I’m quite leery of the self-help industry, both because of its lack of substance and its numbing sameness. Most books I’ve read that promise to revolutionize the way I live and think that could be filed under…
- feel better
- be better
- look better
- smile more
…say the same thing. Someone proclaims themselves an expert, draws a circle, puts a word like “courage” in it, and suddenly they’re giving seminars while pointing at that circle with a laser pointer. The bookshelves in the stores overflow with “new” self improvement books every year. I would never try to steer anyone away from something that is working for them and helping them achieve their goals, but I’m unsettled by the sight of a friend’s bookshelf that is 90% books on how to cope with life and start working on a dream. If someone’s self improvement collection grows every month, I have to wonder how well it’s working.
About a year ago I heard the best advice I have ever been given. I don’t think I’ll ever crack open another self help book. The advice comprised three questions. The idea that if you can answer these questions honestly, and that you have goals, you will make progress.
1. What should I stop doing?
2. What should I start doing?
3. What should I keep doing?
I’ve been looking at these three questions for quite a while, and I’ve yet to raise another meaningful question, in terms of my own goals and progress, that isn’t contained within them. It’s all I need, without the upsells, without the empty promises, without shelling out $10,000 for a two day seminar to learn how to be me or awaken the inner whatever.
Actually, I just read Rikki Tikki Tavi again. It’s great, if you haven’t read it. Maybe I should start charging for an hour of “Stir up your inner cobra-killing mongoose” coaching. What would a fair price be? I want to buy myself an island, so it’s going to have to be pretty steep.