In areas such as mathematical science knowledge is objective and can be imparted onto others with no loss of potential usefulness. Attempting to impart subjective world views, however, does not work as well. There certainly are a number of useful objective personal development techniques and concepts, all of which would probably fit into a single book. What is left are personal perspectives and lenses that have minimal usefulness to most people.
Self-help instructors are quite popular, and some have what seems to be very solid or even profound knowledge to pass on. But even if a self-help instructor is completely genuine in their desire to enrich the lives of others and has a worldview that works extremely well for them, their advice is probably of negligible usefulness at best, and may even be destructive.
There are many reasons why this is; some highlights are:
- Trial and error cannot be circumvented
Just because someone is told the ‘right’ way to do something, doesn’t mean they will do it that way the first time. On many issues it takes trying things for oneself to learn what works and what doesn’t. Not least because contrary views on what path is the correct one are aplenty, and few want to stick to doing things one way based on information they know may be entirely wrong for them. People can hear “don’t do drugs” as many times as the government can shout it, but it won’t stop everyone from testing the validity of that claim.
- There are rarely quick fixes
The knowledge necessary to improve one’s life takes years to accumulate. Reading a single book or going to some courses is not going to make a significant improvement in anyone’s life. Worse yet, self-help almost never gives useful information, so reading 20 self-help books may have zero positive effect, or even a negative one. One’s time would be better spent taking action, or gaining hard knowledge. A diet of fluff self-help is worse than doing nothing.
- Planning isn’t the issue, action is
Most people already know why they are unsatisfied, and what they need to do about it. But following through is easier said than done, so people like to hear what they should be doing…again, and again. It makes them feel like they’ll really take action some day, so they won’t feel so bad about doing nothing. Self-help guides are never ending planning guides, detailing thing after thing that you could do, but won’t. The best self-help book would simply read: “put this book down and do what needs to be done.”
The real solution to their problems may range from studying math in there free time for four years, to taking a strong psychedelic to shatter their stagnant mind. Hearing the pleasant platitudes of self-help helps them live with themselves while still doing nothing to pursue their goals.
The gurus, teachers, and guides
If a mindset, strategy or world view has improved someone’s life, they naturally want to spread this improvement and help others; in their obliviousness they very often do the opposite, and cause problems with their well-meaning. If someone is resistant to their attempts to impart wisdom, the imparter often switches to progressively aggressive tactics, with often destructive results.
Rarely does anyone spread factual knowledge, only tidbits of subjective advice that the individual has learned along their life–their life, indeed. Most of what is useful for one person is useless for most everyone else on the planet. In most cases, those spreading “wisdom” know little more than the people they are trying to help. Most of the education contained in the minds of even highly regarded people is little more than collected opinions; even if they know how to express concepts in a particularly intelligent way, the concepts themselves are no more useful.
Even objective information can be destructive when mindlessly applied. Ex, I come to the profoundly intelligent conclusion that no gods exist (probably) it this universe–I’m aghast to find that the population as a whole refuses to listen to me, so I adopt a progressively aggressive attitude in an attempt to get through the average person’s thick skull. Before I know it, I’m dishing out rage-filled insults and calling my opponents ‘retarded nitwits’. True as this may be, my attacks have ceased to serve any constructive purpose, and I am now wasting energy and time engaging in a pointless battle.
Indeed, by attempting to shatter my opponents’ apparent delusions I am trying to make them stronger, but attempting to do so using such blunt methods is simply causing more harm. I have effectively myself become a retarded nitwit, and a very arrogant one. Yet, how could this be? My information is correct, so how could I be wrong? I’m wrong because I’m trying to teach others using a one size fits all tactic, trying to force information into others’ brains using a sledge hammer.