Archive for March, 2011

Like many others, I’m avidly following the case of James Arthur Ray. Whatever the courts find will have an impact on the billions of dollars currently being “earned” by the Law of Attraction gurus. Okay, so it might just make a tiny dent in the big picture. While I think the likes of Canfield, Robbins and Katie are avidly glued to their sets, I don’t think the typical student is even aware.

When I “fell” down my rabbit hole and landed in state of bankruptcy, my “teacher” (earlier referred to as Missus) made it clear that I was fully accountable for my own outcome. On the surface, I agreed with her as no one held a gun to my head and forced me to make the bad investments that I did. But something underneath bothered me. And slowly it boiled up and now it’s spilling over.

I’m now of the mind that education is a two-way street: The student agrees to be open (hence vulnerable) and the teacher agrees to contribute genuine knowledge delivered in the best interest of the student. The very nature of learning, after all, is suspending your disbelief and trusting your teacher.

Back in the day, I was a motorcycle instructor, and those two aspects (genuine knowledge and student safety) were embedded in our teaching philosophy. For example, some students were terrified of revving their engines. As teachers, we had genuine knowledge to the contrary, and consequently required the student to suspend her disbelief. Trusting us was imperative to her learning.  And we had to respect that trust and ensure safety, so we taught in in a safe environment — the parking lot — at relatively slow speeds. We had to minimize the potential for harm. (And should harm befall them, we were all trained in first aid.)

When a student could not perform effectively as a student (ie he couldn’t suspend his disbelief and rev his engines), we as teachers were then required to act in that student’s best interest and discontinued him from the course. It was our job as good teachers to monitor their safety. It was not their job as a student to choose their own situation. If we let them do that, we’d loose our job. They did not yet know what they didn’t know (to state the obvious) so they couldn’t make a sound decision in their best interest.

When CBC’s Marketplace found the Robert Kiyosak course practicing questionable teachings, it was because the contracted instructors were claiming false experiential expertise (claimed a tract of land was earning them passive income when in fact it was a dead investment) and consequently were not acting in the best interest of the student. Following their teachings could land them in the same dire straights as their teachers (who were, it seemed, using teaching as the tool to dig themselves out of financial despair).

I do agree that it was a tragic accident. It was never a planned event. However, categorizing it as an accident does not eradicate accountability (and landing it in the laps of the dead students is a travesty — and a slippery escape from accountability). I hope true accountability lands in the lap of James Arthur Ray (JAR). The students job is to be open; the teacher’s job was to protect their safety (this usually goes without saying) while imparting genuine knowledge.

Becoming a teacher is serious business. It can’t just be a money-making factory. It can’t just be loaded with “good intentions” (which, BTW I think JAR had). It also requires a tremendous amount of expertise that goes beyond the experiential background of just the teacher her/himself. And it comes with a very high degree of responsibility.

So while my “financial” teacher, Missus and her snake-oiled partner were teaching with good intentions, they lacked the expertise in BOTH their own experiential background and in light of the entire financial industry. I am responsible for signing the document, and they are responsible for putting the option in front of me in the first place, and for guiding me to the “learned” belief that these were good investments (they all failed, one by one by one).

The awful reality comes down to this. When it comes to dealing with the results, that lands squarely on the shoulders of the student. It is only me who can step forward with my current financial reality. The teacher remains untouched. Untouchable. I think the James Arthur Ray case is an attempt to make an ethically bad teacher (ie he failed to keep his students safe, and he failed in being genuinely knowledgable) be responsible for the outcome.

I wonder how many people, like me, sit in financial despair because of the teachings of the gurus. I don’t think that litigation is the answer. And I also don’t think regulation is either (since when is the government truly representative of the people?). I think  the real answer lies in awareness and education.

And this blog is my small kick at that big can.

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Well, today is my birthday. Today is the day that I turn 46. Today will also mark the beginning of my blogging about my own process.

For anyone following this blog regularly, you will know that I too was taken in (“scammed” is another great word for it) by the Law of Attraction. My husband and I were “students” of what I now call quasi-gurus (those who had learned from the gurus and decided to make their own little fist-full of money teaching their watered down version of it … subconsciously perhaps having come to the realization that what made these gurus wealthy in the first place was not their own entrepreneurial ventures but their teachings).

The thing is, the whole reason why I fell for these quasi-gurus was anchored in the fact that I had known the husband of the woman teacher for about ten years. I trusted him implicitly — indeed I looked up to him — and through him I trusted his wife. The wife who I’ll refer to as Missus, had taken seminars from Robert Allen (Real Estate guru). She teamed up with another gleaming-toothed salesman (who I’ll call Snake) who had taken a number of T. Harv Eker courses (I’m assuming the one on teaching seminars as well). The two, I now know, were armed with their little success, which they puffily expanded in their free introductory course.

Selling us on a myriad of products, ranging from tax strategies to paper investments, the pressure was on to “start now,” as nothing was worse than financial gains delayed — nay lost — due to failure to act NOW, in the moment when an opportunity presented itself.

Before this, I had a pretty good financial situation in life. I had a credit rating of 825, which is in the top 15 percentile. Me and my husband had bought a condominium (mostly using my funds that I have saved for the down payment) that had doubled in value over three years. And thanks to a private contribution from my father given in perpetuity against my inheritance, our mortgage was pretty much paid off.

So I really thought I had a good foundational understanding of how money worked. And what the quasi gurus taught us made sense. And I’m one to shoot from the hip if it feels right. And their information felt right. They were very convincing. And even though I had little voices sounding off in the back of my head, we wanted the future they promised us. For us, but also for our newborn daughter. We wanted to secure a future for her. So on the “good” counsel from Missus and Snake, me and my husband tapped out our credit (their mantra is getting rich on OPM — Other People’s Money — which in this case meant the bank’s). We tapped into the “cheap money” available in our home (took out a second mortgage). And we purchased a range of “products” from their snake-oil business (which btw promised intentional wealth).

For about a year, we were held in the high esteem of these quasi-gurus, featured as star students for the other classes that came behind us (my husband was in their first seminar group, and I was in their second). They even went so far as to have me as a guest speaker on one of their many free seminars they held for bootcamp grads.

Fast forward a few years. One by one, slowly and painfully, each and every “product” or investment purchased from this “wealthy by intention” group flailed, then failed. They stopped touting our success as it was essentially a recognition of their profound failure. At first, Missus told me to stay the course. I just needed to stay strong, keep my mind on course. I could let a few failures make me stop investing (and of course the ultimate sales pitch is the frenzied cry, “If you stop, you’ll never get rich”), or I could stay the course. Believe it, and I will conceive it.

I got poorer and increasingly bitter. The relationship between me and my husband became strained. The quasi-gurus changed their tactics and started moving away from third party products and towards real-estate. And they definitely stopped looking in our general direction. We went from being their star students to being dust bunnies, frantically covered over least anyone should see us.

In our final consultation with these quasi-gurus, I distinctly recall Missus not-so-gently reminding me and my husband that no one forced us to make our decisions, that it was us, not them, who signed on the dotted line. And note that the Law of Attraction gurus are all notoriously good at this one: Failure can never be attributed to the teacher but rests solely on the shoulders of the student. (I am keenly following the James Arthur Ray trial to see which way this goes.)

I’ve given this a lot of consideration over the years, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the teacher also holds a portion of responsibility. By virtue of being a teacher, you step into a trusted position of authority. If a teacher abuses her or his trust (say by teaching unethical concepts or practices), that teacher is also responsible for the outcome. If I as a teacher teach my students to hate a certain category of humans, and then one of my students goes out and kills someone, I might not have pulled the trigger but I am guilty of directly contributing to the death of another person.

Likewise, this particular agency presented their success under false premises. Missus and Snake each proclaimed they were financially free and were teaching this course from the goodness of their hearts. We later find out that that proclamation might have been true for a month or two, but not as a perpetual state of living. They also taught us the “five pillars” upon which all successful investments were based, and then showed us how each of their products lived up to at least four of the five (and they always had a great way of spinning the fifth). And then they’d backed it with the claim that their financial successes were all based on previous versions of these products. (In some cases, the revisioned versions were to salvage the first iteration. So essentially they were selling products in the hopes of salvaging their own original investments. Aka a ponzi scheme. Again, something we found out at a later date, when it was much to late for us.)

So, yes, we did sign on the dotted line. Not that accountability is an issue, as every single day I am confronted with the results of my signing on the dotted line. I have to live with my decisions, and I have to try to move forward each and every day. But without their “goodly” (snake-oil) guidance, we never would have made the decisions we did.

Fast forward to today. I’m working with a bankruptcy consultant. Our monthly cost of living is upward to $13,000 a month. It is unsustainable.

In an attempt to protect the money my father contributed toward my mortgage, I explored putting up their loan as a lien against our house. I consulted a lawyer. (Two emails cost me $180!!) In wanting to at least protect his investment, I  finally had to tell them, him and his wife, about my financial outlook. Not the details, because I’m still incredibly embarrassed and ashamed about having gone from almost mortgage-free with a credit rating of 825 at age 41 to bankrupt at age 46. But I did state that I wanted them to register a lien against our house so that they would be paid back should we have to go that route.

Turns out, the money came from his wife, so my dad turned it over to her. And she laid into me today, telling me how disappointed and troubled she is, that I’m trying to get them to register a lien on an already fully mortgaged house. She seems to have spun this around into me further taking advantage of them. And she’s laying it on thick and heavy.

Sadly, there’s nothing she can say or do to make feel worse than I’m already feeling. She cannot rake me over the coals anymore than I’ve already raked myself. I’ve lived in the depths of utter despair. Suicide had been a serious contemplation for months.

The money was given by them against my future inheritance, and it was given without a repayment plan. As the house increased in value, so to did their share. And whatever the value of the house was at the time of their demise, that was to be taken from my inheritance. We all signed papers to that effect, without lawyers.

And now my step-mother feels cheated, hurt and angry, and deserving an explanation. And I stand here in my midlife knowing that I’ve screwed up beyond repair. I’ve squandered my future, and I’ve also damaged my daughter’s financial future. My relationship with my husband is strained. And while the money was given with an initial intention of being permanent and without payment, it turns out there are tremendously thick strings attached. So when all this is said and done and put squarely behind me, when I can finally laugh about, “Oh, and remember the time where I got screwed over by … hahaha oh wasn’t that something,” I am determined to get this last financial monkey of my back. No idea how I’m going to do it yet, but I am going to pay that woman back and free myself from the burden of her disappointment. And firmly close that door behind me.

So the disintegration of family begins. Bankruptcy is truly just the beginning. And as far as the first day of my 47th year in life goes, it truly sucks.

I’ll keep you posted, because the only thing I have left is my story. And maybe it can help someone else travelling this same path beside me. Or prevent someone from going down that path in the first place.

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Law of Attraction and Japan

   Posted by: Britt    in On the Law of Attraction

Did Japan get what was coming to them? After all, they’ve obviously spent a lot of time preparing for earthquakes, especially apparent when a 9.0 earthquake does very little structural damage.

Okay, so before you get your backs up, the bottom line (and the top and the middle and all the spaces in between) is no no no no no. One blogger put it nicely in their posting, Japan and the Law of Attraction, asking the gurus to back off with their fervor and accept that there are natural acts that are beyond the capacity of any individual.

I can accept that how you think affects your world view, and in that sense, your thoughts shape your world view. Grumpy people encounter other grumpy people; happy people encounter other happy people. If I leave the house in a bad mood, I might be more snappish, rude and abrupt with others, thereby tainting (not controlling) how others respond to me; if I leave the house in a jubilant mood, my attitude may be infectious and also shape how others respond to me.

But the only earth-moving events an individual can actually impact is probably when they have an intimate encounter with another person. And then, depending on the size of that person’s … um … imagination, the actual experience of “earth-moving” may or may not be shared with the other person involved.

Naming Attraction a “Law” is enormously erroneous. As I mention in an earlier posting, a law can be only one of two things. First, it is an irrefutable fact that you cannot simply choose to defy. Try defying gravity when you get out of bed tomorrow. Given a certain environment (like existing within a certain atmosphere here on earth), a certain act will produce repeatable results. If I drop an apple, it will fall to the ground. End of sentence. The law only changes when that environment changes (if you were floating in space). You cannot mis-apply a law.

When your LOA teacher tells you that you are just thinking the wrong thoughts, back away my friend.

The second type of law is one that has social agreement, like the law that says killing people will be punished. This law changes based on situation (ie war, self-defence). Last I checked, there was nothing in the books about our universe  being legally obliged to reward a positive-minded individual with wealth and other forms of ridiculous abundance.

Naming Attraction a “Law” is ridiculous, really. At best, we should actually be calling it a suggestion. The Idea of Attraction, the Philosophy of Attraction, the Principles of Attraction, the Influence of Attraction all work for me. The Law??? Rip it up, run it through the shredder, scoff at it (and don’t worry, you won’t be hit by a truck in the seconds that follow).

There are things which are definitely beyond individual (and yes, even collective) control. Such as the weather, the thoughts and actions of a single tyrannical leader (Pol Pot of the Khmer Rouge, Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany, Moammar Gadhafi of Lybia, and on and on the list goes), or the sadistic child molester.

What is within our control is what we do with what has happened to us. No, we probably didn’t deserve what happened to us. No, we didn’t attract it. And if it kills you, there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. But if you survive, it’s really what you do with it. And pasting a smile on your face and faking PolyAnna isn’t exactly the way either. Before you can infuse the world, the universe, with your so-called positive energy, you’re first going to have to do the hard work of fixing what was broken. Physically and mentally.

And then you get on with the hard business of living.


Put this on your Vision Board

   Posted by: Britt    in General

So, you believe in the Law of Attraction, eh (Yes, I’m Canadian)? So you think all you have to do is “conceive it” to “receive it.” The more clever amongst you might even throw in a dash of “doing,” stating very knowingly that attraction without action delivers only a fraction. So, my friends, get out your motivational vision boards and slap this image up. The Vancouver iconic mansion Casa Mia now happens to be on the market for a mere $10.5M. Canadian that is.

Here’s the thing. If you have limited resources, a limited supply of anything, it cannot be infinitely available to anyone.

Here are the things that are limited in our universe: money, food, water and shelter. Soon clean oxygen can be added to the list. These are all things leveraged by benevolent rulers in order to control the masses.

Those who teach and propagate the “Laws” Infinite Abundance (including the likes of Oprah, T Harv Eker, ) are those who already live in a cushy state of abundance, and have figured out a way to reach into the pockets of the spiritually and financially hungry. It’s easy to speak about abundance if you’re the tallest tree in the forest (assuming, of course, that trees can speak). It’s easy to draw analogies from the strong blade of grass that pokes relentlessly through the crack in the sidewalk. It’s beyond facile to state “I put it on a vision board and voila there it be.”

But, hey, I’m just a simple woman with an opinion. Let’s put it to the test. Let each of us take these images, slap them on our vision boards, let our subconscious do all the work, and we’ll see who gets there first.

Come on. Humour me.