Jordan Belfort, subject of the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, has found a lucrative new career in the field of sales psychology. Belfort reportedly charges $30,000 per motivational speech and up to $80,000 per corporate training course, in addition to hawking other “sales” materials through his company, Jordan Belfort’s Straight Line. Full instructional self-help courses are available to customers at his online store for the low purchase price of just $599.
What is it, we can wonder, from Belfort’s track record in business that allows him to solicit such awe-inspiring fees?
According to his autobiograpy and news reports, Belfort began amassing his fortune running an illegal Long Island boiler room, selling worthless stocks with false promises to gullible investors. He redirected his profits and ragamuffin sales team to a bogus Wall Street company, Stratton Oakmont, where he pursued bigger fish with false stock statements and used the resulting profile of the company for a massive pump and dump scheme that manipulated markets and reaped huge illicit gains of over $200 million. For defrauding investors and money laundering, Belfort was sentenced to two years in federal prison (reduced for turning state’s witness on his business partners) and ordered to pay restitution of $110.4 million to his bilked investors (which he has not yet done).
Now there is a resume that just screams legitimacy. But fear not – Belfort says he is reformed from his shyster ways and now wants to use his extraordinary speaking gifts for noble ends in the self-help world, inspiring a whole new generation of go-getters and entrepreneurs to chase their dreams as he did (sans securities fraud, of course). He laments how some choose to focus on his ignominious past instead of what good he is doing in the present. Didn’t they even *read* his motivational materials? He’s laid it out there, quite explicitly, in Life Principle for Success #3: You Are Not Your Past!
I won’t go so far as to claim that there is nothing of value to learn from this man. At a minimum, he gave us a mildly entertaining movie, and he’s affirmed that there are indeed suckers born every minute, inside and out of the stock market. But he’s wrong on at least one principle: our actions do define us, and the past is one predictor of character and future behavior.
Belfort, notably, also likes to make the dubious claim that he could just as easily have made his fortune through legitimate sales. Therefore, the logic goes, his more youthful indiscretions shouldn’t invalidate what he has to say through buzz-word-laden, numerically ordered sales methodologies.
Well, sorry – no again. To those who aren’t rationalizing sociopaths or gullible saps, life doesn’t quite work like that on principle. Whatever legal fame and fortune Belfort managed to amass are all just so much fruit of the poisonous tree and, as such, are inseparable from their criminal underpinnings. It’s a relatively simple affair to make fame work for you once you have it – every air-headed Real Housewife heiress raking it in on the Bravo network is a testament to that. But if you are only rich and famous because you cheated your way there in the first place, it doesn’t carry nearly the same weight as somebody who made it there honestly and by offering real value.
As is the case with so much of the self-help material out there, it’s doubtful many of Belfort’s students realize the irony of him getting rich quick (again) by selling them an overpriced training course on that very subject. Come to think of it, maybe Belfort is something of a marketing prodigy after all – he’s just now pursuing a different kind of mark.