Self Help

12 Mar

What the mind of man can conceive and believe, It can achieve.
~Napoleon Hill

I can’t remember when I first started reading self-help books but I am pretty sure I was in junior high.

I remember checking a book out of the school library called ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty: Pat Talks to Teenagers.

The Pat in the title was Pat Boone. Apparently this book of advice for young people had been a bestseller in the 1950’s and was still on the shelves of Landon Jr. High school circa 1971 when I came upon it.  I know the book offered insights into dating (how to talk to girls, etc,) and hygiene but beyond that I have no recollection of the wisdom Pat may have been trying to impart.

For all I know, that book jacked me up real bad and I have Pat Boone to blame.

Now that I think about it, I do know that  in recent years Pat wrote an article for an online conservative website in which he compared gay rights protesters to terrorists, referring to gay rights supporters as “sexual jihadists.”

So, maybe it was Pat Boone’s advice about how to talk to girls that made me gay.

Let’s say it was.

Thanks, Pat!

So after Pat Boone made me gay, I found Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People on a bookshelf in the home of my aunt and uncle. It was the summer before I started high school.

When I look at that book today, I realize that much of the advice is self-evident–for example, if you want to win people to your way of thinking you should “begin in a friendly way”.

Well, duh!

But to a 14 year old, freshly gay from having read the writings of Pat Boone but not otherwise particularly worldly, Mr. Carnegie’s words of wisdom were pure gold. I must have taken that book to heart because I recognize that I am still following many of Mr. Carnegie’s pearls of wisdom to this very day.

For example, Dale told me: “Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly” and “Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers”. I do lots of things like that all the time. Kind of passive aggressive, but it works.

So, it would seem, apparently Dale Carnegie made me passive aggressive.

Good to know.

And, as you may recall, Pat Boone made me gay, or as Pat prefers, a “sexual jihadist.”

After these two books both inspired me and (apparently) scarred me for life, I was hooked on the notion that self help books were valuable life tools and the secret of prosperity and happiness was always just one self help read away.

So, I have been reading self help book ever since.

Waiting, you know,  for the prosperity and happiness to kick in…

How to Be Your Own Best Friend, Your Erroneous Zones, I Ain’t Much Baby But I’m All I’ve Got, and Born to Win–these were just a few of the titles I devoured in my youth. From these books  I learned, well, I don’t really remember now, but I am sure they were helpful.

It occurs to me that it was during that  same era of my life that I also read a book called A Child’s Garden of Grass. That book wasn’t a self help book so much as a guide book to, um, marijuana.

I don’t fully recall, but it is possible that I may have possibly followed much some of the advice contained therein and that might account for my foggy memory… One really can’t say…

So, to recap thus far–Self Help books made me gay, passive aggressive and other stuff I forget because of that one guide book that might have made me a stoner forgetful.

Despite a deep streak of cynicism, bordering on nihilism, I am at heart an optimist. (Insert smiley face here!!!)

Maybe a cynical, nihilistic optimist, but an optimist just the same. (Sort of like an emo, more world weary Pollyanna.)  As a result, I have continued to peruse self help books regularly over the years.

In the 80’s I was into Louise Hay. In the 90’s I became an acolyte of Marianne Williamson,  Gerald Jampolsky, and Dr. Wayne Dyer. In fact, I still read their stuff.

I have dabbled in Anthony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Shakti Gawain, Kenneth Blanchard, and even Zig Ziglar, (I saw Zig Ziglar speak not too many years ago and would you believe Zig was still using an overhead projector to do his presentations? Someone get that man a book on Powerpoint, please!)–and those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

I don’t want you to think I am some sort of crazy, hopeless case. Despite reading Anthony Robbins’ Unlimited Power, I do have my limits. For example–NO Dr. Phil ever!

Although I have read (though not necessarily absorbed) a lot of books which are intended to make me a more successful person, I am still unclear what this thing called “success” really is.

So, I keep reading…

But then sometimes,  I have (for lack of a better term) a perfect moment. “Life doesn’t get any better than this,” I think to myself.  Those moments, like all moments, are ephemeral, but I try to simply savor them, rather than waste time mourning the fact that I know the moment will pass all too soon.

You don’t need a book for that. You just need to remember to pay attention.

Then there are the words of one of America’s great sages, Ralph Waldo  Emerson:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Ralph so had it going on and he hadn’t even heard of Wayne Dyer or Anthony Robbins.

It is conceivable to me that if we read and take to heart that lovely paragraph from Mr. Emerson, we can learn volumes.

It makes my inner emo Pollyanna smile, put down the self help tome… and ponder.

P.S. Did I mention that Pat Boone totally made me gay?

4 Responses to “Self Help”

  1. Margery March 12, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    You TOTALLY need to read “Lost in the Cosmos” by Walker Percy. It’s subtitle is (The Last Self-Help Book You Will Ever Need). Rocked my world 🙂 (this is ‘Teach by the way)

  2. Deb March 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

    First let me tell you that I love your background. Second I think that RWE really had social networking figured out a long time ago, ie. “redeemed social condition”, I think his advice kept a lot of us tuned in and turned on long before Wayne Dyer and Anthony Robbins figured out how to make money doing it!
    I have to seriously LOL–Pat Boone and his white kid bucks, he was so worried about his homophobia his only real salvation was talking about it so that the rest of us could explore it–our sexuality that is!

  3. That Weather Girl March 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    I check out self-help books from the library every now and then. They sit on the table waiting while read other books. Hmmm. Maybe that is why I don’t find them very helpful.

  4. Mike March 13, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    I loved this and how true. My own shelves are filled with sage advise from many of the authors you mention. My own first self-help book was “PsychoCybernetics” – the precursor to positive thinking.

    After reading Mr. Emerson’s quote – I just might have that framed and toss the books.

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