I’m not going to bore you with an intro about why self-improvement books actually changed my life. I mean, they did, but that doesn’t mean what I’m going to say about them doesn’t hold true.

If you want the short answer, it’s simple: I’ve read too many of them to realize that they explain too simple of a topic in too many pages, and they’re borderline useless unless you take action. Which I have taken, but many people don’t and that’s the point: Reading them alone is not the solution.

Now, if you want the long-winded version of this, then let’s have me explain too simple of a topic in way too many words.

What got me off the self-improvement band wagon

As some of you read I started this year with a purpose, to adopt 12 habits (or more) that I considered important. And reading more was one of them.

Now, the more I kept on reading my favorite kind of book, the more that two ideas kept forming in my head.

And here they are:

  1. Every author I read seems to want to tell me just one thing, do they really need a whole book just to do that?
  2. I am no longer sure this author is really trying to help me.

And these are not one time scenarios. They are constant alarms set off in my head the second I want to pick up one of these books.

To be fair some authors do manage to make these alarms go quiet. And then there are the rest of them. Those others just make my alarms buzz harder until I put the book down. And I never pick it up again.

Lately it feels like self-improvement books are just advertisements for the author’s other programs. And that the only reason they happen to be so long, is so that they can qualify as a book and be considered prestigious.

And that is no longer a relationship I can consider to be built on trust.

Self improvement books are too long.

It’s not about the book having 300 pages or 50. It’s about the fact that you do not need a 300 page epic to just tell people “try harder, man”, over and over again, in exceedingly convoluted ways.

Not all self-improvement books want to help you.

This should be a little bit more discussed in our day and age. We live in an era of information. One in which you can know pretty much everything about a given topic with just a few taps on a screen. And one in which you can also do that any time, in any given place.

With all of this information available to you, it becomes exceedingly important for you to listen to what I am about to tell you:

Not all information is created equal. Do not take everything you read at face value.

And this becomes specially true when talking about a piece of literature that’s basically telling you to change your life. You need to be very critical of this type of advice because it can very well make or break you.

Please pay special attention to that sentence. I am asking you to do the research to know what kind of person you are learning from. And to make sure you know, to a certain degree of certainty, what their true intentions are.

So in one way or the other, try to ask yourself these questions:

  • Are they trying to sell me a product other than the book I already bought?
  • Does their business depend on their advice actually making people succeed?
  • Have others had positive experiences with this author?
  • What do the people who have not had positive experiences have to say?

And if the answers to any of those do not satisfy you, put that book down and find a better author. Or better yet, dedicate that time to applying yourself on something that you are passionate about.

But please keep in mind: Not all self-improvement books want to help you.

What self-improvement books are good for and what I do instead now

Like I said at the beginning: Self improvement changed my life. I am who I am right now because of people like Dale Carnegie, Robert Kiyosaki, Mark Manson and Tim Ferris. And to this day I will always be thankful for everything that their teachings have brought to me.

Self improvement is great for getting yourself motivated for change. And I strongly believe that some people just need to be shown what they’re capable of. But that’s just bringing you to the starting line. Because for as much of a book junkie as I am, nothing puts you to the test like actual practice.

What I am telling you is that you’re not going to change your life by reading 100 self-improvement books. You’re going to change it by applying one of them. Even one of the bad ones.

It took me years to come to this realization, and I was hoping that I could save you some right now. And I could not be more serious about it: Get out there and experience the world. Nothing can quite beat that.

And as to what I do now instead, I read to learn new skills and to entertain myself. I’ve found that fiction teaches you a lot about understanding other people and it builds empathy. And also that I enjoy picking up new skills through my books. I’m specially a fan of conversational skills.

But more than anything, I put my theories to the test. That’s what this 12 month challenge I am on is all about. And you can do it too.


Do you have any positive or negative experiences with self-improvement books? If so, please put it in the comments below. Make sure to subscribe to the newsletter if you’re interested in hearing more from me.

And as always, see you next time.

Author

My name’s Orlando Paredes Hamsho. I’m a 25-year-old Web Developer living (mostly) in Guadalajara, Mexico; albeit I intend to move pretty soon. Apparently, I also run a blog now, and have been doing so for a while.

2 Comments

  1. This is an interesting take to consider, especially for someone like me who reads self-help books not in a desperate attempt to better my life but for inspiration and new ideas that may complement the steps I’m already taking. You’re right that taking action is ultimately the only thing that really matters, but as someone who already knows that and can put her money where her mouth is, I have no trouble putting these types of books into practice.

    Self-improvement books essentially allow me to refine my methods and expand my thinking. Mark Manson especially has helped me to put words to a lot of the things I already felt but couldn’t put my finger on.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t disagree with you, but I intend to keep reading self-improvement books, not because I need someone to help me turn my life around, but because I want to broaden my knowledge. It’s something of a hobby for me.

    • I’m very happy you got the best out this article. Yes, self improvement can be a great tool if you know how to use it. And it sure looks like you do.

      Best of luck and thank you!

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