Jim's Marketing Blog

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What self proclaimed gurus are REALLY telling us

Do you ever find yourself cringing when you see the titles some business people give to themselves?

Social networks are packed with self-proclaimed gurus, thought leaders and mavens.  The challenge here is NOT with the title, but the fact that it’s self-proclaimed.  In reality, we don’t self proclaim a title, we earn it.  If people in your marketplace refer to you as a thought leader, you have no control over that.  They decided, based on their experience of you, that you lead them with your thinking.

What you DO have control over, is how you choose to refer to yourself.  This is why the titles people proclaim for themselves, tell us so much about them; usually the polar opposite of what they intended!

The smartest person in the room?

Whenever people self-proclaim a lofty title, it immediately puts us on guard.  For example, if you are at a networking event and someone tells you they are the smartest person in the room, you know that they are not.  Their decision to proclaim that to you, is something that even a moderately bright person wouldn’t do.  It’s plainly ridiculous, shows a lack of self-confidence and makes them look like a fool.

The reason we see so many self proclaimed gurus, is that they fail to see the disconnect, between the message they THINK they are giving us, and the message we actually receive.  They genuinely think it looks impressive to call themselves gurus, oblivious of the fact that it makes most people instantly suspicious and others (like me) cringe.

The bottom line:  Think extremely carefully before you hire a self-proclaimed guru, maven or thought leader.  Their need to self-proclaim that title, tells you massively more about them than the title itself.

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  1. Hi Jim,

    People who are confident in their ability don’t use stupid titles like guru or ninja. They let their work and reputation do the talking.

    Self appointed gurus don’t have the credibility or reputation. That’s why they feel the need to justify their sad asses to us.

    Thanks (guru) Jim 😉

  2. I’m always wary of “guru’s and ninja’s” … why not call yourself a witch or wizard? That would be more fun surely?

    Self promotion and presenting yourself in the best light is hard but I agree that there is a fine line …

    So do you think I should remove “Master specialist guru of all areas of business and life” from my bio?

    • Firstly, I may adopt that title of yours, Ameena! 😉

      The irony is that by self-proclaiming themselves as a “guru” they are not self promoting in a positive light. At best it shows a lack of confidence and naivety.

  3. There was a quote I heard somewhere, ‘Don’t be too modest – you’re not that great’!! Looks like people have also tried to be excessively modest to self promote themselves! :)

  4. SIMPLE – Call yourself a guru and you are telling me you’re an idiot.

    I love that these idiots call themselves gurus and ninjas because we can filter their dumbasses out of the equation.

    Not everyone is worth listening to and if these idiots help me avoid their shit by TELLING ME on their profile that they are GURU, I can move on to someone who knows their subject.

  5. Ha! Interesting you chose to include the word “maven” in that list: it brought someone very specific to mind.

    There must be a club of these types out there on the internet: a reputation version of the old link building scheme. Maybe I’m crazy, but I also think every town has a little clique of these types, too. They add no value to anything, but they look good (and get paid) doing it.

    In contrast, your blog, Jim, is actually real world, timely advice that has value. After skipping between several “mavens” that blog post twenty times a day about their expertise and training programs, I finally found the real deal.

  6. Hello Jim!

    I greatly appreciate this post -thank you! These titles often mystify and I use to feel inferior, but … I just figure my time is better spent working on my own niche and the value I offer and put it out there. If what I do helps another, even one, then I’m doing something right.

    Wishing you a safe, great weekend!!

    Much kindness,


  7. I completely agree and I cringe when people refer to me as anything like “guru” but what can you do? People will call you what they want. I just make sure my cards and title stick to the traditional because my industry demands it.

    I do have several self-proclaimed people in my local circles that use these tactics. How do you call them on it without everyone looking at you like you’re the one who’s being a jerk. BTW, none of these people really have any marketing experience to back up their claims.

    • You make an important point here, Don:

      “BTW, none of these people really have any marketing experience to back up their claims.”

      You will not see an effective marketing professional referring to themselves with those terms.

      We know they are toxic.

  8. gurús speak of what others are doing and tell you what you have to do, instead of offering to work on the solution, as we none gurús do.

  9. Patrick Strother

    September 30, 2011 at 20:30

    Couldn’t agree more. I think one of the things real experts share in common is a pretty strong sense of how little they actually know. It takes a lot of knowledge and expertise to realize that.

    Without that insight lifelong learning isn’t the priority it needs to be – even for so called experts. Over confidence leads to arrogance which leads to failure.

    • You’re right, Patrick. Though I see their need to attach those titles to themselves as a total lack of confidence. It’s almost as if they use them to cover a gaping chasm in their ability.

      Thanks for the feedback, sir.

  10. I love this post because it is the first post of this kind that is intelligent, matter-of-fact, and doesn’t throw people under the bus.

    It is fashionable these days to poke fun of social media “gurus” and to point out how silly they are (while of course making yourself look better and part of the “cool kids club” which knows better), and I so appreciate that there is not a hint of superiority or smugness in your post whatsoever.

    You really turned your point of view into a true learning opportunity that everyone can learn from.

    Not that I would expect anything less from you, Jim. :)

    Well done.

    • Hi Kelly. Self-proclaimed gurus are the ones that put us on our guard. As you can see from 100% of the comments thus far, no one is impressed when someone calls themselves some ridiculous title.

      Behind those self proclaimed titles, tends to be, at best, a lack of confidence in their own abilities.

      Thanks for the comment, my friend and for your kind words.

  11. Nice one, Jim.

    From now on, self-proclamation of the term GURU will remind me of someone who:

    Generously Upsells (their) Real Usefulness


  12. When I meet with or see someone that gives themselves a title of these of what you suggest. I then start asking questions and get into a conversation that would then show me if they really are. If you ask the right questions long enough their either going to be the dumbest person in the room or the person with no idea of what they’re trying to accomplish in life and end up being your client. LOL That happened to me twice now. Thanks for the good post Jim.

  13. Some of these terms are misused more then anything. I don’t believe that anyone should self-proclaim themselves. If you truly are experienced in a given field then the individual will,be recognized for it and the title will be given unto that person. I’ve noticed it more and more over the past couple of years as people are wanting to make themselves feel relevant.

  14. I see that they actually lack confidence. They lack the confidence of their own work. Either their work is crap, or they didn’t have the results as proclaimed.

    Sometimes, I’ll ask these gurus what is their biggest failure in life? Because a real guru who has been there and done that will definitely face failure in close distance.

    A self proclaim one will not have anything to share about failures.

  15. I agree with the fact that they are really telling us that they want to be respected. It is kind of like the kid in high school who tries too hard to get people to like him and never realizes that because he is trying so hard no one actually likes him. lol

  16. They haven’t read Catch 22.

  17. Evangeline Walter

    December 8, 2011 at 05:14

    Not everyone is worth listening to and if these idiots help me avoid their shit by TELLING ME on their profile that they are GURU, I can move on to someone who knows their subject. Not that I would expect anything less from you, Jim.

Comments are closed.