Shelf Help Books

201609-word-lexiconHow many ‘self-help’ books do you own? I must have read several dozen about goals and success over the years. Now only a trusted handful remain in my possession. And there they sit on physical or digital shelves, awaiting their owner’s command.

A command that seldom comes.

Haha! I jest, but just a little.

Now and again I do pick up an old faithful and see what still holds true. What cracks me up is how little of the details I remember. That’s because I suspect much of what passes for ‘success literature’ are hacks (i.e. interpretations) of a perennial wisdom that’s been around for millennia.

In my book (Just Five Rules) there is an exercise that can save you a lot of money. (You can find it on page 14 of the paperback version.) Instead of buying yet another ‘success guru’s’ secret formula for wealth, health and love, think about your #1 personal development book. If you don’t have one, then any book, fiction or non-fiction, that carries a message about what makes for a life well-lived, will do.

OK. Got one in mind? Now write down a sentence or two about that book. For example, what is its core message? How is the reader supposed to apply the knowledge within? What changed for the key character(s)?

If you can write about this favorite book without much hesitation and succinctly sum up what it meant to you, and how you applied some or all of it in your life, than you have a winner.

If not, then it might be a dud. Or maybe you haven’t spent enough time and effort on reading and then using its lessons in your situation.

I think this act of empowerment is the key difference between a self-help and a shelf-help book.
The latter is a good read but the reader’s circumstances change very little. Its primary role is one of adorning a shelf.
The former empowers readers to start doing something about their life/career situations. Often this involves taking a series of actions but can be as simple as changing a belief about what’s possible.

The book I referenced on page 14 of my own was the late Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s, “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.” Have you read it? Then write down his 7 habits without looking them up. For bonus points, put those 7 habits in the order given in his book.

And that degree of installed wisdom is the difference between a self-help and a shelf-help book.

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