Generic Self Help Advice: One Man’s Meat is another Man’s Poison

April 29, 2021

Generic self help advice is full of polar opposites:

  • Get up at 5am.  Sleep 8 hours a night.  Sleep when you're dead
  • Don't quit.  Know when to quit.  Fail quickly
  • Eat vegetarian.  Eat only meat.  Only mix protein and fats.  Don't eat carbs
  • Just get started.  Finish one thing before you start something new.
  • Ship fast. Fail quickly.  Go above and beyond.  Only release awesome stuff.

With all this contradicting advice, you could be forgiven for thinking that this industry is just full of hot air. Everyone's contradicting everyone else.  Nobody knows what they're talking about.  It's a waste of time.

I think that's the wrong conclusion to arrive at, though.

Someone who procrastinates for months on a project needs to hear "just get started".  The next person, or even the same person at a different point in their life, who starts a new project every other week but never finishes any of them needs to hear "focus and see things through to the end".

These pieces of advice are polar opposites, but can be equally useful and good advice to the right people at the right time.  In fact they can be lifechanging bits of advice.  They can also be equally damaging to the wrong people at the wrong time.  

When it comes to self development, context really matters.  One man's meat is another man's poison.

Blindly following generic self development advice can be dangerous.  If the wrong message resonates with you, you might head down completely the wrong path.

That's why the first step is always introspection and awareness.  

We must pay attention to our shortcomings in an objective, rational and non emotional way and the best way I've found of doing this is by problem first resolution.   We can take the time and pay attention to areas in our lives that aren't working well, and set about working through them deliberately and systematically.  

There exists a proper term for this approach, but I call it deliberate reading:

Deliberate reading involves some very simple steps:-

  • Identify an area in your life that you want to improve
  • Find the best, most highly rated books about these topics.  Also look for videos and courses.
  • Study and take notes on them over a period of a few months
  • Deliberately and consciously work through the actions points
  • Achieve a result before moving onto the next thing

It's a simple system.  Nothing groundbreaking.  But it's a problem solving mindset that's really effective.  I've applied this to my life personally with great effect, but also in business where the inherent complexities involved make it arguably even more effective.

Just like all other self development advice, this won't work for everyone.  It's mainly for those that are a bit scattered and have dabbled in self development but feel like they never really gotten anything out of it.  

If this sounds like you, then give deliberate reading a try, and let me know how you get on in the comments.

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