You know those books on how to be more productive, make more money, be smarter, be more successful? I devour those books. They’re everywhere, and I’ve probably read a lot more of them than the average twenty-two-year-old (honestly I’ve probably read more than the average person of any age), and I’m here to let you all know that apart from a few key books that I’ve read in this genre, the rest are a load of bullshit.
Obviously, I can’t speak for every single book in the genre but I’ve started noticing a trend in my own reading each time I pick up a new one. I also want to be clear that I’m not necessarily talking about psychology books, books that discuss scientific studies, or other nonfiction books, we are strictly speaking about books whose supposed purpose is to inspire you to improve your own life.
First of all, most of these books contain very little actual concrete advice. What they DO contain is a lot of motivational fluff about punching up your own life, and supposed success tidbits that could just as easily be found in a BuzzFeed listicle on how to be more productive — Get up earlier, stay disciplined, don’t let the haters distract you — sound familiar? And although this advice might have merit, they provide very little information on how to actually accomplish these tasks.
Secondly, a large portion of these books are written by ‘successful’ people. This is fantastic marketing. Who doesn’t want to know what such and such billionaire has to say about how to become a billionaire? However, the issue with this is that many of these ‘successful’ people are writing their books retrospectively. They’ve already achieved so much and know they can make even more money by dishing out their so-called ‘secrets of success’. But, as we all know, hindsight is 20/20. It is highly unlikely most of these people had their own advice in mind the whole time they were pursuing their success. Furthermore, it’s extremely difficult to actually distill the secret of success but we, as the masses, clamor for these books because we desperately want to know if there is something these ‘successful’ people know that we don’t.
And in the cases where these books weren’t written by people you’ve heard of, who are they? What makes their advice worth taking? Too often, we have no idea where these authors come from, their credentials being flimsy at best, and we believe their advice because it is given in a compelling format with great marketing.
Last but not least, the entire self-help industry preys on feelings of inadequacy. Everyone who reads these books, (including myself) feels that something is currently lacking in their own life, or that they could improve somehow. While this isn’t always a problem (it can be GREAT to seek inspiration from others), it can quickly turn into a spiral of always believing there is something more to seek and one can quickly become absorbed in trying to discover how other people have gotten ahead, rather than trying to apply some things they have learned and search for their own secrets to success.
Alright, now that I’ve hopefully made sufficient skeptics out of all of you, I do want to give a shoutout to a few of these books that I feel actually provide real, credible, HELPFUL advice. Many of these are well-known and have been bestsellers, and I’m happy to say that they actually deserve it. This list is purely for the self-help genre, there are a wealth of other nonfiction books that have also contributed to my personal growth and development but would come in the way of biographies, and scientific studies.
- Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
- Never Eat Alone – Keith Ferrazi
- The 4-Hour Workweek – Tim Ferris
- Money: Master the Game – Tony Robbins
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tyding Up – Marie Kondo
- Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg
- How to Fail at Everything And Still Win Big – Scott Adams
Let me know if you have read any or what you think of these books!