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How to read self-help

How to read self-help

tjcx.me

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We like reading about self-help but are skeptical at the same time. Any attempt to articulate a theory against self-help ends up sounding like self-help itself.

Some self-help is terrible, while other self-help leads to a better, more fulfilling life.

  • A knowledgeable person can solve a narrow set of problems that few can, like a neurosurgeon.
  • A wise person knows what to do in most situations. She is able to give out general purpose, one-size-fits-all advice. Wisdom is very easy to understand. However,

The purpose of self-help is to acquire wisdom. Self-help books are filled with wisdom. 

It embarrasses us because it's full of easy truisms. We like it because it makes sense. It's trivial to read but nearly impossible to put into practice. That is why we feel so inspired when reading ab...

A rule of thumb is that wisdom should make sense. It is general and obvious advice. If it is not immediately obvious, it is rarely right.

When you hear something, ask:

  • Is this an obvious universal truth?
  • Does it make sense?
  • ...

Self-help books seem only to give high-level advice and never specifically explain how to drive this wisdom home.
However, wisdom applies to so many different situations and in so many ways, that it is impossible to go through every possibility of application.

“…in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance.”

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