Monday, March 20, 2006

I am a staunch anti-self help books and motivational sermons person especially when they are used as a crutch and a substitute for action.I found an article that sums up my feelings about them...

Beware of Self-Help Gurus

Marty Nemko

Imagine a doctor urged you to undergo a treatment and encouraged you with tales of successful patients. He failed, however, to mention that the treatment fails with 90 percent of patients like you. You’d sue and win in any court in the land.

Yet self-help gurus routinely make similar recommendations without reprisal. For example, haven’t you heard a guru intone that the secret of success is self-esteem, affirmations, or meditation? Or urge you to “dream it and you can do it.”? Or even “Don’t push. When it’s meant to be, it’ll be.” You’re skeptical but gurus seduce you with tales of how they or an acolyte, with a dream and some effort, went from depressed to delighted, rags to riches, dung shoveler to star.

What the gurus don’t tell you are the odds. Sure, it worked for their cherry-picked exemplar or for themselves. After all, they were smart, driven, and/or lucky enough to get a book published or to appear on Oprah. The problem is that the typical consumer of their nostrums isn’t as smart, driven, and lucky. The gurus don’t tell you that for every Million-Dollar-Baby success story, there are countless people who bought Guru’s exhortations yet are still mumbling in their beer.

I’m tempted to attend some guru’s introductory workshop designed to up-sell attendees a long (read “expensive”) workshop and ask, “What percentage of your workshop attendees significantly improved their life as a result?” If the guru were honest, he’d probably say he doesn’t know—few gurus are brave enough to validly evaluate their exhortations’ and incantations’ efficacy. Or if she were professional enough to do so, based on my discussions with hundreds of career coaching clients and with my friends and colleagues, I know the efficacy rate would be low. Barbara Sher, one of the few self-help experts I respect, author of Wishcraft and the nugget-filled Barbara Sher’s Idea Book ( agrees. “I ask my audiences, ‘How many of you have been actually helped by positive thinking?’ No one raises their hand.”

What has more often helped my clients increase their career and personal satisfaction?

· Get a family member or close friend to hire or refer you for a better job than you could land in the open market.

· Rather than a career change, consider a career tweak: delegate or outsource your job’s yucky parts, become an expert in a niche within your field, or change bosses or workplaces.

· Accept, at long last, that you’re paying too big a price for your laziness. Become aware of each moment you’re deciding whether to work or shirk, and more often choose to work.

· If you are, or suspect you have an emotional problem such as depression, bipolar or attention deficit disorder, consider having an expert evaluate whether you should try or change medication.

· Stop analyzing and start acting: take a low-risk step. An object at rest tends to stay at rest—the slacker syndrome.

· Develop a plan broken down into baby steps. Yes, I know that’s a cliché, but it works. Sher urges her clients to constantly ask themselves, “Does this get me closer to my goal or not?”

· Look better: lose weight, get nicer clothes, haircut, or makeup.

· Consider going back to school. I hate to recommend that because, if you’re self-motivated, mentorships and self-study can teach you more of value, faster, less expensively, and more conveniently, but most of my clients need school’s structure and the threat of a bad grade to motivate them.

· Run a simple business, perhaps one (or more!) you can run from home such as editing, tax preparing, tutoring, agenting, brokering, virtual assisting, or coaching. That too is a favorite Sher recommendation. She knows people who have become coaches specializing in: charisma, fashion, dinner parties, performance anxiety, writing, caring for newborns, decorating, organizing, and small business. Or make dolls and offer them at craft fairs, sell your to-die-for fudge to restaurants and caterers, sell gift baskets, flowers, and kids’ toys in the halls of corporations to busy workers who don’t have time to shop.

· Another recommendation Sher and I agree on: consider getting support. Many but not all people attain goals faster and more pleasurably with a buddy or “success team” to brainstorm with and report to weekly or even daily. Each session, after you get help, help the other person(s).

· We’re all capable of behaving better or worse. Decide to be your best self.


At 3/20/2006 01:46:00 PM, Blogger Girl next door said...

I agree with your views on self-help. I think it's such a big thing esp. in Western countries like the U.S. because they stress the power of the individual so everyone thinks "I can do this myself." But there are times when we need support from others. There are a few inspirational speakers who give practical advice but then there are others who keep preaching the same "10 steps to success." I detest empty advice like "just think positive and be yourself." I like Marty Nemko's article and I'll definitely try some of those suggestions!

At 3/20/2006 09:24:00 PM, Blogger KenyanMusings said...

Self help books suck. They are overrated. They are made by peeps trying to make a quick buck telling people what they prolly already know but are too lazy to tap into their inner selves to find it, and need to be reminded. Cow piss (and I stole this one from you).

Down with self help books.
P.s I have not read who moved my cheese, rich dad watefa....7 habits, and I do not intend to!

PPS. Steve Covey (or one of them..... was here and people had to fork over 50k to go be told errrm, things like. be persistent. Puhleeze!

At 3/20/2006 09:40:00 PM, Blogger kritik said...

by the way, that dude called covey was in kenya the other day. It was really humourous and to some extent ironic watching people splash top dollar just to listen to this man. Am not against him but i tend to think such ventures only serve to stoke peoples' ego.
what a waste of good pesa!!

At 3/21/2006 01:38:00 PM, Blogger Instigator said...

@ girl next door
I am not saying that these books cant help but at the end of the day it starts with you and ends with you!It was nice that you learned sumthin!
@ Kenyanmusings
I have read some of those books ie Tony Robbins and that one (who moved my cheese) and if you have at least 10 working brain cells there is nuthin new in those books that you dont know.
@ kritik
It is amazing how much ppl will pay to be told what they already know!

At 3/22/2006 04:55:00 AM, Blogger Kenyangal said...

AHEMMMMMMMM!!! so since that article by marty nemko is dishing out advice and suggestions what would you categorise it under? AND by the way some of her advice leeks info i have received from classic self help books so h/she must be an avid reader.

Personally I am addicted to self help books and love them because
1. They act as my coach i.e. Push me to do things I know I should be doing but don't feel inclined to do. Some people can motivate themselves to go to the gym and cycle or run but others like me need an instructor to encourage and shout at us to move our asses

2. They open my mind to new ideas, experiences new thought processes and new ways of looking at the world AKA paradigm shifts. I would never have known about paradigm shifts, Metaphors, Neurolinguistic Programming, Oxytocins, Yin and Yang, blood sugar dips and many many more things if I didn't read self help books.

3. They excite me the same way a fiction freak would be exited about a new novel, I have just come to love them so much its like recreational... especially relationship self help books, for me those read the same as my romance novels of days passed

Yes I think that statistic of 90% of people failing might be true coz tony robbins himself says that statistics prove that less than 10% of people that buy a book read beyond the first page so it figures. For the few who complete the book and take small action theor lives do get transformed. spceially with Guru's like Tony Robbins, robert kiyosaki and stephen covey, if you just took one lesson learnt and took upon upon it your life will get transformed

Imagine going through your life and living it by making mistakes and learning from those mistakes and making a mistake again and again by trial and error until you finally find a way that the way edison tried and tried to make the light bulb. You waste a lot of time in the process.. So imagine reading a book by someone who has mastered the best way to do something (Like make a light bulb) and created a formulae or strategy for it so you gain from his experiences and achieve the same results he did without wasting as much time as he did just by reading his blueprint.. thats what self help books, biographies, business books do for you. I read my first self help book in std 7 and it was a classic - Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins.(my mum is another self help nut and passed it on to me)I haven't looked back since. Well anyway, here are THE books that I read again and again as one would go to a coach in times of weakness

1. Unlimited Power- Tony Robbins
2. Awaken the Giant within- Tony Robbins
3. The Rules- Ellen Fein and sherrie schneider
4. 7 habits of highly effective people-stephen Covey
5. Nice girls don't get Rich
6. Nice girls don't get the corner office
7. Why men Love bitches
8. Why men marry some women and not others
9. All those purple and gold books by Robert Kiyosaki. (AKA as the rich dad poor dad series)

At 3/22/2006 09:28:00 AM, Blogger Askinstoo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3/22/2006 08:43:00 PM, Blogger Instigator said...

@ kenyangal
Well I would say this article is about getting away from self help.Btw there is nothing new in self help books so of course his advice would sound familiar.
There are some people in life who need to be told what to do and directed and I think that you are one of them and that is why you need so many self help books so as to draw a road map for your life, arent you the one who uses the rules to draw a road map for your love life too?Some of us have learnt the neccesary principles from everyday life and do not feel the need to keep on reading such books.More often then not one or two self help books is all that you need.The more self help books a person has the more of a non starter they are, they are waiting for the right time,place ,framework to get started.Things like NLP,Oxytocins, Yin and Yang, blood sugar dips are things I learned about from my studies of psychology,human fitness,buddhism/lao tzu etc.For me I dont need to read self help books to learn about the futility of repeating actions, that is why I was given the wonderful gift of logic.Dont get me wrong there is nothing wrong with reading these books but they are not a substitute for action!Happy reading...

At 3/23/2006 02:40:00 AM, Blogger Kenyangal said...

That article does dish out advice (e.g seek out mentorships or stop analysing and start acting) and is a bad summary of a series of self help books so the author has obviously spent enough time reading self help books and then she gives the same advice to people in an article against self help. I do admit that there are people who read self help books and take no action but you cannot say conclusively that the more self help books a person has the more of a non starter they are because my mum must have read all self help books ever published... Ok at least she definitely has read all the best seller ones and she is the most motivated and wise woman of action that I know. Tony robbins, the most successful motivational speaker says that he read hundreds of self help books on his quest to be a motivatonal speaker and he isn't a non starter, Jack Canfield (co creator of chicken soup for the soul) has read very many self help books and he summarised all the theories in a book called the success principals so for people that only want to read one self help book this will be a good bet, oh, and he is not a non starter either.

On the other hand I have a brother who was the drifter in the family, he had all these big plans but would never stick to anything. He had also read a lot of self help books and was the non starter you are talking about. Anyway, at this point in the story he was a student in UK, very broke, depressed coz my mum couldnt send him money and he had to work as a cleaner at a supermarket to make ends meet..he was just in a lot of pain about the sad state of his life and then he picked up my Tony Robbins book (which he'd read before by the way) and by the next day he was like a new man, my precious book had markings and highlightings and he kept saying how this and that theory was so true e.t.c and i told him, hey, you've read that book before and besides mum always gives you the same advice and you never listen e.t.c and he said yes yes! but you know this time everything just clicked... and he really did make a caterpillar butterfly change literally overnight. I guess his situation had become sooo painful that he was forced to do something to change it so now he not only had the motivation to take action but because he'd read all these books in the past but hadn't acted on them things clicked now and he had the theory required to make a change so reading the books was not in vain you see! The books are very helpful and can create momentum and motivation for those that are receptive to them and ready to take action

My set of books each have their purpose,
1. Career and Finances
Nice girls don't get rich / corner office
Rich Dad poor dad series

2. Relationships
The rules
Why men love bitches
Wny men marry some women and not others

3. Emotions and Life in General
Awaken the Giant within
Unlimited Power

4. Spiritual
The bible

I am not an expert on life (this is only my first try)..but I do want to be a success in all the above areas in this lifetime and the above books work for me,logic would not have given me the wealth of experience i have gained just from sitting up in my bed and reading these people's work and my life's experiences are not enough to give me the wisdom that has been gained by this people in their own lives...I admit that their advice and suggestions are not infallible but i am better of with the info and motivation i receive from these books than I am going at it blindly. its all good not to ask for directions and try and find your own way but you might end up lost or going around and around in circles whereas if you ask an informed source you might find out the fastest way...

At 3/23/2006 07:39:00 AM, Blogger Instigator said...

@ Kenyangal
You seem to be a staunch believer in these books but at the end of the day it is like the prosperity preachers, they are heard by many get cash from many but their advice works for only a few (usually stuff you already know) but if they work for you then go ahead and enjoy your reading!


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