Are self-help books all they’re cracked up to be?
If you walk into any decent bookstore, you’ll notice that a large section of the store is devoted to self-help books. Self help books usually fit very nicely into three inter-related categories:
Depending on one’s personal situations, one of these three categories may be more important to you than another, but from my personal view point wealth (or financial stability) is the lynch pin that holds the other two components in place. The stress and worry associated with poor financial decisions will ruin both your health and your relationships. Fighting about money is the number one relationship killer. With such a huge selection of self-help books and authors to choose from, you might wonder if self-help books really work at all.
A mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n. – John Milton
John Milton was a 17th century English poet. His most famous work was Paradise Lost, a long narrative poem which basically expands upon the biblical story of Adam and Eve from the book of Genesis.
In the 1997 movie The Devil’s Advocate, Al Pacino plays a character named John Milton, a lawyer who is actually Satan in disguise. At one point during the film, Pacino utters this quotable dialog : “The worst vice is advice”. It’s a statement that’s a little confusing, but I found it to be both funny and profound. Some people are in the habit of advising other people about anything and everything, even when they have no worthwhile advice to offer. So it’s very important to be able to discern if the advice given is of any value. I cannot tell you how many times people (who didn’t know what they were talking about) gave me bad advice which had I been foolish enough to act upon would have had disastrous consequences.
If you’re considering seeking out a self-help book, then you’ve already made the first step in problem solving, admitting to yourself that there’s a problem. The second step is gathering information so you can formulate a solution. The third step is putting that information into practice, but the forth and final step is the real key to success. That forth step is maintaining the third step while improving upon and refining it as new and better information comes along. Practice makes perfect, quitters never win, and winners never quit.
All the good advice in the world is worthless if you fail to apply it. Therein lies the problem. Most people looking for self-help books are ACTUALLY seeking quick fix solutions to their problems that require little or no effort on their part. They are NOT expecting to discover PERMANENT life changes.
Take diet books for example. (At the risk of insulting any actual dietitian or fitness expert who may have written a really sound book, I’m NOT going to mention any specific book title, or author.)
Average Joe is 100 lbs overweight and hears about a fabulous new diet book by a well respected author, and he immediately orders a copy. The book arrives and after a month of making all the tasty meals, Joe loses 25 lbs. He pats himself on the back uses his new diet book to prop up the short leg of the table, and goes to the all-you-can-eat buffet to reward himself. A month later, he has gained back the weight he lost, and blames the author and the stupid book. Then he hears about another new diet book and repeats the process over and over. The problem isn’t the advice he received, it is that he stopped following it the moment he saw positive change, and resumed all the bad habits that caused the problem in the first place.
If you want to stop a problem, you MUST stop going all the things at caused the problem, PERMANENTLY! You don’t go back, ever. Occam’s razor, dictates that “the simplest explanation is usually the correct one “. If you keep wondering why all your problems keep happening to you, it’s because the problem isn’t the problem, the problem IS you. To quote Shakespeare “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves” You’re not a victim of your circumstances, you’re a volunteer and it’s up to you to break the vicious cycle that you’ve trapped yourself in.
As I’ve said many times, I grew up poor because my father died when I was young, and my mother didn’t have the intelligence to handle money. If you gave her one dollar, she’s spend two. I broke the vicious cycle of poverty that had trapped most of my family by seeking wise council on money and financial matters. I put these practices into place years ago and never stopped working my way towards financial freedom. This is why I’m successful today. I realized that my way of thinking was what caused the problem, and I actively sort out better information from someone smarter than myself. This is because a greater intelligence is always needed to fix a problem than the intellect that caused it.
So as your trying to figure out which of the near infinite self-help books will provide the answer to your problem, let me give you a ‘short cut’. The best self-help books all offer the simplest answers, and often quote the Bible. If you read enough of them, they all eventually seem to offer the exact advice.
- For wealth– Spend less then you earn, live within your means, and save and invest.
- For health– Eat proper nutritious meals and exercise regularly.
- For relationships – Be good.
It’s just common sense, not tricks or gimmicks.
Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. (Proverbs 28:26)
You may have heard it said ‘God helps those who help themselves’. This is NOT biblical. You will not find that phrase anywhere in the Holy Bible. Benjamin Franklin popularized it. The Bible tells us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, and also encourages us to seek wise council. It is the first and the greatest ‘self-help’ book, timeless and perfect.
Here are a few helpful proverbs form the Bible:
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Through insolence comes nothing but strife, But wisdom is with those who receive counsel.
Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days.
So if you’re seeking the ultimate self-help book why not try reading the time tested original first. As always I wish you happiness and success!
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