Wayne Dyer Biography | From Orphan to Guru

by Alex

in Spiritual Thinkers

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Wayne Dyer Biography

He is one of my favs, so its fitting that the first official mini biography be his.

“Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into.”
– Wayne Dyer

Spiritual and motivational leader Wayne Dyer is perhaps best known (to anyone over the age of 40) for his work Your Erroneous Zones, the top-selling book of the 1970s (35 million copies, which I’d heard was just ahead of the Bible in sales for that decade.)

This photo screams one thing... sober credibility! Hmm.

He’s written over 30 books and has appeared on Oprah, The Tonight Show and thousands of other programs. Most recently he can be seen as a regular guest on Ellen.

Much of his earlier work was focused solely on more traditional self-improvement, but switched in the 1990s to areas of self-actualization (with a touch of New Agey-ness).

In fact, his books Manifest Your Destiny (1997) and The Power of Intention (2004) seem to have set in motion the extreme popularization of “manifestation” in the 2000s, which ultimately culminated with The Secret and the plethora of other knock-offs that followed. Wayne himself had been asked to participate in The Secret movie but turned it down over what seemed to him as watered down theories and superficiality.

Wayne Dyer Early Years

“Everything is perfect in the universe – even your desire to improve it.”
– Wayne Dyer

Wayne Dyer, was born to Melvin Lyle and Hazel Dyer, on May 10, 1940, in Detroit, Michigan. His childhood was pretty difficult, having spent the first ten years of his life in and out of different Detroit orphanages and foster homes.

Wayne is the youngest of three brothers, who along with their mother were abandoned by their father. Melvin was an abusive alcoholic who had done prison time, and was not much of a part of the family’s life. In fact, Wayne never formally met his father. Melvin ended up passing away in the early 1970s, just before Wayne had begun to express interest in meeting him.

(You can listen hear to an interview Wayne did with Tony Robbins is the early 90s where among other things he talks about his search for his father and how he made his first book a bestseller.) PART 1 & PART 2

As a young mother, Hazel could not support Wayne and his brothers, and was forced to enter her children into foster care until she could get on her feet.

She worked as a candy girl for $17 a week, and it took her quite a few years before she could reunite the family. Wayne was ten years old by the time she regained custody.

He’s repeatedly cited these difficult years as being hugely formative in terms of his spirit and resilience, and that it helped him become a better teacher of how to overcome adversity.

Wayne Dyer Professional Background

“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”
–Wayne Dyer

Wayne joined the Navy in his late teens, served 4 years and then enrolled at (coincidentally) Wayne State University. At age 25, he started his professional career as a high school guidance counselor. Six years later, after receiving his doctorate in education, he became a professor at St. John’s University in New York. He was on his way to a traditional academic career publishing articles in trade journals and building a thriving counseling practice, but his life started to take a different direction.

He found that his talks on self-improvement we’re growing steadily in popularity. These talks ultimately led to the publishing of Your Erroneous Zones. So he decided to leave St. John’s (even after being offered tenure), and devote himself full-time to being an author. But the book was not an instant bestseller. In fact, the first printing run was only 3000 copies… all of which he bought himself.

With Erroneous Zones not selling, he spent the next year on the road promoting the book from town to town, going on local radio shows, convincing small bookstores to carry it. He would even make multiple calls to the same bookstore pretending to be customers asking about the book (using fake foreign accents each time of course – LOL).

By the time he reached the West Coast, he had already pushed the book using sweat and tears to the N.Y. Times bestseller list, but he really hit it big when he ended up on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson with 3 straight appearances in one week. That kind of exposure propelled him (and the book) to superstar status, and officially launched him into cultural consciousness.

Since then he’s been on a tear, each year releasing new books, audio-programs and lectures on PBS based on his teachings and philosophy.

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Posted on Saturday, February 20th, 2010

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John Reilly February 21, 2010 at 8:15 am

Great article Alex. I’m a big fan of Dyer.

Alex February 21, 2010 at 8:27 am

@John – thanks man. I appreciate it :)

Kristin Heslop February 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Thanks you so much for this! I love the Robbins/Dyer interview!

Reggie February 21, 2010 at 2:44 pm

This is great Alex. I hadn’t heard the Tony interview.

Jared April 26, 2010 at 6:40 am

Thanks for sharing. Good stuff.

Reannon July 21, 2010 at 7:19 am

I’m surprised (and glad) to learn that he turned down “The Secret”. I wasn’t a big fan of that book but I loved “The Power of Intention.” They should really make that required reading in high schools. It’s so powerful.

Eleonaure July 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Hi Alex,

Great article! Im a big fan of wayne dyer. I see him whenever he comes near my city, which this year is 3 times! Lucky me!

I enjoy your blog at first glance and just subscribed. and am working on my own blog to get some stuff together. Its not launched yet, but maybe when it is you can give me a few pointers? Perhaps i could interview you about your work.

All green lights :)


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