Sign Up For Tim’s Newsletter

How do I set Goals that Work?

And get these eBooks free of charge:

  • "How Do I Set Goals That Work?"
  • "The 50 Greatest Motivational Quotes Of All Time" And Why"
  • "16 Ways to De-Stress Your Life"
  • "70 Amazing Facts About Your Brain"
  • and even more! (details here)
Discovering your core values is <i>the</i> most important thing you can do for yourself. Learn more.
Feeling stuck? See how Tim can help you get unstuck!

Catch Tim Around The Web

Get Every Blog Post Free

by RSS or by email


Self Developments 10 Greatest Influencers

bandler and bunnyIn my last post I made mention of a rather long and in some cases highly amusing thread on LinkedIn about the Law of Attraction.

Not only did it give me some great material for that post, but when somebody referred to Tony Robbins as a ‘Sage’ it took me on an entirely different train of thought.

In the self development industry the terms guru, sage and thought-leader are bandied around more freely than straws at a Lindsey Lohan party and I’m not sure how useful they are as they have a tendency to have people rolling their eyes in derision.

However, there are undoubtedly people who are if not necessarily ‘gurus’ in the strict sense of the word, then certainly massive influencers.

I’m going to keep this list to people who are still alive. Otherwise I’d have to include people like Shakespeare, Aristotle and Nietzsche and to be honest my knowledge of all those women is sketchy.

And of course I will be throwing my 2 cents worth in whether I think they deserve to be on the list or whether they have managed to pull copious amounts of wool over the masses and deserve a severe spanking.

The list is in no particular order and it’s not to be taken too seriously.

1. Louise Hay

The grand old lady of self development and all things woo-woo is now 161 years of age and apparently still going strong.

Author of probably the worst self development book ever written, ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ amongst many other books and founder of the Hay House dynasty that has delivered such luminaries as Dyer, Williamson, Chopra et al to the masses.

It may be harder getting off Hay House’s mailing list than it is to get Ozzie Osbourne to string two coherent sentences together (it took me 6 attempts and threatening them on Twitter), but there is no denying they put out some great (and some not so great) material on a woo-woo tip.

Does she deserve to be on the list?

Of course she does, it would be ridiculous not to include her and even though my distaste for ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ is verging on unhealthy, she is an amazing lady who was shaped an entire arm of self development and influenced millions of people.

2. Wayne Dyer

Humble Wayne gave all his possessions away and left Florida to lead a simple life. Now he has to manage by living in a ramshackle palace on a beach in scummy Hawaii where he writes his books and looks at himself a lot in mirrors.

For a man that talks about the power of the Law of Attraction so much it’s surprising that all 3 of his marriages have failed. Couldn’t he have manifested somebody who wanted to carry on living with him at least once?

Heaven forbid he’s another LoA guru that can’t quite get it to work!

He started to lose credibility with me when in one of his books (I can’t remember which one, but don’t worry because they’re all the same) he mentioned an experiment involving knee operations on groups of people.

Without going into too much detail he claimed that the people who had placebo operation saw the same results as those who received the real operation. Wayne was trying to demonstrate the power of beliefs and I’m sure his intentions were positive.

Unfortunately though, in his eagerness to make a point he forget to mention that the people who had the sham procedures all returned to normal i.e. hobbling around in pain, within a few days.

I was further unimpressed when in his translation of the ‘Tao Te Ching’ he called himself Dr. Wayne Dyer on the cover. If you know anything about Lao Tzu’s great work, you’ll understand the irony of him using a title like Doctor.

Does he deserve to be on the list?

Jesus apparently turned water into wine, but Dyer can trump that. He has managed to turn one, maybe 2 books, into a multitude without his army of supporters ever realizing what he was up to, he’s a true magician.

In fairness he’s written some cool stuff and said some cool stuff, and no doubt many people have benefited from his book in all its guises, but I’m not convinced his influence is anything more than superficial.

3. Tim Ferris

This may surprise a few people that I would have Ferris on my list, but there is no denying the guys (largely) positive impact on a whole new generation of self development enthusiasts who want to change the world.

The book that shot him to prominence,  ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ was a game changer for many people, and more than a few bosses were left cursing it as workers either resigned to set up their own business or demanded to be able to work from a bar in Tijuana.

For me, the 4HWW (you know you have made it when your book is shortened like that and people still know what you’re talking about) ran out of steam about half way through and Ferris ended up padding it out, presumably to meet his publishers word count.

Ferris’s follow up ‘The 4 Hour Body’ was nothing short of marketing genius.

Take the ideas from the excellent ‘The Primal Blueprint’, deliver them as your own, mobilize your huge loyal following from your blog and book to the point that you have over 150 five star reviews on Amazon before it’s even been published, and voila you have another best-seller on your hands.

Does he deserve to be on the list?

I’m honestly not sure on this one, probably not because not all of his influence is positive.

I’m not keen on Ferris’s tactics and he’s apparently admitted that it’s not really possible to do what he did working only 4 hours per week. That makes me uneasy and in my mind demonstrates a lack of integrity.

I’m also sure that there will be people out of work now after taking his advice, but equally I’m sure there is somebody at this very moment lying on a beach sipping a Pina Colada whilst their boss thinks they are typing out a TPS report.

I’ll let you make the call.

4. David Allen

Allen achieved what Ferris did in so much as his classic book ‘Getting Things Done‘ was soon abbreviated to GTD on self development blogs and message boards across the globe.

It is seen by many as one of, if not the, greatest book ever written on productivity.

I hated it with a passion.

Then again I hate bananas, but you may well like them.

If you’re very right-brained and unstructured like I am (and like being like that) it will probably have little beneficial effect even if you can drag yourself through it. However, I know a LOT of people who have utilized the methods and are almost reverential in their respect for Allen.

Does he deserve to be on the list?

I think so. It would be disingenuous of me to say ‘no’ just because I don’t like his rigid style.

Also it’s the kind of book (unlike 4HWW) that there is really no downside to. You implement the ideas and you will almost certainly be more productive, you don’t and you won’t

5. Seth Godin

What’s a marketing guy doing on a list about self development you may wonder?

Well in case you’re unfamiliar with him, Seth Godin isn’t just a marketing guy, he’s a spreader of ideas, a teller of stories and a beacon of common sense and integrity in an often cynical world full .

If any of the other people on this list told me I was a total idiot I would probably laugh (unless it was Bandler, then I’d probably run like hell), but if Godin told me I’d be mortified because he’d probably be right, he nearly always is.

Does he deserve to be on the list?

A resounding yes. Godin has delivered self development to thousands of people who didn’t even know they were reading self development. The kind of people who wouldn’t be caught dead reading traditional self help lap up his books. What’s not to love about that?

6. Richard Bandler

If Bandler ever writes an auto-biography it will be a best seller if only half the stories he tells are true.

The co-founder of NLP has led an interesting life involving tales of drug abuse (most kinds) court battles with former friend John Grinder, murdered prostitutes, trying to launch a drug called ‘Placebo’  that was blocked by the FDA and much more.

In amongst all of that however, he helped implement a radical change in how many people approach self development.

Grinders importance to NLP and self development cannot be underestimated, but whereas he’s quietly spoken, humble and unassuming, Bandler is (or maybe was) his antithesis in many respects.

Brash, very funny, highly intelligent, intimidating and probably the best story-teller I have ever heard, Bandler has the ability to polarize people like few others, and he really doesn’t care.

Does he deserve to be on the list?

Absolutely. NLP was pilloried by many in the therapeutic professions in its early days because so many of the rapid change processes it was famous for had little or no science behind them.

Some still don’t, but that hasn’t stopped tens of thousands of therapists training in NLP, large corporations such Mercedes Benz, American Express and ADP contracting NLP trainers and millions of people worldwide hiring NLP Practitioners.

7. Tony Robbins

I go back and forth over 7’9” tall Tony Robbins. His aptly titled book ‘Awaken The Giant Within‘ is indeed a classic and has introduced millions to NLP.

Unfortunately though, most of those people probably didn’t realize they were being introduced to NLP as Robbins called it Neuro associative conditioning and forget to mention that many of the ideas in the book stemmed from work done by Bandler and Grinder.

Having said that, his work doesn’t start and stop with that book. His ‘Power To Influence’ is the single greatest work I have ever listened to on how to sell. It’s pure genius and something I recommend to any clients who are in sales or just want to be better at influencing others buy.

As well as his books and audio programs he also influences tens of thousand of people every year with his extravagant seminars that bear more of a resemblance to a Pink Floyd concert than a self development conference.

Does he deserve to be on the list?

There’s no doubt he is a master marketer and as such I have mixed feelings.

However, I certainly don’t think he’s the snake oil salesmen some do and I genuinely believe he has a deep desire to help others. So yes, I think he deserves his place and his legion of rabid followers would agree.

8. Martin Seligman

Less than 25 years ago the field of Positive Psychology was merely a glint in the eye of its father, Martin Seligman.

Prior to then there had been psychologists such as Maslow and Rogers who had done work in this field, but it was Seligman with the help of Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi who took it to the next level when he launched the first positive psychology summit in 1999.

Should he be on the list?

Without a shadow of a doubt, as probably should Csíkszentmihályi. 25 years ago there was almost zero research done on happiness with psychologists preferring instead to focus on people who were depressed in a search for a cure.

Now you can barely walk into a Barnes and Noble without tripping over yet another book with ‘Happy’ or ‘Happiness’ in the title (mea culpa) and the landscape has shifted away from what do people do wrong and how can we fix it, to what do people do right and how can we replicate it?

9. Eckhart Tolle

I’m almost nodding off as I’m typing this part such is Mr Monotonous’s effect on me. Don’t whatever you do make the mistake I made twice (I know, what was I thinking the second time?) of buying his books on audio.

And if you do, understand their soporific qualities and do not listen to them whilst driving! Doing so is more dangerous than casually inserting a ravenous ferret down your underwear for kicks as you drive down the I4 and then pulling out your iPhone to Google, “How the fuck do I get a ravenous ferret out of my underwear whilst driving?” as it gratefully and hungrily gnaws away on your nether regions.

Should he be on the list?

Probably. I’m still doubtful as to how many people have read ‘The New Earth’ and ‘The Power of Now’ and truly implemented the principles.

It seems like every person in the western world has at least one of his books yet there doesn’t appear to be the radical global shift in consciousness that one would expect if so many people are embracing mindfulness.

10. Marianne Williamson

I have to admit I have never read ‘A Return To Love’ Williamson’s seminal take on ‘A Course In Miracles’, but I rarely hear anything but bad about it.

Her quote/passage that is regularly misattributed to Nelson Mandela is probably one of the greatest of all time:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel unsure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. As we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others

Should she be on the list?

She did have me doubting her sanity when she started explaining how God thinks in ‘The Shadow Effect’, but on the whole she has positively inspired millions of people.

I went back and forth between her and Deepak Chopra and whereas Chopra has written more books and is more well known I just get a sense that Williamson’s following is more likely to act on her material and make changes.

Of course I could be wrong about that and everything else on this list for that matter, so please feel free to berate me in the comments.

22 comments to Self Developments 10 Greatest Influencers

  • Tim just read your post on Twitter, as always enjoyed. Wanted to say my two penny’s (cents?) worth on Tony Robbins. I’ve been part of his Strategic Intervention training for past 2 years nearly, ie his Foundation with Cloe Madanes. The private FB group I have access to as a result is second to none, and on going unlike one off coaching refresher training, it’s the singularly best training and network I know. And has added way more to my coaching skills than anything else. And yes, I too believe he v much cares about what he does. Oh and I like Martin Seligman’s work a lot too! As always Tim, great post atb Tamsin

    • Interesting, thanks for that Tamsin.

      I go back and forth on Tony Robbins. I think he’s a good guy and has done a lot of good, I’m just not sure he’s the innovator some of the others on the list are.

      Having said that I get sick of hearing him ripped by people who are just jealous. I’m jealousy, but I wouldn’t rip him ;-)

      • I think you’re absolutely right in saying he may not be as much of an innovator then the others in terms of the knowledge he brings.
        The question is: Which is more important? The person who comes up with a concept or the person that brings it to the masses?
        Many new ideas take shape in the world everyday but I only hear of the ones brought forth.
        I think Tony Robbins’ strength was taking a pile of information from a wealth of sources and condense the most effective bits into a strong program.
        That being said, the utility of a program, regardless how amazing; could be debated and becomes a matter of willingness to act. Knowledge without action is wasted brain space.

        • It was on its way to the masses until the court battle took place and everything ground to a halt as the in-house bickering started and camps were formed.

          As I said I think Robbins is a good guy and he did a brilliant marketing job and he wouldn’t be on my list if I didn’t think he’d made a massive contribution.

  • Seth Godin is one of my own favorites, I’m glad he’s included in your list.

    Tim Ferris has his own definition of work, it’s things you dislike to do. Apart from that, do things you love 24/7 just like him…

    • Yeh, I see Seth as almost like a modern day philosopher and his ability to communicate across different dimensions is astounding. Masses of respect for the guy.

  • Tim, I still love that you click on Seth’s head to read his blog.

    I won’t argue with you about any of these. It all runs together for me most of the time and I haven’t spent enormous amounts of time up in any of these people’s work. I have read Tolle and in basic principle I live what he suggests…in the end his message is very simple. Listening to him is tough, agreed. There are so many people espousing spiritual practice these days that probably everywhere you look you’re really revisiting all of the same principles that in some cases began with the people above.

    • I think it’s difficult to argue with Tolles message, I just wish he could be a tad more inspiring.

      He could be describing Krakatoa erupting and I’d nod off.

  • Rob

    I’m disappointed that Tim Brownson is not on this list.

  • Georgina

    Great as always, Tim!! It’s great how much I learn about the self-development world by reading these posts (the influential books one and this).

    Seth Godin is awesome.

  • Tim,
    You need more women on this list!Happy Friday.

  • I made the mistake of putting Tolle on while driving. I fell asleep three times. He makes you so mindful, you forget about your mind and go into a deep slumber.

    Once again, you continue to take on the gurus of personal development with your irreverent and highly amusing reviews of them.

    This is one of you best pieces Tim – you throw the gurus and the LOA under the bus. May the LOA laugh at you and deliver everything you desire from the universe. Cheers!

    • That would be funny if the LoA decided to prove me wrong be sending me lots of goodies.

      Bring it on LoA, I’m ready!

      • No one ought to be thrown under bus no matter how tempted we may be to give them the final push … lol :D This is just to say that I published one posts on LOA recently that brought forward some of the most defensive and negative comments I have ever had the pleasure of deleting. I have a commenting policy. In short I don’t post personal attacks or comments filled with obscenities.

        re: Bring it on LoA, I’m ready!

        I may indeed issue the same invitation one day but until then I’ll just read your blog. ;)

        • It is strange how many ardent followers have developed an almost evangelical zeal and seem to see non-believers as lower on the evolutionary scale than plankton.

  • Betty

    I really enjoyed this post and am planning on checking some of these people and their books out. There is a great book that I would like to recommend, “Stop Playing Safe: Rethink Risk. Unlock the Power of Courage. Achieve Outstanding Success” by Margie Warrell. I found Margie Warrell to be an extremely smart lady who really knows what she is talking about. One thing her book really taught me is to find the confidence to ask for what I really want, and get the recognition I really deserve- fascinating book. Thought I would share.

  • Betty

    You’re welcome, Tim. Enjoy!

  • Thank for the very informative post. I am very familiar with Wayne Dyer, have read almost everything he has written. I like it when the writer is spiritual minded. Thanks again for the great information.