Release The Hound

It's time for tough love. From Dennis Miller and Bill Maher to Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura, Americans are turning to acid-tongued taskmasters with no-nonsense approaches to help them solve their problems. "People are ready to get rid of all the motivational, self-help B.S. from the past," says Larry Winget, who calls himself a Pit Bull of Personal Development. "I'm tired of people saying, 'As long as you have a good, positive attitude, you'll be fine.' That's just a lie. I've had a positive attitude all my life, and a lot of stuff's gone wrong."

If Winget sounds a bit acerbic, well, that's the point. He doesn't try to hide his cantankerous side; he banks on it. "This is who I am. I am irreverent. I'm in your face. I take a take-no-prisoners, caustic approach. But I'm also really funny," he says. "This is hard-core self-help."

Winget emphasizes that humor is an essential component of his message. "There's humor throughout my presentation. People want to be entertained; we're an entertainment-based society. I can't succeed being this way without also being funny." Winget bases his speeches on the principles of taking personal responsibility in one's life and of being more flexible in how one does a job. "And you've got to lighten up and have more fun in your life," he says.

This is what he always talks about, so forget about a personalized presentation. "I have one speech that I give, and I never customize. I won't change one word, regardless of who I'm talking to. I won't talk technique, I won't talk about your business, or your industry, or anything else specific to you." And Winget has little patience for those speakers who do. "Speakers who hand out all these audience questionnaires, who sit down with meeting planners, basically, they're asking, 'Who do you want me to be and what do you want me to talk about?' Most speakers are needy, ego-driven people, but they need to rise above that need and be themselves. It's about integrity. I am who I am and I talk about what I think is important. And if you don't want me to do that, please, hire someone else."

Winget just may be on to something. His book, Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get A Life: A Kick-Butt Approach to a Better Life, hit number one on The Wall Street Journal's list of best-selling business books.