If you spend any amount of time on the internet, you will have probably noticed the huge influx of self-proclaimed gurus, life coaches, influencers and so-called “experts”. There are gurus on just about every topic including beauty, fitness, health, investing, trading, language-learning and just about every subject you can think of. There are even gurus teaching others how to be a guru.
My issue with many of these people is that they do not have the proper credentials or track record to be teaching and training others. Here’s an easy way to check their credentials on YouTube – Go to their channel’s homepage and from there, click on the “about” tab. That is where YouTubers put their bio and information about themselves and their channel. If they have qualifications in their given field, that is where they will list them. “But what if they have the qualifications but just forgot to list them?” I hear you say. Are you serious?!! These people are are all about selling themselves and their services. Believe me, if they had a recognized qualification in their given field, you can be sure that they’d be advertising that fact. They know it would set them apart from all the others. You can be pretty sure that “about” pages without any mention of proper credentials means that they don’t have any.
Illegal investment advice by gurus
Many industries have strict laws about who can and cannot give advice to others. Let’s take the example of the personal finance niche. In the USA, The Investment Advisers Act of 1940 is a federal law created to regulate the actions of those giving investment advice for compensation as means to protect the public. To legally give investment advice, one needs to be licensed as a Registered Investment Advisor. RIA’s have a legal obligation to always recommend what is in the best interest of the client, disclose all relevant details, and avoid conflict of interest.
So many of these internet finance experts are actually breaking the law. At the very least, they are in no position to be giving financial advice to others. The authorities are cracking down on this. As recently as February 2021, California’s Attorney General took legal action against an internet day trader who was selling stock picks
Dangerous health advice on YouTube
In 2018, The NYU School of Medicine investigated medical advice being given out on YouTube. They did a YouTube search for “prostate cancer” then watched the 150 most viewed videos on the subject. They checked each video for accuracy and compiled the results. The results are terrifying. – 77% of the videos contained factual errors or biased content in the video itself and/or the comments section. Even worse – 19% of the videos recommended alternative or complementary therapies that are unproven. One video advised injecting herbs into the prostate to treat cancer – an act that has zero medical evidence. These 150 videos are just the tip of the iceberg. There are over 600,000 prostate cancer videos on YouTube and that is just one health condition.
Also, in the health niche, there are videos out there by new-age medical charlatans advising people to ingest turpentine oil (aka “turps”) to cure them from ailments such as arthritis and intestinal problems. Important safety notice: DO NOT DO THIS. For information, turpentine oil is used as a paint thinner so you can imagine what damage it’s going to do to your insides.
Desperate to find a video that refuted the gurus’ dangerous claims, I was relieved to find a safety video that clearly warns people about the dangers of consuming turpentine oil. “Relieved” that was until I scrolled down to read the comments. The safety video itself cites scientific medical research that states the dangers of turpentine oil backed up by interviews with qualified pharmacists that also confirm the risks. The comments section of the above linked video is full of comments by people all refusing to believe that turpentine oil is bad for you despite the overwhelming scientific data. It’s like they have been brainwashed by their favourite internet gurus and they think that there is some big conspiracy theory to silence them.
Here are some of those comments:
The last comment below makes me very sad:
The person making the above comment has just watched a video that very clearly informs him/her of the dangers of ingesting turpentine oil. Despite that, he/she still has doubts and is now asking random strangers on the internet for medical advice for how to treat cancer. Am I the only one who finds that upsetting? At this point, the debate about the safety of such and such a substance is irrelevant. The bigger concern is that people are asking for (and getting) medical advice from people on the internet with zero medical training. What is going on? Is this because people can’t afford healthcare or is it because they don’t trust their doctors?
I don’t know what is more scary – The fact that there are new-age health gurus without medical training giving advice on the internet or the fact that people are actually blindly following that advice and asking them questions.
Life coaches and personal development gurus
What about life coaches, personal development gurus, motivational speakers etc? These are the “experts” who are teaching people to be “successful”. This is a huge market because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be successful? There are no laws or regulations concerning qualifications or credentials needed to become one of these coaches and that is probably why there is so many of them. There is a common theme, however. They all seem to have some sob story of how they used to be poor, in-debt, depressed, homeless. Then one day they discovered the magical secret to success, proceeded to turn their lives around and become multi-millionaires and best-selling authors. Oh, and if you buy their books and go to their seminars, they’ll tell you what that secret to success is.
Do I sound cynical? Well, I am speaking from experience because I myself went down the personal development rabbit hole (as a customer) several years ago. After buying and reading several books on success, I eventually came to the conclusion that most of these gurus probably don’t want you to know. – There is no secret no success. The path to success is in fact very simple. There are only 3 major steps:
- Set a goal.
- Make a plan to achieve that goal and
- Take action.
It’s the last step that most people fail on because that’s the bit that needs hard work.
Constantly reading self-help books on how to be successful is just another form of procrastination. They make you feel pumped end empowered and those feelings are way more fun than actually doing the work that is required to achieve your goals.
It’s fun to set goals of being a billionaire and then doing all the visualization stuff and affirmations. It’s like imagining how you’d spend the money if you won the lottery. Unlike winning the lottery, to become successful in the real world takes actual work. The ability to do the daily grind is what separates truly successful people from the dreamers.
The reality is that everyone knows what they should be doing to be successful in their particular field. An aspiring writer knows deep down he/she has to write every day. A salesman knows to increase his sales he needs to make more sales calls. An athlete knows that he/she needs to train every single day. There are no secrets.
I should probably mention that not all self-help books are bad. There are a couple of authors of books that helped me. All of those authors have a common trait. – They have all had very successful careers in fields totally unrelated to self-improvement. In other words, they have a proven track record of building a successful business. Their main source of income is not teaching others to be successful. I have very little respect for gurus whose only real success is teaching others how to be successful. I won’t mention any names as I like to keep things positive but my advice would be to do your due diligence. Dig into their work history from independent sources before making any purchasing decisions.
Autobiographies – The best way to learn about success
Rather than read a book from a self-proclaimed guru, I prefer to read an autobiography or biography about a successful person I admire. These books are the real deal. The authors have nothing to prove and aren’t trying to sell you anything. They aren’t even trying to give you any advice. They are simply writing about their journey and what they did to become successful. You can learn a lot from that.
I recently read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography and it was an incredible insight into how he achieved everything in his life. I talk about it on my list of best autobiographies of successful people that inspired me the most. Check it out.