I’m at a stage in life where I’m not too fond of self-help or anything that looks, feels, and sounds like self-help.
Here’s why — most self-help books and products are designed to change you for the better, and they fail. At least 99.99% of the stuff out there are rehashed versions of the stuff that’s been out there since the early 20th century.
The only change is that books and products are designed to sell other services (or productized services, as marketers call them). Books are referred to as a powerful alternative to business cards. It’s way easier to put together a book or a course than what it used to be 30, 20, or even ten years ago. The result is that we’ve got a crapton of stuff out there that’s a waste of time and offensive.
Sure, the best-sellers list might point you in a particular direction. But who curates this list? For all I know, the lists can be bought or algorithmically influenced by a platform’s (say, Amazon?) AI.
But I digress, the key point here is this — why would you want to invest your time and energy in self-help when the solutions presented are either in conflict with each other or plain don’t work. Sure, some guidance or coaching is helpful, but it’s the most effective when they point you to the source of eternal truth and wisdom — you.
And I have come to believe that consuming more self-help books doesn’t make you any happier or wiser. For all I know, it turns you into a pet guru who yaps around dishing out advice nobody needs or posts motivational quotes on LinkedIn. You might get likes, but honestly, nobody gives a damn. Nor would anyone pay you a dime to your advice. It’s good, so long as it’s free.
So, what should one seeking personal growth and development do? For starters, burn your “self-help stack” or give it away or other self-help junkies or delete all those ebooks from your hard drive. You might want to take a wake or two off to grieve about your superficial loss.
Next up, take out a blank piece of paper and write down 10 of the most influential personalities of the 20th and 21st centuries. Something like this:
- Bill Gates
- Steve Jobs
- Charlie Munger
- Warren Buffet
- Barack Obama
- Robert Greene
- Ryan Holiday
- Tim Ferriss
- Jerry Seinfeld
- Mark Benioff
The list might go on and on but limit yours to 10 people.
Now, Google the following keywords ” favourite books of all time.” Go through the list of books and see if there are any self-help books out there. I’m 99.99% sure there won’t be any, but that’s not the point.
The idea is to get an insight into what these folks are reading because you, too, should be reading and studying these books. And the like. Why? Because the wider your read and study, the more you learn about human nature, psychology, history, arts, military history, strategy, war, and the wisdom of other people. That’s what broadens and shapes your perspective.
Remember, none of the influential personalities above (those are my top 10, by the way) read a book or bought a course on how to get rich in 100 days, become hyper-productive, or become the president of a country. They worked hard, read and studied from other streams of knowledge to enrich their minds and, eventually, their lives.
So, they helped themselves to get where they are right now. I would let Seth Godin conclude my rant on self-help:
The only real help is self-help. Anything else is just designed to get you to the point where you can help yourself.
I hope this makes sense… if not, buy my eBook on “How to help yourself” for only $19!
(I’m kidding, okay?)