case antiguruism

The Case for Antiguruism

In the winter of 1979, I followed the Sex Pistols to San Francisco.  I sat in the balcony at Winterland massively choked up. Not because of the band, (in fact the prize that night belonged to The Avengers, not the Sex Pistols,) but because there were thousands of leather clad, pogoing punk rockers. At long last, and surely for the first time in my life I had found my people. I belonged.

There are two reasons why that was true. The first is that punk rockers knew how to break down the division between the audience and the stage. Who invented the stage dive? Punk rockers stepped out of the big stages of the late ’70’s to protest banal, boring music and made a BIG noise. Punk Rockers protested materialism and elitism. And while some performers rose to a type of stardom, punk rockers were anti rock star.

Everyone and anyone could do it, play it, attend it, record it, be a part of it.  My voice was heard and valued. The entry was low and the spirit was inclusionary.

The second reason that I belonged in that music scene is that I was hell bent on DIYism.  Do It Yourself means no corporate promoters, no major labels. Punk rockers were happy in the garage, creating their own marketplace and their own rules based on the strong values of independence from corporate greed and self proclaimed gurus.  Everyone and anyone could do it, play it, attend it, record it, be a part of it.  My voice was heard and valued. The entry was low and the spirit was inclusionary.

I spent 25 years around punk rock music. I made my escape about 9 years ago as the music industry started to crash and burn. I was another GenXer reinventing my middle age self. So I started with what I felt I was missing. I started learning.

Trainings. Seminars. Conferences. Webinars. Courses. Presentations. Masterminds.

Where I used to attend punk shows, now I was replacing it with information shows. I was cramming for the test of a lifetime: the post recession repositioning of my career. And I learned a lot. I’ve met a lot of amazing people. I wouldn’t unlearn anything. Except….

In the middle of last year, after dropping hundreds of thousands of cumulative dollars, I joined a new mastermind group and I recognized people from all the events I’d attended. OMG.  I recognized my problem. I was a conference junkie!

The problem with being a conference junkie is tolerance. You need more and more and more. You start to believe that just around the corner is another answer you need and another guru you can’t afford to miss.

The problem with being a conference junkie is tolerance.

But like coming out of a trance I began to recognize something familiar. All the experts that I had paid and given my attention to were promising DIYism. (“Anyone can do what I do.”) But what they were delivering was Guruism. (“I’m great. You can’t do it without me. You’ll need to buy my next, more expensive, expert product.”) Expert has become synonymous with rock star. Not sure this is true? Watch what happens as people worship their information gurus online or on the stage. It is worse than a rock concert.

Do we really need another leadership or marketing  product? I’m in this business and it makes me want to puke. Every time I tell people that I don’t want to witness gurus anymore but I will readily participate in a collective level of communication and sharing I get a resounding, “Yes, me too.”

Do we really need another leadership or marketing  product? I’m in this business and it makes me want to puke.

It is time to level the playing field. To do that, we must stop worshiping and start to engage. Thus I call you to ANTIGURUISM. Meaning that we don’t worship and that we don’t strive to be worshipped. Meaning that we value each other for our strengths and talents. Meaning that the marketplace opens up in ways that we haven’t created yet.

Where do you want to stand? Craving the 1% guru dream or ready to collaborate on something amazing?

Leaders take note, we are being called to an altogether new level of leadership that lives beyond most of the conversations we are having. Antiguruism means to embody our values and not just talk about them.

Leaders take note, we are being called to an altogether new level of leadership that lives beyond most of the conversations we are having. Antiguruism means to embody our values and not just talk about them.

What does Antiguruism look like?

  • Get very uncomfortable.
  • Challenge your beliefs.
  • Challenge others’ beliefs.
  • Open source resources.
  • Follow and lead.
  • The tribe ahead of the leader.

I hear the thunder and its rumble is in agreement.  It’s us. We need to here, be heard, be valued. We’re ready to Do It Ourselves.

As my awareness grows I  crave what I had so intimately known: Inclusion. DIYism and a BIG noise. Similar to punk rock in the ’70’s (and beyond), the time is right to create a DIY platform for people who want a higher sense of values, connection and collaboration.  Am I right?

This feels like a new version of an old glove for me. It’s home. And yet, it is scary and exciting beyond belief because I still don’t know how to recreate myself. I am only now starting to know how to express it. But I hear the thunder and its rumble is in agreement.  It’s us. We need to hear, be heard, be valued. We’re ready to Do It Ourselves.

“We are the leaders of tomorrow. We are the ones to have more fun. We want control, we want the power not gonna stop until its comes. We are not Jesus (Christ). We are not fascists (pigs). We are not capitalists (industrialists). We are not communists.  We are the one.”

– The Avengers, 1978

Read more of Ruth’s work on her site


Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

Image credit: nejron / 123RF Stock Photo

Ruth spent 25 years in the music industry. In that time she created a $10 mil distribution company where everyone was a contributing partner in the business. After selling that business she became a business coach, speaker, trainer and enthusiast for working with successful entrepreneurs and business leaders who are tired of task and employee management are ready to lead the work revolution. Schwartz chronicles her success in the book, The Key to the Golden Handcuff’s – Stop Being a Slave to Your Business. Tthe book gives entrepreneurs and executives a recipe to create a transparent, open-book company of their own design. Ruth is a member of Toastmasters, the National Speakers’ Association, The International Coach Federation and The Experts Association.

  • John F Fellows

    After watching the Wolf of Wall Street, I thought what you have explained so well here. Anyone who stands before an audience or sits in that audience will start to feel uncomfortable and a paradigm shift will emerge.

  • lifeisntbroken

    I absolutely LOVE this article. I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said. I too have attended my fair share of leadership conferences, workshops, and events. I’ve learned a lot through the process. What I’ve also learned is the dangers of them. I saw people at some of the events who were more disciples than people looking for a way to take their own performances up a notch. I also believe that discipleship or guru-ism is dangerous for the guru as well. One man in particular that I was able to glean a lot from by reading his book, seemed by the time I attended one of his events, to have started to believe in the almost divinity heaped upon him by his throng of followers. I was amazed that so many people followed him from event to event at increasingly greater expense, to hear mostly the same things rehashed. (from what I could tell from the promotional materials.) In the end, this man who had great things to contribute was ruined by the inflated ego brought about at least in part by guru-ism and ended up in jail. (follow the dots to figure out who.) It’s the take away and the application of the principles learned at those events that offer benefit. Not groupie-ism.
    I love your writing style btw.
    Thanks for sharing

  • Pingback: Are You Just a Leader or a Just Leader?()

  • Tom Larsen

    I did not see your post about the above
    subject. You are taking a philosophical approach, which I always
    applaud. How does that go with what we were talking about at the
    Library? This approach sounds more like the Google – don’t worry about
    the business model.

    I am not challenging your thinking. I’m simply looking to
    better understand where you are coming from so I can own it the way you

    As an alternate, I see the market from a mid 50s guy
    point of view. I have knowledge, dare I say expertise. I want to get paid for that knowledge. I
    have way more of it than most people younger than me because they don’t
    have my experience.

    If the greater success in the trusted Gold seeking metaphor is
    to make money selling to the miners (whatever kind of mining they do) then
    what can I offer to that community? I need to provide a fair value offer
    that the miners will find useful and be willing to part with their
    money to get something for it – relieve a pain or create a pleasure as
    we heard today.

    Is that antiguru or guru? Is that a bad thing to be trading a
    fair value (my expertise), appropriately framed not as a “this will change your life”
    but, as a “this may serve to help you along” kind of way?

    Perhaps the question I can ask (since it is all about asking
    better questions) is “what is anyone’s definition of “guru”? If I only
    say I have greater experience and more expertise, does that make me a
    guru? I didn’t ask for the guru title and definitely don’t embrace it. Was
    our speaker a guru?

    Thanks for the post. I love having my brain stretched.


  • Pingback: I love Switch and Shift – Part 3 - New Style of Leadership()

  • Sabrina Garcia

    Shared stories that tie into leadership are much appreciated. I love to hear about past experiences within the punk/music scene and how that influenced your current approach to leadership. I was advised by a writer to check out your page a couple years ago and I must say that I have not regretted it :)

  • Vickie Zisman

    Ruth, you are right in general, however there is a small standards issue: you see Gurus and Guruism albeit in music or cosmetics, set up a certain general benchmark of a standard. It’s a big generalisation of course, but it helps to sort chaff or a kernel and define the boundaries of ‘quality’ and even moral judgement of good and bad. Now, no society can live without gurus/leaders et al. The problem being, in my view, is the proliferation and trivialisation of the notion, to the point that DIY is running wild and every a bit charismatic person can become a self-professed guru. It’s an anarchy.

  • ruthschwartz

    I understand what you are saying but you are also assuming that the gurus are quality and create best practices. It is not always true. Many of them are shysters telling others that they need to pay them to move forward. Shame on them. If that is leadership, I’m out. I believe it is better to find our own voice. If that is anarchy, I’m in.

  • ruthschwartz

    Life isn’t broken,
    Thank you so much for your response. Yours is an extreme example of guruism. But of course, guruism can be very insipid. It is time for something new.

  • ruthschwartz

    John, Obviously I need to see the movie now… the shift is occurring.

  • ruthschwartz


    If you can provide value to anyone, you should be paid appropriate to the market. I think that is the mid-50;s mind set that I am not challenging and do, in fact, encourage. You have expertise and people need it.

    What I am challenging is creating an elite status whereby people start to worship and rather than participate start to destabilize.

    There was a great quote in yesterday’s presentation, ” What has happened the last time you followed the ‘7 Steps to Success’ program? NOTHING! ‘ I almost cried! What Jim Pelley was communicating was perfect. He was saying that we value relationship and experiences. The “do what I do and be just as great as I am” school of guru is over. (Or should be.)

    Gurus, by design or by accident, pray on people’s destabilization. Gurus tell us that we can be just like them… an elitist guru… if we pay enough money. And then when we still are destabilized because nothing happened, we have to pay more money for more products. In addition, it assumes that we want to be like them. And this is what affronts my core values. I have decided that I don’t want to be like that at all.

    This may be philosophical, but I also see it as very practical. Offer expertise, relationship and authenticity. For me that means inclusion not elitism. XX Ruth

  • footer-logo

    There’s a more human way to do business.

    In the Social Age, it’s how we engage with customers, collaborators and strategic partners that matters; it’s how we create workplace optimism that sets us apart; it’s how we recruit, retain (and repel) employees that becomes our differentiator. This isn’t a “people first, profits second” movement, but a “profits as a direct result of putting people first” movement.

  • Contact Us

    email: connect@switch&
    1133 Ferreto Parkway
    Dayton, NV 89403

    Terms & Conditions  |  Privacy Policy