Self-Help Books: Giving Lazy People Hope

November 17, 2009
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My dad recently bought a ton of books on how to start your own business. It has always been his dream to be his own boss; to be able to determine his own hours, make more money than he ever dreamed he could, and smoke big cigars while wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt and sailing shoes.
So when the packages from Amazon began piling up outside the door, I was pleased for him. He’s taking the initiative to realize his dream. But then it got ridiculous. His collection of books began to rival the Library of Congress. Thousands of books with names like “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” and “Making a Profit: Beginner’s Guide to Dodging the IRS and Abusing Your Employees”. I haven’t seen my sister for two days since a pile of them fell on top of her. Rescue workers can still hear her under the debris, but they say it will be at least another 36 hours until they can get her out.
I was going to say something to him but I realized that if he is successful with his own business and makes a profit, I can get bigger speakers for my car. So I held my tongue. For an hour. Then I asked him if he had read any. His response? “No, not yet, I’m too busy at the moment.” So when is he going to read them? When he’s got some free time? Because at the rate he’s working now, he’s not going to have any free time until he’s dead.
You may call me ungrateful. You may say that he has to work so hard and expecting him to start a business on top of that is cruel and selfish of me. But I have to share my home with a quarter of a billion books written by people who have spent too long in tanning beds and can’t express emotions thanks to the copious amounts of Botox that have been inserted into their shiny, orange faces. So I’m entitled to some results.
I decided to read a bit of these books. I opened them up to a random page and read an excerpt. They would say awful, clichéd things like “You’ll always regret what you don’t try” and “When the going gets tough, the tough write books and rip off people”. The amount of rubbish these books contained was unbelievable. Why would anyone ever think that the best way to start a business is to “go with your heart”? Then it struck me. These books don’t give people practical advice; they just tell the readers what they want to hear.
The people who want to reach a goal in life will take the initiative to realize that goal. They turn off the television and they get up and do it. They don’t buy these motivational books; they do proper research and actually do something. If I wanted to start my own business, the first thing I would do would be to actually talk to someone who has done it. Not buy a book about it. Then, I would go out and start my business. This is what makes me different from my dad. Where I would have started my own business, he would have just bought another book.
The people who are stupid enough to waste their own money on this garbage want to be told that it’s easy to start a business and within the first year you’ll be cruising the waters around Miami in a private yacht crewed by super models all wearing rare animal skins. The truth is, starting a business is tough. In fact, everything that these self-help books claim to help you do requires effort. You can’t reinvent your personality in just “five easy steps”. One book won’t help you lose 300lbs. Well, I suppose it could, if you just ate one page a day and nothing else.
The books that tell people that starting a business is risky and that losing weight is hard never reach the shelves. The books that tell people they can do whatever they ever dreamt of in 25 seconds by believing in yourself sell millions of copies. I mean look at The Secret. It claims that people can do anything they want if they just sit at home all day and think positive thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, a good attitude is a must-have for anything you do, but I’m afraid a 45 year old obese woman sitting in a dark house with her cats, visualizing Brad Pitt walking through the front door to whisk her off to Hawaii is just plain silly.
The reason why books like these sell? Because the people who buy them have an inkling in their mind that the task they are about to undertake is tough. And the thought of actually doing work puts them off of the idea. So they buy book after book with the hope that they will tell them the shortcuts that Aristotle and Plato discovered buried under the pyramids. The intelligent people are out there in the world, taking risks and enjoying the rewards. The dim-witted people are out there too, but you’ll find them in the back corner of Borders by the Religious section.
I think I’m going to write my own self-help book called “The Self-Help Book to Help You Write Self-Help Books”. It will have a black-and-white picture of me on the back, with my heads cupped in my hands, looking past the camera in deep thought. It will say I was born into extreme poverty and now live in an eleven-storey mansion with its own zip code. “How did I do it?” the cover will say, and the answer will be: I wrote a book to give stupid people hope that they, too, can change their lives. Let’s see how many of them will actually write their own book. And let’s see how many of them give up on that idea to look for something easier to do.
I think the majority of them will follow the latter route.





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

jlsnchz said...
Aug. 4, 2013 at 11:29 pm
How laughable did you make the piece at parts, and how informative was the text throughout! The text was solid information given in a relaxed mood. Frankly, I never considered this dilemma but it makes sense. 
 
telm_393 said...
Dec. 6, 2009 at 9:33 pm
This is a really good piece. I like the style it was written in--a lot of it made me laugh, and a lot made me nod in agreement. I'm a firm believer in the idea that self-help books are cringe-worthy pieces of trash and not worth my (or anybody else's) time. I'm glad that you brought attention to this. Good piece, it was well-written and thoughtful, and the use of personal experience was hilarious.
 
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