Why Hacks To A Better Life Aren’t Working…

Following hacks, tricks and a generic written program for a mass audience is all very well. 

A person starts with a good intention – to lose weight, save more, be a ‘success’

Blueprints of someone else’s path might seem like a sure thing to reach your desired end state, but if you have not built your inner character then this strategy is doomed to fail. 

Step-by-step guidance does not give you what you are looking for if you lack self-discipline, determination, and the ability to think for yourself. 

Next time you go in your local book shop, do me a favour, head towards the self-help section. 

You will see everything from building confidence, to eating disorders, to social media addiction. 

Whatever you are looking for there is a book offering the solution to most problems (though porn addiction has not made the high street yet!) 

Modern self-help follows a simple formula: 

  • Book introduces a scenario
  • Explains why it is a problem
  • Gives a solution to said problem using the authors ideal system
  • Provides steps for the reader to resolve the problem

The McProgram approach have conquered the self-improvement sphere, whether it’s your online guru offering his latest course to the first ten people at a discounted price of $297 or Insanity DVDs putting you in ‘Insane’ shape, all offer promises of fast, mapped out solutions. 

The problem with actionable advice to a mass audience is you cannot guarantee results as it doesn’t tailor to an individual’s specific needs or understand who they are as a person. 

Following a strict McProgram defined by rules is not improvement as they fail to empower you to understand how change works – your following someone else’s formula to achievement. 

“Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of another.” Mark Manson – The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

The probability dictates it will end in failure, as you quit when you realise it’s not for you, or as the program comes to an end, everything returns to original equilibrium as they fail to instil a sense of habit. 

A person may then go onto the next McProgram to fill the void, which is great news for content creators as they have the next solution to push to the addict.

Your desire for endless self-improvement is serving nothing expect filling a big empty void in your life!

It’s a pretty simplistic approach to tell someone to do 100 press-ups a day, take cold showers, drink black coffee, approach a girl by asking where the nearest pet shop is, without questioning 

why does this help me get to the desired end result.” 

My preference has grown for books focused on ideas, which allow you to think – the difference between ‘Practice’ and ‘Principle’ 

Practice and Principle 

Stephen Covey discusses these concepts as a basis in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, where he notes earlier self-improvement books focused on Principle, whereas books in the twentieth century evolved to focus on Practice

A book focused on Practice is your guideline book on a subject matter – essentially a map guiding the reader how to be better at something by following exact instructions. 

Principle books you might consider more spiritual, think of the classic philosophy or Christian text where a particular ethos is discussed and the words are free to be interpreted by the reader. 

There is nothing wrong with Practice books, but consuming too many just means you are indulging in information overload – you can’t follow the step by step advice of 100 different guides at once.

And without development of your Principle this impacts the outcome of how the techniques in practice are used, which a lot of creators of McPrograms struggle to delve into. 

Men simply don’t think 

Listening to the Earl Nightingale talk The Strangest Secret he recalls an interview with the Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer who when asked the question “…what’s wrong with men today?” 

He responded: 

Men simply don’t think 

This seemed apt in the amount of content produced in today’s information age, with a focus on quick fixes and instant success. 

The fundamental purpose of knowledge is to apply critical thinking, the downfall of the McProgram is they instruct you to follow step by step without question, with the caveat that if you don’t, you won’t reach the intended end goal. 

The cynic in me feels this is a deliberately placed caveat strategically placed to cover the creator’s arse when things do not work out for the consumer. I’m going to explore some of these toxic approaches the self-improvement cultivates in a future post, so make sure to sign-up to updates so you don’t miss out.

Content focused on Practice are always best approached with care and should not be followed as a rule for living your life. 

My personal preference is to read these types of books and pick and choose the concepts I’m comfortable with and mould them to work for me. 

Next time you think about buying into a McProgram whether it is 30 Days To Alpha, The Wolverine Workout, Invest like Buffet, whatever – remember success is not guaranteed and you should focus on building your character, think more and work out your own path. 

Character is developed through time, experiences, lifelong learning, mistakes, and being willing to try anything to be a better person than you were yesterday. 

And if you are reading this thinking “what a load of bollocks” congratulations you are thinking for yourself. 

Authors reflection…

I wrote this post originally as a contributor to Tribe Media, as a response to some of the pretty underhand approaches in the self-improvement movement that promises quick success to make a few quid off people seeking enlightenment.

My experience with buying some of this content, is that they are filled with platitudes, cod philosophy and knowledge that can easily by found on the front page of a Google search by simply typing in “How do I [subject]…”

Of course if anyone pointed out this fact the guru would simply respond “You’re just a hater!”

I was inspired to dig this article out again as it’s just as relevant in 2021, where people in tough times are more eager than ever to finding meaning in this world and find the solution to realising all their dreams.

I’m going to share my thoughts in future weeks how the Self-Improvement movement can improve. Do join the mailing list so we can keep in touch.

James @Perfect Manifesto


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8 thoughts on “The Self-Improvement Guru Is Not Your Friend…

  1. Nice one, I quite enjoy reading these books which help us question ourselves. But have also fallen into the trap of people trying to push you into something else and a one size fits all approach doesn’t work. Of late I’ve started the habit of listening to some exciting podcasts which help me think of different things and plant a line of thought which helps me explore. You’re right, the more content we get and more we think from different dimensions we can create a path for ourselves which works for us

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You can just get to a point with these books where the advice you read becomes similar and the buzz you’d get from finishing the book comes less and less.

      I enjoy podcasts though struggle with time to focus, often I just like the quiet to collect my own thoughts.

      Thank you very much for your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve certainly bought a few of those self-help books and programs. and you are right, ultiamtely it is up to teh individual to make the changes necessary to improve their life; it is not the guru’s responsibility…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just enjoy reading stuff that gives you the tools how to do something so you can apply it yourself (along with your own thinking) not some set guide. I’ve read more than my fair share of stuff telling me to do 100 pressups a day for 30 days that I’ll never finish because of the other things going on in life.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I enjoyed reading your post. I agree with you about principle vs practice. I feel empowered to make the changes if I understand a principle and I am able to implement a practice if it is personalized for me, that gives me sense if trust and joy even when in the process.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely practice works well if its tailored to you (for example a program from a personal trainer), but anything for mass consumption I know won’t work! I often stop reading books when they ask you to do various activities. I want to know how I can make something work for me, not copy something from someone who has no idea how my life functions!

      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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