There’s all sorts of things wrong with you. You’ve got at least 20 pounds to lose, excess weight which definitely isn’t caused by potato chips. You’re not getting enough sleep. You’re more single than me, which is the most single you can possibly be. You’re not nearly productive enough, probably because you haven’t outsourced enough of your life to India like Tim Ferriss told you to. There’s probably a million other things wrong with you that I haven’t mentioned, most of which no one else has even noticed.
Because I’m a master of the internet, I managed to search Amazon.ca (because all the cool kids live in Canada) for all the self-help books on that particular site. The results? A whopping 100,517 matches, and that’s just paperbacks. That’s more times than I’ve been rejected. By like 100,000. I get rejected a lot, but not quite that much.
Holy hell, that’s a lot of self-help books. The self-help industry has been huge for years now. In the 1990s, these books were still everywhere, but their numbers were a little less impressive. A self-help author needed a popular subject, the backing of one of the huge publishing houses, some new way of looking at the subject and more than a dash of luck in order to have any amount of success. Or, if 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is any indication, just obvious crap repeated over and over again.
The internet has turned the self-help industry completely on its head. Also, the pornography industry. Giggity.
Anybody can decide to start a website and become an expert on something. Most of the time these websites are just a thinly veiled attempt to sell the latest addition to the self-help industry, the e-book. No matter the subject, there’s somebody on the internet who has written about it. The industry has gotten to the point where everything obvious has already been beaten to death, so e-book subjects are getting more and more obscure, kind of like my Twitter jokes.
I’m not going to talk about the uselessness of e-books, since there are some good ones out there. (Aside: why does every e-book cover look exactly the same?) Instead I’m going to talk about the fallacy of investing in yourself. You will listen politely. NO INTERRUPTING FOR QUESTIONS.
We’ve all heard the cliches about investing in yourself. It’s the most valuable investment you can make. It’s better than bacon wrapped sex. If you invest in yourself, you goals will be that much easier to accomplish. Yeah, yeah. I get that. And it’s all true. Except one thing:
It’s all useless if you don’t actually do stuff.
I guarantee everybody reading this blog has done the following. You’ve read a self-help book and gotten all excited about finally improving some crappy area in your life. You get off the couch, start working on whatever, ready to change things for good. Then two days later you’re back on the couch, eating Oreos straight from the bag.
The world is full of people who read self-help books and then do nothing about their predicament. They wait a few months, get pissed off about the same thing again, AND THEN BUY ANOTHER SELF-HELP BOOK ABOUT THE SAME SUBJECT. That book’s gonna say the same thing as the first.
Self-help has become an addiction, and we’re all a bunch of pill-poppers. This would just be something that amuses me – like the atrocious comment sections of most PF blogs – except for one thing. We’re wasting a crapload of money on these books. And it’s time to stop.
The first thing you gotta do is to check out the library for all these books. I don’t care how many 5 star reviews the damn thing got on Amazon, you have to read it before you know you’ll like it. I bought the 4 Hour Work Week because everybody and their dog thought it was fantastic. I read it and it’s collected dust ever since. Get people to do work for you and pocket the difference, except on the internet! Gee, nobody’s ever thought of that before, Tim.
The new thing to do is to buy a whole stack of these types of books, partially so you have lots of motivation and partially so you can brag to all the other self-help junkies about how much you’re going to learn. It’s the intellectual version of comparing penis sizes. Kindles have made this easier than ever, except that way the pile doesn’t look as impressive.
The reader then devours the information, gets all energetic about changing their lives and gets to work. They work really hard for two days, then they end up back on the couch eating Oreos straight from the bag. Nice work, sparky.
You can read all the crap you want, but you’re not going to get anywhere unless you work. All the research in the world towards your chosen subject isn’t going to make any difference until you start profiting from it, either personally or professionally. Want to get less fat? Stop reading weight loss books and get yo’ fat ass to a gym. Want to start up a business? Start doing said business. Want to learn another language? Actually, don’t bother. It’s a giant waste of time. Don’t worry, the Chinese already know English.
Self-help books are perfect for letting you feel like you’ve accomplished something when you’ve really just read a book. Unless you actually accomplish what you set out to improve, it’s all just a waste of time. It’s obvious that, collectively, we’re pissing away a ton of cash on this stuff. Investing in yourself is fine, except nobody ever looks at the return they get from it.