[Note: I’ve been trying to write this specific blog for around three months. I actually wrote it out in full once before and then decided it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to say. So I’m starting over. This might be one of my most polarizing posts yet, but here goes.]
What I want to talk about is what I’m calling the ‘bastardizing of personal development’.
Specifically, I want to label it as ‘The Tai Lopez Effect’.
But before I explain that label, let me take a big step back. I need to create some context.
I’ve been a fan of personal development writing and speaking since my early teens. I have always had an ear to the ground for new ideas, new voices and new mediums that can help me and other people to get more from life.
One of my very first influences in the realm of self-help was Earl Nightingale, often labeled as the Dean of Personal Development. He started his career as a radio broadcaster and slowly moved into a career as an educator on the human condition. His life lessons were always well structured and concise. He gave full credit to his teachers (Emerson, Thoreau, Napoleon Hill, Rollo May, Maxwell Maltz, William James to name a few).
To try to explain the value of Earl Nightingale’s contribution to the world is almost impossible. For me, he was my hero. A man I never met who profoundly impacted who I am.
Now, even when I started listening to Earl Nightingale in the 1980s he was already outdated. His messages had been already rehashed and repurposed several times over. Many new ‘gurus’ had taken the baton and run with it.
Men like Jim Rohn, Dennis Waitley, and Brian Tracy were all students of Earl Nightingale and did much to add to his legacy. Their work, while perhaps not as eloquent, was certainly of high value. They essentially took the early adopters advantage and made a living selling the dream of success.
As the years wore on we saw the introduction of the internet. With it came the emergence of new-age, internet marketing, and dating gurus. These people all fed off the same steady stream of information that basically dates back to Earl Nightingale.
Again, some of these teachers and trainers had value to give. Certainly, for those that had never heard the earlier teachers, these same ideas seemed profound. That is because the core ideas are profound.
So, to cut a long journey short, we arrive in the mid-2010s and we see the arrival of a mysterious man named Tai Lopez.
Just in case you haven’t heard of him, he is best known for his infamous ‘Here in my Garage’ Lamborghini video. (Take a minute to watch it and you will get a feel for the man I am talking about.)
Tai Lopez burst onto youtube screens worldwide about two years ago with this preposterously staged video about how he has just bought a new car, ostensibly through the ‘knowledge’ he had gained from reading thousands of books. In the video, he goes on for several minutes about how he loves ‘knowledge’ more than his car. Then just when you think it can’t get any triter he mentions his training program for 67 Steps to Success.
Almost immediately, the youtube community started to ‘hate’ on Tai for the banal, meretricious videos he was putting out.
I will admit that, for the first 30 seconds, I was even a bit impressed that this guy loved knowledge more than a Lamborghini. Wow, that’s original, I thought to myself. However, as more videos surfaced, it became clear that Tai Lopez was working all of us.
His videos were (and still are) thinly veiled ‘success porn’. They all feature big empty mansions, haughty women at his side, private jets and expensive dinners. They have the same level of authenticity as a cologne advertisement.
The cringe factor was enough to make anybody close their browser.
But here’s the thing: we didn’t.
We all kept watching.
Instead of ignoring this junk food version of personal development, we ate it up. The Lamborghini video has over 67 million views. Many of his other videos are also well into the hundreds of thousands of views as well.
The fact is that despite our love-to-hate relationship with Tai Lopez, he is appealing to a dark side of our nature. He is grabbing the attention of the lazy, gullible, expedience-seeking part of our brains and our culture.
I wanted to write this not to directly criticize Tai Lopez, but rather to shine a light on what makes us keep watching him.
This Tai Lopez Effect is a sign of our times. His videos herald the end of the line for the personal development genre. The noble work of Earl Nightingale (and those before him) has now been watered-down to appeal to our basest instincts.
He isn’t the only person doing this now. In fact, his brand of personal development seems to have created a drove of copycats. In their stylized worldview, all of us are only a few simple steps away from grandiose lifestyles and ultimate freedom; as long as we buy their program, personal coaching, three-day seminar, etc.
When it comes to Tai Lopez, we hate to admit it, but we love to watch him. Just as we all secretly hope that maybe – just maybe – there is a shortcut to success. Maybe if we get enough ‘knowledge’ we can somehow skip the work needed to get a Lamborghini in the garage.
In time I am sure Tai Lopez will fade into oblivion. He will certainly never have the legacy of someone like Earl Nightingale. But, wow, we have to admit, he had us all going there for quite a while.
Perhaps one youtube comment summed it best about Tai Lopez: “Man was poor, rich, helped others get rich, and is even a dank meme. He has lived a full life!”