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If Americans have one unifying trait, it would be our constant search for personal empowerment and achievement. We see it in the people we idolize, the heroes we recognize and honor, and those who carry the message of hope and lessons on success.

Ronald Wroght once said, “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

I have to agree with that sentiment. We idolize the rich, but not in the same way as other nations do. We believe we’ll be rich one day and, as a consequence, we side with the rich in arguments on issues like taxation even when it’s not, in reality, in our best interest.

Charlatans, scammers, and con-men have a long and illustrious history in America playing on what is arguably both our strength and our greatest weakness: our social mobility. It is true that we can work hard, and achieve. But it helps if we’re smart, good-looking, talented and singularly focused on our goals. That does not describe most people, who are lazy, unwilling to put in the effort to become smart in an area, and easily distracted.

Which makes for a population that is ripe for abuse with the sale of easy, silver-bullet solutions to make them rich quickly and with little effort. Hence the television salesmen who trumpet salvation for $10 a month, plastic kitchen appliances that will free up your time for “better living” and reality show characters like Kim Kardashian with makeup lines and phone apps that mimic her “Hollywood life” for $2.99 a month.

As a young man I was frothy at the mouth with a desire to be uber-wealthy, and I still want wealth, but I value those who achieve it differently today. I look deeper into the value of what is being sold and transferred.

One of America’s true success stories is Tony Robbins, and he has a documentary out on Netflix called “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru.” It is a behind-the-scenes look at his six-day Date With Destiny training in Florida. Some 2,500 people pay a minimum of $4,995 to spend six 12- to 14-hour days in a conference room being inspired, emotionally pushed and pulled, to confront their personal obstacles. This is a $12.5-million moneymaker for Robbins, not including the VIP and platinum-level private coaching sessions he’ll do. Not a bad paycheck for a week.

Of course, that is not all profit, and it doesn’t take a week to get there, and he doesn’t do it alone, but the point is he does well selling empowerment and inspiration. The people I know who have taken his courses have good things to say and that the value is there. Some of my friends have made life-changing decisions based on his courses, so I would say he is a model and mentor that is worthy of respect.

At the local level, we have many great sources of inspiration and teachers of life skills. I was lucky enough to attend one such course from my friend, John Wineland, who works with people to be more authentic and connected in their life and relationships. He was on my men’s family law podcast as a guest, so he invited me to attend his “Beyond Your Edge” workshop two weeks ago. We don’t have a business relationship; we are just friends.

This workshop was a men-only event, but he works with both men and women on identifying and focusing the energy they put out, whether masculine or feminine, and seeing how it affects relationships.

It was a hot Sunday and 30 very different men filled a loft space in Santa Monica. They were of all ages, from young 20-somethings to early 60s, mostly straight; I think I was the lone gay man, but maybe not. The workshop took me through exercises designed to open me to releasing pent-up emotions and getting feedback on how I presented to the world. There were challenging exercises and some that seemed silly at first but had hidden value.

John’s 7-hour course costs $97, and I heard guys saying it was totally worth it. Personally, I think the work he did with the men, and the lessons learned, are worth far more than that. When you find your true value, and how to bring it to your relationships and life, it seems to me that it should be worth more than just above minimum wage.

It is good to have models and mentors — I think we need to choose them wisely. I recommend the Robbins documentary as a look into what Tony offers (, and I think that John Wineland ( offers a unique and intimate experience that is more valuable than it cost.

David Pisarra is a partner in the Santa Monica law firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at 310-664-9969 or by email at