Thoughts on self-help and seeing the forest for the trees

It strikes me that if I look back at some of the books I have read in the past 5 years they are all over the map…Mysteries, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Travel Journals, books on Spirituality, books on Thought, and even some Self-Help books.  I used to be a more voracious reader and still can be when the topic strikes my fancy, but sadly it is something I need to make more time for…heck, that isn’t even honest…it kind of defeats the purpose to have to ‘make time for something’, I just have to get off of my butt and do it….kind of like writing this blog!

I am reading a really good one right now, in my opinion.  The title is a little off-putting, but that really is the point…

Shut Up, Stop Whining & Get A Life: A Kick-Butt Approach to a Better Life” by Larry Winget

(Thanks to my girlfriend Stephanie for letting me borrow her copy :))

Larry is a no-nonsense ball of unique energy who tells it like it is and isn’t worried if it offends the establishment minded people who have bought into the traditional coddling, victim-centric message that the self-help industry bombards us all with daily.  Personally, I find him very refreshing.  Someone who actually rebels against the victim mentality that we seem to have become so adept at in today’s world.   His methods are direct, simple, and very honest and based on some of the following principles:

  • Personal Responsibility
  • Work Harder
  • Be Authentic
  • Figure out what is important, why it is important, and sacrifice to get it
  • Work Harder

Yes I know I listed something twice…it is important

A lot of people are attracted to self-help topics because they want to read a prescription of what they need to do in their life to be successful.  They want to make use of this prescription to tell them how to get something they are missing from their own lives.  They want someone to sympathize with the fact that they think their life sucks.  The problem is, life doesn’t come with a manual.  Life takes hard work.  Life takes sacrifice.  Life is not a spectator sport.  Life takes personal responsibility.  The best thing that you could get out of a self-help book is that it gives you ideas, not prescriptions.

I had a professor in college once.  He was a visiting professor from France and he taught Differential Equations.  The subject matter was very dry and his accent, at times, was a bit hard to decipher.  What really annoyed everyone in class about this professor was that our grades relied on weekly quizzes, the sum total of which (along with the final) comprised our grade.   Sounds standard, right?  Yeah, not so much.  The problem was that the quizzes every week did not often resemble the material that we had learned the previous week in class.  When asked about this by angry students, the professor flippantly replied that he expected his students to take what they had learned in class all week and apply that knowledge to the unfamiliar quiz questions.  He felt that they could be puzzled out by people who really grasped the concepts and had not just memorized the practice problems.  As with many of my classmates, this was not too popular with me at the time, but I have always remembered it…and at the times in my life where the answer seems elusive and life doesn’t seem to be ‘going by the book’, I take a deep breath and realize that: 1) I know how to think and 2) I have probably learned something in the past that I can apply to parts of the problem.

We are all where we are as a direct result of decisions we have made in the past.  This may be the source of argument for some.  Some will argue that they would not be where they are in their life if it weren’t for some outside influence that they had no control over.  I would agree.  The key there is that each of us chose a path to take when that thing we had no control over happened.  Based on what we have experienced, we have created our own reality.  Very often in life we cannot control what happens to us, but we are in complete control of how we react to it and what we do next.

Each of us is who we authentically are.  Sounds profound in a Buckaroo Banzai/Zen sort of way, doesn’t it?  It isn’t.  If the person you portray on a daily basis is not who you really are then that is a problem.  You are the only one who can change that.  It isn’t as big of a problem for everyone else as it is for you yourself when you look in the mirror everyday and don’t necessarily like or recognize who you see.  There is a reason that everyone always says being true to yourself is important.  I know it when I spot authentic people…I also know that it seems to me that these people shine brighter than most other people.  I don’t even have to like or agree with them, it is just refreshing.

I have written before about the whole ‘Victim Mentality’ and how we as a society seem to gravitate towards it…How it is always someone else’s fault.  How ‘woe is me, I was the oldest/middle/youngest child and my parents didn’t love me as much as my siblings!’…blah, blah, blah.  We are often humbled by people we hear of everyday who have been in a situation far worse than anything we have ever faced and who have persevered and been successful based on their attitude, their unwillingness to give up, their faith in themselves, and their hard work.  The problem is that most people hear stories about these types of things and are briefly inspired but don’t stop to consider the things in their lives that they want to aspire to, the changes they would need to make, and the sacrifices necessary to get there.  Sacrifice is sacrifice and work is work.  They both take effort…


Anyway, enough of the soapbox routine.

I would encourage you to visit Larry Winget’s site and see if his message speaks to you.

Thanks for reading….


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