Friday, May 4, 2007

Those Self-Help Books

Zig Ziglar, US
Anderson, Irene Kassorla, Maxwell
Maltz, Dale Carnegie, and Napoleon Hill.
What do these people have in common?
They are motivational experts. They
are very rich because we all subscribe to their philosophies. And we buy their books.

They were a huge influence in my life. They showed me how to survive by thinking
positive thoughts and that all things are possible if I think so. Some of them taught me how to feel rich even
without the huge filthy sums of money in my bank account, or floating around in
the stock market. Most of all they
taught me to get through with life, even when things looked so bad I felt like
I was in a hole in the ground.

That wasn't all true though.
I wanted to be rich by thinking like Napoleon. But, sheesh, it was the earlier Napoleon that
kept creeping into my mind. You know,
the guy who they said was "born apart", the one who allegedly said,
"Able was I, I saw Elba…" I guess if I had kept at it I'd probably have
ended up in St Helena.
Only I was a few hundred years too late.
Probably that saved me.

But about being in a hole in the ground, I did find myself,
several times. Somehow those lessons
helped. But I'd rather think the thing
that got me out of those holes was the upbringing and survival instincts I
inherited. The same thing that kept my
grand-father in the boat from China
until he landed here and then kept going until he cashed in of old age some
time before the Japanese landed in Malaya. At least he was spared those crazy times. And it was the very same thing that kept my
dad going, working the land to keep eight kids fed, clothed, and schooled.

Anyway, some of these guys taught me to work hard. So I did.
I spent a whole part of my youth working my ass off, sometimes right
through the night. OK that wasn't
totally true either. I tried to avoid
working late whenever possible. I noticed
what happened to a cousin of mine who was constantly doing that. He succumbed to stomach cancer at the age of
40. I blamed that on his staying up late
and going on without proper nutrition too often. He never smoked and never drank. What else could he blame it on? It wasn’t inherited.

On my part it wasn't voluntary. I hated having to stay up all night just because
my boss had to show his boss that his team of people could work right through
the night if necessary. I zombied along
and grumbled all the way home to bed the next morning. That wasn't working smart. That was stupid. Any kind of accident could happen when you're
tired. We only succeeded in letting him
know that he could further exploit us, and we'd let him do so willingly. Since we didn't have much choice those days,
I stuck with that boss until I couldn't take it anymore. Then I quitted and started from scratch.

Then I read Robert Ringer's "Winning through

This Ringer guy didn't mince his words. He advocated that if you work hard you only
end up getting old. Not rich, just
old. He gave me his 'Uncle George"
theory. He said probably every one of us
had a relative or at least know someone who worked hard all his life keeping
his nose to the wheel and who only managed to get old. I said, Hey!
Here's one book which dumped all my past lessons and turned them all
into cow pie overnight. Overnight was
how long I took to read that book. I
then took the next few days to digest it.
Luckily it didn't taste like cow pie.

I found out that the Ringer guy was teaching me how to
intimidate my way to the top of the pile, which means going into money-grabbing
ventures and getting away with the dough.
I thought that if everybody were to follow that philosophy then there'd
be a whole lot more of aggression in the world, because everybody would be
trying to out-intimidate everyone else, because nobody would want to lose face,
and least of all, money.

And what he did was, he blew all those success philosophies
to smithereens. Like, working hard, for
example. He managed to convince me that
most of those who became rich were actually embarrassed about how they made
it. So they settled for some standard
formula; something that could sell, other than luck and chance. These philosophies don't sell.

Upon further reading, I decided that I could use those ideas
effectively; I only had to learn how to recognize those trying to intimidate me
into giving them something for nothing.
That means; not working for free, not paying money for nothing or
substandard things or service, and not giving in to demands for my time when it
doesn't benefit me. It also tried to
tell me not to negotiate myself into a corner.
I said 'tried' because it didn't succeed. I didn't manage to use it to earn and receive
any substantial income. I blame it on my
honesty. It (honesty) was too deeply
entrenched in my head by my upbringing in the missionary school where they
indoctrinated me with honesty being the best policy. There you go.
Just how easy in life it is to blame someone or something else.

Later, after all these I decided to follow Michael Korda's
advice that after 40 I could either dance the night away or sleep right through
it. I guess that advice didn't catch
on. I couldn't find any of this advice
printed anywhere in the websites that feature his works. I guess taking things easy seems too cozy for
those under 65 nowadays. Besides, it
doesn't sell either. Anything that
people value nowadays is something they have to pay for. They get them for free; they think it’s too
good to be true.

Now back to those self-help books. What did they really do for me? They helped me feel good in whatever I wanted
to do. I get to pick and choose what I
want to believe and follow. That was all
the good they ever did for me. I did all
the fumbling right through life and came out with all those scratches and
scars. I still thought some of it was
fun. And I'm still proud that I did it
my way. That wasn't my favorite song
either, I just happen to like it because Frank Sinatra did it quite well.

When they asked me if I'd like to Think and Grow Rich, I
asked, "Do I have do that all day?"
I'd like to think about lots of other things as well. Like love, like hobbies, doodling and taking
photos, having fun and spending time with family and watching my kids grow up
and graduate.

While some say, enough is not enough, I'm happy enough. It could be better....but that's life.


  1. Wah... you really read a lot. I don't like reading books because I have a tendency to get lost in another world and forget my chores.

  2. ...not with these kind of books. You have to digest them, a bit at a time. Not all can be done in one sitting.

  3. Quite a lot were assigned to us when I was in school. I read a ton of them. Most of these guys are just pushing their own agenda about how they got successful: money, happiness, love, power etc. In retrospect, I rather thought it was an underhanded move for the university to have impressionable kids read these things. Each book would paint their version of "truth" about the world - but quite simply, it is but one of the many perspectives that exist. The rest is drama, a list of rules, and a lot of horn tooting.

    I can sum up everything in three words and save everyone a ton of money, time and effort.
    Here it is: Follow your passion.

  4. I often wonder about my passion. I'm like the kid with a net out in the field. One moment I'm after butterflies, the next I'm getting bugs, frogs, gnats, worms and a whole load of other things. They're all interesting...