Saturday, December 8, 2012

"How To Change Your Beliefs And Identity"

Dear Stefan Pylarinos,

in our recent conversation on your youtube video about "How To Change Your Beliefs And Identity", you claimed that you can give me "hundreds of examples of people that have made amazing changes." From context, I infer that you are talking about people who have made changes following your own method which you detail in your videos and on your website.

Talking about your website, you claim there that you have a "7-Step Proven Method To Creating The Life Of Your Dreams" and that you know and can teach people "How To Change Any Negative Behaviour Or Emotion Instantly".

Regarding those claims, I have a challenge that I am sure you will enjoy to meet. After all, what's in it for you is nothing short of the best publicity you can ever hope to get: independently verified, irrefutable proof of your claims. You can find this challenge at the end of this blog posting, under the heading "The Challenge".

Before we start, I would like to make one thing abundantly clear: I do not doubt your sincerity. I am perfectly sure that you believe what you say, and that you are convinced that you're doing a tremendous amount of good for other people. The same goes for many other life coaches out there. To what degree that assessment is correct, of course, is an entirely different question.

A Few Remarks About Skepticism And Beliefs

Let's talk a bit about your latest contribution to our youtube conversation, and let me clarify a few things. Here is your text:

I have some feedback, if you're open to it. You have a very disempowering way of looking at things. You very much have a pessimistic or skeptical view of life coaches in my opinion, which is all fear based - it's a fear of being disappointed, or that change can't happen that fast. As long as you believe this, how is it going to help your life? How does believing what you just said going to empower you in any way? I can give you hundreds of examples of people that have made amazing changes.

First off, please stop calling this feedback. It violates pretty much every rule of feedback I ever learned in all the communication courses I took: It generalizes my remarks about self-help and life coaches to my overall worldview, it personalizes matters, it attempts to turn the factual problem I raised into my own personal issue, and most amusingly, it is an attempt at reading my mind. You don't know anything about my personal fears or disappointments, because I never talked to you about that. If you've taken any NLP course at all, you know that mind-reading is one of the main ways of distorting your internal representation of the world. It is also a good way of unnecessarily escalating a conflict, and in the case of a life coach, it is entirely unprofessional and unacceptable.

In short, I guess I might have struck a nerve there, ain't I?

Fast Change

Let's talk about "fast change" first, since it is a repeated topic here on my blog. (Probably even ad nauseam, sometimes, I'm afraid...) Do I believe that change can't happen "that fast"? (How fast is "that fast", anyway? Well, you claim instantaneous radical change on your webpage, so let's go with that.)

Well, I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of very fast changes.

What I can say is that I have never witnessed any such change. What I can also say is that I probably should have witnessed at least a few, given that I have a sheet of paper in my drawer that says "NLP practitioner" in nice golden letters, that I have another certificate identifying me as a mediator, and I've looked into various "transformative" practices ranging from christianity to kabbalah to buddhism over the years. In my NLP class, there were about 30 peple, and we spent a lot of time with each other over the course of about 18 months. And yet, none of those 30 people ever reported any significant, mind-blowing, instant changes, even though NLP claims to be the most effective method ever, and the institute is probably the largest and most renowned NLP institute in my country. Are we to surmise that they all had those drastic mind-boggling revelations, but somehow all of them just kept their mouth shut about it? Perhaps they talked with each other and somehow kept me out of the loop? Possible. But not very convincing, if you ask me.

As I said, I don't even claim that instant, radical change can never ever happen. I'm sure it does. In fact, it happened to me, and I blogged about it here and here. I do think, however, that probably no-one has ever devised a fool-proof, 100% method of achieving it. If that were not so, how do you explain thousands upon thousands of self-help books and methods, all claiming total effectiveness, often contradicting each other? Don't start with "not everything is for everyone". The moment you admit that, you have essentially admitted that your specific method is not proven, not 100%.

In short, if anyone has a "100% proven method for achieving instant, radical and lasting change", where the heck do they hide their Nobel Prize, and why do they hide it in the first place? Looking around, this is the most sought-after knowledge since the goddarn frakkin' dawn of humanity. If you claim that you have a method like that, be prepared to back that up with evidence. This is a very, very, VERY extraordinary claim, almost as extraordinary as the claim of being able to walk on water or raise the dead. Evidence for this should be MASSIVE if you want it to be believable.

Change is chaotic and unpredictable, in my experience. We can learn how to ride the avalanche, how to steer it to a degree, and that's about all we can do.


You write that I have a "pessimistic or skeptical view of life coaches". You are spot on: In fact, I do, and it is backed by my own experience. Looking at the name of my blog, what else do you expect?

I don't claim that they're all completely bogus, and I do think that a lot of them actually have something useful to say. But I also think that most of them overgeneralize their own experience, have read a few books here and there, and create some brilliant positive, good-sounding, overly optimistic ideology from that, and then sell this as absolute truth. I also think that this is a devastatingly destructive way of going about things that ultimately hurts the customers way more than it benefits them.

But all that is just my own very personal rambling, and skepticism is not about that. Skepticism is about requiring evidence. You made a claim, you show us the evidence, we examine it. Simple, really, isn't it?

The Usefulness Of Beliefs

You asked me (rhetorically, I guess), "How does believing what you just said going to empower you in any way?"

I take from that that you have a very utilitarian view of beliefs. In fact, it is the view taught in NLP and next to all self-help and life coaching. I bought into that view myself, for a while.

Here's the catch: It is not TRULY utilitarian. It consistently overlooks the fact that beliefs, ultimately, are tools for survival. And they can't well function as that if they are not in some way realistic. Yes, beliefs can be disempowering, and we can rephrase and reframe a good many of our beliefs in better ways so as to better empower ourselves and others. But I have also found that I can not make myself believe something that I know to be objectively false. Have you ever tried to make yourself believe that you ate ice cream for breakfast, when you really ate toast? Go on and do it, I challenge you. I predict that you will fail. Your brain will simply reject it as not consistent with your experience.

How will my belief about life coaches empower me? By avoiding to fall for bullshit claims that don't actually work in reality. By avoiding to invest time and money in methods that fail to deliver.

And yes, I did try that stunt with the ice-cream, thanks for asking.

The Challenge

Okay, here's your challenge. As an honest entrepeneur, a decent human being and a great life coach, I'm sure you'll be happy to meet the following criteria:

1. Hundreds of Examples

Regarding the hundreds of examples of people that have made amazing changes, I am looking forward to having all of those reply to this posting. Specifically, I require that the following criteria be met:

  1. Every entry has to come from a different person.
  2. Every single one of them has to be properly authenticated, so we can make sure that none of them are faked. I am flexible about the method of authentication; however, I'm sure our audience and your prospective customers will have a keen and skeptical eye on any method you come up with.
  3. In order to reflect permanent change, the radical instantaneous experience has to have taken place more than 6 months ago.
  4. The report has to be detailed and sufficiently void of vague language.
  5. The person has to attest that the change they achieved was actually the change that they planned to achieve before the experience.
  6. Your influence on and involvement with the change have to be obvious in the report.
  7. The challenge is met if there are at least 200 ("hundreds") such entries within the next month. For starters, I'll be happy to provisionally declare the challenge met if we have 50 entries within one week.

2. 7-Step Proven Method

Regarding your "7-Step Proven Method To Creating The Life Of Your Dreams", kindly answer the following questions:

  1. Without revealing any trade secrets, what is the main psychological method that you base your method on?
  2. What renowned institution performed the scientific tests necessary to devise the proof you claim?
  3. What methods of psychological and sociological measurement were employed?
  4. Were the tests double-blind?
  5. Were the tests quantitative or qualitative?
  6. How many subjects were tested?
  7. What measures were taken to avoid, or at least account for, confirmation and selection bias?

I am looking forward to literally hundreds of replies...

With kind regards,



  1. Replies
    1. To be fair, there was one vaguely positive reply on his youtube video.

      Apart from that, he removed my latest comments and blocked me.

      I'll just call him Father Pylarinos from now on!

    2. Ha! I was going to suggest we play matchmaker for Pylarinos and Father Barron! Although, after they got through bashing naysayers like us, they'd probably breakup because they couldn't accept each other's "truth".