It has happened.
I have apparently reached The Self-Improvement Years.
Perhaps it was because I caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror early one morning a few months back. Maybe it was when I was frowning at my planning calendar and sitting in a living room that looked like a Toys “R” Us had exploded nearby. Or maybe it was having to deal with someone’s estate recently and realizing their entire house had become a Junk Drawer (and don’t pretend you don’t know what this is, you have one too).
In any case, I realized today that I’ve been consuming a steady stream of self-help books for some time now. Books on how to boost your business. Volumes on how to stay more organized. Primers on how to avoid looking at yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning.
It’s getting to the point where I’m beginning to think that I might need a self-help book to help me stop reading self-help books. Go ahead, scoff, but I’m getting worried. Just this weekend, I caught myself scanning the magazines at the supermarket (“Five proven fatigue busters!” “10 foods that actually burn fat!”) and -gasp- taking them seriously.
Don’t get me wrong… I’ve always been a big believer in learning from others. In business, we call this “best practices” or “lessons learned.” Your grandfather calls it, “Well, back when I was a boy…” It’s just lately I’ve been getting the impression that the self-help industry is a bit of a con.
For one thing, many of these books provide advice that you really have no chance of taking to heart. French Women Don’t Get Fat, for instance, suggests you buy only fresh food and visit the market daily. This is great if you live in Paris and have enough energy to stroll down to the market at the crack of dawn. The only French thing I’m capable of doing when dawn breaks is saying “merde!”
Getting Things Done suggests that you take a day or more to consolidate all your “collection buckets” (your in basket, your email box, your to do list, etc.), and then make decisions about what to do about all those items. I don’t know about you, but if I had time to take a whole day to consolidate my buckets, I wouldn’t need to read books like GTD.
More important though, are the topics that these and other tomes don’t cover. For example, how do you, as a Working Parent With Preschoolers, stop yourself from saying things like, “Hickety tickety bumblee bee, will you say your name for me?” when making introductions around the boardroom table?
Where’s the chapter in the book “How to be a Landlord for Fun and Profit!” that covers what to do when your tenant vacates and leaves behind a box of improperly cured skunk and racoon pelts? (True story.)
How about a guide to “How to Call 911 When Your Darling Toddler Accidentally Pokes You in the Eye With a Felt Tip Marker, Leaving you Crying Crayola® green vert verde Tears?”
Or what about “Anger Management: How to Control Your Desire to Kick the Living @#$%^&! Out of the #$%! Printer Because It’s %^&*! Jammed Aga-“
Ahem. Not speaking from personal experience of course.
Actually, maybe I should be speaking from personal experience. Yes, yes, that’s it — I’ve got it now, the way to make a heap of money and leave the rat race behind! I’m going to write my own self-help book.
I think I’ll call it, “Canadians Don’t Get Tired.” Oh, but they do. Okay, what about “Working Parents Get Things Done.” No, no, one look at our kitchen and the jig would be up. I could call it “The Forty Hour Work Week.” Well, no, that would imply my husband and I knew what that was…
Oh, never mind.