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How to read self-help

Self-help through the wisdom lens

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 about it.

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How to read self-help

How to read self-help

https://tjcx.me/posts/defense-self-help/

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Key Ideas

Self-help

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.

Knowledge and wisdom

  • 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, it is very difficult to apply in real life.

Self-help through the wisdom lens

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 about it.

Read self-help that makes sense

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?
  • Can I apply this to a variety of situations?

If you answer "no", you are probably not dealing with wisdom.

Self-help in practice

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.”

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

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Upgrading your brain

A new idea, outlook on life, mental model, is all it takes for something to click inside your brain.

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