Beware the Guru Who Doesn’t Practice What They Preach

In India, when a family encounters a problem regarding the behavior of their children, they don’t consult a psychotherapist or a doctor. They go straight to the local guru. One of the reasons is that there is always a big shortage of doctors, especially in rural areas.

So in a small village, there was a family who would often go to the local guru for help. One day, the mother and father came to the guru with their nine-year-old child. The father told the guru, “Master, our son is a wonderful boy and we love him very much. But he has a terrible problem, a weakness for sweets that is ruining his teeth and health. We’ve tried to reason with him, argued, pleaded, used discipline but nothing worked. He just doesn’t listen and keeps on consuming an enormous amount of sweets. Can you help us?”

The guru’s answer left the father surprised. He said, “Go now and get back in exactly two weeks.”

Since the mantra in the village is that you don’t argue with the guru, the family listened and obeyed.

The weeks passed and the family came back to the guru with their child. And the guru said, “Good, now we can proceed.”

But the father stopped and asked, “Won’t you tell us please why you sent us away for two weeks? You have never done that before.”

The guru replied, “I needed the two weeks because I, too, have had a lifelong weakness for sweets. Until I had confronted and resolved that issue within myself, I was not ready to deal with your son.”

People usually don’t like this story.

Beware the Self-Help Gurus Who Don't Practice What They Preach

Beware the Guru Who Doesn’t Practice What They Preach

What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

We live in the world of self-help gurus, life coaches, and preachers. Everyone knows everything and wants to tell you how you should live your life.


And yes, there are people out there who are truly great, and you should listen to them. Because they have “been there, done that,” and can offer important guidance in a certain situation.

But you need to beware of the wannabe life coaches who preach but don’t practice it for themselves. Would you trust a broke financial manager? Or an overweight personal trainer? Of course not. Because they don’t practice what they preach.

Preaching is easy. You go and read a couple of books and suddenly, you are the know-it-all master. Preaching comes from knowledge, which is half of an important equation. But by itself, it doesn’t mean much. You need the other side of the coin with it, and that is experience.

Experience without knowledge is blind, but knowledge without experience is a mere intellectual play.

– Immanuel Kant

This is important, because skill equals knowledge times a couple thousand repetitions. To truly know something means to know the theory, but also to live the practice.

Because in theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

Mary in the black and white room


Mary is a scientist, and her specialist subject is color. She knows everything there is to know about colors. The effects they have on neurology, the wavelengths, reach. Literally, every possible property a color can have, Mary knows about it.

And Mary has a favorite color. It is blue. Mary is just fascinated with the color blue. The color blue just seems to have the perfect wavelength and a soothing impact on the brain’s neurology.

But she lives in a black and white room. She was born and raised there. Even the TV that she has is a black-and-white TV. That is her only way of observing the outside world. So Mary has never actually seen any colors, and all her knowledge of them is second-hand.

Then one day, the door to the outside world opens, and Mary walks out. She sees the blue sky for the first time.

At that moment, she learns something that all her studies couldn’t tell her. She learns what it feels like to see the color blue.

This was something that couldn’t be taught or conveyed. This was something that needed to be experienced to be understood.

Who will you let guide you?

Remember in the end to find a mentor who has the right knowledge, but has also been in the trenches.

Someone who just preaches but doesn’t practice is dangerous. But someone who just practices with no knowledge and theory is blind.

So, who will you follow after this?

Tell me in the comments.

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