Happiness Hucksters

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EBSCOhost Discovery Service: The happiness hucksters 20/11/2011 10:40 Title: The happiness hucksters. By: Gubernick, Lisa, Mao, Philippe, Forbes, 00156914, 10/9/95, Vol. 156, Issue 8 Database: Business Source Premier THE HAPPINESS HUCKSTERS Section: POINT OF VIEW Mark Twain wrote about them in "Huckleberry Finn," but he never dreamed that modern technology would turn riverboat hustlers into big-scale entrepreneurs. On his infomercial he looks like a cross between the Hathaway Man and the Incredible Hulk. He does a victory lap through a cheering crowd, then a voice-over intones: "Tony Robbins has been called the ultimate success coach. A brilliant thinker and communicator." Who says Anthony Robbins is all this? Well, there is deejay Casey Kasem and former football great Fran Tarkenton. But most of all, Tony Robbins. He is hyping his "Personal Power" audiotape program--avail-able for just three easy payments of $59.95 to the folks out there in TV land. Hundreds of thousands have taken Robbins' bait, but he has plenty of competition. According to Marketdata Enterprises, a research firm based on New York's Long Island, sales of self-help tapes, videos, books and seminars should hit $1.6 billion this year. There are motivators for every price point: For $8,995 (airfare not included) you can spend eight days with Robbins on his Fiji hideaway with 59 other participants in his "Date with Destiny" program. On a more modest budget, $49 buys an arena seat at Peter Lowe's Success 1995, a touring motivational road show with such speakers as Elizabeth Dole, motivator Zig Ziglar and Olympic speed skating gold medalist Dan Jansen. Want something more concrete? Stop by one of 100 Successories stores scattered across the country and pick up a "No Goals No Glory" crystal paperweight for $89.95 or a motivational mug emblazoned "Whatever It Takes" in 22kt gold ($9.95). Over the last four years Successories' business has grown from $5 million to an estimated $55 million for this year. Self-help, striving, upward mobility are as old as the Republic, a reflection in part of the drives that pulled immigrants across the oceans to America for two centuries--and still do. Self-help is a fertile field for charlatans as well as for people with genuine inspirational messages. You can trace the lineage back to Ben Franklin's Poor Richard, through a whole string of personalities, some reputable--like Napoleon Hill (see box, p. 85), Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale--others a lot less so. This is an easy business to mock. The gurus are often outrageous self-promoters, the messages often old bromides or secondhand bits and pieces of religion. Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of people do swear by them. "I wouldn't spend this kind of money if I didn't believe," says Marty Rodriguez, a Century 21 real estate broker who has spent more than $7,000 on Robbins' seminars and gives him credit for helping double her sales commissions. "I went to Tony's seminar and realized all that was about me and not about them, I did the firewalk and climbed a 60-foot pole. I realized I've been firewalking my whole life. If you focus on the fire, you burn. If you focus on your goals and don't look down at the things that hurt, you'll get there." Call it, if you will, the pink pill effect--a placebo. People believe the pills cure them, it makes them feel better, and sometimes the symptoms go away. It's they who did the cure, but the pink pills were a useful prop. Whatever you think of these happiness hucksters, modern technology has given them a mighty boost. In the past its practitioners could sell books and give speeches and seminars. Now they can reach tens of millions of people via TV and through the mediums of video and audio; clearly the Internet will be the next step. Sony Worldwide Networks, for example, has just unveiled SuccessRadio. Vin Di Bona, executive producer of America's Funniest Home Videos, has signed on motivational speakers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, authors of the bestselling, bromide-filled Chicken Soup for the Soul, to develop TV specials based on the book and its sequel. "What's new is not the message," says Richard Huber, http://ehis.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/eds/detail?sid=31…JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=buh&AN=9510057620 Page 1 of 5 EBSCOhost Discovery Service: The happiness hucksters 20/11/2011 10:40 author of The American Idea of Success, "it's the medium." The growth of TV infomercials has been a blessing to success hucksters. Before 1984 broadcasters could generally sell no more than 12 minutes of commercial time per hour, but deregulation has allowed advertisers to purchase longer blocks. Self-help personalities are naturals for infomercials, for who can tell where the advice ceases and the product-plugging begins? In the early to mid- 1980s television preachers such as Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker bought up extensive amounts of television time. But when scandals shut them down, the secular self-helpers took over. "We stepped right in behind the televangelists and bought all the time," says Greg Renker of Guthy-Renker Corp., whose Palm Desert, Calif. infomercial company produces Tony Robbins and others. "It was a sort of harmonic convergence. Robbins came with the right product at the right time." Robbins himself is two parts showbiz, one part bromide. He had just graduated from Glendora (Calif.) High when motivational speaker Jim Rohn hired him to sell tickets to his seminars. Robbins ended up as one of Rohn's top salespeople before striking out on his own in the early 1980s. To persuade his viewers that he could show them how to do anything they wanted, he learned to walk barefoot across a lane of flaming coals. Relaxing on his beachfront porch in fashionable La Jolla, Calif., he recalls: "If I could get myself to do this thing I thought was impossible and it's really easy, what else do I think is impossible which is easy? Maybe I can make a change in my business. Maybe I can get my kids to get B's instead of D's and C's. Maybe even A's. I used the firewalk as a tool to rivet people's attention." It riveted Simon & Schuster's attention. The company published his first book, Unlimited Power, in 1986. It hit the bestseller list. Three years later his first infomercial was produced. You might call Robbins an inspirational generalist. Stephen Covey specializes. "Tony's method isn't complete because it doesn't deal with the organizational side of things," says Covey, a 62-year-old former Brigham Young University professor. Mormon, and equipped with a Harvard M.B.A. and a doctorate in organizational behavior, Covey is bigger on the corporate circuit, where Robbins might be too New-Agey. Covey was just another speaker doing motivational speeches for corporations when Jan Miller, the same literary agent who represented Tony Robbins, brought him to Simon & Schuster. Unlike most speakers, who are essentially one-man shows, Covey offers to train people in his methods. AT&T has 60 "Covey-certified" trainers in various departments, and there are 5,100 more Covey moles in firms throughout America, each of whom paid $1,995 for certification from the Covey Leadership Center. He is, in effect, creating his own captive customer base for new training materials: Covey's book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was a bestseller within months of its first printing in 1989, and it has sold briskly since. Covey insists that he isn't just an inspirational speaker, that he teaches "leadership." One Covey truth: "You can't talk yourself out of problems you behave yourself into." Robert Asahina is Covey and Robbins' editor at Simon & Schuster. "If you find me a woman who is as good as Tony Robbins, I'll buy the book," Asahina told literary agent Jan Miller. The agent suggested Susan Powter, a garrulous former housewife who peddled her own story--husband walked out on her and two kids, she ballooned to 260 pounds before taking control of her life. Listen to Powter and you learn how to lose that tab and take control of your life. Powter, a buzz-cut bleached blonde high school dropout, is a new-style carny barker. And she sells. Over the last several years hundreds of thousands of women have ordered her $79.80 kit: audiotapes, videotapes, pamphlets and a fat caliper. "Our market," says Rusty Robertson, her manager and partner, "is 18 to 54, lower-middle-income women, about 50 pounds overweight." As in any growing market, the smart newcomers do as Covey and Powter do: specialize. For each problem, its own guru. Onetime real estate developer Brian Tracy teaches the psychology of selling. John Gray (bestseller: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus) tells you how to run your love life. Gray shares the relationship market with his ex-wife, Barbara De Angelis, who wrote the bestselling book How to Make Love All the Time. Afraid your kids will go astray? Linda Eyre and Richard Eyre (bestseller: Teaching Your Children Values) tell you how to run your family life. Deepak Chopra (bestseller: Ageless Body, Timeless Mind) offers the secrets for a long and healthy life. Little pink pills, the experts sneer. Dr. David Heber, chief of clinical nutrition at the UCLA School of Medicine, says this of Susan Powter: "She's taking bits and pieces from scientific literature and paraphrasing it. She's not doing any damage . . . but it's not enough." Deepak Chopra's advice that a less stress fill lifestyle can result in a longer life is well taken. But, as Dr. George Solomon, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, told FORBES: "He doesn't clarify what statements are hacked by scientific evidence . . . and has not personally developed scientific validation of his own claims." http://ehis.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/eds/detail?sid=31…JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=buh&AN=9510057620 Page 2 of 5 EBSCOhost Discovery Service: The happiness hucksters 20/11/2011 10:40 "I regard them all as similar to the Duke and Dauphin in Huck Finn," says Nicholas Lemann, who is writing a book about the American idea of success and meritocracy. "There's a lot of packaging, and very little inside. Most all of them say the same two or three basic things." But Lemann doesn't say this in anger. "They aren't unscrupulous stock operators that cause financial ruin," he adds. "They're just ripping you off for a couple hundred bucks for their tapes." That's not much more than the price of a couple of front-row seats for the Rolling Stones. If the happiness hucksters make people feel better and act more decisively, they may even in a way be socially useful. Live better, get richer Guru Robbins Stephen Covey Deepak Chopra Susan Powter Jack Canfield Mark Victor Hansen Mantra Awaken the Giant Within Seven Habbits for Success Live Better, Last Longer Stop the Insanity Chicken Soup for the Soul Chicken Soup for the Soul Two-year earnings ($mil) $12 11[a] 11 7[a] 6 6 How much do they make? Here are Forbes' estimates for what some of the top-earning happiness hucksters made over the past two years. PHOTO (COLOR): Motivator Anthony Robbins: Who would buy advice on success from a fellow in a frayed collar? PHOTO (COLOR): Jack Canfield (left) and Mark Victor Hansen: Their "Chicken Soup" could be headed for TV. PHOTO (COLOR): Formerly fat housewife: Her market: lower-middle-income women, about 50 pounds overweight. PHOTO (COLOR): Stephen Covey, Harvard M.B.A.: Motivating the corporate set. PHOTO (COLOR): Author Deepak Chopra: Does he have the secrets for longer life? ~~~~~~~~ Lisa Gubernick with Philippe Mao THE UPS AND DOWNS OF NAPOLEON HILL Napoleon Hill was one of the earlier happiness hucksters. His life was a tale of ups and downs and stubbornness in the face of adversity. Born in 1883 in the Virginia backwoods to a Family he described as three generations who lived with "ignorance, illiteracy and poverty," Hill dropped out of law school and ended up working for an inspirational magazine. He eventually started his own, Hill's Golden Rule. After two years he lost control to his partner. Then, in 1928, he published his first book, Law of Success. By early 1929 his royalties averaged $2,500 a month, 422,000 in 1995 dollars, big money, in those days of low income taxes. He became rich and famous. But the Depression made a mockery of his recipes for success and his audience dwindled. By 1937 the economy was picking up and the old bromides seemed to work again. Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People was a bestseller. Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich. It, too, became a bestseller. Insurance tycoon W. Clement Stone ordered agents to read Hill's sermons before sales calls. In 1952 Stone bankrolled Napoleon Hill Associates, which produced books, films, TV and radio programs based on the master's learnings. In 1961 Stone turned control over to his mentor. Hill spent his last nine years heading the Napoleon Hill Foundation, dedicated to promulgating his principles. PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE): Napoleon Hill: Early happiness huckster. ~~~~~~~~ By Lisa Gubernick THE NEMESIS FACTOR There's a lot of the Wizard of Oz in the happiness hucksters, which means they have to keep up appearances. Who would buy advice on success from a fellow in an old car and wearing a frayed collar? Who would buy the secret of longevity from a sickly fellow? So Tony Robbins uses his lavish lifestyle as a major part of his promotional paraphernalia. But the fact is Robbins has had his own recent brushes with fiscal failure. The most recent Dun & Bradstreet report for Robbins Research International, which handles his speeches and seminars, shows a negative net worth of nearly $1 million. http://ehis.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/eds/detail?sid=31…JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#db=buh&AN=9510057620 Page 3 of 5 EBSCOhost Discovery Service: The happiness hucksters 20/11/2011 10:40 "It's because of divisional losses in 1990, 1991 and 1992," explains Sam Georges, chief operating officer for Robbins' business operations. Georges claims that the seminars have been profitable since 1993 but he refuses to provide figures. At the same time, Robbins was sued by unhappy distributors who claimed he had misrepresented how much money they could make by putting on taped versions of his seminars. Robbins recently signed a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission, paying $221,000 to settle those same complaints, without admitting wrongdoing. Greg Renker, Robbins' infomercial producer, sees poetic justice in the success gurus' problems: "If you represent you know all the secrets for great relationships or unlimited success, you are going against the forces of nature, Sooner or later everyone hits the skids. And sooner or later the forces of nature will come back to give you a little slap in the face, remind you of that universal law." Will Deepak Chopra have the healthy old age he offers his acolytes? Will Susan Powter stay svelte? Will Tony Robbins stay on top? Or will fate slap their faces for their effrontery? ~~~~~~~~ By Lisa Gubernick Copyright of Forbes is the property of Forbes Inc. and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. QR Code Scan this QR code for a permanent link to this item. To download a free QR code reader visit your app store. 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