What The Greatest Self-Help Books Of The Last Decade

What The Greatest Self-Help Books Of The Last Decade

What The Greatest Self-Help Books Of The Last Decades Can Teach You In 7 Minutes

by Kathy Caprino, forbes.com

March 21

As a writer, I’m fortunate to connect with authors and experts all over the globe who have vitally important messages to share. While each of these experts sees the world in his or her own very unique way, and shares a special filter or perspective on life, progress and success, when you peel the onion on these messages, there are many recurring themes and threads.

Interested in seeing how these strands of concepts are threaded together over many different books from different times, I was excited to connect with Sebastian Klein, co-founder of Blinkist, a Berlin-based startup that feeds curious minds key insights from non-fiction books that have made a mark. As Blinkist’s Editor-in-Chief, Sebastian specializes in distilling complex concepts from great books into memorable, easily accessible language.

I asked Sebastian this key question: What are you seeing as the key common threads between all the great personal development non-fiction that Blinkist has covered from the past decades?

Here’s Sebastian’s take:

“There are thousands of books out there brimming with ways to radically improve your life. Look a little closer, though, and you’ll find that while each author may take a different approach, the advice they’re giving isn’t as different as you might think.

At Blinkist, we distill the key insights from outstanding nonfiction books and put them into a format that lets people learn more in less time. In our journey through the last decades’ most popular self-help books, we noticed certain similarities emerge and thought, hey, why not condense them and see what we get? The result of that experiment is the following 7 pieces of advice given to everyone striving to lead a more productive, happier life.

1. The big picture: Find the “why” that drives you.

A common refrain is to identify early what you want in the long term: find your mission, or “why,” and allow the “what” and “how” to flow from there. And if the why you identify comes from a place of intrinsic meaning, all the better! In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink references an experiment in which psychologists asked university students about their aims in life. Some named extrinsic profit targets, like wealth, while others specified more intrinsic goals, such as personal development or helping others. Years later, the students with profit goals were no closer to contentment, but those with intrinsic goals were happier. So start looking for your why now – once you find it, it will help you organize your tasks, meet meaningful goals, and even feel happier.

2. Mastery: To succeed, practice your craft and learn from others.

Knowing what you want to achieve is the first step. Next? Actually getting things done. But be advised – if you want to stand out, you’ll have to do quite a lot of things. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Robert Sutton’s Weird Ideas that Work show that most people who are considered geniuses today actually spent a great deal of time acquiring their skills. The “10,000 Hour Rule,” a key concept from Gladwell’s book, dictates that mastery requires at least 10,000 hours of practice. For a historical example, take Mozart: forced to practice instruments from the tender age of three, adult Mozart was a virtuoso. In childhood he’d accrued those 10,000 hours of practice, and by the time he was 20, banked roughly 50,000. As Robert Greene says in Mastery, Your main goal in a new field should not be immediate success or money, but to learn as much as possible. One of the ways to maximize the time you spend on honing your skills is to find someone in your field to learn from. Attempting to go it solo, we make preventable mistakes, but a mentor can show you how to use your resources most effectively.

3. Innovate: Embrace failure and keep on trying.

Successful people don’t sweat failure, they just keep on trying until they succeed. In fact, greats like Mozart, Picasso, and Thomas Edison produced many instances of rather subpar work. Innovation, it would seem, is often born of a long series of failures. So, how do you stay motivated in the face of challenge? In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck offers a great strategy: adopting a growth mindset. While a fixed mindset prizes talent and smarts above all, a growth mindset focuses on learning and improving. By adopting a growth mindset, you can free yourself from assumptions about intrinsic ability and leave room to fail big first and succeed spectacularly later.

4. Focus: Be effective, not efficient, and declutter.

It’s easy to lose your focus to emails or people clamoring for your help, but spending a lot of time on these tasks is dangerous. You’re better off being effective – focusing on things that bring you closer to your personal goals – than efficient and eliminiating “urgent” tasks that pop up. Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek, suggests never starting off your day with email. Another simple tool is one suggested by Leo Babauta in The Power of Less: MITs, or “Most Important Tasks First.” Before you finish work for the evening, define the most important task for the next day. It should be something that can be done in under an hour, and done first. When you’ve already done the MIT for the day, even if you spend the rest of it in meetings or answering email, you’ve made important progress.

5. Positivity: Live in the present and banish negative thoughts.

To err is human; to worry, even more so. In our evolutionary history, worry and fear were important – they kept us from being snacks for saber tooth tigers. While we’re no longer fleeing sharp-toothed adversaries, many of us still get mired in fretting about the past or making negative projections about the future. David J. Schwartz’s The Magic of Thinking Big suggests edging away from negativity and giving yourself a pep talk instead – one that reads like an advertisement in which you sell your best self. Say this commercial out loud in private at least once a day, and read it silently a few times more. Soon, you’ll believe in yourself so much that the outside world’s negativity won’t matter.

**6. Cooperation: Think win-win and make a good first impression.**As we evolved, we developed the ability to cooperate: doing so helped us survive. The Magic of Thinking Big reminds readers that success frequently depends on others, so treating everyone with respect is good for all involved. Take, for example, a game of tennis: if you’re playing fair, you’ll be remembered as an honorable opponent by both your adversary and the crowd. Fair play might reduce your chances of winning this game, but it will help you in the long term because you’ve collected allies. In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie counsels that the first step in a successful cooperation is making a good first impression, so smile and act friendly when you meet someone new.

7. Human needs: Accept your inherent irrationality and learn to fight it.

Human beings are neither robots nor computers – and as it turns out, we’re not even all that rational. Many great self-help books put forth the idea of a divided inner self: In Carrots and Sticks, they’re Homer Simpson and Mr. Spock. In Predictably Irrational, it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The inner elephant and its rider represent the two selves in Switch, and in Thinking, Fast and Slow, the scientific terms System 1 and System 2 are used. While your rational side might be able to make a decision about what’s best for you, such as quitting cigarettes, eating healthier, or abstaining from social media, the impetuous irrational self who favors short-term gratification – smokes, booze, and endless hours on facebook – can derail you. To combat your inner Homer, set up disincentives for irrational behavior. The example that Carrots and Sticks offers is the following: if you promise to give 1,000 dollars to Scientology for every cigarette you smoke, you give Mr. Spock (Rational System 2), far more power than if the only motivation is a fleeting New Year’s resolution.

A final thought: Make small changes for big results.

Most self-help books share this nugget of advice: change is most lasting when it’s built on small positive habits. Find tweaks you can make today and you’ll be on your way to building practices that make for a happier, more productive tomorrow.

Though we couldn’t offer insights from every single book we consulted for this article, we’ve included the full list here. If you see something you like, try checking it out in a set of blinks: a fifteen-minute read of the work’s key insights. You can find them all in the Blinkist library.”

From my view, Blinkist offers a terrific service – great ideas distilled down to their very essence. For those of us who are deeply curious about new ideas on success, happiness, innovation, progress and more, it’s a great start.

As an author myself (with a new book in the works), however, I know that what cannot be conveyed this way, of course, is the rich depth of vision, perspective, language and experience that authors share through their books. In other words, “the map is not the territory.” To access that richness, we need the time and commitment to delve into the book itself, and relish every word.

Happily, Sebastian agrees, and shared this: “Yes, Kathy! We love books, and feel it’s a shame that so few people manage to read them these days. Blinkist doesn’t intend to replace a book, but rather offer a new entrance to its great content.”

For more about Blinkist, visit https://www.blinkist.com.

Original Page: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2014/03/21/what-the-greatest-self-help-books-of-the-last-decades-can-teach-you-in-7-minutes/

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