I’ve got a background in sales. And every salesperson I’ve ever met has the same obsession (aside from money), and that’s that they are all addicted to self-help books.
I was, too.
Sales is hard. It’s a ferocious industry that devours the weak. But even the best salespeople are voracious consumers of self-help books. They know that they have to keep their minds focused and their attitudes positive.
I’ve read dozens – maybe a hundred, but who’s keeping score?
What I discovered, though, is that all of these self-help books are delivering the same damn message but in a different package. And I’m not saying the message is bad. It isn’t.
The problem is that self-help books are bloated with sh*t. You have to suit up and dig through it to find the jewels.
So, what I’m doing here is distilling every self-help book ever into a highly-concentrated list of actionable steps.
1. Think Like Henry Ford
Any self-help book worth a damn will emphasize one universal truth early in the text…
It all begins with your mindset. Or, as Henry Ford put it: “Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.”
Did Ford really say that? Hell if I know. But it’s true, and that’s all that really matters.
If you earnestly believe you can do something, then you probably can (assuming it’s within reason, of course). But so many people balk at life because they believe the latter. They believe they can’t make the changes that would bring them happiness and success.
And you know what? They’re right. They’ve already made their minds up.
So, get your head on straight and your life will follow along – eventually, anyway.
2. Get single-minded about change
Ever watch a Hollywood blockbuster? Of course you have. Name any one of them and chances are it begins with the protagonist avoiding some life-changing circumstance or journey.
It’s a storytelling device that works. You, as the audience, know the protagonist will likely come out ahead and become a better person after accepting the challenge. No, it won’t be easy. But what is?
Joseph Campbell identified this “crossing the threshold” as a stage we all experience in life, for better or worse.
In self-help books, it’s called getting committed. Change requires an almost single-mindedness. We have to purge the bullsh*t in our heads, the bullsh*t all around us in our daily lives, and focus on what must be done.
3. Fake it until you make it
The catchphrase fake it until you make it has been around for a while. Again, I have no idea where it came from, but it’s endured because it’s full of truth.
If you think starting a new journey is difficult, succeeding in that journey is a whole next-level challenge. You’ll have doubts. You’ll feel inadequate. You’ll have days you would rather say f*ck it all! and stay in bed.
But we want to succeed, right? Yes, we do. And the only way we’re going to make our changes last is by convincing our minds that we have already changed.
That’s right. We fake it until we make it. We reprogram our minds for success.
4. Money talks, bullsh*t walks
Yes, it’s cliché. Or maybe it’s a line from a solid AC/DC tune. But it’s valid nonetheless, and so you’ll find similar advice in every self-help book out there.
The message: at some point, talking isn’t enough – you need to take daring action. Every damn thing that has ever been worth doing has required risk. And that includes changing your life for the better.
Set clear goals with action plans… and follow through. Define with diamond clarity what the hell it is you want, figure out how to get it, and start running.
5. Success is like compound interest
One of the magical things about investing is compound interest. We diligently stuff dollars (or else we’d like to) into our retirement plans every month, and we watch the value climb with the swift grace of a three-toed sloth.
Nothing happens. For years, nothing happens. Until suddenly it does.
The money that had seemed to grow in a boring, linear way seems to one day begin compounding exponentially. And it feels awesome.
It’s the same with success. We trudge along day after day, sometimes year after year, until – kapow! – things suddenly begin happening. We are going places – rocketing places – and opportunities are emerging everywhere around us.
In other words, it’s doing the things that will lead to success – no matter how boring they may be, no matter how insignificant the changes appear at first – and doing them every single day.
6. No excuses
One man who knew a little something about overcoming odds was our twenty-sixth president, Theodore Roosevelt.
I’m not going to saddle you down with a history lesson here, but if you want some inspiration, you could do worse than reading a biography of the man.
Of the many awesome words to ever come out of Teddy’s mouth, my favorite: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Winners don’t whine about disadvantages. They take what they have, they get started, and they make the most of it.
Blaming outside influences is one of the surest ways to sabotage your success and relegate yourself to a life of pessimism and bitterness.
Which brings me at last to…
7. The Golden Rule
Yes. I’m talking about the whole “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” bit. But Jesus wasn’t even the first person to have ever make this observation.
In fact, it’s a tenet of nearly every religion and spiritual philosophy from around the world – Buddha, Muhammad, etc. – they’ve all said, in more or less words, stop being an asshole.
I mean, if you want a quick, superficial, and short-term boost to your self-esteem, then go on and be a dickhead. But there’re consequences. Of course there are. You piss people off and you alienate yourself.
If you want to be happy, if you want to be treated with respect – show others happiness and respect.
There aren’t any great mysteries here. Just simple truths.
Originally published on The Power of Ideas.