You are on page 1of 8


By Ian R Thorpe
(Humor, satire, self help,



Illustration: Self Help For Dummies – Satirical Sketches

Ever eager your guide and mentor and relieve you of your hard earned, I have !een alarmed at the proliferation of !usiness !logs selling self help programs here recently" Don#t !e conned, you too can !e a rich, successful Self Help $uru, %ust follo& the special guide guide (!elo&"' (he title is a shameless parody of Steven )" *ovey+s multimillion selling ,Seven Ha!its of Highly Effective -eople. of course" /nd &hy not, he is one of the leading e0ponents of a craft I am a!out to de!unk" /round fifteen years ago, as a consultant, I fre1uently used to come across people &ho &ould speak of *ovey+s !ook in the reverential tones religionists reserve for their sacred te0ts" (he !ook (*ovey+s !ook not (he 2ook' &as a!out success, or as D"H" 3a&rence put it ,the !itch goddess success,. so it &as perfect !edtime reading for the driven young e0ecutive !ecause it seemed to offer the o!sessively am!itious a short cut to their goal" /nother !ook that made some!ody rich !ore the title ,In Search of E0cellence". (his looked at the 1ualities that make a successful organisation" In a society !uilt of selfishness the self help industry had tapped a rich vein" Since then self help !ooks have !ecome a ma%or industry" It could !e said that the !ooks enslaved people as effectively as an addictive drug and the psychology of self help is certainly similar, the unfulfilla!le promise is there, the great secret &ill !e revealed of ho& to achieve not the !est time you ever had !ut: promotion, &ealth, status, happiness, a fulfilling relationship, perfect mashed potatoes no, scru! that one and popularity" /ll any!ody needs to do is read the !ook, apply its techni1ues and everything &ill %ust happen" /nd if it doesn+t, you are a failure, loser, dick head, a no mark" $o do&n that road and you only have one place to turn" 4ore self help !ooks"

Surveys have sho&n that despite the self %ustifying claims of those &ho follo&ed the advice offered in self help !ooks, they have not actually done !etter on average, nor have their !usinesses" -u!lishers may produce the one person in a hundred &ho can truthfully say ,after reading this my life took off". It is not in their interests to highlight the ninety eight &ho have !een su!%ect to life+s usual ups and do&ns or the one &hose life has fallen apart, &ho is living in a hostel, unemployed, !ankrupt" (hat the self help advice does not actually &ork is no surprise to those of us &ho approach all things &ith a healthy degree of scepticism" (he advice seems remarka!ly similar across the !oard: make lots of lists so you look efficient5 learn to shift !lame (they call it delegating !ut there is a huge difference'5 sing most loudly &hen singing one+s o&n praises5 &ork hard &ell put in the hours at least5 !e a !ully again they are mealy mouthed, calling it assertiveness5 manage your time effectively and most of all prioritise &hat you have to do" So here, so that you too can !e a millionaire self help guru are:

The Seven Profitable Habits Of Self Help Gurus"

(he first profita!le ha!it of is State (he 6!vious" (he e0ample of stating the o!vious that al&ays gets me is ,prioritise". Does a drunk not prioritise going to the pu!" Does a great Dad not prioritise spending time &ith the children, a &riter makes a priority of having 1uiet time at the key!oard and a !iker &ill push everything aside in order to spend time on the road" 7e don+t think of these things as prioritising !ecause they are the things in life that are important to us, that make life &orth living" 7e prioritise going to &ork over doing things &e en%oy !ecause &e need to keep a roof over our head and food on the ta!le" $ive tips like ,keep a diary so you do not forget appointments 8 !irthdays etc". Every!ody kno&s this is common sense !ut proclaim it as a great revelation" )ecommend that people suck up to the !oss, evade responsi!ility, shift !lame and in times of difficulty al&ays take refuge in !ureaucracy and avoid having to make

decisions" I remem!er one little video clip of a &ell kno&n guru &ho sho&ed ho& to deal &ith a pro!lem like this: Employee: 7e have a pro!lem !oss" 2oss: 7hat is your pro!lem Fred" $uru (to camera' : See ho& the !oss shifted that pro!lem !ack to Fred and delegated responsi!ility" 7hat is 96:) pro!lem" 7ell that+s fine e0cept in the real &orld if a mem!er of the team has a pro!lem ultimately its the !oss &hose arse that is on the line" If that does not apply then the department is not functioning !ut simply playing politics" (he second profita!le ha!it is Make Big Assumptions" 9our readers are going to !e ultra conformists so pretend that every!ody e0cept the losers is doing the stuff in the !ook" -lay on people+s insecurities" 9ou may dou!t the effectiveness of this, surely you think, people are not so gulli!le; /re the Scientologists making money; 9ou see &hat I mean; <ot every!ody in the &orld has to !e insecure so long as enough are to make your !ook a !est seller" <e0t on the list comes Adding Value" <o& there is not really much to a self help !ook, no plot, no character development, the &riter can+t go in for long descriptive passages to create atmosphere or action scenes &ith plenty of short, snappy sentences" So ho& do they make a very thin !ook look very thick and thus seem good value for money" 2ullet lists, that+s ho&" 7affle on for a fe& pages a!out the importance of, say making checklists lists and then summarise &hat you have &ritten" 7hy 4ake *hecklists 3ists ; = (o organise your thoughts = provide a memo of the ma%or points = keep a record of progress !y checking off completed tasks

= create a discussion document = !ecause lots of paper impresses the !oss = it looks important and so on" It does not take many &ords to fill a page like that and the thicker a !ook is, the more impressive it looks" So checklists add value" 2ack up &ith your lists, a fe& spreadsheets and pie charts, you can make your advice seem far more important and thus add even more value to your reputation" / fe& !ullet point lists can 1uadruple your value in the self help guru career market" /t <um!er Four is Be Patronising" )emem!er you are the successful multi millionaire author of self help !ooks and your readers are going to !e sad losers &ho &anna!e you" 3et them kno& ho& sad they are, let them kno& &hat a !unch of losers they are" 3et them kno& their place in the food chain is like that of lettuce in the salad !ar of life" (hey only e0ist to fill the empty spaces" Don+t &orry, they &ill s&allo& it, after all they &ant to !e like you" )aise their self esteem !y sho&ing them respect and you risk losing a sale" (he people &ho !uy your !ook are no!odies and they can only !ecome some!odies !y giving you money" Five is to write reall stupid! trivial things as though the are big deal" (here are no ne& ideas so &hy &aste effort on trying to !e original" / favourite phrase of self help authors is ,position yourself to take advantage of opportunities". <o& think a!out that""" and you &ill ask yourself ,&hat the hell does it mean". 3ook, imagine it is lunchtime" 9ou are passing a pi>>a shop and the aromas of onions, garlic, !asil and tomatoes make you mouth &ater" So you go in" Did you position yourself to take advantage of your opportunity to !uy pi>>a or did you simply gra! a !ite of lunch; See ho& help yourself !y inflateing the mundane" /t si0, sell something that does not e"ist" Its is difficult to !e successful selling paint or cars or toothpaste" Every!ody kno&s &hat they are &orth, there are lots of

outlets selling them and people can compare price, 1uality etc" 2ut if you sell dreams and promises, all you have to do is convince people that your !rand of advice &ill help them achieve their goal of success, &ealth, happiness, promotion, a shag or &orld domination and you can name your price" -ro!a!ly the most successful companies in the early ?@st century are investment companies and crackpot religions (sic'" Investment *ompanies make !illions !ut &hat do they sell; (he future" <ot %ust futures or derivatives or stocks and !onds !ut the future" -romises" *rackpot )eligions are even !etter at selling something that does not e0ist, they sell salvation" From &hat; From the fires of hell, mortality, %udgement, accounta!ility; 6r""" from our insecurities; / variant of self help is ,lifestyle." /gain it is something that does not e0ist and yet it makes millions for those &ho market it properly" 4ake cheap pine furniture from S&eden into ,afforda!le modular lifestyle enhancing home e1uipment for the aspirational young professional. and you 1uadruple its value" /nd the final highly profita!le ha!it, ou must alwa s be positive" 6A the self help &riter kno&s that &hat they &rite is a!solute claptrap, !ut in their &ho attitude &hen &riting, addressing a seminar, giving a speech, or appearing on a talk sho& is one of utter assurance" (hese peoples+ certainties are more deeply em!edded than those of a doorstep evangelist" /nd &hatever 1uestion they are asked, like a doorstep preacher, they &ill have the ans&er right off pat" /nd they &ill ans&er fully and frankly not the 1uestion they have !een asked !ut the 1uestion they &anted to !e asked" /nd of course the ans&ers &ill all !ear a positive spin" <ever allo& a chink of dou!t to sho&" So is there any value in all the self help !ooks; 7ell here is &hat they do, its a very simple techni1ue" 4ost people &ould like to !e !illionaires, so the authors look at !illionaires" /nd people &ho have !ecome !illionaires tend to have a fe& things in common" 4ost of them eat eggs for !reakfast for a start" /nd they love &hat they do, in fact they tend to !e o!sessed &ith it" Forget correlation does not prove causation, it &ill seem to if you point it out assertively enough"

4ost of us eat eggs for !reakfast at some time so actually eating eggs does not mean you &ill !ecome a !illionaire even though !reakfast is the most important meal of the day" Similarly !eing dedicated to your career may get you a long &ay !ut it &ill not guarantee success on your o&n terms" 2ill $ates loves soft&are and 7arren 2uffett loves dealing investments" /re there not plenty of Soft&are &i>ards living modestly and earning average salaries or investors &hose love of dealing stock and !onds has lost them a fortune; -assion is not everything, talent is important too !ut luck, sheer chance, plays the !iggest role" 9ou have to !e in the right place at the right time" (he same rules apply in !usiness" I used to do !usiness &ith EDS, a company that had a convention among e0ecutives, they &ore dark suits &ith a &hite shirt of !louse and a self coloured tie or !elt" <aturally one self help for organisations !ook cited this as one of the reasons for their success" 2ut 4icrosoft e0ecutives often &ear %eans and s&eatshirts to &ork and this has !een cited as one of the reasons for their success" So &hich one is right; Is the secret of success in the self help industry starting to reveal itself" /ll the self help author does is look at 2illionaires after they have !ecome !illionaires or corporations that are successful and point to things they have done as !eing the reasons &hy they are successful" If some!ody could take a hundred ordinary people &ith ordinary lives and in five years make them all into millionaires or superstars or &hatever then &e &ould have a theory &orth applying" It &ould still not !e a panacea for the travails of life, for every leader there has to !e a num!er of follo&ers, for every &inner there are a num!er of losers and for every !illionaire there must !e many people &ho are !roke" (he idea that through hard &ork and dedication anyone may !e a success is a cunning piece of social engineering !ut it 1uickly collapses &hen you remem!er the difference !et&een anyone and everyone and !et&een may and &ill"

)E3/(ED -6S(S:
Power Of Positive Cheaper Drugs Now! Bitter Fruit Let Down By Hope Schadenfreude is the zeitgeist Britishness For Du !ea"ity Chec# ies