Our Love/Hate Relationship with Gurus

Editor’s Note: The following post is a piece by Jim Kukral, former Managing Editor of ReveNews and author of Attention! This Book Will Make You Money. Jim provided the link to the survey below, which we included, because it should make both for some great insight and allow for an interesting followup to this piece. Enjoy.

The definition of a guru is: “1 : a personal religious teacher and spiritual guide in Hinduism 2a : a teacher and especially intellectual guide in matters of fundamental concern b: one who is an acknowledged leader or chief proponent c: a person with knowledge or expertise : expert”.

That’s certainly a favorable definition; don’t you think? According to that definition, I believe it would be hard to find anyone who wouldn’t want to be regarded to in that manner. I know I would.

Yet, when you put the words “online” or “Web” or “social media” in front of the word guru, you get a much, much different definition. Normally it involves much negativity and provokes words like “scam-artist” or forgive my French, “asshole”.

The World Hates Gurus?

Yes, people seem to really dislike online gurus. Or do they? Is it possible that maybe they just misunderstand them and pick on them? That’s one of the questions I’d like to discuss with you today.

But wait, there’s more!

So where did it all go wrong? At what point did a real-life guru who happens to know a lot about a topic, who sells or promotes the knowledge or skill on the Web become a bad thing? And, who’s to blame?

Blame The Info-Marketers?

It would be really easy to place the blame on the long page sales letter information marketers of the world. You know what I’m talking about. Those ridiculously long one-page sales letters that you have to scroll fifty-times to get to the bottom of, only to see a big “Order before it’s too late” button. Is it their fault?

Blame Billy Mays?

Direct selling has been around forever. From the markets in Jerusalem in Jesus’s time, to the boardwalks in Atlantic City in the 1900’s, where people like Billy Mays got their start. It’s just selling a product, nothing more, nothing less. But something happened when sales shifted to the Web. Suddenly, instead of being a salesperson, Billy Mays and his like became gurus. Why? Are they to blame?

Blame The Consumer?

Yeah, you. You wanted it faster, cheaper and more of it. You bought into the lifestyle dream. You believed (and still do) that you could make millions without working by buying a $2,000 product. Maybe you’re to blame? Maybe, just maybe, you’re angry after you realized you don’t instantly make millions just by opening the 22-disc DVD launch set you ordered. You are cheesed off because you realized you spent $2k and then you had to actually work to make it happen. Yeah, maybe it’s yourself you should blame?

What’s your take? I’d love to hear from you. If you have a moment, please consider taking this short anonymous survey about online gurus. When you’re done with that, please leave a comment below and tell me who’s to blame for the anti-guru sentiment.

About Jim Kukral

You can find Jim on Twitter: @JimKukral.

  • http://www.whatdoesjoethink.com Joe Sousa

    The only problem I have with "gurus" is so many of them tell half-truths, exaggerate their claims, sell products that don't really do what they claim, and all in all are fairly dishonest.

    Of course that paints the entire "guru" industry with a big brush and there are some good guys out there who would be considered gurus who really can deliver what they promise. Out of about 100 so-called internet marketing gurus I have met I can probably count on one hand those who I would trust.

    • Jim Kukral

      Joe, you seem to have nailed what most people are saying on the survey. What's interesting to me is that the same people who say they hate gurus, are saying that they're ok if someone else calls them a guru. So it's about self-promotion.

    • affiliatetip

      Maybe there's a market and business opportunity for a guru rating system. ;)

      • Pat Grady

        love this idea! instead of stars or a number system, i'm picturing little icons ranging from gandhi to ass clown.

        • affiliatetip

          ass clown seems too kind for the bottom of the barrel.

  • http://twitter.com/loxly @loxly

    I said it wasn't ok for others to call me a guru because I prefer not to be lumped with the prevalent group of online gurus. I don't have a problem with people calling me an expert.

    The other thing is that if others consider you to be a guru, it is because of your definition above and not because I say I am. Big difference between self proclaimed gurus and real gurus.

    • Jim Kukral

      Deb, that's the big thing then isn't it? Thanks for commenting.

  • http://www.affiliatefairplay.com Kellie Stevens

    Whenever I come across someone calling themselves a guru, I pretty much immediately tune them out. For many of the reasons that Joe mentioned. Often times, they seem to spend more time on self-inflation than actually showing me even a glimpse of their self-reported knowledge and expertise.

  • http://www.theinternettimemachine.com Vee Sweeney

    For one, I believe they have a bad reputation because what's backing them up? Do they have a degree, do they have 20 years of experience in the field that they are trying to teach other people and make money from it? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. However, when the answer is no, people tend to feel misguided, especially if the guru was not transparent about their background. On the flip side of things though, there are many determined people out there who go after what they want; some of them are gurus. I cannot blame a person for going after what they want. Second, there is the jealousy issue. If one guy is making millions a year selling a crappy product, it ticks off all the guys (and girls) who spend 18 hours a day working their butt off to build their business with little to no success. And last, there are always a few rotten apples in the bunch. There are scams in pretty much every line of business out there and there are always going to be those who try to take advantage. Unfortunately, those who are honest and are running a real business get the same stigma as the scammers do.

    • Jim Kukral

      I think you're right. A lot of times some people get a bad rap because of the techniques they use, when in reality their information might be really good.

  • Rick Lea

    Let's face the facts here people. If someone knows how to make lots of loot online, they are gonna exploit it to the fullest extent before letting others know about it. It is very rare that someone will let the cat out of the bag prematurely. If they do then kudos to them, but we all know that this RARELY happens. Most of the time these Guru's teach some old crap that worked months ago and make a decent profit off of others trying their old, has been methods. Then the guru makes the most money off of deceiving people not in the know.

    • Jim Kukral

      So therein lies the reason, probably, that most have a negative opinion of them. Is it fair that the people who aren't rehashing info and actually provide good information are lumped in?

  • Pat Grady

    I agreed to begin to mentor a complete PPC neophyte, the guy had never written a single PPC ad in his life. The very next day, his email signature said "PPC Guru". The desire to be highly regarded by others, to be a member of the inner circle or ring, is very strong – overwhelmingly so at times.

    In his 1944 essay called "The Inner Ring", CS Lewis said this:
    I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside.

    On your own path to self-fulfillment, it's important to understand the 'guru' desire in others, as well as within yourself. A slow read of Lewis's essay is a stepping stone I recommend along that road:
    lewissociety.org/innerring.php

    • Jim Kukral

      Pat, great advice! You're my guru. :)