I think the main reason that some people respond negatively to self-help books is because many of them paint an inaccurate picture of what it takes to be successful. They’re sick of hearing that if you simply want something bad enough you’ll have it one day. It’s easy to want something badly. Getting it is a different story. They have families to feed and don’t want to hear about people quitting their shitty jobs and living the life of their dreams. They’re sick of people trying to sell them a panacea to all of their problems.
The reality of the situation is that some people are better off than others. Some people do get lucky. Some have genetic advantages that others don’t have. Sometimes life deals you a bad hand. Shit happens.
Your excuses for your circumstances may very well be accurate, valid, and justifiable. The question is — what are you going to do about it?
“Argue for your limitations, and they’re sure enough yours” – Richard Bach.
The first step in making progress is to deal in reality. You have to be able to look at your life objectively and see things as they are. Being overly optimistic can be just as harmful as being too pessimistic. We all have a cognitive bias where we tend to over estimate our capabilities. On the other hand, you don’t want to see things as worse than they really are either. Finding the right starting point lets you know what you need to do going forward.
The second step is being humble and realizing the true amount of work it’s going to take to reach your destination. Lets say you want to be an entrepreneur. The reality of the situation is that the odds are stacked against you, and your business will most likely fail. You’re not going to be able to just “Think and Grow Rich.” You’re going to have to think, plan, experiment, fail, tinker, experiment, fail, and try again. Perhaps then you will grow rich. There’s a reason why so few people ever achieve what are consider extraordinary results. It’s because it’s ridiculously hard. The word itself conveys the fact that you’re going do have to do more than what an ordinary person does to succeed.
The third step is actually doing something. Ideas are a dime a dozen and intentions are worthless. It’s cool that you want to start a business, but once you have a solid plan for it you have to act on it. It’s great that you want to be a writer, but you have to open up that word document and start typing. All of the self-help books in the world aren’t going to help you unless you act on the knowledge that’s inside of them. I think that’s mainly where the dissonance lies. People read a self-help book and imagine some radical change in their life happening just because they read it.
Knowledge isn’t power; the application of knowledge is power. Motivational books and blog posts are great ways to give yourself that extra push you need to get started, but it’s on you and you alone to actually do something about your situation.
The last step is to keep going once you’ve chosen a path to follow. There will assuredly be ups and downs. There will be moments of self-doubt and anxiety. You probably won’t become an overnight success. Your progression will not be linear.
We want things to be easy. We want to try a certain approach and have it work on the first try. This is not the way it plays out in reality.
“Many people are obstinate about the path once it’s taken, few people about the destination.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Be obstinate about the destination. Decide where you’re going and resolve to never quit. Don’t give up because you tried things one way and it didn’t work out.
I’ve been reading a lot about the concept of mastery and the 10,000-hour rule. The science says that it requires 10,000 hours of focused and disciplined practice to master a skill. Not 30 days. Not 10 steps.
How many hours have you truly dedicated to your dreams?
A self-help book with the title Get What You Want in Life With 10,000 Hours of Consistent Practice probably wouldn’t sell a lot of copies. We don’t want a book to tell us the truth; we want one with pieces of insight that make us feel warm inside for thinking about them. We don’t want to face the fact that the people who make it in life have worked way harder than we have. They deserve what they have and we don’t.
More often than not, success is purposeful. It’s deliberate. It takes diligence and consistency. Dreams and passion are ubiquitous. The aforementioned traits are rare.
It’s not enough to have big dreams. We all have big dreams. It’s not enough to have a great idea. A great idea without execution is worthless.
“A planner may find that his beautiful plans fail because he does not follow through on them. Like so many brilliant people, he believes that ideas move mountains. But bulldozers move mountains; ideas show where the bulldozers should go to work.” – Peter F. Drucker.
I’m no different. I have big dreams of becoming well known for my work. The reality of the situation is that I’m relatively unknown and I have an arduous journey ahead of me. I can be impatient. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want things to fall in place for me easily and quickly. I have to remind myself constantly that the chances of that happening are slim to none. You must remind yourself of that as well. Stop wishing. Start doing.