Monday, October 14, 2013

Spouting Nonsense - the very first Spoutly is awarded to Brian Tracy

After watching the Emmy Awards on September 22nd, and hearing about the latest Nobel Prizes, I’ve decided to start handing out an award to those who spout nonsense. It is called a Spoutly.

 Brian Tracy has cranked out a cartload of motivational books. On October 7, 2013 he posted a two-minute YouTube video on how to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking that says:

“According to the Guinness Book of Records, 54% of American adults rank public speaking ahead of the fear of death among life’s major fears.”

That claim sounds specific, authoritative, and references a well-known publication. It is hard to refute conclusively, given that he didn’t bother to identify which year or edition it supposedly came from. (When I looked in Worldcat I found that the 1994 version for The Guinness Book of Records was  the 40th edition).

A caption on that YouTube video invites you to go to his web site and download a free chapter of his 2010 book No Excuses: The Power of Self-Discipline. On page 109  of that book it instead says:

“According to the Book of Lists, 54% of adults rate the fear of public speaking ahead of the fear of death.”

Why doesn’t the reference in the video match the one in the book?

On June 6, 2011 I blogged about How to recognize a fictitious statistic, and noted that claimed 54% does not really appear in the Book of Lists (which instead says 41%). It is a ManBearPig statistic - half man, half bear, and half pig. Mr. Tracy also had made the same claim on page 42 of his 2008 book, Speak to Win: How to Present with Power in Any Situation, which also warned on page 19 that:

“Poor preparation before an intelligent, discerning audience automatically downgrades your credibility - your ethos.”

On January 1, 2013 I blogged about That mystical 54% of adults who fear public speaking, and noted that on a CD in a set called Public Speaking Survival Kit he had said:

“Everyone grows up with a fear of public speaking. In fact, according to surveys and the Guinness Book of Records and the Book of Questions and Answers, 54% of adults fear public speaking more than they fear death. That’s how much there’s fear for public speaking.” 

When I looked in the current Guinness World Records 2012 book at my local public library I found no index entry for either fear or speaking.

The spouting whale for the Spoutly is derived from the Arms of Baron Ackner.

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