His first book Your Erroneous Zones (1976) is one of the best-selling books of all time, with an estimated 35 million copies sold.
Dyer was born in Detroit, Michigan to Melvin Lyle Dyer and Hazel Irene Vollick and spent much of his childhood (until he was ten years old) in an orphanage on the east side of Detroit, after his father walked out on the family leaving his mother to raise three small boys.
After graduating from Denby High School, Dyer served in the United States Navy from 1958 to 1962. He received his D.Ed. degree in counseling from Wayne State University for a dissertation titled “Group Counseling Leadership Training in Counselor Education” under the supervision of Mildred Peters.
Dyer worked as a high school guidance counselor in Detroit and as a professor of counselor education at St. John’s University in New York City.
He pursued an academic career, published in journals and established a private therapy practice.
His lectures at St. John’s, which focused on positive thinking and motivational speaking techniques, attracted many students.
A literary agent persuaded Dyer to document his theories in his first book called Your Erroneous Zones.
Dyer quit his teaching job and began a publicity tour of the United States of America, doggedly pursuing bookstore appearances and media interviews (“out of the back of his station wagon”, according to Michael Korda, making the best-seller lists “before book publishers even noticed what was happening”, which eventually led to national television talk show appearances including Merv Griffin, The Tonight Show, and Phil Donahue.
Dyer proceeded to build on his success with lecture tours, a series of audiotapes, and regular publication of new books.
Dyer’s message resonated with many in the New Thought Movement and beyond.
He often recounted anecdotes from his family life, and repeatedly used his own life experience as an example.
His self-made man success story was a part of his appeal. Dyer told readers to pursue self actualization, calling reliance on the self as a guide to “religious” experience, and suggested that readers emulate Jesus Christ, whom he termed both an example of a self-actualized person, and a “preacher of self-reliance”.
Dyer criticized societal focus on guilt, which he saw as an unhealthy immobilization in the present due to actions taken in the past.
He advocated readers to see how parents, institutions, and even they, themselves, have imposed guilt trips upon themselves.
Although Dyer initially resisted the spiritual tag, by the 1990s he had altered his message to include more components of spirituality when he wrote the book Real Magic, and discussed higher consciousness, in the book Your Sacred Self. Dyer was married three times.
He had a daughter, Tracy, from his first wife, Judy. His second wife was Susan Casselman (no children).
He had five children (Skye, Summer, Serena, Sands, and Saje) with his third wife, Marcelene, who has two children (Shane and Stephanie) from a prior marriage.
Wayne and Marcelene legally separated in 2001 after twenty years of marriage.
“My beliefs are that the truth is a truth until you organize it, and then becomes a lie.
I don’t think that Jesus was teaching Christianity, Jesus was teaching kindness, love, concern, and peace.
What I tell people is don’t be Christian, be Christ-like. Don’t be Buddhist, be Buddha-like.” “Religion is orthodoxy, rules and historical scriptures maintained by people over long periods of time.
Generally people are raised to obey the customs and practices of that religion without question.
These are customs and expectations from outside the person and do not fit my definition of spiritual.”
Wayne Dyer died on August 29, 2015.