"B e dangerous, or you’ll be in danger.” That’s the message my 20-year-old son Avi absorbed from his guru, an internationally renowned sales trainer who, for legal reasons, I can’t name. Let’s call him Bruce Slinger.

But first, a little about Avi. Avi was never a behind-the-desk kind of kid. Although he was extremely bright, his attention span didn’t match his intelligence, and he chafed in a classroom environment. In elementary school, he was diagnosed with ADD, and we reluctantly put him on Concerta, a form of slow-release Ritalin. The medication helped him focus, but he didn’t like the way it made him feel, and in tenth grade he decided to stop taking it.

After a rocky high school career, Avi switched to a yeshivah for out-of-the-box kids. While at this yeshivah, Avi experimented with marijuana and got hooked. He knew this habit could ruin his life, though, and he was determined to stop, so he asked me to send him to rehab.

My wife Yocheved and I spent two months researching and looking into drug rehabilitation centers. Upon the advice of several drug counselors and rabbanim, we made the gut-wrenching decision to send Avi to a top-rated non-Jewish treatment center that had plenty of experience accommodating the kashrus and other religious needs of frum kids. We paid a fortune to the rehab center, but the expense was well worth it: Avi returned home clean, with a commitment to stay off drugs permanently.

Since school was never Avi’s thing, he decided to go into sales. I helped him find a job in a commercial real-estate brokerage, and he quickly established himself as the company’s “rookie of the year” by closing a number of deals in short succession.

Eager to continue his winning streak, Avi began to read up on sales strategies, eventually coming across some books and videos by a fellow named Bruce Slinger. At the time, the name meant nothing to me, but Avi told me that Slinger was a famous speaker, author, and sales trainer whose net worth was in the hundreds of millions. Slinger’s central message was that to get rich, you have to believe in yourself, think big, and take risks.

I work in sales myself, and personally, I wasn’t all that impressed with what Avi was learning from Bruce Slinger’s material. I actually noticed that Avi had been more successful in making deals before he started imitating Slinger.

I didn’t bother pointing this out to Avi, though. I figured he might lose a few deals in the course of trying to remake himself in Bruce Slinger’s image, but I was confident that he’d eventually realize that he was better off just being himself. Everyone has their own learning curve, and this was his.

Avi was so taken by Slinger’s approach that he decided to fly to Florida to participate in a weekend event of Slinger’s “life-changing” training seminars, using the money he had earned in real-estate commissions.

I was a bit concerned about this fascination with Slinger, so I did some research on him and his seminars. While I wasn’t wowed by Slinger’s material — it’s mostly sound bites, no great chiddushim — I didn’t find it objectionable, either. At any rate, Avi was 20, an adult, and I didn’t think it was wise, or possible, for me to stop him. So he went.

Avi came home from the event starry-eyed. The pictures he showed me of the event showed lights and loudspeakers and pizzazz, but I didn’t hear any major words of wisdom, just some catchy sound bites: sell or be sold, everything in life is a sale, opportunities come disguised as problems.

“The seminar was worth every penny,” Avi enthused. “Really life changing.”

We had no idea then how life changing it would be. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 673)