelled sign, but I won't let anyone abuse anyone else unless both parties consent to the abuse. :-)

And if you want to see a really heated discussion, you ought to see the one Ron is involved in now on Linkedin regarding self-publishing versus trade publishing. The partisan sniper fire is pretty intense. Ron's trying to take a neutral middle ground -- with a spirited defense of self-publishing but a respectful attitude towards more traditional methods. He keeps saying they're two different business models, each with its advantages and disadvantages. But he has really raised the ire of a couple of pro-trade-publishing folks who are accusing him of bias and a hidden agenda.

But I guess that's a topic for another blog (our bidness blog) as well as another web site (our bidness web site, which I need to get off my butt and finish revamping so I can upload to our brand new domain, SchmidtKaye.com.)

Ron and I are big Dunkin Donuts fans. Actually I like their smoothies and breakfast goodies more than their donuts.

Thursday, April 22, 2010 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Peter (4-22, 11:09), while I appreciate your continuing attempts to present a balanced perspective, I think the only honest way to look at the James Ray tragedies is to examine them in the context of the self-help industry. The deaths at various James Ray events are extreme examples of self-help gone wrong. I'm not blaming the industry per se for "Sweatgate" or for what happened to Colleen Conaway in San Diego, nor do I think most critics are leveling that blame, but I do think the industry definitely helped create a climate that made these tragedies possible.

And there are numerous other lesser examples of physical and emotional harm throughout the industry. Again, this doesn't mean the entire industry is evil. But the dark side can't just be swept under the carpet either.

As for James Ray, I am leaning more towards the conclusion that he probably *is* kind of a bad guy -- a sociopath and egomaniac, anyway. I still don't embrace the belief of some that he's a homicidal maniac or that he intended for those people to die, but I think he bears the lion's share of responsibility for their deaths and should pay in some way.

Outside of the Rick Ross forum, very few critics of JAR and Sweatgate are trying to indict the entire industry -- contrary to what Pat O'Bryan may have said or implied. (He's the same guy who called me a first-rate writer with a second-rate mind, LOL.) But at this point, most of us just can't turn away from the horror and say that James was just a nice guy whose good intentions went awry.

Peter, you don't have to join in the "feeding frenzy" of JAR vilification, and I wouldn't expect you to. I agree with Pat O. and others who have said that some of the criticism is obsessive and counter-productive. On the other hand, there are real people who are still grieving the loss of loved ones because of James Ray, and call *me* obsessed, but I can't get them out of my mind -- or my heart.

Thursday, April 22, 2010 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Burned by Fire said...

Score, Connie. Great read, though I have to say I was sadly disappointed at the cliffhanger at the end, but you can bet I'll be reading next week.

I'm enjoying the comments... and I really have to wonder what happened in Russia. Joe has certainly milked his side of the story for as much publicity as he can muster (which wasn't much; I have to agree with Peter's assessment of which day's news Joe belongs to).

I hope that Mark Ryan can do the same. And then some.

Thursday, April 22, 2010 12:20:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hi, BBF, and thanks for your comment. I'm hoping Mark will tell his story too. I wouldn't be surprised if he's working on a blog post right now.

I have a feeling that Mark, like Peter, isn't out to "trash-talk" anyone with whom he had conflicts. As you may have seen in his most recent comment, Peter is going out of his way to make it clear that he's not out to dis or damn anyone. And I am being careful not to publish anything that will make it appear that he's trying to "trash-talk" anyone. He's not, and I do not want to misrepresent him.

Even so, sometimes the truth is its own sort of damnation.

Thursday, April 22, 2010 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

I wanted to add something to my most recent response to Peter's most recent comment (4-22, 11:09). I noted that the self-help industry helped create a climate in which the James Ray tragedies could occur. I neglected to mention what some would say is a painfully obvious point: that James Ray himself very carefully controlled his own personal "climate" where his followers were concerned. In particular, he orchestrated his events to wear participants down both emotionally and physically. It seems every detail was meticulously planned, from the sets on stage to the pacing of the events, and of course, the long hours without food, drink, or breaks. While the implicit understanding was that this was in the service of aiding attendees' personal growth, it was intensely manipulative, "brainwashing" behavior that -- no big surprise here -- also greatly wore down their sales resistance and made them far more likely to sign up for increasingly expensive events. It also made them more motivated to try to influence others to sign up for events.

This, as many may know, is actually S.O.P. with many LGAT leaders. I've attended LGATs myself (a topic for another long-overdue blog post), and I can testify that that's how they work. A great deal of time and energy are spent making "converts" of attendees and trying to persuade them to bring others into the fold.

But as I noted in this post, my understanding is that Peter is not a fan of LGATs or extreme events, so that point is moot regarding our original conversations. But since James Ray's name was brought up I thought these points relevant to this part of the discussion.

Thursday, April 22, 2010 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

Peter, I would expect you to be gentler in your (public) assessment of some of the individuals & circumstances under discussion here. You are, after all, in the business of promoting businesses, and it would be unprofessional of you to "trash talk" individuals - especially those with whom you are or have previously been affiliated. That doesn't imply that you are being hypocritical, IMO - merely professional.

I would point out, however, that there's a big difference between "trash talking" an individual or organization and pointing out their unethical behavior. As one who makes his living (hopefully) expressing ideas as clearly as possible, I tend to be less gentle in my own assessments.

I can't agree with your statement that James Ray "is not a bad guy... [who] just pushed the envelope a little hard and tragedy struck." A "good guy" would have endeavored to avert tragedy, especially after the first occurrence. He would have done everything possible to ensure that tragedy didn't strike again. And after the deaths of three participants in his sweat lodge, a "good guy" would have acted more compassionately toward the victims, at least showing genuine remorse for their suffering. Ray did none of these. He actually tried to couch their deaths as a "positive" step on their spiritual paths. (Even were their deaths a positive point on their journeys, it was clearly inappropriate for him to publicly describe them as such). Following the man's Twitter postings only reconfirms his status as a sociopath, IMO, and I worked in psych long enough to spot a sociopath pretty well.

As to Joe, I'd have to agree that he can be very nice, but with the qualifier that he is "nice" so long as he perceives some personal benefit. Too many people have seen the side of him that is quick to abandon anyone whom he no longer finds useful.

I first met the man in 1993, and the red flags went up fairly soon after our first meetings, but he was supposedly Connie's friend, so... It took a couple of years before those red flags proved unquestionably accurate, and not only to me. We called him on his behavior, and the "friendship" quickly ended. After that, I pretty much ignored him until he started touting himself as the "Buddha of the Internet," and trying to justify his obsession with unbridled materialism by claiming it was consistent with Buddhist teachings. As a Buddhist, this didn't sit well with me, especially because I knew that Joe knew better. His actions would be akin to a self-professed Christian claiming that the temple money-changers were the true disciples of Christ.

As one who has experienced first-hand the power of some healing techniques that lack empirical evidence to support their efficacy, I'm not quite as skeptical about self-help as is Connie, and certainly not as rabidly as some of the self-professed skeptics. I am, however, leery of the *industry* of self-help, especially when it is so aggressively and deceptively promoted. My attitude is essentially the same toward most organized religions (Buddhism included), where the "machine" assumes a position of preeminence over the ideas.

As to the whole LGAT phenomenon, I haven't taken it particularly seriously. To me, it's reminiscent of the time when, at the age of 15 or 16, I accompanied my then-girlfriend to a Pentecostal church. When the wailing started, I laughed my butt off, and the folks around me just thought I was "one of them." Go figure.mp

Thursday, April 22, 2010 2:02:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Wink said...

Hi Everyone,

I seriously know nothing about James Ray or his tragic event. Never cracked one of his books either.

All I know is what I read in the press.

I'm officially out of that discussion. This is one for the lawyers to sort out.

Have a marvy day all!

Ciao!
Peter

Thursday, April 22, 2010 2:38:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

Hi Peter,

I'd be much more likely to let the lawyers sort it all out where Ray is concerned, were it not for the fact that he spouts his insensitive inanities - while avoiding anything resembling personal responsibility - on a daily basis. Inasmuch as he continues to cry for attention, it should come as no surprise that a great deal of that attention is of a critical nature. And while I recognize that his attorneys have undoubtedly advised him against making any statement that might be construed as an admission of his own culpability in the sweat lodge deaths, I would think that common sense (and perhaps even common decency) would dictate that he refrain from making statements that make him appear insensitive to the suffering that has occurred.

Normally, Connie is the more skeptical one in our relationship, but because of my own psych background, I'm more comfortable calling a sociopath when I see one, and I do see one in Ray. I'm kind of surprised that someone such as yourself, whose effectiveness depends upon having his finger on the pulse of the self-help market, would not have looked more deeply into the events (not to mention the public reaction to them).

Please understand that I'm not trying to pick on you, but I have to admit that it seems odd that you would essentially ignore something that could significantly redefine public perception of the self-help industry as a whole - the very industry in which you make your livelihood.

Friday, April 23, 2010 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Peter, I completely understand your choice to refrain from getting involved in the Ray fray. To my knowledge you've never worked with James Ray and my understanding is that you don't know him. You had also told me you're not a fan of the "extreme" events and retreats such as Ray led.

So, erring on the side of understatement and diplomacy, let's just say that at this point, James Ray is not the best example to use when one is trying to defend the self-help industry or even to put things in perspective. ;-)

I recall that at one point, Steve Salerno on SHAMblog had indicated that he too was going to refrain from extensive comments on Ray till the man had his day in court. But, as Ron pointed out here (and Steve did too, on his blog), James has made himself such an easy target with his insensitive and asinine comments in various social media and in his new videos.

In my attempts to look at this from a balanced perspective, I have on several occasions wondered if perhaps we critics have all backed James Ray into that "damned if he does and damned if he doesn't" corner I wrote about in this post. After all, the man still has to make a living if he's going to pay his lawyers and, much more importantly, if he's even to come close to compensating victims and their families. I suppose he could go to work at McDonald's or The Home Depot, but those jobs don't pay very well at all. So WTF is he supposed to do?

And yet... the Tweets and Facebook updates and videos just seem absurd and even cruel in the context of the tragedies this man has caused.

I suppose at the very least he could make more of an effort to seem contrite, but that might compromise his case.

I don't know the answers. Again, though, I completely understand why someone in Peter's position would choose to disengage from the speculation and snarking about James Ray. Leave all of that to the rest of us. :-)

And Ron, I don't perceive that you're picking on Peter; you are just raising legitimate -- and very natural -- questions as part of the open conversation we're having here. It's pot-stirring, for sure (which is partly my aim here), but you're also asking valid questions.

For my part, what I'm trying to do is maintain a balance in the conversation. The James Ray story is still unfolding and it is definitely an example of the dark side of the self-help industry (and of our culture at large). What I think Peter is trying to communicate is that this is far from being the entire story where self-help is concerned. Yes, part of his agenda is to protect his turf -- I have no delusions in that respect -- but I don't have the sense that he is in any way lacking in compassion for the victims of James Ray and other selfish-help gurus who have done real harm.

I appreciate everyone's contribution here; this blog has been too quiet for entirely too long!

Friday, April 23, 2010 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Peter Wink said...

Hi Ron,

I'm not understanding why you have the need to consistently be condescending and confrontational to people in your commentary - mainly me.

I understand and respect your view and have said I'm staying out of it. I do not know James Ray, I do not know anyone that was there and I actually do not know any of his readers. Or at least, nobody has said anything to me about him. Get off my back.

Connie, I apologize for being so overt as I've really enjoy our interactions.

Ciao,
Peter

Friday, April 23, 2010 1:21:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hi, Peter. I didn't get that Ron was being condescending to you, or confrontational. There's a difference between challenging someone and being on their back, IMO. Ron just seemed to be questioning your statement that you hadn't followed the Ray story. And to tell the truth, I'd had questions about that too, and was more or less reading between the lines, so I'm glad you clarified.

As I said, I do understand your reasons for not wanting to get too deeply involved in that conversation. Still, I thought Ron brought up a valid general point, not directed at you but at the industry in general: the fact that the James Ray tragedies have had at least a short-term effect on the public perception of the self-help industry. Perhaps this terrible story has cut a deep if not a wide swath. As for the long-term effects on the public perception, as well as the industry's bottom line... well, at this point it's anyone's guess. (And these are some of the things you and I have discussed in our conversations too.)

The James Ray story is a very emotional issue and I think it belongs in any conversation about the self-help industry today.

As I said earlier, I welcome everyone's contribution here. And, as usual, I'm just stating my perspective here; I'll let Ron answer for himself if he wishes.

Friday, April 23, 2010 1:38:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

Peter, I'm sorry if you feel like I've been condescending and confrontational to you. I did challenge a statement you made that didn't seem logical to me, but isn't that a significant part of any exchange among people who hold varied opinions?

I recognize that tact is not a virtue upon which I place much emphasis; for that reason, I tend to appreciate people who are "overt," as you put it. Dialog with such people might not be sticky-sweet, but to me, it's infinitely more credible than an exchange of mere pleasantries, especially when parts of the dialog just don't seem to fit.

Connie, on the other hand, is more prone to let such lapses slide. As a result, she's usually the more pleasant interviewer, and I find myself in the role of "bad cop," even when we happen to agree in our respective interpretations.

Check your back again; I think you'll find there's nobody on it. :-)

Friday, April 23, 2010 1:50:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks, Ron. This blog would be sooooo boring if we all agreed with each other. (I know, maybe some people think it's boring anyway, but that's not the point.) :-)

Friday, April 23, 2010 1:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just watched James Randi on TED, very good, put the boot in proper to all the scammers. Didn't you work for Randi Connie?

Friday, April 23, 2010 7:57:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

No, Anon, I never worked for Randi but have enjoyed his debunking work for many years. I did do some work for the folks at Skeptical Inquirer for a while, though (humorous graphics for their Skeptical Briefs newsletter).

Friday, April 23, 2010 8:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Hey Connie, glad to see you finally getting to your long-promised "inside scoop". I don't think you have to worry about any of your long-time readers thinking you have gone over to the dark side. In fact, you writing this simply proves you are not one of these folks: http://bit.ly/9hupSu

Being open to discussion of difficult topics is, I believe, a sign of having the ability to change your opinion if provided with facts that contradict what you think you know.

In this vein, (and since tact is also not my strong suit) I have to support Ron and his questioning of Peter's support of James Ray as "not a bad guy".

Peter, you brought him up, you should be willing to discuss the merits of the black eye he has given your industry, not try to duck out when the questions get tough. Yes, JAR is extreme. Yes, he obviously has major issues - if nothing else, he is an extremely poor organizer of dangerous events, and his carelessness cost real lives. However, he is, for right now, the face of YOUR industry. Whether you know him personally or not, you should be open to discussion about him, his alleged (and documented) actions, and the effect those are having on the perception of average folks like me who are outside observers.

Not that my opinion matters in the least, but I'll hold my assessment of you until Connie's full series are finished. However, you're not off to a good start.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 7:26:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hi there, Dave! Your opinion matters to me. (And thanks for reassuring me that I'm not an ideologue, LOL. Of course there are those who say I'm suffering from cognitive dissonance or incoherence because I am willing to look at "the other side," but those people seem to have their own serious personal issues. :-))

There's no denying that the James Ray story is an emotionally (as well as a legally) loaded one. As I noted in an earlier comment, and as you mentioned yourself, it is affecting the public perception of the industry at the moment. I don't think any of us can predict what effect it will have in the long term, but it is a weighty issue right now.

Some have argued that the JAR tragedies are having a more significant effect than they might otherwise have because the critics are artificially keeping the issue alive beyond the normal life span of news stories, even tragic ones. But it's obvious that many people care deeply about this story, and they empathize with the families of those whose lives were lost. I don't think any of us should expect people just to forget this story.

I admit that my own empathy with the families of victims is compounded by a deeply personal issue regarding rich or privileged folks who "get away with" grievous offenses. I wrote about this in a rather rambling post published shortly after Ted Kennedy's death last year (but before the deaths in Sedona).
http://tinyurl.com/2abwyjl

Anyway... as I noted in a comment above, James Ray is not the best example to use for either defending the industry or putting it in perspective. I will say, however, that in our original conversations and exchanges, Peter and I talked very little about James Ray and focused more on other individuals and on the industry in general. I'll share more of those insights in coming weeks.

My own opinion is that there is life after Sweatgate for the industry, but my hope is that there won't be any more tragedies. Unfortunately, though, I have my doubts about the latter.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Just a general notice to all who read this: I've received some comments to this post that don't address the issues but are merely ad hominem attacks on some of the participants. I will not publish those. Thanks for understanding, y'all.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Similar to Rick Ross and other internet proponents, it seems to me that you promote insulting, personal posts from participants that fit your overall agenda in some way, while labelling and disallowing those "ad hominem attacks" that don't fit the blog's agenda.

Your blog is pretty much one long meandering "ad hominem attack" on people in the world that you do not "like".

Saturday, April 24, 2010 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

I've never claimed not to have an agenda here. But I do try at least to look at things from the other side (this blog series being a case in point). Interestingly, I've been criticized by some Rick Ross fans for being friendly with some of those whom they consider to be dastardly manipulators.

I just can't win, LOL.

One response I chose to reject recently was a gratuitous anonymous personal attack on Peter. Over the years I have rejected some pretty vicious attacks on some of the very people about whom I've snarked. Another comment I chose to reject recently was a completely gratuitous remark by someone who, for reasons of his own, apparently hates Ron. This person called Ron all sorts of names and suggested that my forum would benefit by banning him. Like that's gonna happen. (Hey, was that you, Anon?) I generally will go out of my way to publish attacks and criticism of me, though, unless the comment contains death threats (yes, I've gotten a few) or gross obscenities. If you don't like my blog, Anon, there are many others that are full of sweetness and light and sunshine. But those bloggers, too, have their own agendas.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" Your blog is pretty much one long meandering "ad hominem attack" on people in the world that you do not "like".

I am suggesting that you are swinging the label "ad hominem attack" around at your convenience here and that you are not adverse to "ad hominem attacks" , that "ad hominem attacks" is a large part of your internet activities.

Any thoughts on that?

Saturday, April 24, 2010 1:05:00 PM  
Anonymous CCGAL said...

This is totally off topic, and probably somewhat inappropriate ... but I'm curious how old that photo of Mr. Wink is. He looks too youthful to have worked as long in the industry as he seems to have done.

That said, bravo to him for his youthful appearance if he indeed looks like his photo. The last time I was that photogenic was at the age of about 2, and it's been downhill ever since.

I can hardly wait for Wednesday to see what comes next. Following the comments has been ever so interesting, and I am appreciative that so many minds have come together to engage in discussion.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 1:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The word "guru" is used 12 times in this blog. You are labelling people "guru" who, as far as I know, would never and have never called themselves "gurus".

Is it to subtly attach some built in anti-religious slant to the people being attacked by the blog?

Are you and Rick Ross "anti-LGAT Gurus"?

Saturday, April 24, 2010 1:41:00 PM  
Anonymous disillusioned said...

I don't think that all those involved in the self-help industry can be held to account for James Ray's results---so long as James Ray himself is personally held to account. It's the closing of ranks and the attempts to just glide over his crimes as a 'terrible tragedy that could happen to anyone' that really sticks in the craw of most.
One good thing that the critics have accomplished is the greater exposure of very sophisticated techniques (NLP, covert persuasion etc) used by aspiring conmen and gurus to seduce customers into compliance.
Wider dissemination of the reality that these techniques are in daily use on all of us (and that we all manipulate to a degree) can only be a good thing.

One point that I would disagree on is that Ray should be allowed to continue to earn money in his familiar way in order to pay off his legal expenses and other claimants. Allowing that is buying into the pyramid scheme that he is already operating. How many more possible injuries and deaths would be countenanced in order to get him the money to pay his bills?

I don't advocate the end of self-help, but do think we should look a lot more closely and critically at what is sold to us as 'self-help.' What the Ray mess really illustrates is the extent to which we have bought into the morality-free nonsense that greed is good and that wealth equals happiness and that this nonsense fuels the pyramid scheme that is the western economic model.
A historical perspective shows that all empires crumble. Real self-help, which is a reliance on the self to take appropriate action rather than be seduced by the fine words and fancy stories of professional persuaders, will come into its own then.
So I appreciate hearing from the other side, we are all complicit in keeping this pyramid scheme going, we all depend on it for our livlihoods. Open discourse at least gives us a hope of steering clear of the worst excesses.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 1:51:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

Anonymous - According to the Princeton University website, an ad hominem argument is one which "appeals to personal considerations, rather than to fact or reason." I must have missed the ad hominem arguments and "attacks" to which you refer. Please provide some specific examples. I'm especially interested in seeing your evidence that Connie's blog is "pretty much one long meandering "ad hominem attack."

Saturday, April 24, 2010 2:26:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anonymous April 24, 2010 1:05:00 PM said...

==BEGIN COMMENT==
" Your blog is pretty much one long meandering "ad hominem attack" on people in the world that you do not "like".

I am suggesting that you are swinging the label "ad hominem attack" around at your convenience here and that you are not adverse to "ad hominem attacks" , that "ad hominem attacks" is a large part of your internet activities.

Any thoughts on that?
==END COMMENT==

Hi, Anon, with all of the quotations within quotations I wasn't sure if you were addressing me or the Anon person who initially accused me of committing one long meandering ad hominem attack.

I think all of us, at some point, use the term "ad hominem" inappropriately. While some may think that my snarky commentary and occasional satire are gratuitous or even malicious, and they may speculate endlessly about my personal agenda(s), at the very least I like to think that I limit my criticism and parodies to the public words and actions of my snargets. For what that's worth, anyway. That, strictly speaking, is not ad hominem as I understand the term.

As I said, though, Anon, I wasn't sure if you were directing your question to me or to my detractor.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 2:44:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thank you for your support, CCGAL. Good to see you here.

I'll let Peter answer the question about his pic if he wishes. Being lazy, I simply took the liberty of using the pic from his Blogger profile, but he has numerous other pics on his blog and on his Facebook page(s).

Saturday, April 24, 2010 2:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most paragraphs in Whirled Musing blogs contain some demeaning comment, slander or insult directed at someone. It is what they are all about.

I skimmed and pulled these 4 as examples of what I consider to be "ad hominem attacks":

"the 2010 Scammy Winners "

"Call it the James Arthur Ray Sociopathy With a Smile Awards"

"James himself continues his own bizarre nattering on Twitter"

"I ought to do a blog post about Byron Katie, the sweet-faced, silver-haired perp behind.."

"Hypocrisy. Inconsistency. Egotism. Money-grubbery. Yawn...just another day in the life of a New-Wage guru...."

"But back to Katie. What struck me even more than the blatant-thievery aspect of the BK workshops..."

I see little "fact" or "reason" in the above or the hundreds of insulting comments like the above.

("snarkyness" seems to be a cutesy euphemism used to gloss over gratuitous and malicious personal demeaning attacks on other people).

Saturday, April 24, 2010 2:54:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anonymous 1:41 said...

The word 'guru' is used 12 times in this blog. You are labelling people 'guru' who, as far as I know, would never and have never called themselves "gurus".

Is it to subtly attach some built in anti-religious slant to the people being attacked by the blog?

Are you and Rick Ross 'anti-LGAT Gurus'?"

==
Hey, Anon, you sound VERY familiar. It seems to me that I had this very conversation just a few weeks ago, either on this blog or another one. Or both, come to think of it. If it wasn't you, it was someone asking the exact same questions.

But I don't mind answering the questions again.

Some of the people I call 'gurus' do indeed refer to themselves by that term, although in some cases they have other more lofty names for themselves, e.g., The Buddha of so-and-so, The Jesus of so-and-so, etc.

But rest assured there was no attempt, subtle or otherwise, to inject an anti-religious element into my blog post, although I've said many times that I'm not exactly a fan of organized religion. My use of 'guru' was laziness more than anything, since 'guru' is a shorthand term to describe experts of all stripes these days. Though some followers of Eastern gurus may be offended by this casual use of the term, I didn't start it, and no offense is intended.

And I haven't attacked anyone in this blog post. In fact, many would argue that "attack" is much too strong a word for what I do on any of my blog posts.

The Rick Ross people will have to speak for themselves, but I do not consider myself to be a guru of any sort. I do have professional expertise in the areas of writing, graphic design, and book publishing but I am not a guru.

I hope this answers the questions to your satisfaction.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 3:04:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Disillusioned, you make several excellent points as usual. Here's one I'm still mulling over:

"One point that I would disagree on is that Ray should be allowed to continue to earn money in his familiar way in order to pay off his legal expenses and other claimants. Allowing that is buying into the pyramid scheme that he is already operating. How many more possible injuries and deaths would be countenanced in order to get him the money to pay his bills?"

Agreed... I certainly don't think he should be allowed to run his days-long seminars and retreats. That leaves products, though upselling seems to be built into many if not most of his products (as is the case with many self-help gurus...oops, there's that word again. :-)).

It's a tough problem.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 3:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Some of the people I call 'gurus' do indeed refer to themselves by that term,"

Do you have any examples of such a person who refers to themselves as a "guru"? I thought about it before I asked you and cannot think of one single person in the west and certainly not the people you attack in your blogs.

"My use of 'guru' was laziness more than anything, since 'guru' is a shorthand term to describe experts of all stripes these days."

Then why would we not just use the word "expert" which is a more appropriate in a western context? Why use the religous term "guru"?

Saturday, April 24, 2010 3:13:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

By the way, in case anyone is wondering, Peter and Ron worked out their differences privately, like gentlemen. They've moved past it.

I've found that's the best way to work out the real issues we have with individuals -- private dialogues can and do lead to understanding and even friendship.

And Goddess knows there are enough real issues to talk about.

As Peter said in one of his comments, "This blog series will open up all sorts of good, bad and ugly thoughts. That's fine. Even when it comes to critics - they're good people just wanting to be heard."

I like to think that's true -- even of the people who are criticizing me. :-)

Saturday, April 24, 2010 3:16:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon 2:54 and 3:13: You are definitely sounding familiar.

Okay, you say "attacking," I say "snarking," let's call the whole thing off.

Or not.

Obviously you see my blog differently than I do. I am sure there are many people who agree with you. And many who don't.

I do understand what you mean about the use of the word "guru." Nevertheless I will probably continue to use it. Just because.

Jeez, Peter was right about the mix of comments this blog post would draw... they're coming out of the woodwork!

But as I'd said, this blog was entirely too quiet for entirely too long.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 3:27:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

Said it before, and I'll say it again: She's back! :-)

Saturday, April 24, 2010 3:36:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

"By the way, in case anyone is wondering, Peter and Ron worked out their differences privately, like gentlemen. They've moved past it."

Yeah... Since we couldn't come to an agreement as to the weapons of choice, we opted for an e-beer instead. Unlike actual beer, disagreements are soluble in e-beer. :-)

Saturday, April 24, 2010 3:47:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Yeah, Ron, it looks like you're right.

Anon has stated her case -- repeatedly. And, while I have said that I'm not afraid to publish criticism of myself or this blog, my hope is that the conversation doesn't get too far off track.

It's my job as moderator, I suppose, to keep it on track, and I'm trying to strike a balance between keeping it on track and carrying on a reasonably open conversation. Inevitably, I'm going to be accused of censorship or being too attached to my own agenda if I dare to reject a comment, no matter what my reason.

I debated on whether or not to individually address the blog snippets that Anon quoted to me -- you know, when she randomly picked out sentences from various posts of mine. What really stuck out for me was that she picked a couple of snippets mentioning Byron Katie, including the one where I mentioned blatant thievery during a Katie event. Well, what would you call it when Katie asks people to hand in their valuables for safekeeping during an event and then refuses to give them back at the end of the event? Several people who attended reported this. Were they "slandering" poor Katie?

And that's just one example of six that Anon gave (although she said she was only going to provide four).

As for whether or not James Ray is a sociopath, much of his behavior during and after the tragic news-making events would seem to point towards that assessment, as I understand sociopathy. Actually, Ron, you had James pegged as a sociopath even before I did.

To me, the difference between snarking and attacking is that a snarker makes remarks about the public words and actions of a subject, and does it pretty openly. At least that's what I think I'm doing here. An attacker more often prefers to hide behind the veil of anonymity.

I guess it's up to individual readers to decide who's snarking and who's attacking.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 3:58:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Ron wrote:

"Yeah... Since we couldn't come to an agreement as to the weapons of choice, we opted for an e-beer instead. Unlike actual beer, disagreements are soluble in e-beer. :-)"

I, of course, joined in, with a non-alcoholic e-beer.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 4:00:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

"Actually, Ron, you had James pegged as a sociopath even before I did."

And that assessment was based purely upon his constant attempts top portray himself as the aggrieved victim, while either making light of - or completely ignoring - the suffering experienced by a number of people as a direct result of his actions (or inactions).

Such behavior is either a clear manifestation of an antisocial personality (previously termed "sociopath") or consistent with the advice of legal counsel. Come to think of it, the two may well be synonymous.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 4:08:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

"I, of course, joined in, with a non-alcoholic e-beer."

I just realized... we both neglected to issue a sarcasm alert here. Wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea or take our statements out of context, yanno...

Saturday, April 24, 2010 4:12:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Or maybe a "tongue-in-cheek alert"... Good Goddess, there's another font we need: a tongue-in-cheek font, which isn't quite as harsh as a sarcasm font.

In any case, we don't want people to think that weapons were literally on the verge of being drawn. :-)

Saturday, April 24, 2010 4:28:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Oh, and in an effort to get the conversation back on track, another snippet from Disillusioned's comment:

"I don't advocate the end of self-help, but do think we should look a lot more closely and critically at what is sold to us as 'self-help.' What the Ray mess really illustrates is the extent to which we have bought into the morality-free nonsense that greed is good and that wealth equals happiness and that this nonsense fuels the pyramid scheme that is the western economic model."

That's pretty much what I think. While I'm a believer in capitalism, I think greed plays way too big a part in some aspects of the self-help industry, especially in regard to telling people they really can "have it all."

Even so, I have to agree in general with Peter that there are good people and products in the industry (all my snarkiness notwithstanding). We'll get into that in a future installment.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 4:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you specifically site who you and what were thinking of when you said there are some "good people" and "products" in the "self-help" industry? Just one single example of each would be useful and appreciated.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 5:11:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon: Could you please define "useful" and "appreciated?"

Saturday, April 24, 2010 5:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be of interest to me to better understand what and who you consider to be "good" and what and who who you consider to not be breaking your rules of how people should and shouldn't be and what people should and should not do.

Specific examples of "good people" and "good products" in the "self help" industry would go a long way to provide that.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 5:35:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

Anon - Connie has readily acknowledged her agenda on this blog. Perhaps if you (anon) were to disclose your own agenda (and perhaps your affiliations), she might be better prepared to answer your real questions.

Connie also refuses to hide behind the mask of anonymity when she shares her opinions. Perhaps if you were willing to show the same degree of courage, it might serve to increase the motivation to enter actual discussion with you. You've been repeatedly invited to be more forthright in the past, both here and on a couple of other blogs, but for some reason, have refused to do so, opting instead to obfuscate and attempt to distract from the topics being discussed until you got yourself banned. Just a thought...

Saturday, April 24, 2010 7:06:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Yeah, what Ron said. :-)

I could be way off base here, Anon, but it sounds to me as if you're just trying to set me up so you can pick apart whatever answer I give (as you've tried to do several times previously), finding all the ways that my choices are inconsistent with what I've written on this blog. I get the feeling that, were I to name a specific self-help guru -- or expert, if you prefer -- whose work I have enjoyed, you would make an effort to go a-Googlin', or trot off to your local library, and find examples of that guru/expert writing or saying some of the very kinds of things I snark about. Thus you could crow about what an abject hypocrite I am. Why on Earth would I possibly want to play your little game?

Maybe someday when I'm in the mood. I'm not in the mood right now.

Besides, this post is really about Peter Wink. He's the real expert on self-help products and people, not I. He recently wrote a blog post listing some products he has found particularly helpful.
http://peterwink.blogspot.com/2010/04/personal-development-programs-i.html

As you can see if you follow that link, Peter is more a fan of the traditional motivators than of the mystical miracle workers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010 7:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Jean D said...

It's amazing how some people(if trolls are people)don't think a person has the right to publish what they want on their very own blog.As far as I know,no one is forced to log on to this,or any other,site.Yet,there are those who can't help but try to rain on the snarking parade.

Anony-mouse's postings reveal typical self-help techniques that he/she has attempted to use on Connie:
(1)Criticize to instill self-doubt.Make the other person feel they are "lacking" so they are more susceptible to "your point of view". This comment,"Your blog is pretty much one long meandering "ad hominem attack" on people in the world that you do not "like", made me wonder, seriously,Anony-mouse,are you in the 7th grade?

Which brings me to the second technique he/she exhibited:
(2)Always focus on the concept of "liking"and "admiring"the self-help leader,and elicit pity if he/she is challenged.Because these "leaders" typically have no credentials,nor valid studies for what they preach and teach,they rely on popularity or charisma to garner support.

Besides,it's completing missing the point to say Connie's work is based on "not liking" these slimebags. When trusting individuals are having their finances,minds,bodies and lives taken from them by faux gurus and sham,scam con- artists,someone darn well better be doing what they can to expose and stop them!

So,Connie,just keep on doing what you do.

P.S.Did you see my tweet with an idea for a song? "It's my blog and I'll snark if I want to,snark if I want to..."

Saturday, April 24, 2010 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Despite the fact that Peter and I remain on different sides of the fence regarding some issues and individuals, it appears that once we go beyond the boundaries of my Whirled, we have many more opinions in common than we do differences. (F’rinstance, we both agreed that the whole Tiger Woods saga is completely unworthy of so much moral outrage from the public. It’s none of our friggin’ business. Shut up already about Tiger Woods and his wandering willy.) For that matter, I have quite a few opinions in common with other folks “from the other side” with whom I have been communicating."

What does referencing an opinion about an athlete and his family being exploited to attract an audience to commercial news shows and for profit papers, got to do with "self help"?

It appears to me that you are attempting to promote yourself as a "good" and balanced voice, but I see no evidence that there is any balance in your views on "self help". Your saying that there were a few "good people and products out there" without specifics appears to be another example of you trying to sell yourself as a fair person. It is hard to imagine you publishing a specific name of a successful "self help" person or a specific name of a successful "self help" product which you view as good and laying yourself bare to the same wide spread public scrutiny, nit picking, scorn and "snarking" that you relish so much.

Sunday, April 25, 2010 9:29:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks for your comments, Jean D. I have strongly suspected for some time now that my Anon detractor is either a grad or ongoing student of an LGAT. This person has participated on my guy Ron's blog and on Steve Salerno's as well. Arguing for the sake of arguing, perhaps. But as long as it keeps the conversation going, hey, NBD.

I've popped into Twitter a few times over the past couple of days but hadn't stayed. I LOVE your song idea. :-)

Sunday, April 25, 2010 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon 4-25 9:29 AM wrote:

"What does referencing an opinion about an athlete and his family being exploited to attract an audience to commercial news shows and for profit papers, got to do with 'self help'?"

Um... not much. That was the whole point of my mentioning it in my blog post. The point I was trying to make -- and I'm sorry if it wasn't clear to you -- was that Peter and I managed to talk about numerous other things besides self-help. We were able to quickly get beyond the "partisanship," if you will, of pro- versus anti-self-help. Kind of like political bipartisanship but without all the photo ops.

As it happens, Peter himself, during one of our conversations, asked me which, if any, self-help works I liked. We'll go into that more in a future article.

I'm not afraid of being left open to "scrutiny" for recommending or not recommending any self-help author. If you had bothered to read through every post on this blog (more than three and a half years' worth), you might get a more nuanced view. You'd see that I'm ambivalent about some things and people. Heck, I've even come out and publicly said that I've enjoyed some of Joe Vitale's books, and that I think Pat O'Bryan is a very talented writer. So I don't wholeheartedly dismiss the entire body of work even of the people I've snarked about.

I would ask you to consider, Anon, that of the blogs you've participated on in recent months, this is probably the only one from which you haven't been officially banned. I continue to let you have your say here. That may not be fair and balanced in your view, and it may not make me a "good" person in your eyes. Fine. Start your own blog, as I've suggested before.

And really go out on a limb and blog under your own name, as I do, rather than hiding behind the veil of anonymity.

Sunday, April 25, 2010 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

C. Thanks for your comments.

When you said "there are good people and products in the industry" were they both strictly in the realm of "self- help" authors and "self-help" books?

Does anybody on the internet take issue or is anybody threatened by "self-help" books? I don't see it being a substantive part of this particular discourse. Do you?

If I knew you were soley talking about "self-help authors", I would not have asked the question I asked.

Sunday, April 25, 2010 2:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"My use of 'guru' was laziness more than anything, since 'guru' is a shorthand term to describe experts of all stripes these days. Though some followers of Eastern gurus may be offended by this casual use of the term, I didn't start it,..."

Since when does a writer use a word casually and lazily? What does that say about the rest of your writing and your approach to what you write and say Connie? And are you just taking other people terms and repeating them without thought for accuracy?

I would like to suggest that you are using that rhetoric "guru" very premeditatively and strategically to imply that those persons you attack and desire to smear actually view themselves as "gurus" for the purpose of eliciting more agreement from your readers for your attacks on those persons. You also declined to post the name of one single western person who refered to themselves as "guru" as you said you knew people who did, and the reason for that I conclude is that you know no of none.

Monday, April 26, 2010 7:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Connie - your patience is boundless.

@Anonymous - WTH is wrong with you? Please for everyone's sake (especially yours) get a life.

Monday, April 26, 2010 8:17:00 AM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

"Does anybody on the internet take issue or is anybody threatened by "self-help" books?"

Let's look at one glaring example: "The Secret." Many people have taken issue with the clearly-stated assertion that all one has to do is positively visualize something they desire, and it will "magically" appear. It's as if the Universe was your own catalog, was how one huckster stated it. When challenged, the scammers revealed themselves by rapidly reversing their earlier statements and acknowledging that action is required to get what you want. Pf course, they also pushed you to buy their own magical secret formulas for taking action.

Essentially, they lied in order to sell their "products," then proceeded to lie about their earlier lies. How many people wasted time, money, and spiritual energy, following the lies? IMO, anyone who defends such deception is complicit in the deception.

"If I knew you were soley talking about "self-help authors", I would not have asked the question I asked."

If you cannot be forthright, at least be honest. Reading any of your other comments - here and on other blogs to which you have "contributed" - makes it pretty clear that you would merely have chosen a different vein to attack Connie for criticizing your demagogues - the common element being "attack," typically by way of distraction from the topic being discussed or demonizing anyone with whom you disagreed.

Monday, April 26, 2010 9:27:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon, out of courtesy -- although I actually do have a life (and work) apart from this blog -- I will attempt to answer some of your questions, even though Ron, in his most recent comment, addressed the most important points quite well.

Your question, "Since when does a writer use a word casually and lazily?" really seems irrelevant. This is a hobby blog, not my bread and butter. I reserve the right to be lazy here on occasion, though I am not lazy when writing on behalf of clients.

That said, writers of all kinds have been known to be "lazy" in the sense that we occasionally use shorthand and slang that we think most of our audience understands. Again, it's something I try to avoid when writing professionally (i.e., when someone is paying me to write something for them).

I don't mind being asked to clarify points when there is genuine confusion. It helps me solidify my own ideas and, I like to imagine, makes me a better writer in the long run. But are you really confused, or are you just heckling?

I don't think my use of the term "guru" here in any way compromises the overall quality of the writing on this post, nor does it invalidate any of the points I am making.

Your opinion obviously differs.

Now, to answer what seems to be another overriding concern of yours: Whether any individual Western self-help or pop-spirituality leaders regularly refer to themselves as "gurus" or not is actually irrelevant, IMO. At the very least most of them are complicit in the use of this terminology; I don't hear too many of them publicly protesting being called gurus. In fact I'd be willing to bet that most of them are pretty pleased with the term.

And even though much if not most of their own promotional material referring to them as gurus is written in the third person, either they wrote it or they approved it.

[Same goes with those who "are known as" lofty terms such as "The Buddha of..."]

"Guru" is an accepted word these days, and I think you know it. Of course, we've been over this before, here and on other blogs.

Type "self-help guru" into Google and you'll see many, many results from fans as well as critics of self-help.

Here's one, for example, that seems to be on the fan side:

http://www.woopidoo.com/profession/self-help/index.htm

Another...
http://www.selfhelpcollective.com/self-help-authors.html

Yet another...
http://www.lifepositive.com/Mind/Personal_Growth/Self_Help_Gurus32005.asp

Are the owners of all of those sites also acting "very premeditatively and strategically?" by referring to people such as Brian Tracy, Oprah, Tony Robbins, and Deepak Chopra (well, okay, he's not a Westerner) as "gurus?"

The self-help industry is, of course, not the only industry in which experts are regularly referred to as "gurus." Google, "the guru of" and you can get an idea.

Again, like it or not, "guru" is an accepted term these days for leader or expert in some field.

I think that even though you continue to insist on anonymity, you're revealing a lot more about yourself than I'm revealing about myself on anything I've written on this blog or elsewhere.

However, if arguing endlessly on this forum is helping you come to grips with your deep personal issues, and if it's making you feel better about having spent so much time and probably money on LGATs, then I guess I am pleased to be of service. But I gotta tell you, you're not making LGATs look any more attractive.

You can continue to use my blog as an Argument Clinic (a la Monty Python), but don't be surprised if you end up arguing with yourself, as the rest of us move on to bigger issues.

Monday, April 26, 2010 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger The Seduction King said...

Sorry but all's i am getting for a definition of LGAT is Lesbian , Gay and Transgender.
Surely this is not the definition you mean is it?

Monday, April 26, 2010 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Dave said...

"Connie - your patience is boundless...."

Well, I am still making an attempt to give everyone a voice here. I said I welcome all participants and I mean it. Sometimes it's difficult, though, and I realize I get kind of rude or snappish at times. I'm trying to keep more or less on an even keel, though.

I appreciate your support!

Monday, April 26, 2010 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Ron (4-26 9:27 AM), good points. And now, I'm going to duck out of here for a while and get back to revamping our web site.

Keep those comments coming, y'all!

Monday, April 26, 2010 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

The Seduction King said...

"Sorry but all's i am getting for a definition of LGAT is Lesbian , Gay and Transgender.

"Surely this is not the definition you mean is it?"

LOL, SK. No, this is a gay-friendly blog. Not dissin' lesbians, gays, or transgender individuals here at all. Jeez, I realize how strange my comment "I've attended LGATs myself" could sound in that context. I did have a GMBF (gay male best friend) when I was younger, and we used to go hang out in some of the gay bars in Houston together... but that's another story.

Anyway.

LGAT can also stand for Large Group Awareness Training (e.g., the old est, Landmark Forum, Lifespring, etc.)

Monday, April 26, 2010 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger The Seduction King said...

Thought i would throw a bit of humor into the comment section:-)

Glad you got it!

Before i sent my comment... i went through and applied that definition to past comments and got a good laugh.

Monday, April 26, 2010 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Good for you. We needed some laughs around here. Thanks!

Monday, April 26, 2010 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You points about the word "guru" are plausible. Thank-you.

Except I think context is important re: the examples you cited. Yes I also here it often used all over the place and it is often used to laud individual's expertise and reputation in a "positive" way, and that is one thing.

But I don't hear you using the term "guru" to laud or revere anyone but rather to cast doubt onto people and suggest that they are charlatans. Again as you being a skilled writer, I am going to assume you are very savvy about context, and conclude that you are using "guru" to undermine others.

Thank-you for the exchange.

More so than anyone in the current era, I think "critics" need to be held accountable by society for the lies and damage they are casually and lazily spreading on line.

PW bowed out of the "JER" conversation because he had the integrity to admit he knew nothing about it and I conclude did not want to contribute to that low level of gossip which some try to pass off as "intellgent" discourse these days.

Monday, April 26, 2010 2:03:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon, I agree that Peter is a person of integrity. Where James Ray is concerned, realistically speaking, Peter had nothing to gain and, arguably, much more to lose than most of the rest of us by continuing the James Ray discussion. As I noted earlier, I respect his decision to bow out of that part of the discussion.

However, I think it is disingenuous for you to try to turn this into "partisan politics" and make this a war between ethical folks who don't talk about James Ray versus unethical, low-level gossips who do. IMO it is flat-out wrong to say or imply that anyone who does choose to engage in the James Ray discussion is lacking in integrity.

It's true that not one of us "knows" everything that went on in Sedona or San Diego (with Colleen Conaway). We may never know, even after the last of the trials are over. However, more and more information has been made public over the months, much of it from eyewitnesses to the tragedies. We've also heard opinions and thoughts from the families and friends of some of the victims. I have read many, many transcripts and accounts from people more in the know than I. Taking all of these things into consideration, as well as my own experiences in the past with some new-wage gurus, I feel qualified to carry on an intelligent conversation about the issue. It may not be the highest and best use of my time, but that's not for anyone to judge but me.

Like it or not, James Ray, and all of the informed and uninformed opinions about the tragedies, are now part of the public conversation. Since there are, in my opinion, lessons to be learned from these incidents, I don't think it is either accurate or fair to say that everyone who is discussing James Ray is merely engaging in low-level gossip. Although I have my doubts at times, I think it's possible that by bringing to light James Ray's behavior and that of other self-help leaders, we can help avoid more tragedies.

Regarding the word "guru," I agree that context is important. But even though this is not and never has been a "reverent" blog, my use of the term "guru" is not always derogatory and certainly wasn't on this post. Let me let you in on a secret: I let Peter see this post before I published it, because I wanted to make sure I represented his views correctly. If Peter had found the word "guru" offensive or even inaccurate in the context in which I used it I have no doubt he would have let me know.

I'll continue this response in my next comment, since I've run into the Blogger "character count" limit.

Monday, April 26, 2010 4:03:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon, you wrote:
"More so than anyone in the current era, I think 'critics' need to be held accountable by society for the lies and damage they are casually and lazily spreading on line."

Given this implied set of priorities, then, do you think that I need to be held more "accountable" for snarking about James Ray or Byron Katie or ACCESS Consciousness (Gary Douglas and Dain Heer) than, say, James Ray needs to be held accountable for the deaths of Liz Neuman, Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Colleen Conaway? Or more than Byron Katie needs to be held accountable for pilfering valuables from her seminar attendees? Or more so than Gary and Dain should be held accountable for their sex-cultish program contributing to the destruction of marriages and other intimate relationships? Or more so than various LGAT programs that bleed people dry financially and, in some cases, emotionally and physically too?

If you are saying or implying that I, personally, am spreading lies (rather than reporting about people and events, giving sources to back up the reporting, and then expressing my OPINIONS about said people and events), I would ask you to point out specific examples of what you think are lies, and offer detailed refutation of those alleged falsehoods.

Or perhaps you should just simply consider the possibility that most of what you read on blogs such as this one are OPINIONS. I certainly have never claimed to hold the key to the ultimate truth about anything.

I agree that writers -- whether "critics" or not -- should be held accountable if they deliberately spread lies. But that's not what I'm doing here.

And your suggestion that my use of the word "guru" is in any way malicious or destructive is absurd. (I would say your accusation of malice on my part borders on being "actionable," but since you're Anonymous, I suppose that point is moot.)

It's absurd to suggest that the critics of the self-help gurus have done even a fraction of the damage that some of these gurus have done themselves. When is the last time you heard of someone dying of hyperthermia or dehydration, or committing suicide after an induced psychosis, because of words a critic wrote?

And do you honestly think that snarky little blogs such as this one make even a dent in the gurus' bottom lines? Don't make me laugh.

As for accountability, I'm as accountable as I can be -- I provide links to more information about the people and events I write about. And, just in case I haven't mentioned it, I am not hiding my identity the way you are. Maybe the critics of the critics should be held accountable too, rather than cowering behind that old "Anonymous" identity.

You have never been forthright about your own identity or your agenda, and have never explained why this is so. And I have been much more patient about allowing you to continue to take your anonymous potshots than most other bloggers would be.

Monday, April 26, 2010 4:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Given this implied set of priorities, then,.....than most other bloggers would be."

ok

Monday, April 26, 2010 4:50:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon, it's clear after your last comment (which I rejected) that you think this blog is just a forum for spiteful gossip and you are never going to see it any other way. I honestly don't think our bickering with each other is going to add to the conversation here and frankly, I'm afraid I'm boring and alienating some of my readers by continuing to publish it.

It is clear that I don't agree with you about either my intentions for this blog or the results. So let's just agree to disagree, and perhaps it's best if you just hang around more lofty blogs where the discourse is more to your liking.

Monday, April 26, 2010 5:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed. I am good with that. I think us talking to each other is cool and valid and I heard (read) and everything your (said) wrote, and whether you posted my comments or not is ok. I wrote them for you.

My issue is with talking about specific other people in unflattering ways who are not here and part of the dialogue. I now see that I did that a few time when I mentioned "Rick Ross". I regret doing that as it is does not reflect the kind of world or way of being I want for myself and others. I apolgise to Rick Ross whom I do not know from adam and who was nto here part of this conversation. It was a cheap slimey shot on my part. I will stop doing that now.

I wish you nothing but grace and generousity Connie.

Ta Ta

Monday, April 26, 2010 7:51:00 PM  
Blogger The Seduction King said...

man...when people see their own hypocrisy...the whole game changes.

it then gets interesting because they realize they don't want their own behavior in their world.

this is to be applauded even if it is with my perceived adversary.

because this is the world i seek!

Monday, April 26, 2010 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks, Anon (4-26, 7:51), for your comment. It's true that I often aim my snarks at people who are not "here," but they are always welcome to join the conversation. Most don't, because for various reasons of their own they make it a policy not to engage "critics" in any way. In some cases at least, spending any appreciable time on critical forums -- whether here on on more "serious" forums such as Rick Ross -- is probably a waste of their time. Still, to completely ignore or gloss over critics makes some appear arrogant, IMO.

Although I'm not an extravagantly wealthy New-Wage guru (or leader/expert, if you prefer :-)), I have certainly fielded my share of criticism on many fronts. I've been criticized and have even received death threats for my writing. As I've discussed here more than once, I've also been lambasted for not being critical (or skeptical) enough. I've been called a hypocrite because I write a blog that is critical of aspects of the self-help industry and yet, in our "day job," Ron and I have had numerous self-help or spiritual authors as clients. (In one case, Ron and I were even deemed unethical by a self-proclaimed ethics expert because one of the services we offer is ghostwriting, and some people think it is utterly unethical for an author to use a ghostwriter.)

Anyone who ventures into the public forum leaves himself or herself open to criticism, some justified, perhaps, and some not so justified. This is a point that some of my snargets have made repeatedly on their blogs (and, in some cases, on mine), but in truth, I've been aware of the phenomenon for a long time. After a while one develops a thick skin, but even with a thick skin, there are those buttons that can still get pushed...

Actually, Peter Wink and I talked some about critics and criticism in one of our conversations and I'll get into that (but probably not until Part 3).

Anyway, Anon, for what it's worth, although we have snapped at each other at times, I appreciate the exchanges.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 8:49:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

The Seduction King said...

"man...when people see their own hypocrisy...the whole game changes.

"it then gets interesting because they realize they don't want their own behavior in their world."

Amen (hoping that any non-theists in the audience will pardon the expression). It all comes back, perhaps, to the idea that the things that bug us the most in other folks are the things that bother us the most in ourselves.

While I haven't cooked anyone in a sweat lodge, I *am* an insufferable narcissist. That self-assessment is partly a shtick for my blog, but there's truth in it as well. I'm working on it, though.

Thanks as always for your participation, SK!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 8:55:00 AM  
Blogger Duff said...

Referring specifically to Peter's comment re: CoS:

"My association with the Church of Scientology was nothing but working on a couple projects. I have to tell you though - they treated me wonderfully and never pressured me into joining. My experiences were wonderful. As far as questionable behavior - it was NOT my experience, nor did I ever get exposed to anyone with bad experiences. I worked with some of their executives and found them to be very professional."

Nobody's claiming that cult members don't put on a professional, nice front to their consultants. Critics of Co$ are claiming that there is a seedy inner core that is *extremely* manipulative, ruins lives and families, and sometimes even leads to death. Don't you have moral culpability for being involved in helping further the mission of such an organization?

Your words strike me as the rationalizing of an engineer that designs bombs. "Sure I design missle targeting systems that have played a role in the killing of millions, but I don't pull the trigger, and my coworkers are really nice people."

This seems to me a most appropriate context for "taking 100% responsibility." Otherwise we will endlessly pass the buck for the evils committed *technically* by someone else, but that we knowingly and consciously assisted in making happen.

While acceptance of some amount of worldly corruption is necessary to function in an imperfect, it strikes me that you are too tolerant of the obvious corruption that you are facilitating through your work, and that you personally benefit from financially.

Thursday, April 29, 2010 3:25:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Wink said...

Hi Duff,

Great feedback.

Curious...

What did the Chruch of Scientology do to you that makes you deem them negative?

Please share.

Thanks Duff!

Peter

Tuesday, May 04, 2010 8:15:00 AM  

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