5 Signs the Self-Help Book You’re Reading is BS

January 8th, 2010

There are two extremes when it comes to self-help or personal development material.

The first is all of it is great and helpful.  The second is it’s all BS.  I prefer the middle way.  Some is really helpful.  Some is a bunch of BS.  But which is which?

I offer you five signs that the self-help book you’re reading is BS.

#1 “I was flat-broke living out of my car until…”

We all love rags to riches stories, right?   But when someone has to go to great lengths to show how much they’ve overcome, you should take it with a grain of salt.

Remember.  They can’t just have been “doing poorly”.  Even selling out of their parents’ garage doesn’t count (that’s smart business).  They have to be “dead broke” “living out of their car,” suicidal, etc. etc.

Usually, it’s a rhetorical device to pull at some heartstrings and make you deal emotionally with what you’re reaindg.

But I don’t see the point.

For example, if some guy is giving you financial advice and says he was bankrupt before becoming rich, what does that tell you?  When I hear it, I think “why am I listening to some guy who’ll probably go broke again unless he gets my money.”

#2 “…I discovered a secret no one’s discovered before.”

If a book tells you they discovered some big secret that no one else discovered before and then that big secret can be found in 10 of the last self-help books you’ve read, it’s a bunch of BS.  Worse, it’s probably repackaged BS.  There are no secrets.  We’ve heard them all.

#3  …”And to prove it…look at all the inspirational stories.”

This is a classic that I call “proof by inspirational story”.  Instead of showing you that something works, they tell you a story of how someone did something inspirational.  It can be a famous story, but in self-help BS inspirational stories is the #1 wayto get you to turn off your poop detector.

But let’s get real for a moment.  If I knew some guy who worshipped peanut butter and his life got better afterwards, does that prove that worshipping peanut butter is good?  Every major belief system in the world from the major religions to space alien cults has these stories, but do we think they’re all right?

#4 “And this is just the tip of the iceberg….you’ll learn even more at my $5,000 seminar.”

I think making money is a good thing and I don’t begrudge any guru, teacher from making money with workshops, seminars, or whatever.  What I do object to is when your reading a book that doesn’t give you much information and constantly tries to get you to “get the real story” from a high-priced seminar.

Rule of thumb:

Ads for seminars in back of the book—no problem

Ad masquerading as a book—BS

#5  “And those who don’t agree with what I’m saying are just “negative thinkers.”

If you’re reading a book that even addresses it’s critics, then it’s a clue that it’s a pretty good book.  But if they dismiss their critics as “negative thinkers” or some other dreamed up jargon to instill in you an us vs. them mentality, you’re heading down the long windy smelly road laden with poop.

Key Clue: Look for the word “they” or “them” in the title, as in“Secrets They Don’t Want you to Know”


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