I used to think that self-help books were complete garbage.
Every self-help book featured a high-energy person that seemed like they would be a bit much to handle in a stuck elevator. They came off as un-intellectual; most of the books were centered around one common-sense idea: be positive, think long-term, be your best self, get up early, etc. In my mind being really into one of those self-help gurus wasn’t a sign that you were on-the-ball or successful but the opposite.
Recently I have been trying to speed up my rate of learning, so I have become open to new ideas and trying new approaches. Reading self-help books was one of the ways I intended to try something new and learn from others.
This year I asked for book recommendations from coworkers, friends, and the general Internet. I work with some very successful people (many of whom recommended self-help books), so I took their recommendations straight-up and got to learning.
What I Read
- The Obstacle is the Way
- Awaken the Giant Within
- The Talent Code
- Catching the Big Fish
- The Greatness Guides (1 and 2)
- Unleashing the Idea Virus (not self-help but felt like it)
- Managing Oneself
- The Art of War
- The Magic of Thinking Big
- The Difference Maker
- The 2-Minute Leader
- The Four Agreements
What I Learned
Reading this many books in a row of this nature allows you to see patterns more clearly. Here are some themes across the books:
- You can change yourself – even things like your introvert/extrovert range and parts of your personality that you have been taught are fixed.
- Being positive does work; being relentless and not afraid of failure is a thing that works. Like all the cliches say – how you handle failure determines a great deal.
- We all have negative scripts (“I’m not smart / young enough to do X”, “I will never earn more than X in a year”) and thinking that limit us.
- Having clear goals works better than crazy big goals.
- You can harness the power of negative thinking rather than let it hold you down.
Things I Didn’t Realize
Some of what I thought is true, but only for a few people
Yes, some of the self-help gurus are simply very charming people who are engaging in person. These people have great audiobooks, but their concepts fall flat in the sizzle-free ebook world where you survive only on your ideas.
Many of these books are backed up by science (or social science) or historical patterns
What has worked in the past works now in many cases, but humans love to re-invent things. Many of these self-help books are actually from people who have battle-tested these ideas in studies, counseling practices, business environments, sports, etc. They have won using the techniques.
I am only halfway through the list of recommended books (and at 51 books only halfway through my goal of reading 100 books this year). From ones I list above the below changed my thinking and will stick with me the most:
My top five recommendations (in order):