Personal development and self-help are prime examples of noble causes with righteous intentions, hijacked by hacks and exploited for profit by wannabe writers and book publishing pigs. The gap between the advice of personal development material and its audience taking action is where mindless, repetitive, reused content has been plugged in for profit, for decades rather than an evolution of the genre for the betterment of the populace.
Tony Robbins seems like he wants to help the little guy, then you look at what it costs to attend his seminars and cynicism sets in quicker than you can say to yourself, I can’t afford that! I own written and audio copies of Stephen Covey books, yet no one I have ever lent them to has ever been able to implement his advice. Seth Godin attributes much of his success to Zig Ziglar, but for every Seth there are thousands upon thousands of people who bought those books on tape and got NOTHING out of them beyond something to listen to on the car ride to work.
I have listened to dozens of personal development audio books and read paper and electronic copies of even more. The vast majority of the material is presented in equal parts dense and abstract manner with ZERO emphasis on tangible application.
Tangible application is what the personal development genre of podcasts has been founded on over the past few years. Tim Ferriss is the unquestioned leader of the how to turn knowledge into application movement. His books have sold millions, and he is the unquestioned, undisputed king of podcasts as of press time. It came as little surprise to me that Tim Ferriss helped mentor Ryan Holiday into the literary and personal development powerhouse he is quickly becoming.
I read both The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy in record time for my standards. Both books have been revised, produced, and presented in a way that is a model for personal development books to follow going forward. Easily digestible, not overwhelming, not abstract, and ALL directed towards turning the knowledge into application for the average person.
Based in stoicism, the usual amounts of inspiration quotes and past stories are given. But what Holiday proves his worth at is bringing all his concepts from thousands of years ago, to hundreds, to the present day. From camels, to horseback, to Uber. From scribes, to letters, to the iPad.
So much personal development material is based upon the concept of thoughts and general information OR is merely a tool to get people to pay money for coaching and seminars. Those are why self-help and personal development is laughable to many and considered snake oil to many others. Holiday’s material is about action. What to do, how to do it, when to do it, where to do it, why to do it. Examples of historic figures are used but Holiday repeatedly emphasizes the importance of the readers’ duty to define what IT means to them.
Guiding people through their personal internal and external limits is no easy work. In his books The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy Ryan Holiday does an exceptional job at leading his readers to water on how to conquer both. Both books are easy, quick reads without sacrificing depth or breadth of credible, applicable information. I can’t recommend these enough and the earlier in life one is able to read these books the better. Knowledge like this will certainly help the populace more than algebra and frog dissection.