I am not a big fan of reading fiction, probably because I was put through more than enough Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books in primary school and my life was nothing but textbooks in high school and varsity.
Enter a $10billion industry that is self-improvement books (this is in America alone by the way) and I thought I had hit the jackpot. I figured if I should ready anything then surely it should be something that would improve my life and what better than the words of Robert Kiyosaki, Stephen Covey, Steve Harvey and co to keep me entertained.
A couple of years later and I find myself overwhelmingly underwhelmed. I have read well over 20 books on how to be rich, how to be an introvert in an extroverted world, how to find my own Dr. McDreamy and sadly I can only count the number of self-help books I have completed from start to finish on my one hand.
I vividly remember picking out my first self-help book in a bookstore after a recommendation from a friend and rushing home to read it. A few hours later and after some frantic scribbling I got to the end of The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason and scratched my head. My notes from the book told me I need to save money, limit my expenses and pay my debts to become wealthy. What a disappointment! All these were things I knew and I felt I had been duped by fancy philosophical writing and parables into wasting time being told things I already knew.
Despite my better judgment though, and because I am such a hopeless optimist, I went on and read more self-help books and found myself hating them more and more. Best selling titles like
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking
Now, Discover Your Strengths
Think and Grow Rich
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man
did nothing to help the situation and it is then that it became clear to me why I hold a grudge against such books:
One size fits all
Even the ones that go out of their way to prove they cater for everyone end up doing the exact opposite. Oh, so you are an introvert? Well that’s great, let’s just write a book to tell you how awesome it is to be one, but we’ll just teach you how to become an extrovert in the end anyway.
“Oh, so you are an introvert? Well that’s great, let’s just write a book to tell you how awesome it is to be one, but we’ll just teach you how to become an extrovert to fit in anyway.
Research? What Research!
Data/research to back up the philosophies and methods shared in these books is minimal and subjective at best. Any piece of information can be twisted to fit any situation with a little colourful writing and clear ambiguity.
There is a self book for EVERYTHING!
Need I say more?
Perception, perception, perception.
Measures of success are given only in the view of the author. Success for me is managing to only snooze my alarm ONLY thrice each morning, am pretty sure Dr. Phil would frown at that.
There are many ways to skin a cat.
I don’t know why anyone would want to skin a cat but there are many ways of achieving the same thing. Most of these books preach the same gospel.
Now I am not saying you should set up a born fire and burn your favourite Suze Orman book. Heck, I am keeping an eye out on a book on ‘How to be a Cool Engineer’ myself, but all I ask is that you not fall victim to the pie in the sky methods and theories that some of the books preach.
There are other ways to find inspiration, try biographies, journalism, historical, etc and most importantly, just go out there and do you!
Let us know what self-help books you swear by, maybe I can be convinced.