The Doogie Howser of EST

That’s the only way I know to describe him, “The Doogie Howser of EST.”

His name is Darren Gibson, and he started following me on Twitter. He’s 19 years old, and he is a certified Life Coach.

Let me repeat that, for those of you who may have blinked.

He’s 19 years old, and he is a certified Life Coach.

Yeah, I am still processing that too.

Maybe I’m just being a curmudgeon. After all, Theo Epstein became the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox at the ripe old age of 28, and was such a mistake that he’s won two World Series. And he never played ball.

Still, there’s something a little unnerving about a 19-year-old coaching me on how to live my life. He’s been independent for how long again, exactly? More importantly, how much diversity of life experience can he bring to the table? His bio talks about how he overcame his demons, but “physican heal thyself” does not substitute for a medical degree, does it?

In High school I was alone and depressed with no friends thinking that there wasn’t much to live for but then in July of 2006 I took a small workshop where I learned how to forgive and accept myself and others. From that day I have been on a journey where I have discovered my Mission and Purpose for being here on this earth and who I Am.

I’m glad he had his nadir so early in life, so he can identify with my mid-life crisis.

A big point for me was when I discovered my Heart Virtue. This is something I am willing to die for that non-negotiable and indestructible at the center of my heart that is driving me life. It is what give me my greatest happiness and life and my greatest sadness when it is being blocked or violated.

The kid at least has some business sense. He had the presence of mind to trademark “Heart Virtue”.

I come to praise Darren, not to bury him

It’s hard to argue with the success he’s having. After all, he has (as of this writing) nearly 4,000 followers on Twitter. That’s got to mean some level of achievement. And he has a couple of websites touting his approach. Gibson Coaching features more of the suit-and-a-smile school of photography, and he also contributes his acumen to Chrysalis Weight Management.

If you do visit the Chrysalis site, please ignore the About page, which contains some of the most inspirational lorem ipsum filler text I will ever have the pleasure to enjoy.

gibson-biowagers-bioWisdom in small packages

Leaving the blog/website issues aside, let’s look at the sort of inspiration and leadership one might find. Let’s mine that Twitter stream.


A nice little self-promotion never hurt anyone.


Maslow says we follow our stomach.


This sounds very deep. Almost Deepak Chopra-worthy.


This sounds familiar. Almost a sense of deja vu. Maybe it’s because Darren re-tweeted himself inadvertently, just an hour later. None of these are my favorite, however. I want to know just how he will cut through my psyche, and help me see my potential.


Apparently, the cutting will all be done at right angles, and my potential is based on solid, primary colors.


Maybe my Doogie Howser analogy wasn’t so far off the mark after all?

Critique of the Culture

My beef isn’t with Darren. Nor is it with EST or self-empowerment or self-help or anything else that smacks of kumbaya and psychic stigmata removal. My problem is with the declining virtue of reason, and the failure to scream for objective measures of Quality.

Imagine for a moment that I didn’t tell you up front that Darren was the boy wonder of pop psychology, that he was only 19. Imagine that I only told you there was this life coach that built a nice little following on Twitter, and wrote for two different websites. Then I told you that he was a savant, a gifted genius who could cut straight through the baloney and help you find your Heart Virtue. Would you have a different mindset, a different opinion about Darren now?

We live in a time of shifting standards, and we’re dangerously close to no standards at all. For too long, we’ve been spoiled by the existence of a professional class of reviewers and journalists that we could count on to fact-check and filter information. Newspapers and other news media may have lacked an official accreditation, but they had a vested interest in maintaining that edge of impartiality and quality. To lose that edge meant losing credibility in the marketplace. Who wants to buy a newspaper they can’t trust?

Our problem is these institutions are crumbling. Either through dinosaur-like ambivalence or a failure to forecast the impact of technology, the very institutions that have performed the function of “vetted journalism” are imploding. Journalism doesn’t have to happen in a newspaper, but it will be harder to recognize when it’s in pixels instead of pulp.

Spoiled, blind, and failing

We’ve been spoiled to such an extent that we are prone to attach meaning and relevance to statistics that really confer no stamp of authenticity or quality.

A newspaper with a circulation of 4,000 doesn’t carry the same weight as the New York Times. We instinctively know this. Yet here we have people on Twitter garnering sizable audiences, and some would attribute greater weight to those who have the followers. It’s an Internet Urination Battle, and any Member can stream live.

The fact is that popularity can be correlated with quality, but should never be a measure for quality. One who provides value in Social Media can develop a sizable audience, but not nearly as fast as one who echoes the Echo Chamber, plays the right back-scratching games, or has the good fortune of having once been on a popular television show.

We’re horribly spoiled by our previous reliance on metrics that worked, even when they really shouldn’t have. Many cities had a traditional top-rated television news team that regularly was beaten by a competitor, but at least it was a competitor that was performing the same function with the same basic process. Now, the tools to shoot, edit, and aggregate video have made it possible for people with no journalistic sense or ethics at all to produce content that “looks” like news, but isn’t.

We need a new standard for Quality.

My proof is Darren Gibson. Take his age and pictures off his site, and our brains might assume a level of confidence and competence to match the resume. We might even look at the value of his Twitter content in a different context.

Add the picture and the age back into the mix, and our guts start firing warning signals. We know there is a disconnect. We know something doesn’t add up. We view the same facts and measures through a more critical lens, and we toss aside that which disagrees with our gut. (Maslow wins again.)

Remember that feeling. Learn how to invoke it at will, how to draw it up at a moment’s notice. That feeling is what you will need to help you re-engage your inner sense of Quality, because you can’t trust the outer cues anymore. The Shortcuts for Maintaining the Appearance of Qualityish have been gamed. It is incumbent upon you to dust off your critical thinking skills.

Everyone with an idea or an axe to grind now has a platform to talk about it. (Myself included, do you think I’ve made a penny from this?) Expertise and Quality might bubble to the top, but now there’s no hurdle for those who are far better at self-promotion than they are performing and executing their stated service or mission. It is the age of the Self-Actualized Expert, and we’re all qualified to grant ourselves honorary doctorates from the University of Me.

It’s a brave new world out there. The ones who will thrive are the ones who find the thread connecting their brains, hearts and guts, and critically assess the observations all three provide.

Or maybe I’m just the “Dr. Kevorkian” of Internet Snark, and jealous of Doogie. Call it my Heartless Virtue.

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  1. It doesn’t matter how old he is or how many Twitter followers he has, as soon as I saw him RT his own quote OR quote himself, I’d unfollow him.


  1. Ike Pigott says:

    @billhandy – Allow me to unwrap a classic from the archives:

  2. RT @ikepigott: @StaceyHood @JenciTN – Yes, all too well. || GR8 article!

  3. Ike Pigott says:

    @jeffjarvis – BTW… this was one of my favorites: