Mincing no words, Seth Godin gets to the point (as he frequently does!). Here’s part of what he wrote:
If you read a book that tries to change you for the better and it fails or doesn’t resonate, then it’s a self-help book.
If you read a book that actually succeeds in changing you for the better, then the label changes from self-help book to great book.
By the way, the only real help is self-help. Anything else is just designed to get you to the point where you can help yourself.
I agree. And, just as all real help is self-help, all persuasion is self-persuasion. A lot of people write and speak a lot of words hoping for one thing – that you will listen to their arguments closely enough and well enough to change your own thinking, feeling, or behaving/acting.
They can’t make you change (maybe they could – but that would be coercion, not persuasion). Their best hope is to give you tools to help you change for yourself.
There are business books that deal with practically every business issue you can imagine. But there is one theme that never disappears, that is perpetually resurrected, because it deals with such a basic human problem. It goes by a lot of names: motivation; self-improvement; self-help. The idea is simple – how can I get better at what I do? — every day. Over and over again, I need to improve…myself.
And there are two parts to this getting better battle. One part is skill development. The other part is, where will I find the energy/focus/motivation to get better?
I recently re-read my handout to a book I presented back in July, 2001: The Other 90%: How to Unlock Your Vast Untapped Potential for Leadership and Life by Robert W. Cooper. The book reminds us all that we simply are not living up to our possibilities, our capacities, our capabilities. We can get better at what we do! We can do better at our job, at our relationships, at our lives.
The book is filled with quotes like these:
“What if every day I had questioned yesterday’s definition of my best? What if I’d listened to my own heart instead of their words. Then I might have kept looking deeper and giving the world more of the best that was hidden inside me. All of us are mostly unused potential.” (Hugh Cooper Sr., the author’s grandfather)
“There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” (Nelson Mandela)
“The world belongs to those with the most energy.” (Alexis de Tocqueville)
First thing Monday morning, do you wake up envisioning – “Another week of stress and strain at work” – or “Another chance to do more of the things I love”?
As Hegel observed, “We may affirm that absolutely nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”
No matter who you are, no matter how hard your life has been, no matter what challenges you are facing right now, every moment you have within your reach what my grandfather knew we all have – the opportunity to shape what you are becoming.
Here’s what I think. People who only listen to motivational speakers, people who only read self-help books, are probably not tackling the skill development they need to tackle. Motivation help alone does not cut it.
But, on the other hand, we probably could all do better than we are doing. After the skill development, there is an attitude adjustment and improvement, a raising of the energy bar, that we all need to tackle. Over and over again. So maybe we should read an occasional book that in one way or another reminds us that we really could and probably should become all that we can be.
The Other 90% is a good book to choose.
The book is filled with practical suggestions, such as how to take a short break during the day that helps you renew your energy. You can purchase my synopsis of this book, with handout + audio, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.