Posts Tagged ‘book review’



By @anarchyroll

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.


by @anarchyroll

Robert Green is never afraid to tackle the subjects that are so big and ubiquitous that they are more often worried about than talked about.

Mastery like The 48 Laws of Power that came before it, can fall under the category of practical life instruction manual. If you want to know how to get from where you are to where you want to be, in regards to what you dedicate your life to.

Using mini biographies of multiple historical figures from hundreds of years ago, to a hundred years ago, to modern-day masters of their craft(s), Greene uses his storytelling ability to show how anyone can be the next Albert Einstein or Freddie Roach.

The beauty of the book is the same place where the devil is, in the details. The book does it’s part to kill the concept of the magic pill (the mythical thing that will shortcut us to where we want to be without any of the hard work or sacrifice).

Although natural gives, talent, charisma, etc is acknowledged it takes a distant backseat to the hard work, time, and sacrifice each figure of study committed to becoming the legends they are known as. The book teaches many lessons of life that should be mandatory in public schools, especially for adolescents. But, there are more than the lions share of adults living their life in a waking daze, who would benefit immensely from reading this book.

Applying sweat equity to natural gifts and desire is the way to success. Patience, perseverance, and personal boundaries must be exercised along the way. Learning from those who came before you, as well as those who are considered better than you by your peers is a valuable resource, as long as you use the knowledge to improve yourself, and evolve that which you wish to do with your life. There are no shortcuts, but you must seize opportunities of fortune that come your way and maximize the potential of the moment to maximize your personal potential.

Mastery like all of Greene’s work is not a quick or easy read, which is appropriate. Because to attain knowledge and mastery (no pun intended) of the subjects he writes about, quickness and easiness have no place near attaining the information Greene writes about and shares with the world.

No matter what your passion in life is, reading Mastery will help you become better at it. The information in the book is principle based as opposed to tactic/technique based. Consuming then applying the information in this book can help make you not just a better worker or a better person, but can bring you vastly closer to being your best self, and not just doing what you want with your life, but it can lead you down the path of being the best at it.

I recommend reading Mastery or in my case, listening to the audio book, wholeheartedly because it is everything that is right about the personal development/self-help movement, mindset, and book genre.


by @anarchyroll

Personal development and self-help books by their nature tend to be happy, optimistic, and positive. If people wanted something to make them feel bad, scared, or hopeless they could simply turn on local evening news.

I have personally read/listened to around 200 non fiction books/audio books with more than half being personal development books. Many of them have overlapping principles, paradigms, tactics, advice, themes, and tones. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is by far the most unique personal development book I have ever read. If personal development books are pop music, then The 48 Laws of Power is Nirvana and Robert Greene is Kurt Cobain.

A summary of the 48 Laws can be found here.

Looking over just the first few laws, you’ll notice a striking difference between the advice offered and the content of books by the likes of Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and Stephen Covey. I would say that it is the opposite which is a good thing. Variety is the spice of life. Human beings, especially those living in urban environments, need to be aware of the concepts that The 48 Laws of Power presents.

Positive thinking is important. Treating other people the way you want to be treated is worthy of being called the golden rule. Honesty is the best policy.

Over reliance on rah-rah self-help material can lead to naïvety. It did for me. We must know how the world, outside of our circle of influence, operates. We must see the best in people but also be aware of and prepared for dealing with the worst in and worst kind of people. The 48 Laws of Power will prepare its reader for the types of people, situations, and aspects of life we wish didn’t exist and choose not to acknowledge, but are there, and affecting our lives nonetheless.

As someone who actively studies/reads up on politics, economics, and environmental news, I see those in power utilizing concepts in The 48 Laws of Power in order to get what they want at the expense of those beneath them on the social, political, and economics pyramids of society. One need not put anything from The 48 Laws of Power into practice, but all the concepts are important to be aware of.

Awareness is one of the key concepts of personal development and self-help. Often, personal development books for all the right reasons, want us to be hyper aware of the positive, the light, and beauty of life. Those are all good things to be aware of, happy, and grateful for in every present moment of every day of one’s life. At the same time, on the opposite end of the spectrum, we must also be aware of the negative, darkness, and ugliness of the world we live in. Maybe keep the awareness of the latter towards the back of your mind, with awareness of the good things at the forefront.

Naivety is the fuel for manipulation. I recommend every adult human being read The 48 Laws of Power because it will make you less naïve and less prone to being manipulated. In a world of Ponzi schemes and political scandals, con artists and corruption, wolves and takers; one need not become a bitter, distrusting, paranoid, zealot simply by reading a book about methods of manipulation used by those in power to maintain and expand it. But awareness of the principles to balance with the power of positive thinking can help a person become more well-rounded and more capable of navigating the outside world that is full of things outside of their ability to control or influence. That is at the heart of what personal development literature is all about and that is why The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is a personal development book, just an alt rock version.


by @anarchyroll

Making good decisions is a basic part of life, but certainly not an easy one. If everyone made the decisions that are best for them consistently, well the world would certainly be a different place.  Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath seeks to help people make better decisions in life and business.  It is a personal development book based upon science rather than spirituality. I recommend Decisive, for the same reason I recommend Willpower and The Power of Habit.  All three are personal development/ self help books for people who don’t like self help books.  All three are based completely on empirical, peer reviewed, scientific research and kill the idea that self help books are new age, rah rah, think positive and you’ll become rich that has stigmatized the genre since the 1980s.

The key concept in Decisive is the W.R.A.P Method which stands for;

  1. Widen your options
  2. Reality test your assumptions
  3. Attain some distance
  4. Prepare to be wrong

The other concepts of the book that are very useful are confirmation bias, pre mortem, trip wires, and loss aversion. Each of which can go a long way to helping a person think more independently, separated from pride one’s pride, ego, and personal bias.

The book encourages a person to always look for at least one alternative to their original idea. In a business setting, the following three questions are encouraged to be asked;

  1. What would I tell my best friend to do?
  2. If I got fired, what would my successor do?
  3. What would have to be true for each option to be right?

As with every book, the devil is in the details. The seven things I have listed above alone can provide a baseline of help. Though the credibility as to why they are helpful are explained in detail by citing research and studies over the course of many years.

This book will help you. The processes the book gives can be plugged into the space between stimulus and response to help any person utilize the space after the stimulus, in order to produce a response of dignity, maturity, and with the end in mind.

Definitely recommended for the anti personal development person we all know. Or anyone who can admit to themselves that we all need help making better decisions in our personal and professional lives.


by @anarchyroll

Very few things have happened to me that I consider genuinely life changing. Listening to the audio book for A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle is one of them.

There was immediate change as well in terms of how I viewed my own life, as well as the lives of others. That wore off after a few months, but the seeds for long lasting permanent change had been planted.  Present moment awareness, resistance as an emotion, the ego, reading the sign posts of the universe, letting go, and mental noise are concepts taught in this book that I am eternally grateful and better for learning.

I know I would be lost without this book. It is no magic pill, because there is no such thing. It did fill in huge pieces of the puzzle of life for me.  This book brought me to year zero in terms of being who I wanted to be and living the life I wanted to live. This book is the salt of the Earth. This book allowed me to feel calm, ready, and willing to accept I had to tear it down and start from scratch.

How I came by this book? It was thanks to The Game by Neil Strauss.  The villain of that nonfiction book is a man named Owen Cook, who was going by Tyler Durden at that time (yes named after Fight Club Tyler Durden.) When Owen’s life came crashing down around him after The Game came out and painted him in a very negative light, and the negative financial repercussions that came with it, he started getting into spirituality.  A New Earth turned his life around and his most successful piece of self help material he personally created The Blueprint Decoded was built on a foundation of the concepts in A New Earth.

A vast majority of the Blueprint stuff was deep level stuff.  Well below the surface layer of pick up lines and traditional social dynamics material.  An audience member at the four day seminar where Blueprint was recorded talked about changing his college major after reading A New Earth. I was in college at the time and figured I would check it out.  Wow am I glad I did. My major didn’t change.  But the way I perceived basically everything that happened to me did.  How I looked at other human beings changed. How I looked at the world changed.  How I looked at concepts like coincidence, serendipity, chance, luck, reaction, interpretation, breathing, the thought process all changed forever.

In the future I will detail those changes more specifically.  The greatest gifts were a gift of calmness both in the face of adversity and good times.  An awareness of where my thoughts come from.  Better clarity on the human condition.  The struggle of the ego versus the soul that is waged inside of all of us, all day, every day.  A New Earth started the remodel by tearing it all down including knowing a new foundation had to be engineered.  The Game by Neil Strauss gave me the idea change was needed.  The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey was what would serve as the new foundation. More to come on those next time.

ssrlogo2by @anarchyroll








Which came first habits or willpower? I suppose since everything we think, believe, and do is a habit…I’m going with habits for now.

I recently listened to the audiobooks for both titles pictured above and recommend them as passionately as I can possibly recommend a physical object to another human being. These are two books based not on rah rah, psych up, self help,  new age methods that some people (not me) would classify as BS or useless. Both of these books are based completely upon scientific, peer reviewed research spanning decades. The results are fascinating, almost as much as it is empowering.

The material covered answered a lot of questions I had about myself and about the human experience. Namely why we do what we do. Both books provided clarity and in the case of The Power of Habit specific answers. Have you heard the phrase, “everything we do is a muscle”? Substitute muscle for habit and you have the basis for the book. I will have much more to write about both of these books and their practical applications in my own life in the future because both have given me practical help right away and have sewn the seeds for long term change.

The two things I found most fascinating and immediately help are the “everything is a habit” paradigm and the scientific fact that willpower is limited and directly tied to glucose levels in the bloodstream.

Both these books provided great deals of hope for me that I can change, I can always change for the better AND for the worse. It really cemented why discipline and consistency is so important in life. It made me realize how unexceptional I am for the better. That I have unique talents, but without consistent dedication to cultivating the uniqueness on a habitual basis, then I am just another faceless, talentless, unexceptional grunt of a human being on an over populated planet. The books helped tie together a lot of the unscientific self help material I have been reading for the past few years. A cherry on top in a way. Both helped put my maturation into manhood and adulthood on fast forward, after years of being stuck in either reverse or slow motion, and for that I am happy and grateful to the authors, and recommend both titles to you.