Few things annoy me as much as complete out-and-out pseudoscience, but one of those few things is motivational/aspirational vampires speakers like Anthony Robbins and Deepak Chopra. While I have no doubt that some motivational speakers really believe what they’re saying, and have the best intentions to make people’s lives better, it is certain that many of these lecturn-huggers are nothing more than carnival sideshow spruikers selling a glimpse of a two-headed chicken.1

Normally, I can’t be bothered with these idiots, but when they spam the Reverend, well then, they’re fair game.

Today I received an email extolling the virtues of some guff called ‘Brain Power – Peak Performance Training’. The person we can expect on stage with the boater and cane is someone called Mark Jansen, whose credentials are so ephemeral that an extensive Search™ turns up little more than a bunch of links back to his Brain Power site.2 The number one endorsement of Mr Jansen on his spam email comes from a personage named Max Kaan, who does have some credentials… as a stage hypnotist. I leave you to reflect on that for a moment.

I don’t aim to reproduce the entire Brain Power spam here – it’s long-winded and tedious – but it does have a few clangers that I know you will appreciate.

The email begins with a bunch of questions, among which are:

What makes a person a genius? How do some manage to think beyond the average 10%?

Oh no! Not again. The hoary old ‘we only use 10% of our brain’ myth. Man, that thing has been thoroughly debunked for the better part of two decades – if it ever had any credibility in the first place.

Then we have:

Accredited expert Mark Jansen will help you understand and unleash your innate Brain Power. It’s the fascinating bridge between logic and magic…

Uh-oh. The only bridge between logic and magic is of the precarious long wooden suspension kind, with frayed rope at both ends and a lot of slats missing.

With Brain Power Peak Performance Training, you can, so the email promises, enjoy many benefits, including:

8. Access the Infinite Potential that resides inside everyone; and not just the Einstein’s of the World.

Infinite Potential that is not quite infinite enough to cover grammar, punctuation and sentence structure, it would appear.

Elsewhere on the Brain Power site (oh yes, I visited) we find a lot of dreary guff about all manner of things, including numerous references to ’emotional intelligence’, a staple of touchy-feely fringe psychology which basically says that if you’re not actually intelligent then that’s OK, because there’s another kind of intelligent which is probably the kind you’ve got! There’s no way you could really be genuinely stupid right? Especially if you’re thinking of spending your hard-earned Rand3 on a Brain Power seminar.

They also wheel out this piece of insipid idiocy:

While reason will allow you to solve a linear mathematical problem, a creative brain will allow you to find inspiring solutions that are beyond the obvious. Eg:- E = MC2

Oh for fuck’s sake. Like other snake-oil venders with whom we are familiar, the ‘brains’ behind Brain Power are spewing out the only piece of ‘high end’ math they know because they think it will be impressive. Well, impressive it may be to the Zombie Armies of the Emotionally Intelligent but any genuinely intelligent person can simplify out that equation for this special context to mean: ‘I am an ignorant twat! Look – I have a Rolex!’.

The site also has the most boring and least informative FAQ I’ve seen in quite some time, which asks only one relevant question and provides an illuminating answer:

6. Is it worth it?

That will be up to the individual. If the attendee absorbs the material and applies the concepts daily, it can and will have the effect of changing one’s life. In terms of value, twelve years of research on the Human Brain in one day. How does one place a value on knowledge?

Alrighty! There we have it – the old Get Out of Jail Free card. You can fork out for Mr Jansen’s seminar, but if you walk away the idiot you were when you handed over your money, then IT’S YOUR FAULT! Perfect!

It remains for us to ask only this question of our own – if Mark Jansen’s ‘Brain Power’ is so successful at turning people (including himself, if he’s behind his own product) into Einstein’s,4 what the fuck is he doing spamming me and schlepping around the motivational speaking circuit?

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  1. And in most cases a glimpse of a two-headed chicken would be better value for your dollar. []
  2. Assuming he is not also the lead singer of a heavy metal band. []
  3. Mark Jansen and his buddy Max Kaan are both South African. As is the location of the seminar being advertised. And for this they spammed probably millions of email accounts worldwide. Now that’s brain power. []
  4. Einstein’s what???? []