Help yourself

Most of us would like organise our lives so we can perform at something a little closer to our full potential. That’s an impulse tha what may broadly be termed the literature of self-help.

Many people regard Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, 1936, as the volume that kicked the whole self-help phenomenon off.

The phrase Self-Help, however, had already been coined and popularised some eight decades previously by Samuel Smiles with his book of that name published in 1859.

Those of a more radical bent might even care to trace the origins of self-help literature back as far as Hesiod’s Works and Days written way back in around 700 BC.

Be that as it may, self-help titles of greater or lesser worth have proliferated most prodigiously since the middle years of the last century and have continued reproducing and cross-fertilising with unfailing fecundity right up to the present day.

Most of us will at some point or other have directed our attention towards some example of this massive canon. If so, you may have noticed that for every pearl of practical wisdom these volumes may yield, their perusal generally entails a huge amount of leafing through platitudes.

Many of these books have valid and useful things to say; but few of them hurry to say them. Largely, one suspects, because a paperback must achieve a certain minimum thickness to persuade even the most time-starved of purchasers to lay their money down.

The Kindle era, whilst theoretically fudging the issue of heft, as yet shows scant signs of encouraging brevity or succinctness of expression.

Is reading a self-help book a good use of your time, then? That’s for you to judge, but given that most of us have precious little of that commodity to spare these days, it’s certainly a moot point.

If you’re tempted to delve deeper into self-help, but reluctant to squander your time: fear not! Help is at hand. Popularist non-fiction author Tom Butler-Bowdon appears to have devoted his life to consuming and most felicitously summarising the works of this world’s leading exponents of arts of self-help, psychology, prosperity, success and the like.

The primary output of this formidable digester’s labours is a series of books called things like 50 SELF-HELP CLASSICS, 50 PSYCHOLOGY CLASSICS and the like.

All of these are extremely pithy, plain and to the point. All models of lucid encapsulation. So thorough is his work that you will feel (not always incorrectly) that his summary has told you all you need to know about the writing of one or other of the self-help gurus he knocks deftly into a cocked nut shell, thereby sparing you the trouble of wading through the original works.

Searchlight recommends you consult one or more of Mr B-B’s works forthwith. Or better still (Come on, you surely knew something like this was coming!)… attend one of our extremely popular and effective workshops on business skills and personal development, which involve no reading whatsoever – and quite possibly some light refreshments!


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