New York City, NY

You May Be Better Off Consuming Less Self-Help

Jordan Gross

A little story about a big problem.

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We’re always told that we should never talk about people behind their backs. But I always thought, if I’m speaking nicely about them, then why can’t I talk about them? I’d like to introduce you to my buddy Jeri!

A couple of years back, Jeri’s alarm would go off in the morning, and he’d immediately hit snooze. 9 minutes later, he’d hit snooze again. 9 minutes after that, snooze. And finally, 9 minutes after that, he’d realize it was already 8:42, and he had to shave, shower, brush his teeth, and get to the office, all before 9.

He’d hide his face behind his briefcase as he got in a couple of minutes late, and just as he got to his desk ready to let out a sigh of relief, his boss would scream, “Late again Jeri!” He’d come over to him, smackdown some papers, and he’d tell Jeri to get to work. This happened day after day after day.

Jeri was going through the motions, running on the hamster wheel of life, completely unaware of the life he could be living. He was a 23-year old with unlimited potential, amazing resources, and a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in the world. But he had no clue of this at the time. He was prepared to just continue running on that hamster wheel, because that was all he knew.

But, lucky for Jeri, he happened to have a pet hamster. And even luckier, this cute little guy did not like to run on his teeny tiny hamster wheel. The little white and brown furball would hide in shoes in Jeri’s closet, he’d sneak in between his pillows, he’d scurry around on his desk, he’d basically go everywhere in Jeri’s room except for on his teeny tiny hamster wheel.

One day when Jeri got home from his normal job at the same normal hour as always, he went into his normal room, plopped himself on his bed, and looked around for his not so normal little hamster. But to his surprise, his hamster was not in the closet, and he was not between his pillows and he was not on his desk. Today, Jeri’s hamster had somehow made his way onto Jeri’s bookshelf, and he was stuck in between the front cover and the first page of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. How wonderfully convenient. Jeri got the book as a gift from an internship a few years back, but he never read it. Over the next 3 hours, Jeri read every single word. He was glued to the advice, reinvigorated by the positivity and meaning the book brought to his life.

For the next few months, instead of waking up and hitting snooze, Jeri would approach the day with excitement and energy. He’d read more self-help books, listen to podcasts, and read article after article about how to live a more meaningful life.

But fast forward 2 years, and Jeri started having the same sort of existential crisis he did when he was younger. But why? How? He read all the self-help he could get his hands on. He knew exactly what the experts said he should be doing.

So, Jeri would lay in his bed and think: WHY IS SELF-HELP NOT HELPING ME?!?!

A Whiplash of Perspectives

On Monday Jeri would learn the power of being patient from his favorite podcast host, but on Tuesday he’d hear the same host talk about not waiting to follow your dreams. On Wednesday, his thoughts were so jumbled, he felt like he knew absolutely nothing, which in turn made him do absolutely nothing.

On Thursday he learned the importance of finding your “why”, but on Friday, he learned that your why could only be found through random life events you could not control, so on Saturday, he wondered why he ever tried to find his it in the first place!

On Sunday he was told to outwork everyone else, but on Monday he learned not to compare his work to others. On Tuesday, he was so confused, he did no work at all.

Not all the advice was directed toward Jeri, but he didn’t realize that. He was so conflicted, there were so many thoughts coming at him from all different directions, that all he wanted to do, was crawl back into bed, and hit the snooze button! He was going down a rabbit hole of personal development doom!

But Jeri did not have a pet rabbit. He had a cute little hamster. And one morning when Jeri was just about to hit snooze for 9 more minutes, he noticed his furry friend was not in his cage and he was not in his closet, and he was not in his pillows, and he was not on his desk. Jeri’s hamster had again made the miraculous journey onto his bookshelf. Jeri grabbed his pal and noticed the book he was casually lounging on top of. What do ya know, it was Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist: A Magical Fable About Following Your Dreams. He meant to read it a little while ago, but it didn’t really fit in with all these expert research-backed approaches he was so used to.

For the next few hours, Jeri read, and he read, and he read some more! This book opened up a new world for him and he was able to use his “imagitivetation” to become an active participant in that new world.

And yes, you did hear me correctly. His “imagitivetation.”

Imagitivetation = Imagination + Creativity + Interpretation + Implementation

Jeri knew the story wasn’t real, but he was able to feel the advice being shared in the book. And just like that, he had a new way of living. A new type of book to read. A new appreciation, for stories, parables, and allegories.

This is how we maintain our growth. This is how we do not get stuck in the personal development rabbit hole. This is how we overcome information overload, contradictory opinions, and advice that may not necessarily be directed toward the kind of person we truly are.

Consuming to Learn

When Jeri read books like The 5AM Club, The Way of The Peaceful Warrior, The Go-Giver, any Mitch Albom book or The Journey to Cloud Nine, he discovered things about himself he was never able to see when he robotically consumed traditional self-help and just expected it to work wonders.

He even had the chance to talk to some of these authors and storytellers like Bob Burg, John David Mann, Dan Millman, Jon Gordon, Josh Kaufman, and he realized 4 key ingredients that set parables and allegories apart from the rest of the personal development world.

First, it’s about the journey, not just the destination — by following an entertaining story, readers are more focused and present throughout, making them more likely to have realizations about their own lives.

Second, there is a stronger emotional appeal and connection, the reader is able to feel the advice, not just be told it, making them more inclined to want to feel or not feel how the characters do in the book.

Next, stories reduce stress and self-help books can certainly be stressful! They’re sort of saying that if we do not follow their advice, we will not succeed. By discovering the advice for ourselves however in a fictional piece, we take that stress off and it makes things less serious.

And finally, we are encouraged to use our imagitivetation.

So, after reading The Alchemist, Jeri used his imagitivetation to plan out the life of his dreams.

He imagined a world in which he gets to impact millions of lives. He creatively worked backwards realizing he’d need to give talks, go on podcasts, and write books in order to make such an impact.

He interpreted why he wanted to do this because ever since he was a little kid, he had a soft spot for the human condition, and he’s been trying to make somebody else’s day just a little bit brighter every day since. And last but not least, he is currently in the midst of implementing his plan, as he sits here, writing this article for you.

You got me. I may be Jeri, but this story is not totally true. I do not have a magical little hamster with extraordinary taste in literature, and to be quite honest, in my tiny apartment in New York City, I don’t even have enough space for a bookshelf, my books are just kinda piled up on top of my nightstand. But I was living a life in which I was going through the motions, not living up to my full potential. I hopped off life’s hamster wheel when I discovered self-help, I hopped back on when there were too many people telling me too many ways to live my life, and I hopped off again when I started making my own revelations by reading parables and allegories.

Like I said, this story was not totally true, but I told it in this way for a very particular reason:

So that you would enjoy the journey of this talk, not just the destination, much like I want you to do with your life.

So that you would make an emotional connection to the characters.

So that it would reduce some stress and remind you not to take yourselves or everything so seriously.

And I told it in this way because I wanted to use a bit of my own imagitivetation and get you to start using yours as well.

When you go home today and begin to envision the life of your dreams, please do not think about me or the magical little hamster I do not have. But rather, think about Jeri;

The Journey;

The Emotional Appeal;

The Reduced Stress;

The Imagitivetation.

The next time you feel stuck or you feel like self-help is not helping, think about my buddy JERI, and his cute little hamster who never wanted to run on his teeny tiny hamster wheel.

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Reimagining Personal Development

New York, NY
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