We live in an age of gurus.
Online influencers, self-righteous celebrities and political know-it-alls, many of whom have fiery opinions.
If you disagree with them, they’ll demonize you, take cheap shots and use name calling to discredit you. Where did all this hate come from? And why are people so swayed by it?
Emotion hypnotizes the masses
If you read my post late last year How to vote like a zen master, you already know about emotion’s power to persuade. It’s done so for thousands of years and was even one of Aristotle’s three pillars of persuasion.
If someone delivers their message with passion, we’re more likely to believe them, even if they don’t provide any evidence of their argument’s truth. These kinds of fiery, emotional messages are all over the media. You’ll see talk show hosts, politicians and influencers on social media spouting them.
The thing is, emotion sells. It generates attention. This is often why people say there is no such thing as bad publicity, because even if a person does something terrible in the spotlight, those actions command the attention of the masses. And in today’s economy, attention is money.
The dangers of narrow thinking
More important than emotion’s persuasion power, is the danger of blindly believing emotional messages without considering other points of view.
People often follow emotional leaders because they’re drawn to their passion. This can lead to blocking out other perspectives and some potentially very dangerous consequences. Let me share a few examples.
About four years ago, I blindly latched onto a guru’s advice about advertising. While his system worked initially, in the long run it’s likely cost me around 20K in lost revenue, if not more. Why? I didn’t seek other opinions on advertising—I just zoned in on the guru’s words. And this caused me to miss opportunities. Only years later, when I sought multiple perspectives on advertising, I finally got my income to the next level. But still…the damage of my mistake was done.
What about the dangers of following health advice from one person?
This can prove far more catastrophic than my advertising misstep. If you have a serious illness and only listen to one online health guru or one doctor, it could cost you your life. Second opinions should be applied to more things than just health though and, really, third or fourth opinions should be sought often.
Belief that one person has the answers can create a “war mentality”
Narrow thinking is also dangerous because it puts one side against another. People begin to identify with one way of thinking, believing their opinion is right and everyone else is wrong. Instead of challenging their own beliefs and questioning whether they really know the truth, they surround themselves with like-minded dudes and demonize the other side.
We saw this most glaringly in last year’s presidential election. Both sides painted the other as a demon. What kind of effect did this have on the US? Well, it was tearing the country apart. Had Trump actually proved that voter fraud existed or had Trump even won, there could have been a civil war.
I don’t care whether you like Trump or Biden, I personally believe there are both good and bad things to their individual political agendas. The point is, the way both sides demonize the other and putting complete faith in one party/person is a dangerous game.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t associate with people who you share things in common, but I am saying you should also associate with dudes who share different perspectives. Why? It will broaden your perspective and help you grow as a person.
Don’t blindly believe anyone (even me)
Really, not anyone. Not your mom, your wife, me or any online guru.
Be open to multiple perspectives. Don’t ridgidly believe in one thing, and if someone proves your opinion wrong, drop your defensiveness. You should be happy. Why? Because that person just helped you broaden your perspective and grow as a person.
There is no shame in being wrong.
While some gurus have good intentions, that doesn’t mean their way is the only way. I don’t believe my former advertising guru was purposely trying to mislead myself or others. But his narrow perspective was not the right way to do things.
The point is, no single guru has all the answers.
And for that reason, I encourage you to not blindly believe the advice I give in this blog. Remember, what I teach and my way of doing things is only one way, out of an endless possibility of ways.
What’s more, just because I advise one thing today, doesn’t mean my advice won’t ever change. In fact it has. If you’ve read updated versions of An Ordinary Dude’s Guide to Meditation, you’ll even see my advice on some things is now different.
So keep your mind open.
Seek multiple opinions, be willing to change your beliefs and don’t rigidly cling to any way of thinking.
There is a big, beautiful world out there with many ways to do things. If your mind isn’t open to it, you’ll miss it.