On this day in 2009, Kirby Brown died while participating in a personal growth retreat in Sedona, Arizona.
The man who led that retreat was a New York Times bestselling self help author named James Arthur Ray.
He had charged each of the participants almost $10,000 for this retreat— a price he justified by claiming he had been educated and trained in the subjects he was teaching and the experiences he was offering.
As it turns out, he was lying about his qualifications and experience.
But the fact that he had a bestselling book and had been featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” convinced many people to pay him for these teachings and experiences…that he was objectively unqualified to offer.
The truth was that this man did not have any educational or professional credentials that would qualify him to teach people about behavioral science, emotional health, or spiritual growth— nor had he been trained to conduct the sweat lodge ceremony that ended in three deaths (and over a dozen serious injuries) twelve years ago today.
This was not the first time a participant had died at one of this man’s personal growth events.
Several months prior to this event, a participant in another of his workshops had committed suicide AT THE EVENT— which was at least partially a result of this man’s failure to properly screen his event participants for psychiatric stability before throwing them into emotionally intense exercises.
A total of four people have died at this man’s events.
Following the first death– the mid-event suicide– this man choose not to acknowledge it to the other participants, who were unaware of what had happened.
He claimed the victim had simply decided to leave the event— then he continued with the workshop, likely so he wouldn’t have to stop the event, provide refunds, or furnish support or explanations to the other participants.
Following the multiple deaths and injuries at his Sedona event, this man didn’t stick around to debrief or even check in with the other participants, who had literally seen two of the victims die in front of them.
He literally fled the scene, later explaining that this was what his attorney had advised him to do.
This man was convicted of negligent homicide for the deaths that occurred twelve years ago today.
He served less than two years total in prison.
As soon as he was released from prison, this man started planning his return to the self help/personal growth industry.
This man, who has a well established track record of lying about his qualifications and running unsafe events, is back to offering self help events for thousands of dollars a seat.
This man published a book in 2018…focused on on HIS journey “back” from the tragedy he says befell HIM twelve years ago today.
Because that’s what he thinks happened.
He thinks HE was the victim.
He thinks these last twelve years have been a period of struggle for HIM.
He thinks the loss of his business and the brief loss of his freedom— both of which were precipitated by his negligence and dishonesty about his qualifications and abilities— were tragic enough to make his current “comeback” effort a heroic “redemption” story.
If you mention these things to him on social media, this man will berate you for “living in the past.”
He will point to the difficulties HE has endured over the last ten years as evidence of his own grit and character.
He likes to call himself (I swear I’m not making this up) “The Dark Knight” of personal growth.
This man is actually trying to use his involvement in the deaths twelve years ago as part of his rebranding.
Understand: this man STILL does not have the educational or professional credentials to be dispensing advice on behavior change or emotional health.
This man STILL does not have a track record of sustained business success, even though he markets himself as a renowned business coach.
And this man, who is currently trying to rebrand himself as an expert on leadership, is the same man who deceived and abandoned his clients in Sedona…clients who had paid thousands of dollars for his “expertise.”
That’s the kind of “leader” this man is.
The family of Kirby Brown is using today to focus on her legacy of passionate living, seeking, and striving.
I hope someday somebody says the nice things about me that I’ve heard said over and over again about Kirby.
I also hope that the man whose arrogance and carelessness caused her death finds himself robustly unable to lie his way back to a profitable living in the self help industry.