MEGAN MCARDLE: What’s Wrong With Self-Help Books? “You will say that the books are not very good. The lessons they offer are obvious–be nice to your spouse, save more, give constructive feedback to your team members, eat less and exercise more. And of course this is true, not through any particular fault of the authors, but because there are very few revolutions in human affairs. The basic facts of living, getting along with others, and dying haven’t actually changed all that much since they were first discussed in blockbuster self-help titles like The Bible. But that doesn’t mean they don’t bear repeating. . . . Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman do not necessarily offer the most sophisticated, perfect advice. But that’s because the core of financial prosperity–save money!–is not all that complicated. They do get people to save, largely because they offer people a rigid, simple formula that is easy (if a bit painful) to follow. Likewise, the basics of being a good salesperson are surprisingly basic: people who make more calls make more money. But because making calls is really emotionally difficult, ‘proving’ this with a study helps people get over their natural reluctance to phone strangers. And so on, down the line through marriage and management. These things are not complicated, but they are difficult, which is why people sometimes need a little encouragement.”
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