I was recently pushed into enrolling for a 3.5 days seminar, lets call it LM. The promise of LM is ‘anything you want for yourself or your life is available out of your participation in LM‘. I decided to open myself up to what LM had to offer.
While psychology is not a perfect science, unfolding the mysteries of the human mind is a complicated riddle. Any ideology/ organisation/ person who claims to have solved this riddle should be looked at with skepticism. My course at LM was one such experience, the more I thought about what lies beneath it, the more it grossed me out. I would like to share my argument against it, within the humble understanding of logic that I have.
LM is a for profit business
- The fees are Rs.17,900 for a 3.5 day course. The number of participants were 300 per course. That makes it Rs.17,900 X 300 = Rs.53,70,000.
- The volunteers work for free to make the event possible. While they say, “We could have hired an event management company and charged you for it, we didn’t do it because it wouldn’t bring about results the way it did”, it actually is a smart business decision because they save a lot of money. They try to make it sound like they did their best to make it more affordable so that people can access it. It also adds to the image of commitment & dedication that they are trying to create.
- The fees do not include food.
- Any auditorium owned by the Municipal Corporation in Pune charges not more than Rs.20,000 per 3 hours (Have enquired with PMC).
For 12 hours, it would be Rs.80,000 X 3.5 days = Rs.2,80,000. Adding another Rs.20,000 for the equipment rental and stationary would make it Rs.3,00,000.
Assuming the leader gets Rs.1,00,000 per course, would make their total expenses Rs.4,00,000.
- Here is the shocking part,
- Total cost – Expenses = Profit
- Rs.53,70,000 – Rs.4,00,000 = Rs.49,70,000!
- 5 million worth of profit for 3.5 days work!
- What would you like to say to, “Hamein ismein kya milega, helping people brings me a lot of joy!” Really?
- Wikipedia says “A pyramid scheme is an unsustainable business model that involves promising participants payment or services, primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, rather than supplying any real investment or sale of products or services to the public”
- Pyramidal Scheme of Marketing – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_scheme
- The product that LM delivers ‘anything you want for yourself and your life’ is a subjective result of the course, (an abstract product, not a physical product); pyramidal marketing is well suited.
- Aggressive, persistent marketing strategies which are so well integrated in the speeches is another feature of LM. The audience finds it difficult to identify where the coaching stops & marketing begins.
In the coach’s words, “How many of you want to transform your life completely? How many of you have tried to change your life on your own? And how many of you have failed? LM will do that for you”.
Day 2 Assignment : “Please call 3 people in your life and share what LM did for you. Stand up for them. Invite them for the Evening Seminar and convince them to register.” Coach, “Do you know why I gave you this assignment? If the environment around you doesn’t change, you will fall back to being what you were!” That really scares the shit out of people. People make their calls and guess what, its a perfect pyramid, 1:3!
If you have noticed, unlike all the other home assignments, this assignment is not in a printed form. So there is no evidence for proving them wrong. Smart decision, LM!
- Day 3 : After the session on ‘Life is meaningless & empty’, people are left baffled & hopeless. This is when the video of the ‘Advanced Course’ plays. Perfect food for a hope hungry audience!
- Day 3 : Invite Graduate Visitors. And set up the registration desk for the Advanced Course in front of them. The positive feedback and peer pressure will push you towards the registration desk & so will the Rs.8,000 ‘scholarship’/ discount.
- Day 2 : The session on parenting is followed by introducing the Forum for Children & Teenagers. That was an obvious one.
- Skepticism is a the very base of human reasoning. The basis of philosophy, the basis of what differentiates right from wrong for us and gives us the power of decision making.
Day 1 : Coach says, “Leave aside your analytical skills. Has it brought you results?” So here on, all arguments will be answered by, “Have you done your assignments? If you didn’t get results, you are doing something wrong.” And if not by this, then by cheap humour.
Coach says, “I am your coach, not your teacher, not your guide. A dedicated player listens to his coach without asking questions. That is what you will be here. Be coachable.” So there goes logic down the drains.
- One rule of LM that the Coach makes you promise is ‘the rule of confidentiality’. “Aap kisi ke saath share nahi karoge is room main kya hota hai.” If you don’t share, people cannot question you, if they don’t question you, you don’t rethink. If you don’t rethink you keep believing in LM & recommend it to more people. This rule of confidentiality is a very effective business strategy.
- People always struggle with logic & argument, hence are easy targets. Vulnerable people are all the more easy targets.
- Mass euphoria that LM creates after ‘breakthroughs’ kills objective thinking.
- ‘Breakthrough’, ‘Authentic’, ‘Possibility’, ‘Genesis’, ‘Opportunity’, ‘Invent’, ‘Future’, ‘Complete’, ‘Transformation’, ‘Result’, ‘Racket’, ‘Extraordinary’, ‘Realm’, ‘Touch’, ‘Inspire’, ‘Move’, ‘Powerful’, ‘scholarship’..
- Words are a translation of what you think and your words modify your thinking. Brainwashing you to think in this limited vocabulary limits your freedom of expression & thinking.
- LM people sound like this –
“Why don’t you register for the Advanced Course, Madam?”
“Well, it didn’t work for me. There is nothing new in it for me. Before you ask me, I would like to tell you I was thorough with my assignments.”
“Why don’t you open a new possibility for yourself?”
“I don’t think LM is opening any new possibility for me. It gives me an illusion of hope and kills my critical thinking ability.”
“Why don’t you open a new possibility for yourself?”
“LM worked for me in a few areas and it didn’t in most areas. I am sorry, I am not interested in taking this further.”
“Why don’t you open a new possibility for yourself?”
(Does he even get a firm no?)
“Madam, you will be talking to the Coach about this!”
It almost felt like listening to an answering machine, “Why don’t you open a new possibility for yourself?”
Nature of the Audience & the Impact on Them
- Day 1 : Coach, “How many of you have heard of Socrates?” 10/ 300 hands show up. I have nothing against not knowing Socrates. My point is, that is how unexposed the audience is.
- Vulnerable, struggling, hope hungry, uncritical, hero worshiping.
- For an audience who’s sense of expression has been clogged and suppressed for years together, the slightest hole(pe) of draining the water, sounds marvelous and the person facilitating this becomes a hero figure/ God
- Watch Fight Club – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0137523/
- Such a ‘devoted’ audience will accept anything their (cult) leader tells them. The power of real choice doesn’t really lie with them.
- Honest conversations, under the name of formality and ‘looking good’ have been discouraged and suppressed since time unknown and even the smallest platform that provides this becomes an altar/ a sacred place.
- Placebo effect (making your headaches disappear), mass hypnotism (session on fear), the unconscious peer pressure of making it work, being enclosed in a room for 14 hours, temporary euphoria are important reasons that kill objectivity.
- Uneducated audience find it difficult to identify the nature and impact of chauvinism, physical, mental & sexual abuse, rejection, fear, phobia, depression, anxiety, evil, insecurities etc. Suppressed housewives, abused children, unsuccessful businessmen are hence easy targets.
- To add to this the coach is a sexist, chauvinist, rascist man. “Wives ekbar soch ke dekho husbands office mein kya kaam karte hain”, “Hus-banks ek bar soch ke dekho, wives ghar mein kya karti hai.” Why the rigid rigid structure of how men and women should be, as if chauvinism hasn’t done enough damage to us already. “Hum Punjabi aise hote hai.” Why reinforce the racist stereotype?
- Turing Test http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test. This will be an interesting read.
- What separates humans from machines is complex question. While research is still on, a few differentiating factors would be feeling and remembering an experience >> having a memory of that experience >> hence having a sense of history/ past.
- Most ‘rackets’ that we create in life are based on our experiences in the past. It is important to identify facts (what happened) from the experience/ feeling/ conclusion. (This is one area where LM encourages critical thinking).
- Although this separation is important, LM forgets that memories are a huge part of human existence and neglects the layers of any relationship. In oversimplifying things, LM expects a complete disconnect between the past and present, which is impossible since we are a ‘victim’ of memory.
- Equating/ Comparing the intensity and nature of an issue with its time duration is another facet of LM. ‘No. of times a person is bullied’ vs. ‘the no. of years someone felt affected’. LM expects people to get over the effect of their trauma the day they stop experiencing it. The parameters for measuring intensity and time cannot be the same. LM trivializes the fact that incidences have a much deeper impact on humans and change them in ways that are difficult to comprehend.
- LM ‘runs a racket’ on itself in many ways.
- The premise is – Life (as a whole set) is empty and meaningless.
- The Conclusion is – Hence, create possibilities (which are a subset of life) within the boundaries of life.
- A subset carries the same properties as of the whole set it belongs to. Possibilities are a subset of life, since you create them within the boundaries of life (and not death) will have the same properties as that of life. Possibilities will be empty & meaningless.
- How does LM ‘complete’ you then?
- Behind anything that looks ‘extraordinarily’ neat, always lies a dark secret.
- If all is well implies all is not well
- Then the state of completeness also implies a state of incompleteness.
- And hence, anything you want for yourself and your life implies anything you might not want for yourself and your life.
- How does this work?
- LM is a good combination of making you feel incomplete (so that you sign up for more courses) in the process of being complete with yourself.
- Here’s the irony. LM worked well for 99% of the audience and at least 60% signed up for the Advanced Course. If only they knew they were being exploited.
- Do watch this German film Mephisto to understand the nature of evil – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082736/
- I am open to hearing a counter argument.
- Watch this beautiful animation called Noodle Fish – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsC1aSu7DIw