At the back of the bookshop – this was when the only independent sources of information were bookshops and libraries –
At the back of the bookshop there was a poorly lit area signed ‘Self Help’ – just before you reached the ‘Occult’ section right at the back.
This was around 20BC – that’s 20 years before computers, at least before ‘personal computers’ appeared on the scene.
As a schoolboy I couldn’t really afford to buy the boos but I’d skim through the likes of Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie – I think one of the first that took my eye was ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ which I managed to find in the local library and borrow.
The response I got from my Mother was something like “Why are you wasting your time reading that rubbish” or words to that effect.
Self Help which we now refer to as Self Development wasn’t on anyone’s agenda back then.
After all, as Harold Macmillan said, “You never had it so good” so why would we need ‘self-help’?
I read it and took it back to the library.
It cropped up again after my A Levels, that weird period at the end of the school year after the exams when, the curriculum completed, we were ‘filling in time’ until the end of term.
I think it was the English Lit. teacher who in one of the ‘general studies’ periods told us the story of Napoleon Hill. I don’t remember much other than him talking about this ‘Napoleon’ who wasn’t Napoleon.
Later, when I’d done my Degree in microbiology and biochemistry and left University, I acquired several books by mail order from Finbarr Books in Folkestone, mostly about 100 pages with a mix of occult and self-development subjects. I still have about 30 of them.
I was looking for ‘the answer’ or maybe ‘the secret’ and reading as much as I could.
But I was getting it ‘wrong’.
You see the education system in most of the world is, to be polite about it, ‘misaligned’.
Bob Proctor points out we are taught a great deal of useful knowledge in the form of facts and then ‘examined’ on our recall of that knowledge.
‘Read it, learn it, regurgitate it’ is how it works.
As I’ve stated before it’s not until we get to master’s degree level in education are we expected to be able to understand and apply that knowledge.
Taking action on the knowledge we are provided with just isn’t part of the process.
I was listening to Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mind Valley, having a bit of a rant about this yesterday, mainly on the theme of why don’t they teach kids things that will be useful to them like how money works?
It’s not surprising that because people are taught all they need to do is ‘learn’ the knowledge, so many of the thousands of books we can loosely categorise as ‘self development’ do end up on the shelf!
People just don’t know, because they haven’t been shown, how to apply the knowledge to their lives and are reluctant to ‘take action’ when encouraged to do so.
They don’t know what they need to do and invariably ask the ‘H question’ – “How do I make this happen”.
Some writers are now including worksheets in books but most people just skip over them and read on hoping to find the ‘answers’ they are ‘supposed’ to fill in.
But isn’t that how we are taught in school? – ‘You’ll find the answers by reading or listening’.
We are not taught to think.
We are not taught to find the answers within ourselves because they are all ‘out there’.
Someone else already has the answer, you just have to find it.
Heaven forfend people should be encouraged to think for themselves and come up with their own, new, ideas which might challenge ‘established’ or ‘settled’ knowledge.
All the great inventors, philosophers, engineers and creative artists are, or have been, people who thought for themselves.
Not only that, but they put their ideas into action, into practice, and ‘made’ something out of their thoughts.
You and I can do this too.
Check out your ‘shelf development library’ – what ‘great ideas’ are there in there you can think about and really ‘develop’ by taking action and creating something ‘new’ for yourself or for everyone.
Just by taking action.
Never mind ‘what’ or ‘how’. Once you or I set an intention the answers to those questions will come.