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By David Harder on February, 13, 2018

Self-Help – Built By Cheats, Charlatans & Used-Car Salesmen

When my first book was published, I had a struggle with my publisher because they wanted to put The Truth About Work into the self-help category. I don’t know one truly successful person who practices self help. In fact, when a talented individual tells me they are failing, it is usually because of isolation.


Self-help is a big industry. It is filled with brilliant and loving people. My literary agent Lisa Hagan specializes in self-help and you would never find someone with greater integrity, love, and smarts. But let’s begin by examining the definition. Are we marketing to a truth or a hope? Self-help perpetuates the hope that we can walk into a book store or go online and solve a big problem without anyone ever knowing.


Self-help gurus are some of the most imperfect people that have ever walked the face of our earth, but many elevate them into sainthood. I believe recasting them as unblemished justifies how much they might have positively impacted their lives. It is far more neat and tidy to be motivated by a saint. But, the real stories are quite messy. In fact, the truth can be far more illuminating.


For example:

Napoleon Hill, the great grandfather of New Thought and Self-Help, began his career as a serial swindler, buying lumber on credit, selling it below market price and skipping town. Napoleon was routinely chased by the law. He suffered from deep bouts of depression and loneliness all while striving to become a polished brand. He married five times and visited prostitutes throughout his life. Several of his wives fled over spousal abuse. Much of Hill’s Think and Grow Rich doctrine came out of a purported friendship between him and Andrew Carnegie, the world’s richest man at the time. But, there is nothing to indicate they ever met. In fact, during 1908, the year that Carnegie supposedly revealed the secrets of his success, Hill was evading authorities for his latest crimes. Later, Think and Grow Richwould form the basis of marketing phenomenons such as The Secret and Tony Robbins. Much of his success would inspire yet another self-help pioneer named Jack Rosenberg, the master charlatan of them all.


At the time, L. Ron Hubbard, the grandfather of the human potential movement founded Scientology, which gets so much press, I needn’t go into details. The organization had attracted Jack, a used car salesman, desperate to become a big deal but trapped by a marriage and children. He had sought out the help of the Scientologists and was well into getting audited. One day, he was driving towards the Golden Gate bridge pondering his life and by the time he hit San Francisco, Jack had “gotten it.” He renamed himself Werner Erhard, abandoned his family and repacked the Scientology’s auditing process into a high-drama seminar named EST. He impacted hundreds of thousands of truth seekers, inspired the beginnings of organization development and fostered thousands of new “possibility thinkers” to launch new self-help careers. But, so many of them missed the point that one of the most imperfect men in the world had created valuable change without ever becoming perfect. That is the biggest lesson about Werner Erhard. The problem for him is that Scientology does not respond warmly to stealing their curriculum. The attacks on Werner escalated to the point where he lived in a big Chris Craft in San Francisco bay circled a security team 24-hours a day. Eventually he moved to Switzerland, the one country that outlaws Scientology. Lisa, there’s a book in all this, isn’t there?


It seems that Tony Robbins only big failing was that he was fat and unhappy as a young man. But he sure understands showmanship. In the 90’s, people were paying big bucks to walk on coals. Someone once tried to enroll me into one of those programs. I responded, “I don’t need to walk on coals!” The other person persisted, “Why not?” I laughed and said, “Ever since I learned to tell the truth, I don’t need to walk on coals.”


What is my point from giving you these nefarious stories?


First, it is a good idea to understand the whole truth about everyone that influences us. Why are so many of us waiting to make a difference in the world when the people we depend on influencing us into making a difference are so very imperfect? I meet so many people who understand how to solve a specific problem. That solution will change the world. But, they sit on that solution waiting to develop more courage and to eventually develop mastery over their fear.


Second, all of these individuals built organizations that provided costly support systems for their followers. There is no “self-help” and there is not truly an effective one-size-fits-all support system. All solutions involve other people. For example, none of us would even be here if two people hadn’t gotten together and collaborated. In the modern world, virtually all success is determined by the quality of the people we recruit and select to support us. Once we understand that, it is far better to build customized support that perfectly fits our mission, vision, and purpose.


Finally, stop waiting! You are the solution! Whatever you have to give the world, don’t wait for someone to help you manifest what you have been born to do! One way or the other, all of us have that moment to walk the fire. The biggest fear of all is to live up to our unique career DNA. That can be redesigning the way we work, solving a medical challenge, becoming a better parent, creating a coaching business, whatever it may be, and since we care so much about that, of course we are going to be frightened. Walking on coals is a detour.


Albert Einstein once said, “I want to know the thoughts of God. The rest are details.”


Step into your mission today. The rest includes the details. Know that you are here to do something that is yours and yours alone. Fitting in used to feel safe. Now, it is the sure way to fail because we become invisible. I find that going straight to one’s real mission, vision, and purpose is the most efficient way to develop meaning in one’s life.


Self-help and human potential are valuable resources. And, it is important to know that in the process of elevating imperfect humans into super humanity, we might think we are absolving ourselves of the hard and gritty work embedded in our version of changing the world.


I have witnessed this so many times that I know it is true. When we find our unique purpose, the one we were born with, or we define the purpose of the person we have become, everything else falls into place. At times, it will be messy, but it all comes together and more quickly.


We have lessons to learn from everyone that has ever lived.


But, to embrace the real learning experience, get the whole story.


Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.


(C) Copyright, 2018, Inspired Work, Inc. – (All Rights Reserved)


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