The Startup
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Charisma, Controversy & Cocaine: A Look At The Strange World Of Gurus

A lingering scent of cigar smoke

Then you step into the gift shop and get hit with the sight of a bizarre display of Freud related knickknacks.

He’s there in popular culture. He’s there in the way we speak. The way we think about ourselves. A lingering smell of cigar smoke everywhere you look.

Freud was a guru.

The most famous sofa in the world. Probably. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Thinking for ourselves is hard. Making our own decisions is hard. Questioning and doubting and pivoting is hard.

From darkness to light

What is interesting about gurus, as people, is that their lives follow a distinctive path.

How to become a guru in 10 easy steps

A guru’s search culminates with a eureka moment when they discover their answer.

Gurus have a fascinating tendency to regard their own experience as universal.

Charisma & charm

And this is the interesting part.

We continue to be surprised each time this happens. We shouldn’t be.

Back to Freud.

The epitome of narcissism

Why can’t we give Freud the slip?

Case in point: as I was writing this, I went to jot something down and realised I was using one of these pencils.

It comes down to total conviction. Perfect confidence. Complete self-belief. You can feel it emanating from his writing. Freud believed every word he wrote.

Freud did the opposite: gave me answers. Wrong answers.

When we wish to understand human nature, the best place to start is always with the extremes.

What’s striking is that gurus become gurus because of their incredible confidence, rather than because of their abilities or insights.

What magnifies and intensifies a guru is having followers who shield them from criticism and believe their every word.

What are we losing when we outsource our thinking to other people, purely because they sound convincing?



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Rosie Leizrowice

Content strategist @ Farnam Street by day. Essays here sometimes. Berlin. More writing/ say hi: