The Guru Paradox: Why Authority Makes Everything Seem True


Guru’s need to have authority for you to believe what they say, and this is also why you don’t fully see the truth.

Authority and Neil deGrasse Tyson

One of the biggest elements to sell online and build a personal brand is to have authority…

For instance, I don’t know a lot about physics…But I’ve tried to learn a bit more and watch some videos on the topic.

Well If I find myself in a room with Neil deGrasse Tyson and he tells me that the earth is flat… I will probably believe him!

Not necessarily because I’m unsecure about my own knowledge (although in the case of physic… I am) but because I won’t argue with this bestseller, all-star in the field… also he’s cool. I like his hair (wait what?)

Long story short, he has the authority and I see him as a knowledgeable figure, therefore I would probably believe anything he says in that field, if he just throws some buzzwords in there…

My reptilian brain makes the shortcut: Authority = truth (not necessarily trust, but more on that later).

“Guru’s” know this bias of the brain and how to use it.

The guru has to be 100% confident about his content. Otherwise you won’t trust him. He has to show a total certainty in what he is saying.

What if you ask for directions… if anyone does that anymore?

Ok well try to imagine… you ask for directions to a trustworthy man in the street, and that person stares at you, look around and start to mumble “Well…humm… I think if you go on the left over there and you continue for a bit, you’ll get there.” Maybe? I don’t know.

Now you ask another guy (you know, no offense just to double check) and he says “Go this way on the left for 5mintues” without a minute of hesitation and without even blinking… Which one do you trust?

Although the information is the same, one has a deep belief in what he delivers and if this other guy isn’t sure, well I’m not sure…

Authority and marketing

Going back to marketing, a “guru” may not be totally transparent about some of the stuff that he has tried (and failed at). Because he doesn’t want to show the fuck-ups and lose this authority. He will try maintaining this image of the almighty expert.

“self-confidence is for kids, but certainty is for man”

But I don’t think this is necessarily some kind of sleazy trick that people at the top of their industry do…

This is just the only way our dumb monkey brain will listen to anything!

Now here is the thing: in order to really help people, you also need to be relatable. You need to be someone I can trust and learn from, because you have struggled too (or still are).

How to beat the Guru Paradox

So how to beat that? How to both tell the truth (and only the truth) AND still have enough authority so that people can recognize you’re good and can help them?

1)  Talk about what you’ve learned from your experience and what has worked for you.

Share a story on the topic you’re trying to tackle and how you went about it. Be very honest about the results and what you’ve learned from the experience.

Don’t turn your content into universal laws of the universe… The worst think you can do is to use your authority to shut down that window for the people you’re teaching to think for themselves.

2) Be humble and show humility.

Don’t over-exaggerate the results or how freakishly easy this proven, bulletproof method is and how you can teach them to do it too in 60sec or less!

Be honest about the effort and commitment it takes as well as the challenges along the way… and what they can realistically expect if they stick to the process.

3) Find the balance between authority, certainty and likeability/authenticity.

Think about your grandma when you were a kid.

Although she would spoil you with sweets, little attention and shower you with love, if she asked you to clean up the dinner table… you would do it.

You love her and she has the authority.

Be like a grandma, be likeable and authentic but also confident and assertive when needed.

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