You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that Americans are big exponents of the art of self-improvement. Whether it’s the dozens of shows on television at any one point about fixing up your rundown old house, or the preponderance of surgically enhanced bodies that roam the streets every day, a huge number of Americans apparently believe that they can always do better.*
Which came first of the desire for betterment or the industry that encourages it, is difficult to tell. Whatever the case, however, it’s clear that there are a phenomenal number of businesses whose sole reason for existence is to make people believe that they can always improve their lives – if only they’re prepared to part with a few dollars first.
Reading a free newspaper on the way into work this morning, I was struck by the number of adverts encouraging people to act decisively for change. Inevitably in a country which promotes TV shows such as Extreme Makeover, you can easily find slots advertising reconstructive foot surgery, Botox injections and “facial contouring”.
On top of that though, you could take your pick from retirement and succession planning at NY Expo, or laser hair removal, titan skin tightening and photo facials at a reliable New York clinic. Apparently Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, rather than a skin condition. No, I don’t understand either.
You can even make a choice between ordinary sex and great sex if you send away for Viapren. All you need to do is slip a “fast-acting strip” under your tongue, and you’ll be “ready in minutes”. What you’ll be ready for is not clear, although presumably more than a cup of cocoa and a quick read of the latest John Grisham.
Tempting above all other things is the “Do This, Get Rich” event at the Jacob Javits Center this weekend. Allegedly, if you’ve got “$15,000 or $1 million” you can “Learn the 52 Best Money-Making Opportunities THIS WEEKEND. FREE!”
As if a page advert wasn’t enough to lure you in, there’s the promise of a series of money-
grabbingattracting celebrities to convince you to turn up. There’s David Bach, with his insistence that you can “Become An ‘Automatic Millionaire (TM)’ Homeowner”, or Jack Canfield with his insistent plea that you can “Learn ‘The Secret’ To Achieve Financial Goals Immediately”. And don’t forget “Grill Master Entrepreneur” George Foreman, who can help you start a business. And maybe even teach you how to knock lumps out of your business rival if he gets the better of you.
Among the other things you can learn on Saturday are the “three states where you need to look for foreclosures before everyone else”, “cash businesses you can run in less than 10-12 hours per week” and how to “start a business in 5 days and get cash money in 17 days”. Maybe the event should actually be called “How To Make A Fast Buck With The Minimum Possible Effort”?
Don’t get me wrong, we would all love to get something for nothing. It’s just interesting to see how many people in America have built a business model out of helping us get it. After all, for the British, self-improvement is cleaning your teeth in the morning.
* Hopefully The Special One isn’t reading this and so won’t trade me in for a better model