Tag Archives: Life Lessons

The Blog Post That the Self-Help Industry Doesn’t Want You to Read

I just read a blog post by Aytekin Tank about why self-help doesn’t work. There are some truths in that post. Yet, I wanted to publish a response to express my objections. Let’s discuss some of his arguments.

What works for everyone is different. Therefore, self-help content won’t work for you.

I partially agree with the first sentence. I completely disagree with the second sentence.

People are different. Their backgrounds are different. Their challenges are different. Therefore, you can’t come up with a solution that would apply to everyone in each situation.

Yet, people have similarities. There are strategies that work for the majority of people, if not most people. If that wasn’t the case, we had to throw all social sciences, including psychology out of the window.

I heard a prominent natural scientist saying that social sciences aren’t real science, and Aytekin’s post is going in the same direction. Needless to say, I disagree.

Here’s an example. Some people have the so-called photographic memory. Others are better off using the spaced repetition method to learn something for the long term. What’s the percentage of people with photographic memory? I bet sufficiently small so that they can be ignored.

Hiring a coach who listens to you and works with you to develop solutions together with you is much more beneficial than reading self-help content alone. Yet, if you can’t afford hiring a coach, consuming self-help content and actually applying the advice might be the next best thing.

Self-help doesn’t make any difference in your life.

After publishing 300+ self-help posts, I started to see some trends. Most people consume self-help content to distract themselves.

When you’re in stress, and you want to distract yourself for a while, you have two options. You distract yourself with something completely irrelevant like dancing cat videos, or you consume self-help content.

Conscientious people feel bad for distracting themselves with something completely irrelevant, but it’s an acceptable compromise for them to distract themselves with self-help material because they think that they’re doing something good for themselves.

Some people just rely on setting goals and consuming self-help content to feel good about themselves and their lives. Unfortunately, it ends there for them. They use their goals as a drug to medicate themselves.

If someone uses self-help content merely as a distraction and doesn’t follow up on what they consume, of course, that content won’t make the slightest difference in their life. Self-help isn’t a magic pill.

If you are that person, you’re better off knitting socks as Aytekin suggests or watching big cats showing affection to each other.

Aytekin mentions a scientific study that examined people who consumed self-help content and found out that it doesn’t make any difference in their lives.

I suggest another scientific study. Let’s study people who consumed self-help content and did the following.

  1. They summarized the lessons they learned from the content.
  2. They reviewed their summaries periodically, weekly, monthly, quarterly and so on.
  3. They did the exercises suggested in the content.
  4. They applied the ideas in their lives.

I’m really curious about how the results of such a study will be.

I get where Aytekin is coming from, but I don’t think it’s the self-help industry’s fault that their consumers don’t follow up on their advice.

Well, maybe self-help books should come with warning labels like cigarette packages.

“It won’t work unless you do the work.”

Help Me Help You

I’ve been blogging on a daily basis since December 2017. There are more than 300+ posts in my blog. Some of these posts received no views at all, others thousands of views. Yet, I have a burning question about my posts.

Did my posts make a positive impact in the life of a person? If yes, what was it? More important how can I make a greater positive impact in the lives of my readers?

To answer that last question, I need your input. How can I contribute more to your life? What kind of problems bother you? What kind of solutions do you want me to offer in my blog posts?

I tried to answer those questions via Quora. I answered quite some questions over there, but I didn’t receive much feedback.

I feel like people are posting a question on Quora not to find an answer, but just to vent off their frustrations. Once, they have done that, they move on and don’t check the answers they receive.

There’s another problem with Quora. People just post a single sentence questions without any context. Finding answers to self-help questions is usually a Q&A process.

Coaching isn’t about preaching to the coachee your point of view or your solutions. Coaching is about understanding the problem of the coachee thoroughly. It’s about understanding where they are coming from.

Only then, you can work out a solution in collaboration with the coachee. That isn’t possible when you try to answer a single sentence question on Quora.

To learn more about the challenges of my followers, I used to offer free coaching sessions or conversations with me via Skype to my email newsletter subscribers, but no one took that offer yet.

Now, I want to make a similar offer. I’ll offer a free coaching session via Skype to the first ten people who subscribe to my email newsletter below and then reply to the email they received. This offer is limited to the first ten people who take advantage of it. The deadline is October 19, 2018.

Your Mind’s User Manual

Let’s start with a computer analogy to understand your mind.

Suppose that you’re running a Windows machine with a lot of bloatware running in the background. You haven’t installed that bloatware, but your computer came with them. That bloatware slows down your computer at best, but distracts and annoys you with unasked for notifications at worst.

How would you deal with such bloatware?

If you’re like me, you go to the task manager and end the related task. You do that every time you boot your machine. After a while, you realize that ending the task every time you boot your machine is a waste of time and uninstall that piece of software from your computer.

Now, suppose that you want to install a piece of software that is useful for you. You download and run the installer. It’s as simple as that.

Our minds are similar to computers but with slight differences. Just like Windows PC’s, our minds come with a lot of bloatware. These are the programs that we didn’t install, that don’t benefit us, and in some cases, that harm us.

Who installed that bloatware to our minds? A good deal of them was developed throughout our 4.5 billion years of evolution. Some of it was installed by our family, friends, education, culture, society, and all kinds of external sources.

Unfortunately, we have installed some of that bloatware ourselves. How did we do it? We had an experience early in our lives, and we assigned a meaning to that experience. Then, we started to look at all the events in our lives from the filter of that meaning.

It’s to our benefit that we uninstall those programs from our minds. How do we do that? Unfortunately, there isn’t a straightforward uninstall procedure in our minds. What we have to do is to catch those programs running in our minds and then stop investing any more attention and energy into them.

That’s the equivalent of ending a task in the task manager in a Windows PC. That’s the slight difference between our mind and a Windows PC. In our mind, the programs are erased by ending them in the task manager repeatedly, over and over.

If you do that whenever that bloatware starts running in your mind, that bloatware starts to run less frequently. After a while, it stops running altogether unless you trigger it. So, you have to be careful not to trigger it because triggering it means setting it up for running again in your mind.

Installing beneficial programs are also slightly different in our mind compared to a Windows PC. Unfortunately, you can’t install a beneficial program just by consuming it once. You have to expose your mind to it over and over until it is installed in your mind.

Now, how do you hit the “end task” button on an unwanted program in your mind? There are two ways I know of. The first one is the letting go method. And the second one is journaling about it. Sometimes, one works better than the other. Sometimes, you’re better off using both of them in combination.

How do you install the beneficial programs? You do that by using the spaced repetition method.

Honor Your Past for a Healthy Self-Esteem

Take a moment and think about your childhood for a moment. Go back as far as you can remember. If you have pictures from your childhood, go over them.

How do you feel about your childhood? Were you taken good care of by your parents or caretakers? Were you treated well by your family and friends? Or have you been verbally or physically abused ?

Do those pictures make you happy? Does thinking about your childhood bring up good memories? Or does it make you sad, even angry? Do you remember only painful memories?

Your answers to those questions have a direct impact on your self-esteem as an adult. If you have a difficult time thinking about your childhood or going over your childhood pictures, your perception of your childhood is adversely affecting your self-esteem.

If you feel pain when thinking about your childhood, you have to make peace with that time of your life to improve your self-esteem.

Maybe, you were abused verbally or physically. Maybe, you were raised in poor conditions. Maybe, you made some mistakes as a child that make you feel ashamed and guilty as a grownup.

Unless you come to terms with your entire childhood, you’ll never enjoy a healthy self-esteem. Yes, that’s a lot of work that involves emotional pain, but the benefits of a healthy self-esteem are waiting for you on the other side if you’re willing to do that work.

Journaling is an excellent way of processing those childhood memories. Just go over those pictures and write down whatever comes up.

Feel those painful emotions. By triggering and processing those emotions, you’ll set yourself free from them. Keep doing it until you make peace with your entire childhood.

Making peace doesn’t mean being happy about what happened in those years. Making peace means not feeling shame, guilt, anger, sadness, or any other painful emotion anymore when you remember those memories.

You can use the letting go method to process those painful emotions whenever they are triggered. You can also use the sentence completion exercises in the audiobook The Psychology of High Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden.

Dr. Branden dedicated a complete chapter to childhood and teenage years with lots of sentence completion exercises. Those exercises take hours, but they are worth the effort. They help you making peace with your childhood.

If it is too hard to process those memories and emotions by yourself, you can always get help from a professional.

Once you’re done with your childhood, go ahead and process your teenage years as well. Our teenage years are times of hardship when we are trying to find our place in the world. We experiment a lot, and we make a lot of mistakes. As a result, we collect a lot of painful memories.

If you feel shame, guilt, anger, sadness, and similar unpleasant emotions about your teenage years, go ahead and process those years as well.

Our goal is to make complete peace with our past. Unresolved issues in our childhood and teenage years tend to haunt us in our adult lives as well. Making peace with our past isn’t the only component of a healthy self-esteem, but it’s a crucial part of it.

The Economics of Personal Development

Yesterday, I argued that premium-priced information marketing products didn’t provide any value over what’s freely available or what’s available for the price of a standard book or audiobook.

The only reasons to pay a premium price are to give back to the producer if they already provided an immense amount of value for free or to increase one’s engagement to the material due to the investment.

Then, why do information marketers provide premium-priced products? The obvious answer is to make money, but isn’t it better to publish a book or an audiobook, to reach more people, and make the same amount of money?

That seems to be a legitimate argument, and it might be true in some cases. But in most cases, the reach of these information marketers are limited.

They have to extract as much money as possible from their limited reach to make a living. First, not everybody in their already limited reach would purchase a product from them. Selling is already a tough business. If you get into that business once, you might as well ask a premium price.

For a customer, there’s a huge difference between getting a product for free and buying it for 99 cents. Once that chasm is crossed, the product might as well be a premium price product.

As irrational as this sounds, this is the economics of personal development, and you can read more about this in the book Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson.

Coaching, Seminars, and Workshops

There’s another side of the personal development business. This is what I like to call services because unlike products, services involve interaction with the producer.

Coaching and workshops provide some value on top of the products. So, the amounts charged for these services can be justified.

The value in coaching and workshops is the interaction between the coach or the trainer and the coachee or trainee.

When I read a self-help question in Quora, it’s almost impossible for me to answer it accurately. I need to ask questions to that person to clarify their problem.

Otherwise, I’ll make an assumption about the problem of the person, and give a completely irrelevant answer. The personal interaction in coaching sessions and workshops facilitate this clarification process and personalization of the advice provided.

There’s a pitfall to coaching or workshops though. Most of the time, a single coaching session won’t make much of a difference in your life. Most coaching sessions are sold in packages of ten sessions. I’m pretty confident that a package of ten sessions won’t make any difference either.

After ten sessions, you’re barely scratching the surface. You and your coach are getting to know each other. The real results are achieved after 12 to 18 months of coaching.

So, if you see someone offering a premium-priced coaching session, don’t bet your last thousand dollars on a single coaching session with the hope of it changing your life.

Coaching is a process that requires time between sessions to apply the teachings in life and to do the exercises and then repeat the same process week after week for a year or two.

When It Comes to Personal Development, There’s No Magic Pill

Let’s face it, personal development is a niche in the lucrative information marketing sector. There’s great value in this niche, but there are also a lot of unjustified prices charged with false claims.

Let’s break down the products in this niche and analyze them from the customer’s perspective.

You’ll find a lot of value for free in blogs, free e-books, podcasts, and videos. Then, there are audiobooks from audible and e-books from Kindle. These are pretty affordable. On the top layer of the market, there are premium priced information products.

When it comes to personal development, I can hardly imagine a premium product that provides more value than the content freely available on the Internet or for a small price in an audible audiobook or a Kindle e-book.

Having said that, once in a while, I buy one of these premium products. My main incentive to do so is to reward the producer for the free content they already provided us. Paying a premium price for a product also creates a higher engagement from my side.

When you pay a premium price, you get more involved with the content. You tend to consume the content thoroughly and do the exercises. When you come across a free or cheap program, you might tend to toss it aside after working on it for a few hours.

There are great programs for very low prices on audible. If you have the discipline to study them and do the exercises, you’ll get great value out of them.

At the end of the day, it comes down to how hard you study those programs and how often you apply them in your life.

Good Bye to Shy by Leil Lowndes is a standard paperback book. But if you truly want to overcome your shyness and commit to complete all the exercises in that book, it will take you a couple of years to do so. Yet, your life will change if you do that.

The Magic of Self-Direction by Brian Tracy is a standard priced audio program available from audible. You can complete it in an hour or so, and it will give you a direction in your life. You have to ignore the references to outdated technology though, but honestly, those references don’t have any relevance to the core of this program anyway.

Another one of my favorites is The Psychology of Higher Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden, which is also available from audible for a standard price. Yet, this program requires a lot of work on your side.

The chances are slim that you’ll find a piece of information in a premium price personal development product that you can’t already find freely or for a standard price. And the information you find or the price you pay for it doesn’t matter either.

What matters is what you do with that information. Do you learn that information? Do you add it to your functional knowledge? Do you apply it in your life? Do you do the exercises? Do you use the information to change who you are? Those are the questions that matter.

If you want to create higher engagement or reward the producer for their contribution by paying premium prices, go ahead and do that, but don’t forget that paying a premium price to an information product by itself won’t change your life.

Overcoming Low Self-Esteem and Guilt When Working toward Your Goals

Today, I’ll discuss two possible obstacles that keep you from realizing your goals and how to overcome them.

If you make your goals all about yourself, you might not have the motivation to achieve them. This happens especially if you have low self-esteem.

The results you get in your life reflect your self-esteem. There’s nothing wrong with having low self-esteem as long as you’re willing to improve it.

If you have followed my blog in the past few weeks, you know by now that I recommend Nathaniel Branden’s work to increase your self-esteem.

Nowadays, I’m going through the audio program The Psychology of High Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. It’s a lot of work to complete the journaling exercises, but they’re worth the effort.

Low self-esteem is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You think you aren’t worth and/or capable of achieving the goals you set. As a result, you fail your goals, which leads to reinforcing your low self-esteem.

How are you going to break the vicious circle of low self-esteem?

If you make it all about yourself, you won’t make the  effort to increase your self-esteem because that’s a lot of hard work and you probably think that you aren’t worth making that much effort to increase your self-esteem.

How are you going to motivate yourself to improve your self-esteem?

If you think you aren’t worth the effort, make it about other people. How are other people going to benefit from you being a better version of yourself?

  • How is your significant other going to benefit from a better you?
  • How are your family and friends benefit from a better you?
  • How are your employer, colleagues, or your employees benefit from a better you?
  • How is your community benefit from a better you?
  • Last but not least, how are the humanity at large and the planet going to benefit from a better you?

If you can’t motivate yourself to do something good for yourself and to work toward your goals, then do it for the other people that are going to benefit from your improvement and from the realization of your goals.

The second obstacle I want to discuss is guilt. You’ll feel guilt, if you believe that by improving yourself and realizing your goals, you’re taking away from other people and making them worse off.

If you have that type of limiting belief, you can ask the same questions as above. If you can’t come up with any answers to those questions, you’re either blind to the benefits of you realizing your goals to other people or your goals are really selfish.

By selfish, I mean goals like, I’m going to become the richest person on earth, and by doing that, I’m going impoverish everyone else. I can hardly see anyone who’s reading my blog to come up with a goal like that.

Sometimes, we look at our goals from a personal point of view. If we have low self-esteem or guilt, that personal approach to goals can backfire. To overcome the disempowering effects of low self-esteem and guilt, you can focus on the benefits of your goals to other people to motivate yourself to work on them.

Focus on the 1% of the Activities that Matter

You might have heard about the Pareto Principle that says 20% of the actions produce 80% of the results.

Some people take the Pareto Principle to the extreme. For example, Gary Vaynerchuk says that 99% of the things don’t matter.

The art of success is finding that 20 % or in Vaynerchuk’s case finding those 1% actions.

Think about it. You only work one day a week and yet produce the same value as you would produce if you worked four days a week. Wouldn’t you like that? That’s basically what the Pareto Principle is saying.

The problem with the Pareto Principle is that it doesn’t work for employees. Employees are paid by the time they spend at work, not by the results they produce.

As a result, employees tend to do busy work, things that keep them busy, but don’t produce any valuable results.

If you want to become an entrepreneur, you need to perfect the Pareto Principle. You need to focus on the 20% of the actions that produce the 80% of the results. You need to let go of the 80% of the actions that produce low or no value at all.

Distinguishing between high and low-value actions is an art you perfect over time.

What are the high-value actions? In my opinion, these are learning, thinking, and applying what you learned and thought. I know that that sounds too general, so let me go into more detail.

The most valuable action is to come up with a vision. This is a long-term goal like a life goal. Then, the second most valuable action is learning and thinking about how to realize your vision. And eventually, applying the ideas that you learned and came up with in your life.

Your vision acts as a compass. It helps you find the 20% of the activities that produce the 80% of the results. Which activities bring you closer to the realization of your vision? Determine them and focus on them.

Let go of all the activities that don’t contribute to your vision. They are not only a waste of your time, but they are also potentially dangerous. The things that you do just to be busy can produce liabilities down the road. And they do.

Most of the time, doing nothing is better than wasting time on busy work. When you do nothing, you give yourself the space where new ideas can bubble up. You can also use that time to learn and think of course.

Eliminating waste, including waste of time, is crucial to making the most of your life. Distractions are obvious time wasters, but busy work is also a waste of time, and more dangerous than distractions because it gives you the false impression that you’re actually doing something useful.

If you’re interested in starting your own business, I recommend reading the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It will help you start a business by yourself or with a co-founder with limited resources.

How would your life look like if you let go of the 99% of the things that didn’t contribute to your vision and focused on the 1% that did?

A Simple, Easy, Powerful Way to Release Your Unpleasant Emotions

Yesterday, I shared a powerful yet simple method to let go of your unpleasant feelings. This method is based on focusing your attention on the physical sensations that feeling creates in your body.

You don’t pay attention to the thoughts that are triggered by that feeling. You don’t label the feeling. You focus on the sensations in your body, stay with them, and release them if you can.

For example, if you feel anger, scan your body for how it manifests itself in your body. You might feel some tightness in some muscles. You can release those muscles and see your anger being released with that tightness.

You might start to use this method and realize that you have countless unpleasant feelings, a wide range of anxieties, anger, shame, guilt, desire, and so on.

You might feel hopeless because as you release a feeling, another one might come up. If you’re in that state, don’t give up your hope because your feelings are connected.

As you release one unpleasant feeling, you’re also releasing other feelings connected to it. Even though your unpleasant feelings might look like a bottomless pit to you, you are making progress by using the letting go method.

You might release a certain anxiety, like fear of heights. And you will realize that your public speaking anxiety is also diminished.

As your social anxiety decreases, you might realize that your anger, shame, guilt, desire, and sadness also decrease because they are all connected to each other.

You might feel anger because you might not be enjoying your life due to your social anxiety. That might also trigger sadness in your psyche.

Your social anxiety might also trigger an intense desire in you because you might be missing certain aspects of life such as friendship, romance, and sex.

As you release a dominant unpleasant feeling, you also release a body of connected unpleasant feelings.

Your dominant unpleasant feeling might be anger. And that might cause sadness because anger might keep you from having a joyful social and family life.

So, you don’t need to be overwhelmed by all the unpleasant emotions that you feel. They are all connected to each other and releasing one help you release others as well.

Just pick one unpleasant emotion and work with it. If your major unpleasant emotion is public speaking anxiety and you don’t dare to work on it now, pick another fear that you can work on, and start facing and releasing it.

As you release various fears, you’ll realize that it will be much easier to work on your major fear, like public speaking anxiety. Until then, it might disappear altogether.

There’s a catch to this method though. You need to face your unpleasant emotions. If your dominant emotion is fear, you need to face your fears. If it is anger, you need to face your anger. If it is shame, guilt, or sadness, you need to face all of them.

You can’t release an emotion without facing it. You need to experience those emotions, let your body process them, and consciously release them from your body. That’s the way to true freedom.

Becoming Fearless

Yesterday, I watched two David Hawkins videos [1, 2] on fear, which made me get his letting go method even on a deeper level.

We might know something on an intellectual level. That idea might resonate with us. We might even use it in real life.

Then, there are moments when we get the same idea on a gut level. We feel it so deep that it becomes our second nature.

This discussion reminds me of the four levels of learning. On the third level, we need to make a conscious effort to use a certain skill like driving a car. On the fourth level, it’s almost automatic.

Even though I read, wrote, and listened about the letting go method countless times, there are still moments when I discover something new. Watching the two videos above was such a moment.

Even though there is so much self-help content out there, we don’t come across the letting go method often. That’s why I’m trying to promote the work of David Hawkins to the extent I can.

Since I don’t come across the letting go method that often, I might be forgetting about it in time and need to refresh my mind once in a while. That’s a part of the learning and retention process called the spaced repetition method.

Keeping a personal knowledge base and reading it often helps it too. My blog is kind of a personal knowledge base for me.

Let’s get into the topic in the title, becoming fearless. Fear, like all other emotions, has some effects on our body.

The letting go method involves not paying attention and investing mental energy into the thoughts that stem from a feeling like fear. That means if you feel fear, don’t express it. Don’t even label it as “fear.”

That doesn’t mean suppressing the feeling. When you suppress a feeling, you resist it. You try not to feel it. This usually happens by tensing muscles in your body. The antidote of suppressing, therefore, is relaxing the muscles that you tense when you feel a certain feeling.

When you release the tension in your muscles when you feel a certain feeling, the intensity of that feeling will increase at the beginning, but as you get used to it, the intensity will decrease and eventually vanish.

It’s possible that new waves of the same feeling will come back, over and over. As you keep using the letting go technique, the magnitude of those waves will decrease, and eventually, they’ll disappear altogether.

Expressing, labeling, and suppressing emotions like fear make those feelings stick in our psyche. There’s one more behavior that prevents us from letting go of unwanted feelings. That behavior is escaping.

When you escape an emotion like fear, it stays in your psyche. You don’t find the opportunity to face and process that emotion.

We are meant to face and process our emotions. That’s how we grow as human beings. Escaping our emotions keeps us from growing.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of cats. As I grew, I got used to cats and started to love them, but I had to face my fear first. If I kept escaping cats, I’d never overcome my fear. You might find that funny, but how about your fears? For example, are you afraid of public speaking? Are you escaping it?

We don’t escape our feelings directly. Sometimes, we escape them indirectly. When we feel anxiety, we get a drink, we check our devices, or we eat comfort foods. Those are all different ways of escaping from unpleasant emotions. They keep us from processing and letting go of unwanted feelings.

So far, we have seen that expressing, labeling, suppressing, and escaping our emotions don’t help us overcome them. How can we overcome them then? What is the letting go method?

The letting go method involves staying with the physical sensations of the emotions while not paying attention to the thoughts that stem from those emotions.

Suppose that you feel public speaking anxiety. First of all, don’t even label it as performance anxiety, fear, or using another term. Second, don’t pay attention or invest more energy into all the disaster scenarios that your mind comes up with.

Just focus on the physical sensations in your body. Can you stay with a dry mouth, weak legs, and sweaty underarms? I bet you can. We all go through greater physical challenges than those physical sensations. Simply, allow those sensations to be there.

Are a dry mouth, weak legs, and sweaty underarms a problem for you? I bet they aren’t. So, public speaking causes dry mouth, weak legs, and sweaty underarms, so what? Just stay with those sensations, and after a while, they’ll vanish.

You can let go of any irrational emotion using the letting go method, including all the irrational fears you have.

What kind of a life would you have if you let go of all of your irrational emotions?