Sunday, January 8, 2012

Don’t give a killer motivational speech

When I read the December 14th blog post by Ben and Kelly Decker on The Top Ten Best (and Worst Communicators of 2011 there was one name glaringly missing from their worst list. That was James Arthur Ray, who also wasn’t listed for either 2009 or 2010.

Mr. Ray is a well-known motivational speaker, author, and proponent of the Law of Attraction. A 2008 article in Fortune called him “The man who would be Robbins, Covey, and Chopra.”

On October 8, 2009, as part of a “Spiritual Warrior” program he led a “sweat lodge” program in a mostly enclosed sauna-like space heated by pouring water over hot rocks. Before it began he reportedly told participants that although they might feel like they were going to die they would not.  But, three people did die - Kirby Brown, Liz Neuman, and James Shore. Mr. Ray literally gave a killer motivational speech.

James Arthur Ray eventually was tried in Yavapai County, Arizona. On June 22, 2011 he was found guilty on three counts of negligent homicide. Those events are discussed here. Finally, on November 18th, he was sentenced to two years in prison. His attorneys, whose fees already have cost him $5.6 million, are appealing that verdict.  

Mr. Ray displayed an amazing combination of arrogance and ignorance. The hazards resulting from combinations of heat and humidity are well-known and thus preventable. For another example, see this simple chart. This August OSHA even released a free heat safety App. Yet, reportedly Ray didn’t even have a thermometer in the so-called sweat lodge he was running (and also, of course, no way of measuring humidity).

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