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.

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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, it is very difficult to apply in real life.

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.

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.

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

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Reading in the digital age

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The opposite of the traditional reading experience, with lineal structure, that demands our full attention.

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Success And Buying Too Many Books

Many of us buy lots of books that go unread and causes us guilt, but that’s a habit that many successful people have they believe they are better off for it.

For those who actually put in the time to read and learn how to learn, a pile of unread books may actually be a sign of intelligence rather than the lack of it.

Reframing excuses we make for not reading:
  • Time: Stop thinking of it as some activity that you do when you feel like it. It should be a reflex, a default.
  • Money: Reading is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.
  • Purpose: Whatever problem you’re struggling with, is probably addressed in some book somewhere by someone a lot smarter than you.

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