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Why Reading More Self Help Books Won't Help

by Kevin Ngo

I'm probably going to get some negative comments for writing this post but one, I can't please everyone anyway so no point in trying, and two, the truth hurts but sometimes it must be said. So here I go.

Over the past 12 years, I've read hundreds of self help type of books from goal setting to creating wealth to being happy to NLP to visualizations and a bunch of other topics with the one goal of finding the key to success. I read all of those books believing that it will help me to get all of the things I've ever wanted in my life.

I am an owner of I don't know how many books, a huge box full of personal development CDs and audio tapes (I don't even have a cassette player anymore), and a few items that I got from attending various seminars. All of these things combined, cost thousands and thousands of dollars. For the amount of money and time I invested in these things, did I get closer to being successful?

In all honesty, in terms of my definition success, the answer is no.

As someone who grew up with parents living on welfare for the first decade or so of my life, money was always something that we lacked and because of it, my definition of success became being financially independent. So by my definition, all of the money and time I invested in learning these "secrets of success" didn't really help much. If anything, it brought me further away.

I've read stories that talked about how some people have this addiction to self help. They crave more and more information. They spend thousands and thousands of dollars attending ridiculously expensive seminars all in hopes of one day becoming successful. Many of these people go into debt because of it, thinking that it's an investment in their future so it's okay. Is it any wonder why self help is a multi-billion dollar industry?

We've all been told by countless self help gurus to read more books and attend seminars. I remember Jim Rohn, bless his soul, saying, "Skip a meal, but don't skip a good book." Tony Robbins often mentions attending his pricey seminars is way more valuable than reading his books. Many of these gurus keep coming out with more and more books as if the keys to success keep changing or something.

What I Got Out of My Search of the Keys to Success

All of those years of reading self help material wasn't all a waste though. It changed my mindset. It changed the way I looked at life, myself, and what my purpose was. It helped turn me into a much happier person simply because happiness is created within. I'm able to deal with stress a lot more easily. In fact, I hardly get stressed. It helped me become a very patient person, most of the time anyway. Even though I'm nowhere near where I want to be, I have high hopes that I'll eventually get there.

As you can see, there is a lot of value, at least in changing yourself internally from reading self improvement books. And yet, I still felt that the time and money invested compared to my ROI just wasn't matching up since my definition of success has to do so much with having more money.

I know money isn't everything but listen, it gives you options. I don't care about fancy cars and brand name clothing or any of those things. What I do care about is exposing myself to new experiences. I care about having enough free time to spend with my friends and family. I don't have kids yet but when I do, I care about my ability to be there for them instead of having to work all of the time. I figure if money is one of the main causes of stress and problems in people's lives, then it would be wise to just get the money aspect of my life handled once and for all.

My Slow Realization

I don't know why it took me so long to realize something so simple but more knowledge is just a waste of time. Reading more books isn't going to change my life. Investing hundreds or thousands of dollars to listen to some guru isn't going to change my life. NO ONE can change my life for me.

I finally figured out the secret of success: There aren't any secrets.

Anyone who has experienced deserved success in any aspect of their life did it by taking action, lots and lots of action. You want to know why those motivational gurus make so much money? It's because they're out there every day selling their products and creating value, at least perceived value, to the marketplace.

You want to know why people who are fit have the kind of body that they do? It's because they've been busting their ass at the gym nearly every day for years. Do you want to know why some people have great relationships with their friends, spouse, and kids? It's because they work on and nurture those relationships constantly.

I've realized that to be successful at anything, it just comes down to being relentless with putting in the work. No book or seminar or guru or life coach or website can change your life for you folks. Only you can. It's in the moment that you decide to stop making excuses and just go out and do what needs to be done that your life will change.

I think most of us have had thoughts of becoming a millionaire. I certainly have. But I realized that my real goal isn't to have tons of money, it's to have time freedom. I guess having the experience of seeing my mom traveling to other states to work for months at a time just to help put food on the table made me realize how the need for money can dictate so much of one's life. This is one of the reasons why having time freedom is so important to me so creating an income that doesn't require on going time commitment become my new goal.

My Success Progress

I'm happy to say that I'm closer to my definition of success now than I've ever been before and guess how many self help books I've completed over the past year? None.

I realize now that success just comes down to knowing what you want and taking massive action while noticing what's working and not working along the way and adjusting your strategy if necessary.

Don't get me wrong, I still see value in reading self help books but I no longer have the urge to finish books anymore let alone read dozens of them each year. These days, I only read books if I'm looking for something specific and the second I pick up an idea I can apply, I put the book down and take action. I may never come back to the book again but who cares? My life will change as a result of my actions, not whether or not I finish a book from cover to cover.

Final Thoughts

If you've been reading tons and tons of books and attending seminars and have found that you're still not that much closer to your personal definition of success, then you need to re-evaluate how you're spending your time. Merely obtaining more knowledge is a waste of time until you apply what you've learned. Invest more of your time and energy into doing rather than studying. The person who just reads tons and tons of books on how to start a business will never be as successful as the person who just goes out and starts a business and learns from real life experience.

Now I realize that there are some holes in my argument. If I never read any of those books, my mindset wouldn't have changed for the better. Heck, this site wouldn't even exist because I wouldn't know what to write about. My life is most likely better off for reading those books than not reading them.

However, I believe that too much information can be a huge waste of time.

Let's get real here. Did I really need to read THAT many books, hundreds, and listen to thousands of hours of audio programs to figure out how to be successful? Of course not! What I needed was never more information. What I needed was to just stop making excuses as to why I can't take action yet and just freakin' take action. Some people can take action but still fail. True, but they fail because they either took the wrong actions or underestimated how much work was needed to achieve their goal. Most of the time, it's the latter.

I've come to realize that by just going out and taking action, you will learn a lot more than you can from reading any self help book. Pick up a few books and read them to get the basic foundation of success. You can find some recommendations on my books page. But from there, it's all up to you to put in the work.

Don't get me wrong. There is definitely value in reading these books and even attending seminars but if you've been doing all of those things and your life still hasn't drastically changed for the better, then it's time to focus more on taking action rather than absorbing more knowledge.

From someone who's read hundreds of self help books, listened to thousands of hours of audio programs, done the visualizations, done the weird mantras and chants, and attended a few pricey seminars, taking action day in, day out, without fail is what it REALLY takes to be successful, not spending more of your hard earned money to make some self help guru even richer.

"The person who reads too much and uses his brain too little will fall into lazy habits of thinking." - Albert Einstein

I'd love to read your thoughts and comments on this.

Until next time...

Love Life. Do Good. Live Well.

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