I follow motivational speaker and self-help guru, Tony Robbins on Twitter for the sole purpose of heckling him. At first it was not anything personal with Robbins per say, but rather he was the motivational speaker and self-help guru that I picked amongst many for me to hone my critical thinking skills.
A little background
The self-help industry is nearly an $10 - $15 billion dollar industry in the United States. And you would think with that much money being spent on books, audio and video recordings, and seminars that people would've improved their lives so that they'd no longer need to purchase self-help materials.
But that would assume that the self-help industry actually works.
According to Steve Salerno, author of "SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless" the self-help industry perpetuates a '"victim" mentality and "human potential" mindset on American society that creates fiscal dependency. In the book, Salerno follows a lengthy money trail that sheds a light on how self-help gurus like Dr. Phil, Tony Robbins, and Dr. Laura become financially successful at promoting their persona as inspirational therapists - rather than because they are actually helping others.
What distinguishes self-help and motivational speaking from psychology is that psychology utilizes empirical evidence. Psychologists study the complexity of the human brain and are involved with running or reading/discussing experiments and trials - which the results of which undergo peer review and duplication by other psychologists. Self-help gurus form a belief that may be rooted in some scientific theory (but often, it's either pseudo-scientific or non-science) and re-package it in a rhetoric that contains evocative words and catchphrases.
Tony Robbins has a background in "Neuro-linguistic programming" which is a theory that promotes inter-personal communication which moves an individual toward behaving positively, all the while forming a self-awareness of empowerment. However this theory has been largely ignored by the psychological community due to its lack of empirical evidence and models of efficacy. http://bit.ly/1ahFzj
When Self-Help Gurus Overstep
However, Robbins also steps outside his calling to bring attention to news articles, studies, or even financial advise. Some of which have all the red flags of pseudo-science or bad science (containing flawed reasoning and evidence).
Recently he tweeted a link to an editorial about the health risks of cell phone use and people: http://twitter.com/tonyrobbins/status/17884936620
This editorial written in "The Atlantic" references a study that was published regarding cell phones and beehives. Essentially, the study took cell phones and dropped them in beehives to see if they would have any effect on the beehive population. An excellent critique of the crap that was this scientific study can be found here: http://bit.ly/ayyi0F. And for information regarding the health risks of cellphones and people can be found at the CDC: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/fact ... cellphones. Also, the implausibility of cell phone use and cancer from a physics standpoint can be found here: http://bit.ly/9NP7GM (which also discusses power lines and cancer as well - and you'll note that the same arguments over power lines and cancer are now recycled to talk about cellphones).
Tony Robbins has also tweeted links to other health articles such as this one: http://twitter.com/tonyrobbins/status/17364466727 which referenced a study by Dr. Dean Ornish. This caught my attention because Ornish has dabbled in holistic health treatments - which have no empirical evidence of efficacy. While Dr. Ornish isn't as 'out there' as someone like Dr. Mehmet Oz who apparently has never found a alternative treatment that he didn't like - there is cause for concern as to whether what Ornish publishes is science-based medical advice, or pseudo-scientific http://bit.ly/bfwnUJ
And now, Robbins, has been tweeting about the stock market, alerting his 1.7 million followers to be aware and ready to make changes in their investment strategy. Having stated in three successive tweets:
- •"I am not financial advisor but I work with one of top 10 fin. traders in world for 18 years. don't be greedy be prepared. I rarely comment."
•"The last time I tweeted about the market was saying look for bottom 4 days before bottom in 2009. Not my expertise just top ppl i work with."
•"All I am saying is educate yourself and make your own decisions, but now is a time to take a good look during the recent gains! all the best."
It may well be that Tony Robbins is a shrewd financial markets player, however, it is alarming that he feels comfortable giving "soft advice" since he has no training or experience - other than being the recipient of advice by his own financial team. There are two components of this kind of tweeting that I felt were concerning: (1) He references non-specific experts (that's usually a red flag) and (2) By giving non-specific market advice he can claim victory when the market acts accordingly (another red flag). It can also be argued that given the size of his following - any financial nudge that is acted upon by them could have an actual impact on the markets. However, my guess is that most of Tony's twitter followers are casual followers and just look for his tweets with fortune cookie quotables in 140 characters or less.
In summary, it is clear that Tony Robbins has a wealth of experience of which to draw from - but in the end, all he is peddling is dogma, and not evidence. And if self-help gurus or motivational speakers were actually successful in helping and motivating their consumers - they wouldn't have legions of fans and followers that are in perpetual need of his "help." Those that are looking for psychological help, should seek out psychologists. Those looking for financial help, should seek out financial advisors, lawyers, or accountants. Expertise is not accumulated by subjective ideas, but by education and training - of which real experts continually do so that they actually can provide help to people.