Is Self-Help Actually Detrimental?

You’ve all heard phrases like “Law of Attraction, Goal Setting, Visualizations, Affirmations, Positive Thinking,” and on and on and on. Anyone who’s been reading my material for any great length of time, they’d tell you that at one point, I used to sing the praises of the self-help industry, but that has all changed. For the past year and some change, I’ve been pondering over the idea of self-help being complete bullshit pretty heavily. It took me a while, but I’ve finally been able to admit to myself that self-help is indeed more of a hindrance than a help. I’ll outline why….

The first thing I’d like to point out is that a lot of people that are into self-help have a cult-like mentality. You’re advised to recite chants, affirmations, incantations, perform rituals, meditations, etc. You’re also advised not to listen to anyone who says anything that doesn’t line up with your goals/beliefs. I’d wake up every morning and recite my affirmations, and do the same before going to sleep. After a while I asked myself, “Why does this feel like I’m part of some cult? If you don’t believe self-help is like a cult, try presenting a logical, reasonable argument to someone who’s caught up in the hype and see what happens. I also asked myself, “what the hell does any of this have to do with being successful in business?”

The apparent answer is that performing those tasks influences the subconscious mind, which leads to the desired outcome. However, that’s not all the way true. Those tasks CAN influence the mind, but they usually don’t. In fact, psychological studies have shown that reciting “positive” affirmations leads to lower self-esteem. That is because while the person is reciting the thing they wish to see realized, their subconscious mind knows that what they’re saying isn’t true. So we’re back to square one. That is why guys like Napoleon Hill and Charles F. Haanel urged the reader to back their goals up with firm belief in it’s achievement — to believe in their goal as they recite their affirmations and to create a clear picture of that which they wish to attain in their mind. By doing that, the law of autosuggestion would kick in and reprogram the subconscious mind. A process which actually works.

Speaking of which — what about these spiritual/metaphysical principles that self-help books usually outline as the keys to success? You know…like Law of Attraction. Are those things the real deal? Yes, they are but not the way self-help gurus tell it. (Digression: I’ll credit self-help with one thing. It opened a lot of doors for me. I’ve been on a mission to learn as much as I can since I discovered the self-help industry) After reading countless books which discussed the metaphysics behind success, I decided to research metaphysics for myself from a scientific (non self-help guru) perspective. My studies lead me to Ancient Egyptian studies of astrology/astronomy, Hermetics, and other ancient bodies of knowledge. I’m not gonna get into all the details, but I will say that metaphysical laws, mind creation, etc., is all very real. However, the modus operandi presented by the gurus is highly fallacious that actually borders on pseudo-science.

I’ve met plenty of wealthy people and I can’t recall not one of them ever telling me they’d achieved their success as a result of reading a self-help book. I remember a conversation I was having with a guy who’s net worth was over $500 Million. We chatted for about an hour and I asked if he could tell me how he’d gotten to where he is now. He made no mention of reading any self-help books, so I asked him about some of the most well known ones. To my surprise, he had no clue what I was talking about. The state of mind I was in at that time, I couldn’t comprehend how someone could do so well without studying self-help. But, I’ve talked to several millionaires who had read most of the well known self-help books but they didn’t attribute the reading of those books to their success. Mind you, some of these millionaires were people from the streets who’d never read a book in their life, yet they were really successful.

Personally, things didn’t start working out for me until I put the self-help books away and started studying my craft specifically. I knew I wanted to be a successful Financier, so I began to read books on finance, economics, the financial markets, technical analysis, fundamental analysis, psychology, behavioral finance, market history, etc. I never felt sharper intellectually in my life. According to some self-help books I’ve read, me studying the field I wish to work in specifically violates the rules. In recent years, I’ve actually heard self-help gurus tell their listeners that hard work isn’t required to achieve success. Instead, they are to think about what they want and the universe will provide. Well, I tried that approach (as well as watching others apply it) and it didn’t work, so I decided to get off my ass and put in work instead. Don’t get me wrong, thinking IS hard work and is probably 90% or more of the process of success, but there needs to be effort still on your part. Even when the universe does present ideas and opportunities to you, it means nothing if you don’t take action. Besides, more opportunities come to the person who’s taking action than to the person who’s sitting down thinking pretty thoughts.

When speaking about the self-help industry, there’s one word I overlooked and that was the word INDUSTRY. Which means that its a business that is designed to sell. When I factored all of this in, it became apparent why myself and others like me would read a self-help book, listen to an audio, etc., feel a burst of motivation for a short period and end up right back where we were looking for another fix. By a fix, I mean looking for the next book that contains that “secret” we’re seeking to get another short burst of motivation. The industry is setup to make money, not to help you make money. I used to get upset with people who’d tell me that but now I realize that they were right. I’ve met people in their 50’s and 60’s who’d been reading self-help books since they were young adults, and they haven’t gotten rich yet. I’m not sure whether to congratulate them for their persistence or encourage them to find a different route. The industry is set up for the person to become dependent on the materials (the books, audios, coaching, seminars) which keeps you coming back for more of the same stuff. Think about this — if that stuff worked, then why do we have so many different success books on the market? That’s because it’s 99.9% bullshit. The self-help industry is a hustle. Only people making money are the authors. You’d be hard-pressed to find a self-help guru who’s made any money outside of teaching self-help.

Self-help isn’t the key to becoming successful. The real key is self-mastery. There’s a difference. Self-mastery is the highest form of discipline there is, usually based on pragmatic principles. It doesn’t mean being perfect (as self-help implies). Self-help lays an unrealistic burden on the follower, practically suggesting that you have to be in full internal peace to attain success. That’s not true. Self-mastery is simply being able to be disciplined enough to do what needs to be done. You don’t have to be adept in spirituality to become a master of yourself. As long as you can set a goal and bring yourself to do what needs to be done in order to achieve that goal, you can become a master of yourself. There are lots of people (myself included at one point) who knew all the basic principles of self-help, all the spiritual magical thinking techniques, but yet we couldn’t bring ourselves to take action and do what needed to be done. But we’d be left wondering how come the next guy who knows nothing about these magical thought processes is getting such great results. That’s because that guy has practiced self-mastery. That guy is a self-starter. He does what needs to be done without procrastinating. So, you can think all the pretty thoughts you want (as self-help implies), but if you don’t have the discipline to get up and do it, nothingness will be the result.

Conclusion: In the end, it all comes down to a few basic principles. The best book I ever read on self-mastery is The Law of Success. I hold that book in such high regards because the principles which it outlines are pragmatic. It took me a while to accept that book as being the absolute truth. But my real world experiences have always lines up with ideals discussed in the Law of Success. Succeeding is more so about hard work than looking for answers in a book, an audio or a seminar. If they had the “secrets,” they wouldn’t share them. The self-help industry will continue to create failures and rake in billions because of people’s naivety. I know some of you are gonna read this and are gonna want to say a mean word or two to me. But before you do that, ask yourself this — are you any better now than you were before you got into self-help? Better yet, have you achieved your goal(s)? I don’t care how much you “believe” you WILL achieve your goals. If you haven’t done it, then you don’t have shit to say to me.


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