Resurrection of the Self Help Seminar

If you’re reading this on 1st April you may think the heading of this post is a joke (if that’s what you want, guess what? Life Coaching To Be Banned– honest!). That no way a few weeks after broadcasting to the world about the Death of the Self Help Seminar, Carl Harvey has done a complete volte face and is now a huge fanboy of self development seminars.

One of the things I’ve always found weird about the US election system is the way politicians will viciously attack each other for changing their minds.

My take on the matter is fairly straight forward. When contrary and incontrovertible evidence shows up, then to not change your mind doesn’t make you statesmanlike, it makes you simpletonlike.  None of  us like being wrong, but we all are from time to time and it takes guts to admit it, especially in public.

So when young Carl sent me an e-mail admitting he may have been a tad rash in his rush to write off a billion dollar industry (made up stat), who was I not to give him the platform on which to explain what or even who, caused this radical mind shift?

I wasn’t totally  sure I wanted him telling people I seduced him on Skype, but what the hell, you only live once.

Before I hand you over to Mr Harvey, news on the FREE Life Coaching Offer – I have been overwhelmed with the response to this and as such, have pulled the closing date forward to the 5th April. If you’re interested in having me at your beck and call for 6 months get your arse into gear now.

Resurrection of the Self Help Seminar

If you never change your mind, why bother to have one?”
– Edward de Bono

OK… You’ve got me. I’ve changed my mind. I’m a new man with new perspectives.

Perhaps the blame can be laid with Tim for this one. After all, it was our lovely shiny-headed friend who seduced me on Skype, recommending I sign up to Jamie Smart’s Salad NLP Master Practitioner course – just weeks after I vowed never to attend a self help seminar again.

Tim’s suggestion set off a series of chain reactions which have had me reevaluating my beliefs about personal development courses – and have had me booking six more Salad seminars, a full year in advance.

This will surprise those of you who read my post ‘Death of the Self Help Seminar’ here a few weeks ago. If you missed it, the summary was: self-interested guru talking at an audience for 3 days – not good at all.

This approach polarized commentators on the post – some were 100% with me, some (even those who attended the same event) thought me guilty of heresy. It became clear that there was a huge difference in opinion between readers of Tim’s blog. Some loved seminars, some hated them.

When you read on, you’ll find out what Jamie got right at this new seminar – and we will also clarify what our unnamed-guru from the last event got so horribly wrong (in my humble opinion).

In short, self help seminars are back in a big way – when they are done the right way. And that right way is by focusing on the audience’s needs, and not on the needs of the guru.

The Art of Enlightened Success

The seminar I went on was Jamie Smart of Salad’s, ‘The Art of Enlightened Success’. This sounds a little like it was designed for bandanna-wearing, scooter-riding, whale strokers, so let me explain.

Whenever I buy something, I like to negotiate. Always. It’s fun and often you’ll be surprised at how much wiggle room you’ll create, just by asking.

So there I was on the phone to Jamie, desperately attempting to bring the cost down (the investment for his NLP Master Practitioner course comes in at around $6500 – not cheap), and was failing rather miserably.

I’d tried everything from standard pleading (I’m young, recently self-employed and this is a lot of money), to brazen name-dropping (I’m very good friends with Tim Brownson, and the only reason I’m considering this is because of him – how about a deal?) … and everything in between.

Unfortunately, Jamie was sticking to his guns and pleading the annoying pitch which people who truly believe in their products reel off – i.e. “It’s worth this much and a lot more”. Bastard.

Finally, through a mixture of sheer exhaustion, irritability and Jamie’s increasingly-consuming desire to talk to somebody different, he proposed that I should attend his seminar on ‘Enlightened Success’ this coming weekend. I wouldn’t have to pay if I paid for the NLP course in advance. Deal?


So that’s what got me back in a self-help seminar, a mere two months after telling this very audience that I was retired from the seminar game. The interesting twist is that this was by far one of the most enlightening and trans-formative weekends of my life so far. I’m blown away by the course – and its results.

A Quick Recap

In my last article, I wrote about 4 key pillars that a successful self help seminar should possess.

They were:

1) New Information
2) Inspiration
3) A support network
4) Change

In short, if a seminar provides you with stuff you didn’t know; inspiration to integrate this new info; cool people on the same journey; and lasting change…. well, you’ve got your money’s worth.

Jamie’s seminar smashed these pillars out of the park.

Here’s why:

(1) The audience were the primary focus.

In this seminar, the audience were King / Queen for the weekend. Any questions? Answered straight away. Disagree with what’s being discussed? Instant clarification / argument. Something still not sticking? We’ll stay late a couple of hours and clear it up for you.

Jamie liked to be challenged. He clearly rose to the task of quieting and enlightening would-be dissenters (ahem… me).

He wouldn’t move on until every person (24 of us) was utterly sold on each concept – and not at an intellectual level, but at a “Fuck me, I know this is the way it is” kind of way.

There were no “favorites” in the audience, either because;

(a) the instructor knew them from before

(b) they ate raw food and read energy fields for a living (ahem)

(c) they asked “safe” questions or merely validated the point of view of the guru.

In short, this was the opposite of the “in crowd” I experienced at my previous seminar. In retrospect, in Vegas I remember thrusting my hand in the air to discuss nearly every question – and being summarily ignored each time. Certain folks, however, were being called upon again and again.

My conclusion: it’s hard to achieve spiritual breakthroughs when the seminar leader just wants to talk to his friends and allies.

(2) Metaphors and Stories, Not Logic

One of the things you’d expect from a world-renowned NLP & Hypnosis expert is advanced language skills, and Jamie didn’t disappoint.

Much of the teaching was done in ambiguous stories and metaphors, rather than by using cold logic alone.

Why did this work? Well, I’ve read plenty that suggests that our unconscious mind (i.e. the part of us that is really running the show) responds better to imagery and metaphor than it does to “facts”. Even if we don’t consciously understand why a story is being told, we can get a feeling deep inside us of resonation and congruence.

Over the course of the three days, Jamie used dozens of anecdotes to help us understand what “enlightened success” was at a deep level. I found this simple technique to be disproportionately effective.

Looking back on the Vegas seminar, it was very much along the lines of “If you want to achieve X, you must do / think Y and Z”. Very analytical, very logical. Very black and white.

Jamie bypassed the conscious minds of his audience by appealing to the intuitive aspect within all of us. And in doing so, he deepened our understanding and transformation.

(3) Change. Big Change.

The biggest difference between this seminar and my Vegas one was the REAL change that was going on in the room.

From the 60 year old recently-retired “spiritual skeptic” to the “hard man” motorcyclist, each of the 24 people in the seminar got their money’s worth.

It’s probably worth pointing out that these were British people too, who tend to be more reserved at these sort of gatherings. Even so, there were quiet moments, tears, visible insights and powerful transformations popping off throughout the three days.

I’ve been dwelling upon why this was the case. All I can come up with is that Jamie was devoted to helping the people at the seminar, and that he used a variety of strategies and approaches to make sure that he got his wish.

At the last event, I was left with a bitter taste that,

“this is my way of seeing things – if you don’t think like this, you’re wrong”

Jamie’s approach was,

“if you can’t see my way of doing things, I’M doing something wrong, so I’ll find another way to resonate with you”

One great example of this was when one of the participants at the Vegas event volunteered that “I don’t get on with my mother regarding my career choice”. Guru’s advice? Disown your mother. She’s no good for you. Disconnect from her life.

Oops. A little black and white for some, perhaps.

At Jamie’s event, whilst there was often spirited debate, no one would be told to act in a way which ran counter to their beliefs or wishes. Whereas Guru 1 suggested we chose option A OR option B, Jamie helped us to decide on our ideal result, and then come up with a way to get it – without alienating the people we love.

In one instance, this meant spending close to an hour battering down one skeptic’s views on the money / security “correlation” (read: myth). We didn’t move on until the skeptic had his “ah ha!” moment. This was awesome and humbling to experience – a person’s belief system crumbling before our very eyes.

Additionally, there were loads of “one-on-one” breakthrough sessions and group work. This was hands on stuff – certainly not “sit here and watch the guru speak for three days”. The group worked as a team. The team got results.

4) Content

Ok, ok… content is king and this event was no exception.

The Vegas event’s content could be summed up as such: You are where you are now

(A). Work out what you want to do / be / have in your life

(B). When you get to B, then you’ll be happy and fulfilled

For some reason, this just didn’t seem like “spiritual growth” for me. It felt like material growth dressed up in spiritual costume.

As somebody who is getting ever-closer to my “chosen life”, I knew first hand that this theory was bullshit.

When our external circumstances change, we may often feel better in the short term, but the effects do tend to be short lived. True well-being is innate and NOT reliant on our level of success, no matter how much we tend to kid ourselves that WE will be the exception to the rule. “Money doesn’t bring happiness, of course not…. BUT it would bring ME happiness, sure…”

Yeah yeah, of course it will :)

Jamie’s seminar, however, worked on the premise that: “Well-being and happiness are within you. They are not dependent on circumstances and achievements. Paradoxically, when you’re happy on the inside, it becomes a whole lot easier to get the outside stuff you thought you needed in the first place”.

This is a much nicer way of looking at the world, in my opinion.

Rather than trying to do or be things, you simply focus on your own well-being. And when you have the “shift” – that is, knowing that nothing outside of you can impact on your level of happiness, well-being, or self-esteem, well… life becomes a bloody blast.

The idea that we are whole and complete now, and we can treat life as a game to get stuff that we want (but it doesn’t matter if we don’t get what we want, because we’re already happy inside) – well, wow – that’s powerful, transformative stuff (if a little tricky to get your head around at first!)

The King is Dead. Long Live the King!

So, a mere two months after slamming Self Help Seminars, I’ve come full circle and now can’t wait to go on another one (six).

Jamie Smart managed to integrate the four pillars necessary (new info, inspiration, cool people, focus on change) with some new and valuable ways of teaching (focus purely on the audience; use of varied teaching methods; relentless change, change, change; and teach content that isn’t a load of generic bollocks :)

The result? 24 high-on-life English men and women, feeling amazing, confident – and above all – happy on the inside, no matter how “successful” they are externally.

I’ve spoken to several of the participants 10 days on, and all are still similarly affected by what went on last weekend.

For the reasons outlined above (and maybe some I’ve missed), this was a seminar that truly over-delivered.

This is the resurrection of the self help seminar.

Over To You

So… What do you think? Those of you who joined me in rubbishing self help seminars last time around – would you pay to go on a course like this?

Those who enjoyed Vegas – do you think you would have found this seminar even more valuable?  Or do you still love the way the Vegas seminar was operated?

And those of you who have been put off from attending seminars in the past… Would you consider going now if it met these criteria?

Finally, why do you think I enjoyed this seminar so much? Do you think it’s all (or partly) down to the teacher? Or have I missed something else? What is it that truly makes a self help seminar?

You can read Carl’s is blog at Personal Development Planet, if you are up for some more of the same.