Is ‘Self-Help’ a Scam?

This video is sponsored by Skillshare. A few years ago, I realized that I needed
to make some changes in my life. Without getting too specific, I wasn’t taking
good care of myself mentally or physically, and I had a lot of really counter-productive
and often destructive habits. Now I’m usually good at recognizing problems
in my life and developing solutions to them, but I often need to seek advice or do some
research. And at that time, I needed to find a way to
do that that was free. So around about that time, I became interested
in self-help and personal development content. I’d check out books from the library, I’d
watch YouTube videos—anything to get some pointers on how to improve myself. A lot of people describe the entire self-help
industry as a huge scam. This idea that these so-called life-coaches
and motivational speakers offer misleading or incomplete information that doesn’t actually
help anyone. And supposedly, people pay their hard earned
money for these books and seminars while getting nothing of value in return. You might argue that if self-help content
worked, then the self-help industry itself would eventually have no purpose. Now I’m still working on a lot of things,
but I’ve definitely improved myself in many important ways over the years. I can’t definitively say that the content
I consumed is part of the reason why, but I will say that many of the ideas that were
shared, to this day, seem to me like good advice. Also, a lot of it was bullshit. So, like most things, it’s complicated. Hi I’m T1J. [WEIRD VOICE:] Follow me! Hey guys I finally got one of those fancy
Join buttons on my YouTube channel. It’s another great way to support me and
my content, if you so desire. That’s all. Just wanted to let you know. To a lot of people, “Self-help” has become
kind of a cliché and trite phrase, so you’ll often see more modern terms like “Self-Improvement”
or “Personal Development.” Whatever it’s called, it’s a very broad
genre, perhaps too broad to even be considered its own genre. But you might know what I mean in general. Books, videos, streams, talks, seminars, that
include purported advice on topics like finance, relationships, or health and well-being. The common thread throughout all these topics
is this notion that conventional wisdom has failed us, and by making some simple changes
in your mindset and behavior, at least simple enough to fit in a single book, you can quickly
transform your life. Now, for better or for worse, I’m the type
of guy that likes to see results. It’s really hard for me to learn a skill,
work on a project, or develop a habit, if I don’t see at least incremental progress
along the way. A great example of this is, I own a lot of
guitars, because I decided a long time ago that I was gonna learn how to play. But come to find out, that shit’s hard. And you kind have to struggle through a lot
of frustration and failure before you come anything close to being able to sound like
you know what you’re doing. Or at least that was my experience. So I tried on and off for years and years
to get betters, but just could never keep up with it. So if anyone wants to hear me alternate between
the A minor and E minor chords, I know how to do that pretty good, but that’s about
it. Isn’t that right Sir Applesauce. So I can understand the appeal of easy methods
for quick results. And this type of thing might seem too good
to be true, but sometimes you can begin to see results quickly, if you’re using the
correct process. For example, say you have two chess players
who just play each other for fun and don’t know much about theory or strategy. But if one day you pull one of them aside
and say, “Hey, try to control the center of the board, develop your knights and bishops
early, and then castle to protect the king.” That player is going to start winning a lot
more than the other, instantly. Now, you could say, life is a lot more complicated
than the game of chess. I dunno, chess is pretty f*ckin complicated
– but I do think that sometimes very simple changes can be made in our lives that can
have a major impact. I’ve historically been really bad at saving
money. It’s hard for me to conceive of money that
I’m not allowed to spend. It’s like, I see it, it’s there, it’s
mine, what do you mean I can’t spend it?! So a few years ago I came up with the solution
to make it so that I don’t see it. I created an online savings account and set
up an automatic monthly transfer. I rarely look at this account, and while I
rationally know it exists, it doesn’t register to me subconsciously as money I’m allowed
to spend unless there’s an emergency. I don’t even think about it. Because of literally spending 4 minutes setting
up an online savings account, I became a person who saves money. Which, for me, was a huge development. It worked for me, may not work for you. And that’s one of the problems with self-help
content actually. A lot of it suggests one-size-fits-all solutions
to people’s problems. Now it’s likely that something that worked
for one person will probably work for some other people, so there’s nothing wrong with
offering suggestions. But a lot of these self-help gurus present
themselves as having the secrets to life and the universe, not just people merely offering
advice. A lot of times you can analyze a product by
looking at trends among the people who consume and engage with it. And when it comes to self-help, you often
find people who are pretty much addicted to it. They spend ridiculous amounts of money on
books, seminars and other materials. They quote the catchphrases of their favorite
authors and treat their advice as if it’s gospel. There’s an issue though, when someone consumes
so much of this content but never seems to reach a point where they don’t need it anymore. It similar to how some people who are addicted
to cigarettes, switch to nicotine gum or nicotine patches, and then get addicted to those. A sure sign of a predatory unethical business
model is one that creates or perpetuates the problem you’re paying to solve. For example, Payday loan companies are, in
my opinion, despicable, because they loan people money that they know the people likely
won’t be able to pay back. So the next month, they offer to loan those
people more money in order to pay back the previous loan (plus a ridiculous amount of
interest). And thus a cycle begins. Seriously, why is this legal? Some people say the self-help industry is
guilty of this, albeit in a less conspicuous way. In order for the self-help industry to thrive,
there needs to be enough people out there who either believe or can be convinced that
there is something wrong with them, and who can also be convinced that spending money
or doing some other beneficial action can fix whatever that is. So it’s advantageous for these self-help
gurus to perpetuate feelings of inadequacy and failure within its customer base. And this definitely happens. The before and after weight-loss photos, the
guy talking to you in front of his mansion and fleet of Lamborghinis. The muscle-bound guy surrounded by super models. It’s all designed to make you feel inadequate
and ineffectual. That sucks in and of itself, but the feeling
can be compounded when you actually try these products and realize that you didn’t actually
make 10,000 dollars this month, or didn’t actually lose 50 pounds, or didn’t magically
cure your anxiety and depression. So part of way the self-help industry perpetuates
itself is by convincing people that they’re lacking in some area, and then offering unrealistic
solutions, which can then make people feel even more flawed. In many ways the self-help industry thrives
on the back of America’s unique brand of capitalism. The idea that, if there’s some kind of shortcoming
in your life, it’s because you’re doing something wrong. The game’s fair, you just have to play it
correctly. But of course the game isn’t fair. Your plight in life and the difficulty associated
with achieving your goals is going to change drastically depending your background. Your financial situation, your race, your
gender, your genetics, your age, whether you’re disabled or have a mental illness. And any guru that leaves that part out isn’t
telling you the whole story. But that’s not really unique to this industry
I guess. Middle-to-upper class, neurotypical, able-bodied,
cis-hetero white men, are considered the default human for most things. But most of the time, I don’t think it’s
a matter of misplaced demographics. So far I’ve framed this as self-help gurus
using unethical methods to make money off of unhappy people. But those people are still people. They have brains and agency, they make choices
for themselves. I don’t generally have a problem with paying
for books and videos and seminars and things like that. Those things take a lot of work to create,
and I generally think people ought to be paid for doing work. I also have no intention of telling people
how to spend their own money. The thing that we have to consider is that
these people continue to pay for this content because the industry gives them exactly what
they want. I’ve complained a lot about how cynical
and sad social media can be. There’s often an inclination towards pessimism
and anger, and the mere suggestion of being kind and patient and searching for happiness
can literally make people mad, as if positivity is somehow unreasonable. Now social media magnifies these concepts,
but I think that’s the common reaction for unhappy people, who are the target audience
for the self-help industry. So when an industry creates content that encourages
you to feel inadequate and fails to deliver results, making you feel even more hopeless. For some people, that’s exactly what they
thrive on. Most people don’t really want to change,
if they can’t wave a magic wand and make it happen overnight. Now most savvy people these days see the old
school self-help types like Dr. Phil and Tony Robbins, as living memes who are hard to take
very seriously. But any smart business person evolves with
the times, and while the social media generations may not be in Tony Robbins target audience,
the self-help industry (as I mentioned now rebranded as personal development) lives on. Human brains like stories, we like things
that make sense, that can be unpacked and explained, that have established beginnings
and satisfying ends. And this isn’t a bad thing, this way of
thinking helps us understand and analyze the world in a coherent way. The problem is sometimes the story doesn’t
quite line up with reality, but our brains want to believe the story because that’s
what appeals to us. And this unconscious preference humans have
for stories is taken advantage of in numerous ways. Again, not always a bad thing. YouTubers like myself, frame our videos so
they have a beginning, middle, and end. We use storytelling techniques like symbolism
and foreshadowing, even in nonfiction video essays. And we do it, in part, for our own profit. Buy the way check out my new Sir Applesauce
T-shirt! But a thing that I’ve tried to stress over
and over again is that I’m not some expert or guru. I’m just a dude with some thoughts. And maybe being likeable and okay at putting
ideas together has made my thoughts a little more popular than some other peoples, but
I think of myself as just another person contributing to the conversation. So you have to understand that people who
create content that’s supposed to teach you something, might not actually be experts. They might just be good storytellers and good
businesspeople. But at the same time, being a good storyteller
and having good ideas are not mutually exclusive. Ironically a lot of that same cynicism and
negativity bias that I mentioned before can also be the reason people avoid taking advice
from others. It’s a weird paradox. Some people get addicted to fixes that don’t
work because it reinforces their own unhappiness. While others never trusted it in the first
place. But I’m a big proponent of seeking out help,
if the source is reliable. So it’s up to us as consumers of content
to figure out when we’re actually getting good advice. Here’s a few tips that I’ve learned in
my experience in the self-help rabbit hole. 1. If someone tells you that significant long
standing change is easy or fast. They’re probably selling you snake oil. Because it pretty much never is. Real self-improvement is an ongoing, gradual
process. You’re not going to transform your entire
personality overnight, you’re not going get rich quick, you’re not going to lose
80 lbs in a month. Now you can become a better person, you can
improve your financial situation, you can become more physically fit, but they take
time and commitment, and again depending on your background, they could be much harder
or much easier. 2. A good way to figure out if advice is bunk,
especially advice related to health or psychology, is if it has no basis in science. A lot of self-help content tries to increase
the perceived credibility of their claims by making dubious connections to science. Maybe the most famous example of this is the
Law of Attraction, as promoted by best-selling books like The Secret. It’s the idea that positive or negative
thoughts can directly cause positive or negative experiences. This is often explained using sciency sounding
things like the energy of electrical brainwaves, or metaphysical quantum mechanics. And of course this is true in a superficial
sense, like if you’re nice to people, they’re more likely to be nice to you. But the idea that you can literally create
positive energy with your brain that attracts other positive energy, has no basis in science. It’s made up. And I’m not saying the person has to be
a scientist or quote science literature all the time. Different people have different styles of
communication, and sometimes things are worth considering even if they haven’t been definitively
proven. But sometimes people just make shit up, so
keep an eye out for that. 3. If you’re still paying money for basic advice,
you’re fucking up. Before the social media era, gurus and experts
could get away with keeping their content behind a pay wall, because really there was
no easy way to disseminate it. These days, it is easy and basically free
to share information with large audience. So any person whose goal in life is to help
people improve themselves, should be doing it largely without charging for it. (I kind of feel this way about content in
general). Now if you have a premium product that costs
a decent amount of money to organize, market and/or produce, that you think will bring
value to people, like a book, or a documentary, or a device, or a speaking event, I have no
problem with charging money for that. And usually you build customers for those
premium products based on the value you’ve brought to people with your free content. But if you see a supposed guru who like only
has a website with no useful information on it where all the real content is locked behind
paywalls. I’d be very suspicious of that. In fact, and I’m gonna digress a little
bit here. But in my opinion, it’s borderline immoral
to lock personal development advice behind paywalls. Because either the strategies you suggest
don’t work, which makes you a grifter, or they do work, meaning you have an opportunity
to make someone’s life better, and you’re refusing to do so until they pay you. Which just seems shitty to me, similar to
why I think health care should be free. But that’s a whole ‘nother messy conversation. But again, getting paid for time and effort
and materials is fine, which is why it’s cool that things like Adsense and Brand deals
and Patreon exist, because it allows independent creators to get paid for their time and effort
without having to put their content behind a paywall. I really do think there is some great content
out there that could be classified as “self-help”. Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability and
empathy is science-based and inspiring. Tim Ferris’s bookThe 4-Hour Chef
single-handedly got me interested in learning to cook, and made me rethink my process of
acquiring new skills in general. So there’s good stuff out there, you just
have to be diligent in finding it. In general though, I’ve found that the self-help
industry makes grandiose promises and under-delivers on the results. In reality, if you have personal issues, rather
than trusting a self-proclaimed guru, you should consider investing in a licensed profession
whose job is actually to help people and not to sell-books. If you have health problems see a doctor or
therapist. If you have money problems, speak with a financial
counselor or planner. If you want to get in shape, speak with a
personal trainer or nutritionist. Of course, sometimes we don’t have the budget
for those things, although I suggest really thinking about where your financial priorities
lie. Sometimes “I can’t afford it, or I don’t
time for it” basically just means, “its not a priority for me.” But in my experience, personal development
is about creating better habits. You have to remove yourself from situations
that create bad habits and put yourself into the correct mindset to create good ones. It takes times, and effort, and willpower. It’s hard. And anyone who tells you otherwise is probably
trying to rip you off. DAS JUS ME DOE. What do you think? Thanks for watching, and thanks to Skillshare
for sponsoring this video. Skillshare is an online learning community
with thousands of classes is design, business, technology, and much more. With a premium membership, you get unlimited
access to high quality classes on a variety of topics, so you can improve your skills,
unlock new opportunities, and do the work you love. Since there is a lot of misleading and unsophisticated
advice out there as we’ve discussed, it’s important to find good sources of practical
information and learning tools. Skillshare is one way you can do that, especially
with it’s large selection of productivity classes, like this one by Rich Armstrong,
encouraging people to take the challenge of being creative from 100 consecutive days. An annual subscription to Skillshare is less
than 10 dollars a month, so it’s pretty affordable. But if you’d like to try it out, they are
allowing me to hook up my viewers with 2 months of Skillshare for free. To sign up, just visit the link in the description
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100 Replies to “Is ‘Self-Help’ a Scam?

  1. I am working myself out of depression and have a long history of therapy.

    A close friend is going full into self help and it creeps me out a bit. Mostly because of the attitude you mentioned: "Everything is fixable by you, everything wrong is thus only a result of your choices."

    On the other hand I am often equally angry at people that instead wrapped up their identity around their mental illness. "You have to respect my problems, I can't do anything. Don't you dare talk solutions."

    Like sure: You don't control everything, and that sucks. Be it your past, your genetics, or other people. Still, you can do shit and if you want a chance of improvement you have to play.

    You must vent & cuddle.
    You must work & change shit.
    The difficult part is to learn when to vent and when to work.

  2. I do have problems with self-help gurus, if only because I had a friend in a big MLM/pyramid scheme who was always recommended self-help books (many of the ones you showed in this video) as part of helping him learn to develop himself to be a businessman on the road to millions. I'm not blaming self-help gurus for MLMs, but it would not surprise me if they speak at their conferences in exchange for getting their books promoted to people trapped in these scams.

    I'm still friends with the guy I talked about, but he got out of the MLM years ago and his life is doing way better as a result.

  3. My personal problem with 'Self-Help' is that most of them are trying to tell me that if I want X, I must do Y, before even asking me how much of a priority X is for me, or what kind of priorities I might have whatsoever.

  4. This is actually very interesting to me because I until about a year ago, I was so fucking lost. I packed on a ton of weight, my job made me miserable, my relationship with friends and dating was sad. Now I'm doing better. not tons better I've still got a lot of work to do, but I'm going to therapy, I've net with a personal trainer, and I'm currently going back to school for social work to be a drug and addiction counselor because I'm so fascinated with the psych of addicts and I've found that my strengths involve me being very easy to talk to and a good listener. I've still got tons of work to do but I'm more inclined to fix what's broken, even if it takes a while and is exhausting (and trust me, it's absolutely exhausting lmao).

  5. Tony Robbins ugh. Bought his first book when it first came out because of the buzz. Horrible. Knew it was bogus and I was young — a teenager. That didn’t stop me from trying to improve myself over the years. I loved self help. Mostly I gravitated to books that emphasized healing rather than making friends or getting rich or being successful or losing weight. Therapy plus aging plus knowing you are not your thoughts and being aware when you are operating from ego is better than any self help book. Novels and memoirs can often be just as good as self help books, or better — in these books you notice when people have faulty thinking or make bad choices and you can notice those things in yourself.

  6. It's gonna get to the point that y'all are gonna get sick of me typing the essentially same thing for every new video deconstruction:

    Love your insights; appreciate your research/work; I recommend (ad nauseum, ad infinitum) your content to nearly everyone I know.

    Keep on keepin' on, man. <3 🙂

  7. what's helped me separate the useful from the useless self help stuff is whether or not the self help author/teacher uses vague words where specificity is more important. I think it's essential to define vague words and be specific in the most important conversations. People can read into vague words and so the self help guru's can satisfy many people at the same time. Of a group of people who learn about "the law of attraction", each person in the group may probably come up with their own way of interpreting the word "law"; one person uses it synonymously with the word "principle", another interprets it to mean that it is the spiritual equivalent to one of physics' laws of thermodynamics – whatever "spiritual" means. So loads of people read into it, putting in their own meaning and so liking whatever it is they think they are learning.

  8. These videos have this great thoughtful and genuine vibe, which together gives the whole thing an inherent kindness, not like you directly/specifically engage the viewer to be kind but I feel it yaknow
    Well whatever it is it makes me think a bunch of thoughts, and I appreciate that

    This hyper-individualization is scary shit; we've all been conditioned against earnestly talking about our problems with other people, and not even just because it's a "you thing," but because we're told that other people don't wanna hear it! Not only are you not fixing "your" problem, you're making it "other people's" problem too!

    Of course it's bullshit; use your discretion, but hell, in my experience tons of people, friends especially but even complete strangers are often understanding and down to shoot the shit about the real stuff. It really is amazing what people will talk about when they get past that first hurdle and realize the world isn't gonna blow up because they're talking about their family troubles, health problems, even fucking class struggle

    It's weird to think about, but you can totally talk about pretty dramatic things in almost "casual" terms that doesn't scare someone away; in fact usually they'll know exactly how you're feeling, or have some sympathy or advice, whatever. Chances are the both of you have been needing the chance to get stuff out of your own head!

    I've found it challenging, but very fulfilling, to consciously break past the dumb doubts and roadblocks (that aren't even my original thoughts anyway) and just earnestly engage with the world and other people, and it's been cool as hell.
    Trying to be understanding, forgiving, and helpful for others and yourself might not correct all your problems instantly, but it's hard to describe the amount of good it's always brought me (almost like HAKO is genuinely good, straightforward advice in and of itself)

  9. I disagree with with number 3. "Free" healthcare is not free. It is not morally ambiguous to charge for groceries and it is more pertinent to wellness than personal development.

    I think the argument can be made, but not the way you put it.

  10. I think the law of attraction works but, like, in the sense that positive thinking gives you the confidence to accomplish things. idk about brain waves or whatever lol

  11. James Clear is an interesting person on this topic, because he references the science of behavioural change, listing a series of tips and tricks rather than relying on hype. He tends to speak about the value of making small, incremental changes. Much better than a preaching egomaniac in my opinion. Although I still listened to a lot of them back in the day and learned a thing or two of value

  12. I met a girl on a dating app that wanted to be a life coach, so when I’d talk to her about personal problems/insecurities, she’d divulge into talking about herself and “this one time this happened to me” and it totally put me off from her. I’m already a skeptic about this kinda stuff but damn that was kinda unpleasant.

  13. You described how our capitalist system has fallbacks for independent and small creators to get paid for their work, but you should consider that because mostly only profitable media or products are made, or will reach many people, that everyone's perceptions of what is good or normal are disproportionately affected by these media and products. Most believe as they see on the news, or in the normalized sentiments in their favorite show, or at least don't question things when their favorite media doesn't challenge anything, all these media portray the liberal capitalist world and all it's injustices as inevitable and fine. Most people who grow up under capitalism perceive the world in terms of products aesthetics, and don't really think all that much about the process of exploitation that is fundamental to the existence of these products. If we hope for a better future, it will be hard to spread those ideas to people who grew up on a lifetime of funded capitalist propaganda. The continuation of private media is a force against progressive reform, and so Patreon isn't enough, people are still being brainwashed away from reform by the structure of our economy which acts as a filter keeping all genuine critique and poor voices out of the public.

  14. This isn't the most important part of the conversation or anything, but what gets me about these books is that for a lot of people it seems to be their primary reading material. Like I've met people who only read self-help books and nothing else. Isn't that completely mind-numbing??

  15. I was in my junior year of high school and getting out of a very toxic relationship and I stumbled across these self help videos on financial advice. At the time I started brainstorming ways for me to make money outside of the lunch aid job I had. At the time I came up with selling snacks to my class mates but I needed a product that I wanted to sell you them with out working about the effects it may have on them. I sold circle vegan brownies to a lot of my classmates and they enjoyed them even though everyday my price changed. I was able to save a significant amount of money from the sales but never get to 300-400 dollars just off of that. Plus most of my money went into things that I needed being an inner city kid. I started to realize a lot of the entrepreneurs that I was listening to had a significant leg up on me and I stopped listening to them yelling at me to work long hours and get no sleep. I stopped beating myself up for only having 20$ in saving and I unsubscribed to their YouTube channels. They gave me the false idea that you can change your financial situation in a few months and that investing was easy. Now all I follow is “the financial diet” because they always provide content for people who have messed up and just need guidance or they give advice based on your age range. I never feel like I’m inadequate when I watch their channel and the lifestyle they maintain seems sustainable. I would be lying if I said I was the only inner city kid who thought that they could be a millionaire by 30. That’s what a lot of those channels do.

  16. I wouldn’t call self-help a scam so much as a religion in the sense in which Marx understood ot, as an opium for the toiling masses. That is: a coping strategy for rationalising their own exploitation under capitalism. Unsurprisingly, self-help culture has a long history in American thought, but really took flight during the Reagan 80’s. The reason is obvious: the self-help model of individual health is entirely in accordance with neoliberal free-market dogma, which assumes anyone’s station in life is entirely to his own merit, so there’s no real reason for safety nets if particular individuals ‘choose’ not to thrive.

    Why don’t more people see this? For one, because self-help devotees don’t tend to be great readers or critical thinkers of themselves already. Also, on the surface self-help books tend to espouse something that looks like sensible advice: caring for yourself, being kind and compassionate to yourself, cultivating a ‘positive’ attitude are great habits to cultivate which really can advance your sense of personal well-being – albeit in the absence of more serious physical or psychological conditions. But self-help also puts the onus on healing entirely on the individual, often hanging an individual’s capacity to heal on his willingness to adopt the right ‘mindset’. In self-help, there’s a thin line between ‘personal empowerment’ and just outright blaming the individual for failing to think himself rich or happy, despite the fact that the causes of his poverty or unhappiness may in fact be out of his control as an individual. But in the capitalist self-help universe, there can be no talk of politics or collective organisation to improve social conditions, only individual consumers dabbling in self-hypnosis or positive affirmations to help better cope with life’s (that is, capitalism’s) hardships.

  17. A friend of mine got super obsessed with law of attraction and dropped out of school twice this year (first in the spring, then he came back for the fall; now he's gone for good, I think). Makes you wish they wanted your help.

  18. I was really reluctant to click on the video because I have some really shitty experiences with self-help books and stuff. I'm an LGBT person, also I have some mental stuff so I was always searching for ways to deal and get better, but the self help books I had usually had a really shitty sexist way of discussing stuff, and had this bootstrap attitude which is paralyzing for me.
    But thinking back there was actually one guy who kinda did this self-help stuff who helped me BIG time. He's a catolic priest with backgroung in psychology and he had these lectures for years – all of them found on his website free to listen (unfortunately only in hungarian 🙁 ). And boy were they good! I mean it's not just that they helped me to get more confortable with cognitive behavioral therapy, but also his attitude was life changing for me. He's a staggeringly cheerful guy, but also deeply vurnelable, and sad at times, he's honest about his fuckups and fears. And he doesn't push the Jesus stuff to much, it's like his content is really accessible for all kinds of people because even tho his faith is clearly there it's not forced on the audience. I really wanted to tell about him because he is someone who did do good "self help" for me. And what was different in him and others was that he seems like an achievable model of a well-functioning person. I felt his end-goal was never to teach people to "be happy", just to help make choices which would leave us less sad.

  19. Hey T1J, I really appreciate this. Not too long ago I reached the lowest point of my life. Been going through a bad break up and dealing with severe mental health issues. I felt completely out of control and wondered how I got this way. Since then I’ve been getting really into this “self-improvement” mentality. I’ve gone to therapy, gotten on medication, started meditating, and just been reading some helpful insights. Personally, I found some of this ‘self help’ stuff really helpful, even some of the more out there methods.

    My brother is actually a motivational speaker but I never felt the need to look into that until my life fell apart. I never liked the idea that these ideologies tend to ignore systemic issues and completely put all the responsibility on the individual to change everything. But, in response, I ignored my own ability to shape my life and direct my path of growth. So now I’m finding a balance.

    Some the stuff is bs, but even then, I look for results, so if positive thinking makes my life better and imagining what I want makes it happen, I don’t really care much what the reasoning is. Also, meditation is just great and scientifically backed and everyone should do it.

    Anyway, since all this work, my life has improved immeasurably. My mental health is the best it’s been in a long time, I’m really satisfied with myself and my career, and I’m excited to grow and see where I end up. So yeah, if anyone is looking for advice on my end, it is possible to change and some self help can help, but it just takes time and work.

  20. I find it tricky to find self help that is accurate to reality, as far as, they generally subscribe to Libertarian Free Will, and that has an effect on all of their advice. Which is useless to me. I did find one guy who is down to earth and doesn't subscribe to LFW and actually seems to understand the topic. Mark Manson. He's got lots of very interesting stuff that aligns with LFW not existing (since it's logically impossible, but that's another topic). He's got a youtube channel with some of his stuff he reads out (from his website).

    Once you throw LFW out the window, so many things become easier. It has a huge positive effect on so many areas in life. It opens you up to a new way to look at all of these things that these self-help people talk about. Just remember that it's not the same as "Fatalism". Very misunderstood topic at first as far as implications, but anyway.

    An interesting thing to add is that almost anything can work for people if they can retain and stick with it. Just gotta find that thing. But a lot of it is still sub-par. Also we only retain like a tinyyyyy amount of what we read, as far as this shit goes. So you want to keep it very basic and simple if possible.

  21. Yeh the energy thing of Law of Attraction is wrong but there is SOME stuff that kind of makes sense. It's been shown that people who think they are lucky tend to be 'luckier' because they tend to take more chances, thus have way more chances to get lucky.

  22. I think the "Law of Attraction" thing is definitely bogus, based on the way it was portrayed here. I don't know anything about it, but I do believe your mindset can influence your experiences. To oversimplify things, an optimist and a pessimist could have different feelings about a minor inconvenience in their day. Maybe the pessimist's day was ruined, where as the optimist doesn't even remember the setback at the end of the day.

    I think this idea is a lot more nuanced, in practice, but in general I do believe perspective affects how we perceive outcomes, positive and negative. And so, in that sense, having a positive mindset can lead you to "have more" (or perhaps notice more) positive experiences. If that makes sense.

  23. Thanks for this video, T1J. I too, got sucked into the "self help" world for about a year. I started to become skeptical when I learned about the law of attraction, and thank god for that. There's some wild and ignorant beliefs out there about the law of attraction. People peddling that line of shit, and profiting on it, are on the same level as those TV preachers with private jets, in my opinion.

  24. The difficult and nuanced part is that in the information age, knowledge is power and to some degree currency. I think it's fantastic that 1000's of people share valuable information for free on YouTube. I learned how to change the ballast and rewire a ceiling fan from watching Youtube videos. They could have easily and fairly charged for this information. I'm not sure that I would have paid for it but that doesn't make the information less valuable. The hard part is being able to distinguish valuable information from fluff.

  25. The advice coming from self help crowd, "clean your room" and all that jazz, is usually pretty good. But motivation and discipline are only part of the equation. Just like navigating unfamiliar territory, most people need a map and a compass. My beef with self help is self help mainly provides just the compass. They also implicitly suggests that you can solve life's problems all by yourself (with their books and seminars of course), but if you can't, it's all your fault. As you can imagine that can turn into a death spiral rather quickly, especially for people that struggle with metal health.

  26. Thoughts on self-help from a person disabled by mental illness with over a decade of self injury, a boatload of trauma, dozens of medications, two hospitalizations, and a suicide attempt under my belt:

    Self-help books can help, but they can also harm. And sorting through the bullshit can be an impossible task for someone who's brain isn't quite working right. A therapist is the better way to go until you can discern the good advice from the bad. If you can't afford therapy, look for CBT and DBT workbooks written by mental health professionals.

    I would be dead now if it weren't for the 9 hour a week intensive group therapy program I attended for a year, and if I hadn't formed a support system. Never underestimate the power of a genuine friend. Recovering from mental illness is not something you can do alone. But the majority of the work involved in recovery are all things that you must do alone. That work mostly involves thinking, and a lot of it – putting pieces together until you start to see a clear picture. A good therapist will give you 2+2, but won't give you 4.

    After you learn some solid emotional regulation skills and ditch harmful habits, it's time for polishing. Try learning about the happy and healthy people you admire, and strive to be more like them. Personally, the Game Grumps have been a helpful influence for me. There's some merit to the idea that "you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with", and having this parasocial relationship with creative and ambitious people who talk about their struggles has encouraged me to get back into art and design again, and that has been an incredible tool for me.

    Beating mental illness means:
    -Asking for help
    -Being open to change
    -Understanding that you must give up harmful habits, and
    -Knowing that you will experience repetitive setbacks and subsequent demoralization (relapse is PART of recovery)

    Essentially, I decided I was going to stop suffering. I was either going to get better, or I was going to die. It starts with that decision. And it gets better – then worse – then better again from there. It's not easy. But you can do this.

  27. Mental health is kinda like slow cooking a dish, turn up the heat, dump too much ingredients or spices, you over do it and ruin the dish. You cook too low, it never goes anywhere. You don't check in periodically, the dish can go wildly off course. It takes time, investment, and some amount of trial and error.

  28. Everything from "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" to "The Secret," to "The Art of the Deal" etc. is just ripping off Napoleon Hill and George S Clason. Seriously. Listen to "Richest Man in Babylon" and either "Think and Grow Rich" or "The Law of Success." You'll see what I mean. You can even listen to them at 2x speed on YouTube. 🙂

  29. The self-help industry is the weird and somehow even more toxic older brother of the supplement industry. Both are poorly regulated, make huge sweeping claims based on little if any evidence, and both rake in millions a year for their experts.

  30. just a side note in regard to weight id like to let yall know that nutritionist is not a regulated term (ie. anyone can call themselves that) so if you want someone who has completed official training in the appropriate medical field and whatnot seek out a dietician

  31. I’ve been reading self-help books since I was maybe 7? I tapered off once I got the bits that helped the most and noticed things began looping into repetitiveness. I do think it helped me cope with the aspergers/autism that I had no idea I had. I don’t regret it because it may have helped me (accidentally) to get through the crappier parts of both having autism and also not knowing that was the problem, but because of my experience, it makes me wonder how many people get into self-help because they are struggling due to an impairment or disability that’s subtle enough that they pass for non-disabled but impactful enough that they’ve internalized a lot of unfair criticism and failure. Plus it probably would have been at least if not more helpful if I just knew I was on the autism spectrum. :/

    I think it’s usually at least a little bit misguided because the genre fails to think about social dynamics (like any kind of analysis of class, for example) and cognitive (and other) impairments and disabilities.

    There’s some great nuggets of advice and helpful ideas, but there’s this overall lack of awareness of how what is (or isn’t) happening in society dramatically impacts the circumstances of individual people.

  32. As someone who also looked a lot for ways to help myself with books, philosophy classics are honestly the best self-help books. A lot of the modern self-help books are just repackaging old philosophy books but dilute them down in the process. Don't get me wrong some philosophy books are a hard read but there's some for all levels and there's also well researched vulgarisation books as well that essentially do the same thing as self-help books but more in depth and in a less "snake oil salesman" kind of way. That being said you're absolutely right that in the end consulting an expert is often the best method if it's available to you.

  33. The thing I find about self help is that it is all basiclly the same advice, but repackaged, and it is up to you to shift through them and find the train of thought that clicks with you

  34. I've seen a lot of really shitty self help content, but also a lot that genuinely improved my life to this day (your earlier self help content falls into the latter category btw)

  35. I think there's a lot of garbage advice out there, and the self-help industry can also be a gateway into garbage ideology, since a lot of it comes from more privileged white men who think any problem can be solved by motivation and hard work. And they prey on like, vulnerable people man. You usually don't seek self-help when you're doing fine, you seek self-help when you're at your lowest man.

    My thing is, read the directions, but you don't have to follow them.

    Some stuff has helped me. Journalling always does improve my state of mental health, stuff like HALT, 5-7-8 breathing, 5 minute exercise, that kind of stuff has made a positive impact on my life. Even that automatic savings thing, that really works! The thing is, saving feels like spending money and getting NOTHING in return, which to the human brain is a little like seeing a bully take your lunch money, except you're the one bullying you. So yeah, money just going without you having to sit and stare at this chunk of your income going is great! Turns the work of doing something pro-active into something passive.

  36. "A sure sign of a predatory, unethical business model is one that creates or perpetuates the problem that you're paying to solve".

    Ugh, dude, at one point a couple of years ago, I discovered a (ahem) "Dating Coach" called Corey Wayne, who's entire schtick was that he had all the answers re: dating and relationships, and that you need to read his book 10-15 times or you won't know the material.

    It was torture but I actually got a lot better at asking for dates and I halted some of my more unhealthy behavioural patterns. It's just that he inserted this package of reactionary misogyny and regressive gender roles (the man is the hunter, the woman the prey. Woman are like cats, men dogs. etc) as a basis for his coaching. It was gross and it felt gross to follow a lot of the advice but I was hooked because of his hundreds of YT videos and his insistence that he had all the answers.

    Anyway, I purged him from my YT recommendations when I followed his advice as best I could and still ended up losing a good thing. 6 weeks later I started my healthiest relationship to date, which ended recently with no accrimony and mutual love and respect.

    Fuck Corey Wayne.

  37. Self-help is a scam.
    Mental fragility is same as physical fragility they both need to be fixed. Before one can improve.

  38. Self-Help is really tied to sales jobs and marketing. Some jobs like coding, artist, athlete, etc. are jobs where you have to put the work in and [usually] by putting the work in you see tangible results (this is semi-related to your chess analogy). But sales, I'd argue, is a job that doesn't have such a clearly defined skillset. It's not like you can take a class and get your "sales X certification" and suddenly you'll get 10% better at sales. Sales is just a lot of rejection for a very few closings. So the primary skill is dealing with that rejection. Self-help, as an industry, sort of centers around this idea of smiling through rejection. Ever told a telemarketer angrily to stop calling you? Notice how they still respond as if a smile is on their face?
    In a broader context I'd say self-help is entertainment. Most people are not geeks. They don't have time or are not interested in cultivating a personality based on "knowing everything about Precolonial Native American culture". Their job is also probably something conventional and boring. What self-help often provides is a series of [often made up] anecdotes about famous people spun as moral lessons. "You know when Oprah was poor she did [blah blah blah]". Lots of self-help customers are disconnected from the kind of juicey internal gossip because they are older and mostly spend time with other older couples who are equally as boring. So the self-help industry, as you alluded to, provides them with these "stories" to tell each other.
    Lastly, as you alluded to, self-help is not messy. There's a reason it resonated heavily with white people. Racism, war, famine, poverty, etc. are all "not fun" topics. I'm very privileged myself, and I can tell you, rich white folks don't like discussing racism because it often means confronting that in themselves. Notice how almost no self-help books (I can think of, at least) list "hey, don't be racist" as one of their self-help tips (despite it being a really good tip).

  39. hey, that guitar thing – I was there too. Recently I went and found a teacher, he had some helpful tips and I feel like I'm finally moving forward, there's this pressure of having to go to a lesson every week

  40. I think my own journey with "self-help" made me realize just how little is actually within any individual's control. The problem was not me anyway, I was being bullied in elementary school, and in high school I had to put up with my constantly angry, often high step-dad. Self-help books can sometimes be victim-blame-y? (If that's a word?) Like, it's all well and good to try meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, creative visualization, and organized checklists. But, people should not be made to feel bad if they have trouble getting their life in order because of external reasons like abuse, crime, poverty, addiction, and mental illness. And they never talk about institutional racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry and discrimination. Like you said, the game isn't fair.

  41. I’m a fan of the line between professionals and self help gurus.

    My therapist personally recommended what might be considered a self help book, and it was life-changing for me. Suddenly I had terms for my psychological issues, and could re-read the chapters that pertained to my struggles at the moment.

    As for more subjective issues like finances, I don’t see any problems with reliable self help books. Dave Ramsey is legendary for his advice, which you can read for like $20 brand-new, or listen to online for free. His methods work because they’re so simple: spend less than you make, have an emergency fund, pay off your debt. He cuts the steps into bite-sized pieces, acknowledging that it’ll take a while.

    I like what you said about hiding behind a pay wall. I’m sure the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” guy is very smart, but his paywalls give me bad vibes. I once attended a “free online seminar” that was basically an ad for his classes. The classes were thousands of dollars to take, and tried to trick you into thinking they were live and personalized.

  42. T1J… you are a true prince buddy. You doing God's work. Ironically… my point is that people who idolize "self help gurus" instead of focusing on their ideas in improving their own lives, is akin to following a cult leader. One thing I know is… humans are VERY flawed… sometimes you'll hear good advice from a wise person… sometimes you'll get pearls of wisdom from an idiot. Other times that same wise guy will start to think too highly of themselves and start talking out of their ass. The trick is to not play yourself… be honest if a wise person is talking shit… and when something worthwhile is being said or suggested. Another reason why, unfortunately, one of my favourite paragons, within humanity, is the alleged story of the Roman general Cincinnati.

  43. Great video. It helped me realize some shit better and remind me of important things that I sort of forgot about. Thanks! You have helped me. And it was up to me to click this video to watch it. So in a way… I helped myself. We both helped me. Yay for us!

  44. FYI, payday loan companies are around because of lobbyists. The post office used to give out low interest loans and would do a lot of banking for low income communities:

    Also, there is a good podcast that looks at various self help books and critiques them: Go Help Yourself

  45. I love me a good self-help book AND I appreciate your nuanced critique of the industry. 🙂 Just subscribed to your channel!

  46. Self help gurus are def a scam for the most part. It’s like religion…sure it may help if you’re lucky but they’re really in it for the money.

  47. Is a book a paywall, if it has a price ticket on it ? Anyway my advice to achieve anything in life is small incremental steps, focus and perseverance, this applies to winning at chess too 🙂

  48. The answer is: some of it is, some of it isn't (see e.g. the clinically effective book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy ).

  49. I disagree with the premise. You said that these books make you feel like you are lacking. I think they actually try to make you feel like you are not lacking anything — just the discipline to follow the advice in the book. As you try harder and harder, you buy more and more things from the author…

  50. It's totally a scam for many–at a minimum it's 100% foolish, unless it's just used as a supplement to pro help. I have bipolar-2 and OCD, which means my brain is literally not typical. Nothing to do about it but get pro help with meds, CBT, etc. Anybody telling you otherwise is either a fool or scammer. Period.

  51. Some novels can be self-help too, whatever inspires you in your life to do things for yourself, your livelihood, and your future

  52. My depression journey started early.
    It started with my father's death.
    For every new clinic I had to visit my hope of success faded.
    Long story short I started to be my own therapist.
    Writing helped me out a lot,music made me stronger and my wonderful British short hair cat lady is my 24/7 savior.
    U don't have to necessarily go to a therapist. I am better than ever 😎👍🏾

  53. I do believe in some new-agey/personal dev stuff and have considered a career in it, but you echoed my exact thoughts: I don't see how one could withhold help/information because people won't pay them for it. I'm looking at every avenue to minimize and live simply so that I can free up more time/energy serve others. I don't want that work to be motivated by my need to pay my own bills…yet most "gurus" are overcharging to fund their excess and gaslighting critics for not having an "abundance mindset."

  54. I worked in a sales position for about a week, and every week they had all sorts of types of goals for people to complete. You’d set your own goals in each category, and there were several. It was a good sentiment, but one of the categories was like “goals to help you grow as a person in your career” and the example given was someone reading a couple chapters of their self-help book. So they’re going thru multiple self-help books/ted talks/whatever a year. The whole place had a cult-like aura to it, and I felt like consuming so much of this status-quo-reinforcing drivel was only further brainwashing them to believe that a gig that paid only commission and netted the average salesman $700 a week (for 60 hrs of work, roughly min wage with no overtime where I’m from) was their best option, and they could eventually make $300k a year like their CEO too!

    What a topic to tackle, I hate the culture surrounding self-help.

  55. Coincidentally I just read about a guy who wrote and published such a book from jail. Not all life coaches are frauds; those with an actual psychology degree are worth looking into. But many, many of the rest have built their success on getting people's attention through marketing and nothing more. Not to mention seminars and courses… Many LGATs turn out to be actual cults.

  56. By looking at Tony Robbin's face for more than five minutes should be CLEAR to anyone that the man is a fanatic hack predator. If you don't get that, then you are highly likely to end up sucked in into the "cult" aspect of these groups.

  57. i know many people who read coaching and self-help books in large numbers. eventually the messages that they read begin to converge into similar patterns. in my personal view, that's part and parcel of modern society's attitude toward reading: it makes you look like you're reading something, but since understanding actual neuances in writing, and-or subjects that are not directly related to the present, is ridiculed by society. in the past, the concept of good living had little to do with material posessions. it had to do with ethics and logic. the people who taught logic and ethics were known as PHILOSOPHERS . the self-help industry is all about the belief that you can do whatever you want. philosophy also calls upon you to be aware of limitations. you can see which of these two modern society would prefer.

  58. I hear ya. I enjoy listening to various types of self help and self learning materials, but tbh some of the best advice I listened to pointed towards putting down the books and living attentively in the moment. For now I'll seek my own wisdom.

  59. "You could say that life is a lot more complicated than the game of Chess. I dunno, though, Chess is pretty f**king complicated." Liking because that made me laugh.

  60. I think it helps to think about saving and investing as spending money now for more money in the future. For people under 30, investing 10-12% of your income will essentially double your income that year from the perspective of your 60-year-old self (including inflation). Saving a bit of money means you don't have to squander your investment when some shit happens. Every $1k dollars you spend is $8k dollars (equivalent) that you would have had at 60, so that phone upgrade for you now is a nice start to a college fund for a grandchild, etc. It helps to know the scale of what choices you're making.


  62. Great video.

    I would like to share a related story.

    There was a self-help guru that I followed for years. one day I attended his seminar, met him after the show, and asked what he would charge for personal business coaching. He told me it would cost $500 and that I should give him an email when I was ready.

    I got the $500 together and sat down to send him a very clear and carefully worded email about what I needed his help with. About halfway through the email the answer would become obvious. I'd discard the email and fix the problem myself.

    This happened a few more times and gradually I started to realize that a lot of this guy's advice was pretty bad. I also noticed that he had a way of publically shitting on his biggest supporters. At that point I decided it was better to invest that $500 into my own business instead of his.

    I no longer follow this guru, but don't hold any real animosity towards him. At the end of the day he taught me alot both good and bad. Even though I never went through with seeking his advice the attempt helped me solve a lot of my own problems.

    Maybe that's the real lesson here

  63. Just gotta make your environment as positive and free of temptation as possible. And gently introduce positive habits into your life. And try to make the people around you happy. And sleep properly.

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