You probably read self-help content with a skeptical eye.
You want useful content, but once you start reading, you’re looking to poke holes in it and write it off as an article that serves the interest of the writer, but not the readers.
Truth is, you should be skeptical of anyone giving you advice about anything.
Removing the content gatekeepers gave more people a shot at success. Also, though, this means that anyone can create anything they want and make any sort of claim regardless of evidence.
Let’s look at all the problems with the industry so you know I’m being fair. Then, I’ll tell you what I love about the industry and share insights that will help you.
Some self-help writers ignore privilege. Their content lacks context.
Advice won’t work the same for everyone who reads it because people have different starting points in life. Also, gifts, talent, and intelligence aren’t handed out in equal doses.
Anybody who says they can give you the step-by-step blueprint for success that’s guaranteed to work for anyone is lying.
You may have to work twice as hard as someone else to get the same results.
You will be judged by things you can’t control and there will be obstacles in your way that have nothing to do with your behavior and everything to do with situations outside of your actions.
If another writer who isn’t a millionaire tries to teach you how to be a millionaire I’m going to hurl my keyboard across the room. A lot of self-help writers teach you about things they’ve never done or preach that you behave in ways they don’t.
You could argue that nobody should be in a position to give other people advice on how to live because we’re all flawed. Nobody is productive every single day, feels happy all the time and follows through on their goals.
I try my best to frame advice as suggestions.
There are reliable patterns to success, but no guarantees. I make sure to share all of my mistakes along the way and remind people that often I’m giving advice to my former self and the current version of myself that does some things well, but still has a ton to work on.
Self-help plays on your insecurities. The idea that you need to improve anything means there’s something wrong with you. If you’re not careful, you can fall into the “I’ll be happy when,” trap.
I’ll be happy when I make more money.
I’ll be happy when I get a six-pack.
I’ll be happy when I date beautiful people.
It’s tricky because sometimes the best way to feel better about yourself is to work on yourself. I used to be broke, out of shape, and lonely. Making money, getting jacked, and creating better relationships have made me a hell of a lot happier.
I didn’t need to do those things to feel better, though. I’m just a realist and understand that for most people, scratching the itch is the best way to realize you didn’t need to scratch it in the first place.
Insecurity is an excellent source of motivation, but you can get caught in a never-ending loop of never thinking you’re good enough.
I went through a period of my writing career where I talked down to people. I was talking at them instead of meeting them where they were at. Again, it’s tricky. A lot of people love my tough love advice because sometimes it’s needed.
Sometimes you need to be told to get your shit together because you do need to get your shit together. Some people just don’t respond well to sticks over carrots, though.
I respond well to people berating me and telling me to step my game up because I’m competitive. I want to prove myself, so if someone tells me I’m mediocre, I want to rise to that challenge. I’ll never label myself a victim.
I attack any mental health challenges I have instead of letting them dictate my life. I choose to ignore my feelings and just work my ass off.
Some people don’t respond to this style well, though. You can alienate them if you speak to them that way. A lot of people feel judged and chastised by this type of content instead of feeling inspired. So, I’m working on it 🙂
All that being said, self-help is a net positive for society. Here’s why.
We’ve become a victim society. We need an antidote to the culture that says you’re helpless, there’s nothing you can do to change your situation, and should hand over all of your power to ‘experts,’ media pundits, politicians, and the like.
This mentality is far more damaging than self-improvement advice.
People just don’t seem as well-adjusted anymore. They’ve gone insane. They’re spiritually ill. When you remove the concept of personal responsibility from your life, your life will fall apart because you’ve given up all control over it.
It’s not wise to tell people everything in their life is their fault, but it’s worse to tell them that nothing is.
The self-help industry didn’t create the demand for people who want to improve their lives. It’s a response to it. The hierarchy of needs is real and self-actualization sits at the top of the pyramid.
You can’t keep a straight face and tell me you don’t have any dreams. You can’t honestly say there aren’t areas of your life you want to improve.
Not everyone wants to be rich, but everyone wants financial flexibility and to not be stressed about bills and debt. You might not want a six-pack or to look like a fitness model, but who doesn’t want to be physically fit?
You have an innate desire, to an extent, to strive for better. It’s not even the goals themselves that matter. You just want the wanting. The key is to realize the process itself makes you happy, not the outcomes.
When you work on yourself, you develop a magnetic vibe that attracts people to you and inspires them to improve.
Lead by example. Don’t just preach.
I’m not an evangelist trying to shove my views down other people’s throats.
If my insights aren’t helpful, ignore them. If you buy some of what I say, but not everything, take what you like and discard the rest. That’s what many smart people do.
In its best and healthiest form, self-improvement creates a ripple effect. You become a leader who inspires other people and can become leaders themselves and inspire others.
This doesn’t just have to lead to other people becoming gurus.
I’ve had plenty of readers who just used my insights to reach a goal they have like getting a cool job, and they stopped there. It happens all the time.
Collectivist solutions to problems just tend…not to work.
Putting your faith in politicians doesn’t work because have no incentive to help you:
Politicians can solve almost any problem — usually by creating a bigger problem. But, so long as the voters are aware of the problem that the politicians have solved, and unaware of the bigger problems they have created, political “solutions” are a political success. – Thomas Sowell
There have been mass movements that caused great changes in society. We should do everything to make the playing field level. We’ve done a good job of that over the decades. We still have a ways to go but you can do well in society as it exists right now.
You can wait for the world to be a perfect utopia where everyone gets the same outcomes, or you can just work on improving your life as much as possible.
Sure, vote in elections. Go to protests. Talk about political issues that matter to you. But those things don’t need to take up all of your time. You can also work on yourself in concert with trying to help the world.
You can do both.
When did we stop realizing we’re all grown adults who can make up our own minds?
Sure, there are some flaws in self-help, but some people have this belief that fully grown adults are so stupid, gullible, and helpless, that they can’t be discerning about the content they consume.
The guru space is spammy sometimes, but my goodness, there are so many high-level scams that cause so much more societal damage.
Let people do what they want. Live your life. I’ll live mine.
Just like I’m not the ruler of what all people should think, others shouldn’t be the morality police who get to decide what’s valuable and what isn’t. This infantilizing attitude needs to go.
I trust you to make smart decisions about your life. You have more than enough power to do whatever it is that you want in this life, with or without my help. Seeking out advice is wise. So is being skeptical.
At the end of the day, listen to the voice that’s inside you.
You know what you want.
You know the type of person you want to be.
And, deep down, you know whether or not the people advising you have your best interests at heart.
Trust those gut instincts. They’ll serve you well.