Note: This article is an amalgam of two separate articles originally published in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
Since publishing those articles my thoughts on the subject have changed considerably. I also noticed that while many people were reading the first article (and thanking me for writing it), not nearly as many were reading the second part, which I feel is just as important.
For this reason, I have now revised and updated both articles, and am re-publishing them as one.
A few weeks ago I received an email from Joe Vitale (or, more likely, one of his assistants) promoting his Miracles Coaching program with the offer of a free half hour session.
If you are unfamiliar with Joe, he is the author of numerous books (too many to mention, according the the author himself) in the new age spiritual/law of attraction genre. Some of his better known books are The Attractor Factor, Zero Limits, Hypnotic Writing and the list goes on.
Joe is also one of the primary proponents of the magical version of “the law of attraction”. In other words he believes that anything you want, you can attract just by thinking about it, and anything you don’t want, well sorry to say, you attracted that too. He also appeared in the “movie” The Secret, an intensely motivational spectacle but, ultimately, a sham.
I receive lots of emails from Mr. Vitale as I subscribe to his mailing list, and generally they end up deleted without being read as they can be just a tad repetitive. But the word “free” is like magic, and so even though I didn’t really believe anything would be free, I decided to follow the link and put my name in. I am always looking for ways to improve myself and my life, and I had enjoyed Mr. Vitale’s writing, so I figured that I had nothing to lose by checking into it. I clicked the link in the email and filled out the form.
After a few days I received a phone call from a man who introduced himself and explained that he was calling on behalf of Dr. Joe Vitale. At this time he set up an appointment to call me for our half hour session. He told me to be thinking about my goals in life, etc.
As it happened I had forgotten that I would be taking a day trip to Vancouver Island that day, and so when he called back to proceed with our appointment I had to apologize and reschedule. This was not a problem, and if I recall correctly we arranged for him to call back the following day. At this point it had become clear to me that this was not really a free session, but a well-disguised sales pitch, but that was not an issue as I had expected that anyway.
Anyhow, when we finally did have our session, the representative gave me a little history of Joe Vitale (that he was homeless, yadda yadda yadda) and then explained that they received over three thousand applications per week and as a result they cannot possibly take on everyone who applies. Therefore, they had a two stage interview process to ensure that everyone they take on is a good fit. At this point there really was no mention of what a good fit would be, but he explained that after this interview, there would be a second one that would take place in a few days, and if that one was successful, my application would then be forwarded to the enrolment director. It was all set up to give the impression that I was being invited into an exclusive club, and they would be choosing me, versus the other way around.
My guard was up a bit, but I was still feeling pretty open minded, so I proceeded with the interview, which primarily consisted of me rating various aspects of my life, such as work, money, and relationships on a scale of 1-10. I was asked to confirm my commitment to change several times over, and to repeatedly state that I saw no reason why I wouldn’t follow through with making changes through the help of a coach. There was a little back and forth banter, nothing to really grab my attention until we got to the question about my savings and debt.
I was first asked how much money I have saved, a question I answered truthfully. Then I was asked “Do you have any outstanding debts?”
I answered honestly. I stated that I had a car loan, but nothing beyond that. The question was then revised and I was asked about any credit card debt that I may have. Again I was honest and stated that I do not carry any credit card debt. At this point I was still pretty comfortable with the conversation and these questions seemed very reasonable given the nature of the service being offered. But that was about to change.
The very next question was, “Adding up all of your credit cards, what is your credit limit?”.
My immediate thought was, “excuse me, why do you have any right to know that? And more importantly why do you want to know that?”.
Of course I knew the answer. They wanted to know that so they could determine how high to set the price for my “customized” Miracles Coaching package. If I was on guard before, now I was in full on defence. But I was very curious about where this was all leading, so I kept up my illusions of interest, and braced myself for what was about to come.
Sure enough the next part of the spiel was about how banks use our money to leverage their success, so why should we do the same with the banks money? It was a well-rehearsed routine about how using our credit cards to finance our future is okay, and smart, and we should be open to such things in order to buy ourselves “time”. Time for what, exactly? I wasn’t quite sure, but I assumed it had something to do with taking Joe Vitale’s training.
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you may have discovered just how against taking on unnecessary debt I am. So the idea of financing anything as uncertain as Miracles Coaching was a complete non-starter for me. I do not believe in spending money you don’t have unless you have no other option. I certainly have an option when it comes to personal development avenues, and I certainly would have a hard time choosing, or recommending one that encourages people to take on credit card debt to pay for it.
Now more curious than ever however, I graciously accepted to offer of a second interview. I was told that my details would be shared with the enrolment director, and that with his approval, I would receive a call in a couple of days to schedule the second interview. I did receive that call, but as I was driving at the time, we postponed it for a few days, and schedule it for this very morning.
Unfortunately my cell phone service was not terribly reliable today, and the call never came through to me, though I did discover a voicemail message two hours later after our scheduled time. This time I was finally given a number that I could call back, and so I did. Had not been aware of the strength of this sales pitch, I might have been surprised to discover that I had not yet been written off as unsuitable for the program given my already demonstrated unreliability. In fact my phone call was welcomed, and we continued with the second part of the interview, which more or less mirrored the first, and involved me once again confirming my intentions, making declarations that with the help of the coach there is no reason why I wouldn’t follow through, etc. etc.
It also touched on some commitments I would have to make, such as a time commitment, and a commitment to be “mouldable”.
I was then given a brief description of the various levels of coaching available, and the dollar values attached to them. I was told that based on my interviews, it did seem like I would be a good candidate for coaching, and that my application would now be forwarded to the enrolment director. I was put on hold for a minute or two, and when the interviewer returned he told me that my application had been accepted for final approval by said enrolment director, and that he was tied up with someone else right now, but that he would be able to call me within a few minutes. I was asked to make a list of three weaknesses and three strengths during that time, as well as to explain my sense of urgency for making changes in my life.
I made those lists, and as promised the enrolment director called me back. I can’t resist mentioning just how dramatically similar he sounded to the other man who had conducted the first two interview portions, enough so that I was questioning in the back of my mind if it really wasn’t the same person. I’m not saying it was, but you know, it might have been…
Anyway, he once again reiterated everything I had said in my interviews, once again prodded me to confirm that I believed I would benefit from this and that I was ready to invest in myself, once again described the various levels of coaching and the cost ranges attached to them (which were, oddly, more expensive now that in the previous interview), and then asked me to choose a level of service ranging from aggressive at the top end to conservative at the low end. I plainly stated my objections to using my credit cards to finance something as uncertain as life coaching, and was reassured that this was my negative programming talking, and that I needn’t worry because as I changed my inner world, my outer world would take care of itself. Nevertheless I told him I would choose the conservative level. After some more attempts and convincing me to go higher, I was then presented with a scheme in which the Miracles Coaching program would front me an even greater enough of money over and above what I was charging to me credit cards, which I would then pay back through monthly payments made via, you guessed it, my credit card.
I declined that offer.
I was then told that I would be put on hold briefly while he put together a program for me. He returned in a very short amount of time (so short you would almost think the plan was already in the can and not put together for me at all…) and proceeded to detail the plan.
Long story short, I wasn’t really impressed. It was heavily based upon online courses, and “webinars”, with very little in the way of actual personal coaching. It also included resources on topic like FOREX trading, something I have no use for at all. All in all it would have been something I would have been willing to pay maybe a couple of hundred dollars for, but certainly did not seem worth the several thousand dollar asking price. And so when I was again informed that I had passed the “test” and that I “seemed to be a very good candidate for Miracles Coaching”, and he asked me for my credit card number so we could get started, I told him I wanted some time to think about it.
This triggered a somewhat impatient speech in which I was asked how much more time I needed? Things I had said in the interview were thrown back at me out of context to make me feel guilty, and to convince me, I suppose that I was in great need of this coaching and that I had said so myself.
Well I had, but only because I had been directly led into saying those things. Had I not, the interview would have stopped, I imagine.
I decided to try one more thing, out of pure curiosity about what would happen. I told him that I had some savings in a registered account (which was true) and that I could potentially sell the investments and avoid having to use my credit cards to pay for the coaching. Not that I had any intention of doing so, but I was curious about what he would say.
He asked how long it would take me to get the money. I told him that being that it was invested in stock and in a registered account it could take a couple of weeks. I said that this would work out well for me as it would give me time to think everything over.
He countered with a proposal that as long as I was certain I would be able to get that money, why not just use my credit card today and pay it off when I had sold the stocks? I once again explained that I didn’t feel comfortable with that, and that I would rather wait.
And just like that I was no longer a good candidate for Dr. Joe Vitale’s Miracles Coaching. He told me as much, and then said goodbye and hung up the phone.
Is Joe Vitale’s Miracles Coaching a Scam?
When I originally wrote this piece I was overly diplomatic in my assessment. Despite the obvious dirty tricks at work in my phone interview, I still wanted to give Joe the “benefit of the doubt.” The doubt arising mainly from the fact that I had liked Joe’s books, and apart from that I didn’t really know much about Joe.
I have since learned a lot about Joe, and none of it is good. There is now no doubt in my mind that Joe is as unscrupulous as it gets, and has absolutely no issue with lying his fat little face off it is means it will put money in his pocket. He’s a fraud, pure and simple.
No more diplomacy from me.
There are many reasons why Joe no longer receives any free passes or good will from me. Perhaps the main one relates to the fact that he is presently promoting a product I have never used, and never would use, by using a “testimonial” from me.
A while back I was contacted by an assistant to Joe Vitale. I had left a comment on Joe’s blog in which I had been very free with the praise (I did this a long time ago, before I knew anything about him, and long before I ever even heard of his Miracles Coaching program).
She asked me if she could have permission to use my words on a testimonial page. I told her very clearly that she could use my quote provided that it appeared with a link to my website. I was very clear on that point. I shouldn’t have said yes, in hindsight it was really foolish. But Joe’s website is very popular, and I thought it couldn’t hurt to have a link from it pointing to mine.
The quote did appear on one of Joe’s websites. That website was unrelated to anything my comments were about, and no link to my website was included.
A resurgence of interest
A long time after I posted the original article detailing my experience with Joe Vitale’s Miracle’s coaching, it started receiving some significant attention from a poster named Michael, who claimed to be a participant in the program and wanted me and my readers to know just how wrong my assessment of it was. I was naturally a bit sceptical of Michael’s legitimacy, and decided just to be honest with him about my doubts. I haven’t seen him here since.
It prompted me to visit Joe’s blog for the first time in longer than I can remember, and was surprised to discover a much more candid Joe who was taking the time to respond to all of the comments on his blog, even those that were very critical of him. I decided that this might be a good time to jump in and offer Joe the chance to directly respond to my concerns about his program, and the way it was being sold. I wrote (please keep in mind once again, this was back when I wanted to believe Joe was really a “nice guy” after all):
About being against Joe’s teachings: I don’t think that is what it is at all. I for one am very much for Joe’s teachings. I have read many of his books, and at one point considered myself to be quite a fan.
What troubles me is not what Joe teaches, but that he does not always practice what he preaches. When abundance becomes plain old fashioned greed, we have a problem.
For instance the method used to sell his Miracles Coaching is quite disgusting in my book, and not at all “spiritual” but good a good a old fashioned case of preying on the vulnerable. I question why Joe allows this to go on, as it truly sullies his good name.
Also Joe’s staff used a quote from me in which I praised him as being an inspiration to me out of context to promote a product I never used. I have a problem with that and it was never corrected.
I want to respect Joe, I really do. I believe deep down he *is* a nice guy. But its getting tough to do that.
I have noticed that critical comments are now being posted on this blog rather than censored. Perhaps this one will be allowed too, and perhaps Joe will even respond to to and make an effort to earn back my respect, which I truly lament having lost.
To my surprise, Joe responded with the following:
I’m sorry for whatever the sales team said to you. The program has been around more than four years but I switched sales a while back. I believe all is fine now but again, I apologize. I allow all comments on this blog except from three people, two of which were friends that decades ago I helped with leads, advice, and more. In fact, they still owe me money. They seem to have made a career out of trying to hurt me. Nevertheless, yours and all other rational comments are allowed. I can’t respond to them all as I am just overwhelmed with projects and people wanting my time. It’s after 5 am as I type this, just so I can find a way to reply to you.
I have to give Joe credit here, I really believe this was and honest answer. I decided that I would be even more direct with Joe, and posted the the following response:
As I have always enjoyed your books, and this blog as well, I want to thank you for responding.
I hold no ill will against you, However I too have posted comments critical of you on my blog. I have written nothing untrue, just a simple documentation of my personal experience with your Miracles Coaching sales people, which was overwhelmingly negative.
I posted that here; http://inthelimelight.net/joe-vitales-miracles-coaching-hypnotic-marketing-at-work/, quite some time ago, but it has recently seen a sudden boost in popularity.
I would like to give you an opportunity to address this issue directly, as perhaps you are not even fully aware of how the coaching is being sold.
I would also like to give you the chance to address why a quote from me was used on the Miracles Coaching sales page in a manner that falsely suggests I have used and endorse the program.
Unfortunately, if you really believe the problems have been addressed, I think you are mistaken, as I have had several people post comments on my blog in the last few days reporting the same negative experience I had.
I believe you are an honourable man, Joe, and more importantly, I want to believe it.
I wasn’t sure what to expect after posting this comment. I didn’t know if Joe would continue to reply, or if I might end up as the fourth of three people. But to my delight, Joe did reply, and this is what he said:
Dear Jonathan, I appreciate your input regarding my Miracles Coaching program and how it is being sold. I did research so I could answer you.
We do have a two-step process that qualifies individuals for our program and then explains the different options that are available to them. My program isn’t for everybody and unless a person is willing to put in the time, effort and frankly the money, they won’t get the results they are looking for. Our interview process has been set up to determine if a person is serious. As you know, unless you are really committed to something, you won’t make the changes that are required in order to make a difference in your life. Our intent is to help individuals clear their blocks and limiting beliefs so they become what they really want to become. Thousands of people have found tremendous success in our Miracles Coaching Program and have ranked us an average of 4.3 out of 5 in whether the program has made a difference in their life.
I apologize if you felt you were being “high pressured” into our program. We often find it to be a fine line between encouraging people to make a change that they need to in their life and being “too pushy”. I hope you can understand.
Regarding your quote being used on our Miracle Coaching site. I apologize for not giving credit where credit is due, it wasn’t intentional, it was just an oversight. Your comment has been removed.
All the best.
So, what do I make of it?
I am not even sure where to start. At the very least, Joe did remove the quotation from me, which he was wrongly using to promote something I have never and would never use. But as of August 2012, I have now discovered that quote is up once again on one of Joe’s websites, this time being use to promote a different product entirely.
I find it interesting that Joe stated that he had to do some research in order to answer my question. It’s hard to imagine that Joe did not already know enough about the program that his name was attached to. If I was to attach my name to something, I would never allow it to be to anything I did not know about 100%.
Also, at first consideration, his rationale about clearing blocks and limiting beliefs makes sense. However after more consideration it begins to sound more and more like convenient “get out of jail free card” line. I continue to believe strongly that everyone should maintain a limiting belief about maxing out credit cards for anything less than an emergency. At the very least this is irresponsible, and at worst is is greed. And I maintain that whatever the reason, it is never excusable. So by all means clear your limiting beliefs about your ability to make money, but if you are lucky enough to have a limiting belief about spending money you don’t have, cling to it.
I think Joe should continue to do some hard thinking about the ethics of selling his program this way, and truly consider the answer to “How much is enough?”. To be honest, it seems from some recent blog posts that he may be doing just that. Ironically, however, he seems to be playing victim rather than acknowledging that he created the person that he is.
Just keep your wallet away from Joe Vitale, M’kay?