My reviews of these self-improvement programs will focus mostly on what I got out of them. Therefore, I will talk about my experiences and feelings during and after these activities.
For several reasons, I will not be presenting too many details on what goes on during live programs. In many cases, it wouldn’t make much sense to you because the information would be taken out of context. In other words, you would need to be there to understand. It would also create preconceived notions about the activity, which could compromise the benefits you might otherwise get from it.
You’ll probably recognize several of the names of the organizations that offer these programs. A couple of them have controversial reputations that have led some people to call them “cult-like” in nature. I’ve never really understood why certain organizations get this label while others that are equally deserving of it do not. There are many different types of groups that you could consider cult-like from religious to political to corporate organizations.
If you do online research on certain organizations presented here, you’ll likely run across a self-proclaimed cult expert. If you do a search on him, you’ll find a Wikipedia profile indicating that he has a questionable background of his own. In my opinion, he may be sincere in his desire to help others or to make a living, but I read him as being too eager to label unconventional groups as being a cult. I didn’t see any information on this site that talked about him investigating groups from within by participating in one of their programs.
Here are the definitions for a “cult” from my dictionary.
1. A system or community of religious worship and ritual.
2. Obsessive devotion to a person or ideal.
2b. A group of persons sharing such devotion.
That definition could certainly be applied to many organizations and people.
There is good and bad in all things. Take advantage of the good and ignore the bad. Those who keep their powers of choice could never be considered a cult member of any group.
Here are my reviews of self-improvement programs that I’ve attended live, watched on video, or listened to. Just click on a title to jump down to it. Use the “Back” button in your browser to return to where you were.
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- Transcendental Meditation (TM) – Initiation & Practice
- Dale Carnegie – Effective Communications & Human Relations Course
- Toastmasters International – Club Membership & Participation
- Sterling Institute of Relationship – The Men’s Weekend (Women’s too!)
- Scientology – Communication Course (Introductory Course)
- Rhonda Byrne – The Secret (Video)
- Mike Dooley – Leveraging the Universe & Engaging the Magic (Audio)
- John Assaraf – Having it All (Audio)
- Wayne Dyer – Power of Intention (Video)
- Louise Hay – You Can Heal Your Life (Video)
- Jim Rohn – The Art of Exceptional Living (Audio)
- Tony Robbins – Unlimited Power (Audio)
- Gary Null – The Art of Health (Video)
- Joe Cross – Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Video)
- Jill Ovnik – Change Your Food Change Your Life (Video)
- Interpersonal Communication (Class)
- Personal Financial Management (Class)
- Understanding Mutual Funds (Class)
- Couple’s Communication Workshop(s)
- Dating Mastery for Men (Workshop)
Transcendental Meditation (TM) – Initiation & Practice
I learned Transcendental Meditation (TM) from a qualified teacher during my first year of college. It made a tremendous difference in my life. I still do it to this day.
Meditation gives you greater clarity, more creativity, reduced stress, and improved health. The Transcendental Meditation technique is unique among techniques of meditation.
The TM initiation process was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. When it was over, I felt a sense of serenity and relaxation that I’d never experienced before. It was magnificent!
The initiation event as compared to all the meditation sessions that have followed could be described like this. The initiation is like your first organism. All the meditation sessions that follow are satisfying and pleasant reminders of the first time (during the initiation). The cool thing about meditation though, is that the benefits of doing it are accumulative! The more you do it, the greater the payoff.
Tips – Enjoy the initiation to the fullest. Meditate daily.
Dale Carnegie – Effective Communications & Human Relations
This multi-week course, which focuses on overcoming the fear of public speaking and developing interpersonal skills, is brilliant! Carnegie must have been a genius. This course transformed me into a different person. I was so enthused by the results that I considered going to work at one of their local training centers.
I had a profound fear of public speaking when my boss informed me that I would be the main speaker in front of hundreds of people a few minutes before the meeting started. He handed me a script and jokingly said, “Take all the time you need to go over it, just be ready in about 20 minutes.
Even though it was a relatively short script, I panicked! I was scared out of my mind. I got through it, but I did a terrible job. When it was over, I took my boss aside and told him that I was committed to mastering public speaking. Then I asked him if public speaking courses qualified for the tuition reimbursement program. He said, “I’m not sure, but you find reputable a program and I’ll get it approved.” I was ecstatic! I was also relieved that a solution was ahead that would enable me to succeed in my corporate career.
I looked into the Dale Carnegie course that same day and enrolled a few weeks later. To give you an indication of how severe my problem was, I started and quit that course three times before I finally completed it. But I when graduated, I received several awards and was asked to be an assistant to the instructor for future classes.
The course helped me to make huge breakthroughs in overcoming my shyness and fear of public speaking. I also enjoyed an unexpected bonus from this training. When you learn how to speak in front of a crowd, it also improves your ability to communicate one-on-one and in small groups at the same time. I don’t remember them mentioning this bonus during the course, but when I found myself speaking more confidently and relaxed in small groups and one-on-one I was thrilled!
The brilliance of the course is that it takes you through a wide range of public speaking scenarios. This eliminates all the actual or potential areas of fear and concern. It also instills the confidence that you can handle whatever situation might come up during a speech.
Here are some of the Dale Carnegie books that were used or recommended during the course.
- The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking
- How to Develop Self-Confidence By Public Speaking
- How to Win Friends & Influence People
- How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
Tips – There is no reason to have any fear about attending this course regardless of how shy or anxious you are. Every Dale Carnegie instructor that I’ve met is extremely encouraging, kindhearted, supportive, devoted, and skilled.
Toastmasters – Club Membership & Participation
After completing the Dale Carnegie course, I realized that I needed to hone my public speaking skills even further. I wanted to do this for several reasons. When I was working at my corporate job, I found that I was required to speak in front of larger and larger groups the higher I moved up the ranks. In order to succeed, I had to refine my skills. The other reason involved my desire to completely overcome my shyness and become more skilled socially. I knew from my experience with the Carnegie course that as my public speaking skills grew, my social skills would develop right along with it.
The Carnegie course taught me how to get the butterflies in my stomach to fly in formation. Now I wanted to get them to do aerial acrobatics and high altitude soaring like the Blue Angels on command! So I decided to join a local Toastmasters club.
Toastmasters is a non-profit organization, which charges a very small fee for membership and dues. Each club follows the guidelines of Toastmasters, but they operate and conduct meetings on their own. The club membership is composed of like-minded individuals who want to hone their communication and leadership skills. Meetings are well-organized and productive. The atmosphere is supportive, encouraging, and fun!
Toastmasters helped me to take my public speaking skills to the next level and beyond. I achieved the first competency level (CTM) and was very active for several years. As I’ve moved to different cities, I’ve joined other clubs and participated as my schedule permitted.
Tips – Visit several clubs in your area before you paid the fees and join. Although the format of the meeting is almost identical and the members have a similar mindset, the culture and emphasis of clubs can vary widely. For example, there are clubs whose members are all single or they come from one particular industry. Clubs have prospective members visiting all the time. So don’t feel uncomfortable going to several clubs for 1-3 meetings. They are always very cordial.
Sterling Institute of Relationship – The Men’s Weekend (Women’s too!)
I did the “Men’s Weekend” many years ago and the influences of that event are still very much a part of me. That weekend was the most transformative, intense, exciting, enlightening, emotional, frightening, powerful, joyous, and loving of my life! Nothing else comes close.
When I left, I had a profound sense of knowing, freedom, and power as a man like I had never felt before. It was as if I had finally been shown my true place in the world.
I was in my early 30’s at the time. Many longstanding questions and issues were answered during that weekend. And the entire process felt incredibly natural. It was remarkable!
I flew to my company’s headquarters for my annual review a few hours after the weekend concluded. You can probably imagine how that review went. I’m sure my boss sensed that positive recognition was the order of the day.
There’s a weekend for the men and one for the women. There are also alumni events that bring the men and women together. I’ve never been to a gathering where there was so much comradery, respect, love, and sexual energy, whether there was alcohol available or not, then there was at these events. They were amazing!
Tips – Commit yourself to staying for the entire weekend. No matter how you feel at the beginning, do not leave. The “gifts” will arrive before long and continue.
Scientology – Communication Course (Introductory Course)
Somewhere around 18-20 years old, I heard about Scientology and decided to look into it. I was anxious to find ways to improve myself and get over my shyness. This would be my first experience taking a live self-improvement course.
I took the first-level, introductory course. I don’t remember the exact name, but their website mentions a communication course that seems to fit.
As I recall, the course included processes and information for improving your one-on-one communication, emotional response control, and self-confidence. The course was comprised mostly of one-on-one face-to-face exercises with a classmate rather than lectures. They also encouraged you to read their most well-known book, “Dianetics.”
This course had a big impact on me. It really helped me to conquer some of my shyness and gain some confidence in my ability to communicate one-on-one. Had I had the money at the time, I would have probably taken the next course.
The introductory course is inexpensive. The prices for those that follow are significantly more as I recall. There’s nothing usual about that approach, but it’s a budget consideration.
Based on my limited experience, I don’t know why there has been so much ugly controversy about the Church of Scientology (COS). I have to admit that the religious designation felt strange to me. And seeing staff leaders wearing clergy collars was odd as well. But I’m not a fan of religious institutions generally.
I haven’t been involved with Scientology since I took that course, so I don’t know what has gone on inside since then or what’s happening today. So I can not offer a recommendation. At this point, I am neither for nor against the COS. All that I can tell you is that I found their ideas to be fascinating and the course I took made a significant difference for me in a short amount of time.
Tips – Read “Dianetics” or visit a Scientology facility in your area and decide for yourself if you want to go further by taking their introductory course.
Update – Based on documentaries I’ve watched recently, I recommend that you approach the COS with caution. I am not suggesting that you close your mind to it, however. There is good and bad in almost all organizations – secular and religious.
Video – Audio
Rhonda Byrne – The Secret (Video)
This video is a documentary and a seminar about the Law of Attraction (LoA). Without a doubt, watching this video as opposed to reading the book is the best way to learn about the LoA. The video makes good use of imagery, sound, music, and dialog in explaining how the LoA works.
I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but this video changed my life. It caused a major shift in my thinking. And it gave me some exciting solutions to issues I had struggled with for years.
I grew up during a time when clinical psychology was becoming an extremely popular profession. It became a well-accepted belief in our society during that period that analyzing your past and discussing your problems with a psychologist was the answer.
I have not seen anyone make significant improvements in their life as a result of psychotherapy. It may have helped bring them to the level of normalcy, but I have no knowledge of psychotherapy being the catalyst or the gateway for significant change and success in a person’s life. I’ve actually witnessed the opposite.
What’s my point? There is almost nothing to be gained by analyzing your past or discussing your problems, fears, and insecurities. It’s impossible to unravel all the painful issues of your past or gain courage through discussion or thought processes. And it usually leads to blaming someone else and not accepting 100% responsibility for your life.
Thinking and talking about your problems and all the other stuff you don’t want, causes those things to grow and manifest in your life. Your time will be better spent and you’ll start to make notable progress if you focus your attention on what you want and take action to get it. This is the message of “The Secret.”
Mike Dooley – Leveraging the Universe & Engaging the Magic (Audio)
Mike is one of the teachers in “The Secret.”
In this program, Mike talks about his own experiences in applying the Law of Attraction. He discusses the LoA from a slightly different angle and often uses different terms to describe it.
Mike’s presentation style is down-to-earth, folksy, and humorous. It’s also very easy to follow and understand. I really enjoyed listening to him talk.
This program greatly enhanced my understanding of the power of our thoughts.
John Assaraf – Having it All (Audio)
John was also one of the teachers in “The Secret.”
John shares a very inspiring story about his past in this program. He also does an outstanding job of explaining the principles he used to achieve his goals and dreams.
John’s presentation filled in a number of missing pieces for me. As John finished explaining certain principles, I remember thinking several times, “Now I completely understand this!”
Wayne Dyer – Power of Intention (Video)
Although I’m not a big fan of psychology, Dr. Wayne Dyer’s work is a good example of the kind of innovation that is needed in this field. If anyone deserves to be called a guru, it’s Wayne Dyer, even though he wouldn’t want this label.
The power of intention is a slightly different take on the law of attraction. Dr. Dyer takes a more spiritual approach to the power of intention.
Dr. Dyer’s presentation style is warmhearted and sincere. The real-life stories he tells, adds a lot of credence to his message.
This video helped me to understand and get excited about the infinite possibilities through the application of the power of intention.
Louise Hay – You Can Heal Your Life (Video)
I enjoyed this video as much as the book, but in a different way. The advantages of video communication helped considerably in getting the message across. The philosophy was nearly identical to “The Secret.” Louise’s personal story is very inspiring.
Jim Rohn – The Art of Exceptional Living (Audio)
This was the first self-improvement program that I listened to. I went on to listen to it dozens of times.
Jim has a very appealing presentation style. He’s engaging, informative, challenging, and inspiring! There are no clever or trendy concepts discussed. Just old fashion down-home wisdom on living successfully.
This program is a blueprint for living a truly successful life. And it provides a very solid foundation for self-improvement.
Tony Robbins – Unlimited Power (Audio)
This is one of Tony’s earliest programs. From what I’ve gathered in seeing parts of later works, it appears that all of them built upon the concepts he developed for this program.
Tony is a very enthusiastic and exciting presenter. I believe he is sincere in his desire to help people. But there are a few things that just don’t resonate with me.
I like the majority of Tony’s work, but I can’t get my head around a few of his methods. One of them is the “Swish Pattern.” I’m not going to describe why I don’t like it because it might work for you.
Another reason I can’t relate well with Tony is his uninspiring background. He often tells the story of living in a “tiny” 400 sq ft bachelor apartment, in the Californian beach town of Venice, during his early 20’s, putting on a few extra pounds by eating junk food, and being alone and depressed — for a few months. It’s nothing against Tony, but I have trouble relating to such a shallow comeback story.
If his comeback story isn’t an issue for you, then this or another Robbins program would be a very worthwhile investment.
This program got me excited about the benefits and healing powers of a healthy diet and vitamin supplements. It also got me interested in power walking as a replacement to the Stairmaster when I gave up my health club membership and built a home gym.
Gary’s enthusiasm for nutrition is contagious! If you want to get excited about eating healthy foods, watch one of Gary’s videos.
Update – I’ve lost some confidence in Gary Null due to a few credibility issues I read about on the internet. Whether they are true or not, I don’t know. Two things are certain, however. His inspiring enthusiasm and healthy appearance are indisputable.
Joe Cross – Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Video)
This video, along with the next one, convinced me to go from being a partial vegetarian to being 100 percent vegan!
Joe chronicles his journey from being seriously overweight and sick with a rare disease to being trim and disease free by changing to a plant-based diet and exercising.
Clever and humorous cartoon-like animation is used to explain key points. The animation made it easy to understand these important issues.
Joe’s Australian charm and laid-back attitude make watching the video a pleasant experience.
If you want more information about the benefits and importance of a healthy diet, I strongly recommend this documentary entitled, “Food Matters.”
Jill Ovnik – Change Your Food Change Your Life (Video)
As Jill points out at the beginning of the video, she isn’t a medical professional nor does she have any degrees in nutrition. I liked this fact because an unbiased person who had done her own research, made her own diet changes, and was presenting the information.
During the first half of the video, Jill is in front of an audience presenting some very compelling information comparing an animal-based diet with a plant-based diet. Although the information is presented in a very antiquated manner using overhead slides, it completely removed my desire to eat animal-based food products.
During the second half, Jill is at grocery stores and restaurants offering suggestions on which products to buy and guidance on how to order a vegetarian meal from various menus. Then she spends a considerable amount of time showing you how to prepare recipes she created.
Her recipes would be good for the beginner who’s trying to make the transition to a vegetarian diet. But I wouldn’t recommend some of her recipes long-term if you’re aiming for the ultimate healthy diet because they contain too many processed foods.
This informative and inspiring video was strongly instrumental in my decision to become a vegetarian. I found Jill’s guidance on how to order food at restaurants and make satisfying vegetarian meals to be particularly helpful in starting this lifestyle.
Update – This video sometimes gets mediocre reviews, which I believe is due to its age and antiquated presentation. It still serves a meaningful purpose for those who are making the transition to a plant-based diet.
Local Classes & Workshops
These are local classes and workshops that may or may not be available in your area. Even so, I’m going to give you my reviews of them so that you know what to look for in your part of the world. Here they are.
Interpersonal Communication (Class)
I took this course at a community college prior to graduating.
At the start of the course, the professor recommended that we read a book entitled, “Being Your Own Best Friend.” That book provided just the right message for the challenging and unfamiliar communication exercises we would be doing.
This class was very enlightening. I was amazed at what I learned about communication styles and myself during the one-on-one and small-group exercises. I discovered that my perceptions of how people viewed me were inaccurate. What they saw was flattering. What I thought they saw was not.
This instructor inspired me to want to become a college professor. I sometimes feel like I am fulfilling that desire through some of my articles.
Personal Financial Management (Class)
I took this course at a community college years after graduating from a university.
This course covered all aspects of personal finance including bank and credit card management, investment monitoring, budget creation, frugal living, and smart buying.
It was a very eye-opening class. It radically changed the way I dealt with my finances forever.
Understanding Mutual Funds (Class)
I took this course at a community college years after graduating from a university.
We learned about all the different types of mutual funds, the costs to buy and maintain them, and how to pick the right investments based on our age and tolerance for risk.
I was pleased that I took this course before I bought my first mutual fund. I had read several books on the subject, but this instructor gave us the inside scoop. This information changed how and where I invested my money.
Couple’s Communication Workshop(s)
A psychologist led two of these workshops. A church adult singles pastor led a third for my singles organization. All three were held at rented public facilities.
I’m not a big fan of the field of psychology or organized religion, but both of these people were outstanding. My girlfriend (at the time) and I had several communication breakthroughs during the first two workshops.
Several ideas for my book, “The Couple’s Review,” were inspired by these workshops. In fact, I describe how the processes in my book are like a private couples’ retreat.
Dating Mastery for Men (Workshop)
A doctor of holistic medicine led this workshop at a rented public facility.
The man who led the workshop was phenomenal. His detailed and informative presentation completely changed the way I viewed and approached dating.
I didn’t need any help finding dates. My problem was finding women who were a good match for me. The workshop gave me the tools to identify and connect with women who were a good match for me.
Much of what I learned during this workshop is included in my book, “Finding the One Who’s Right” and some of it is in my articles at Solotopia.
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