Guilted by Gurus


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If you’ve ever been to a personal development seminar, or a free teleclass, or read a sales page for a program promising to teach you how to become more successful or make more money, odds are you’ve heard or read the following…

  • If you’re not fully committed to your own success this program is NOT for you.
  • If you can’t find the money then you really don’t want it that badly.
  • You have to be willing to invest in yourself if you want to become successful.
  • If you want to succeed you have to be willing to do whatever it takes.
  • If you don’t have the money to invest in this program, how are you ever going to get it if you don’t learn what you don’t know?
  • If you want to be paid X you first have to pay someone X.
  • Find a way to pay for it. Use your credit card. Borrow the money. It’s an investment in you and that’s the best investment you can make.

I know I’ve heard, or read, variations on all of these statements many times.

And, for the most part, in my seven year quest for more success, I bought into all of them. Until I woke up one day in 2009 and realized that while I had dutifully followed this advice (And, I’m embarrassed to admit I even used some of these sayings myself in the past), instead of becoming more successful and making more money, I had driven my business into the ground, gone into debt, and was further away from financial freedom than when I started.

These are sales tactics. They don’t serve the customer.

They serve the seller. Let me repeat that… they serve the seller. They get you to buy. They are designed to get you to spend money, often money you don’t have, and to feel guilty if you choose not to. I for one am fed up with it. And, it turns out I’m not alone. Recently I received an email from a friend sharing the following rant:

I HATE when they constantly tell you: don’t tell me you can’t find the money somewhere. Or: why wouldn’t you invest in yourself?  And the classic: maybe you need to look deeper as to why you’re resisting taking this training. ARE THEY SERIOUS!!!???

In his email he shared a link to a webpage from someone positioned as an expert in his industry. Someone who could teach him how to make more money in his profession. After reviewing the page, I realized something. This guy was trained to write like this by the “successful” mentors or gurus he’s learning from. In that moment I realized this approach is what a large part of the Internet Marketing / Sales / Coaching industry is breeding.

And, suddenly, I had an epiphany.

I have read that website copy many times before. Heck, I’ve written it! This sales and marketing strategy is taught by nearly every sales and marketing coach, mentor, and “guru” and as such it has found its way into dare I say millions of websites and sales messages. Why? Because business owners are eager to attract clients and make money and they’re always looking for ways to do so. And this is what they’re being taught by those who appear to be more successful than they are. 

I fell into it myself, even though I already had a successful business.

These new sales and marketing strategies promised to help me attract even more clients and make more money, and that’s an attractive promise to someone eager to keep growing her business and helping more people. But after employing these strategies for about a year, it began to feel yucky. I realized a big chunk of the clients I was attracting were buying based on fear, and as a result they weren’t in the best place financially or emotionally to do the work that needed to be done. So I stopped using them. In fact, I stepped back and re-evaluated my entire business.

Yes, these sales strategies can work, they can make you money as a business owner. And perhaps that’s why people keep employing them. But I have to say that I don’t think they are in integrity. They are manipulative. They play on people’s fears. And, I just believe that is wrong. If you have a great product or service, why should you have to play on people’s fears to get them to buy? You shouldn’t! They should line up willingly. And if they’re not, maybe it’s time to revisit your product or service offerings, or your pricing.

We must stop letting the gurus make us feel guilty.

If we don’t have the money for a program or we’re not willing to go into debt for it, that’s our choice. We must believe that if it’s the right program or course for us, we’ll recognize it. We must accept that if we can’t afford it right now, and it’s really important to us, we need to find a way to make the money first to pay for it. It’s time to take back our personal power.

There’s nothing wrong with investing in an effort to become more successful.

But we owe it to ourselves to invest within our means, and to never let anyone make us feel less than based on the choices we make.


About Debbie

Debbie worked in marketing for 32 years and ran a successful coaching and consulting business for 19. She now teaches marketing and helps people find greater happiness and success by learning how to Follow Inspiration.

3 comments on “Guilted by Gurus

  1. Debbie, your message gets more strong and clear with each post. Wish it had been around years ago! And happy to say that as much as I feel myself seduced and hypnotized by these same messages and watching videos of people who can speak so powerfully into the camera for 10,15, 20 minutes or more at a clip (whew) to deliver it, I am unhappy enough about the debt I HAVE accumulated that I find a way to resist. And I have also resisted using a lot of this language and tactics in my own marketing, preferring to lay low and keep it small rather than get hypey and try to convince people their life won’t be complete without my services.

    There is a middle way, and it is good. Connect with people from your heart to theirs; really find out what it is they want and need; offer what you do if it feels like it will serve them; trust that enough can really be enough, and that the right people will step up when it is their time. Yes, there is something to building a sense of urgency so people will act rather than procrastinate if the fit is right, but it doesn’t have to feel like a screechy infomercial or something that just doesn’t sit comfortably in your own gut.

    Here’s to keepin’ it real while building a profitable business.

  2. Thanks for speaking out about this. Yep, I’ve fallen for it, too — and woken up. There is a sort of sorority system out there, where you “belong” if you pay up, and even more so if you can turn and charge big money yourself.

    Sure, some consultants get big, valuable results and are worth the big money. But I’ve fallen both for those coaches who can do it but can’t teach it or help you do it, and by those who actually lied about their success and were unable to teach it because they hadn’t yet done it (were just spitting out what their teacher told them, but couldn’t apply it).

    My biggest problem, though I didn’t realize it for a long time, was identifying my target niche and how I can best serve them. When the consultant/coaches couldn’t help me, I was told (though I was spinning my wheels working overtime, running down blind alleys as fast as I could) that I was not working hard enough for it. Then I was hard-sold to sign up again, lol, no thanks. It didn’t work the first time; why do it again?

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