This blog post is an expanded version of the intro to this week's episode of The Reindeer Club Podcast - presented here for those of you who prefer reading to listening.
I have this ultimate love/hate relationship with “self-help” type material. Books, talks, podcasts, and yes, memes. I think they’re like a drug that makes you feel good and empowered and keeps you coming back for more… But I’m not convinced that they actually do any good.
I think the language of self-help and just do it and hustle your way to success is just a big fat red herring away from the actual systemic injustices that keep people down.
But also, sometimes, I really love to read that stuff.
The thing that’s great about books or talks on personal growth is that they usually have this message: you are good enough. You have your own energy that no one can give you or take from you, and it’s up to you to follow your inner voice and pursue your dreams. That’s awesome. I love being reminded of that.
The dark, sometimes unspoken side of this “genre” is the implication - the dangled promise - if you follow “this advice”... you WILL get everything you think you want.
- You WILL start making 6 figures.
- You WILL start that business.
- You WILL get over your depression.
- You WILL lose that weight.
- You WILL close that deal.
- You WILL start profiting off of your art, and on and on.
And it’s the most insidious lie because if it doesn’t start working for you, even after you’ve spent maybe years trying… the narrative will claim that’s because YOU did something wrong. You actually weren't good enough.
And so if your dreams aren’t realized - not only are you right where you started, actually you’re in a worse place emotionally, because now you’ve been made to feel like You Actually Don’t Have What It Takes.
I hate that.
But actually it's at this point, in the past couple years, that it's gotten tricky for me.
If it doesn’t work for you, it’s easy to look at people who are trying and get deeply cynical and conclude they’ve probably had to compromise in other ways. Those people talking about hustle and motivation are just a bunch of tryhards! Phonies!
At times, I've gotten comfortable with that perspective, but then some days I meet someone who’s actually “doing it,” and sure, I can think that they got lucky, that someone handed it to them, etc. But the fact of the matter is that there are some people, like my guest on this week's episode of the podcast, who did take a chance, put themselves out there, busted their asses, and are now working toward living their dreams.
So it's tenuous balance. A lot of cynicism is really well-deserved. But if your cynicism is stopping you from doing anything, you might want to try getting just a little inspired again. I still think a lot of motivational material is just drivel. But if it inspires you, well, maybe just go with it?
Let me know what you think.