Thursday, March 12, 2015
I have a problem with procrastination. Let’s face it: writing’s hard. I’ll do whatever I can to put it off. The trouble with that is, if I don’t write I have nothing to send out to market, so I’m also putting off getting paid. You want a serious downside to self-employment? Try that.
While wandering the aisles of the local Barnes and Noble (instead of heading home to write) I spotted a self-help book on how to beat procrastination. I picked up a copy, found some public seating, and skimmed for helpful nuggets. (No, I didn’t buy it. No money. I’m a writer, remember?)
I’m glad I saved my money. I’ve got half a dozen self-help books at home, purchased in the days when I had a weekly paycheck. I’ve read others in bookstores and the library. I’m going to help you hang onto your $18.95 and tell you what I’ve learned from them. You can thank me at the end of the blog.
First and foremost, if you’re really determined to own a self-help book, you only need one good one because they all say the same thing, and it’s this: You and you alone are responsible for your life. Well, duh. Accidents do happen, and other people’s decisions do have impact on your life, but by and large it’s you and your choices that got you where you are today. Don’t like your job/house/spouse/whatever? Do something about it. Otherwise you’ll be one of those people I blogged about a couple weeks back, the ones who always bitch about everything but never do squat to fix the problem. Nobody likes them.
That’s it. That’s the gist of every self-help book on the market. From there, it’s just details. Decide what you want. Write down your goals. Work hard. Be nice to other people. Surround yourself with positive people and phase out the whiners and moaners. Get on good terms with your personal deity. Most books will then outline a plan to achieve all this, based on whatever system the author’s touting. If it doesn’t work, it’s your own fault. You didn’t work hard enough. You didn’t stick with it. Buy the author’s other books and try again.
Because that’s the other truth about self-help books. If you’re looking for secrets on how to get rich, and you’re a waitress, secretary, factory worker, department store associate or anyone else earning your wage by the hour, forget it. The money sections of these books aren’t aimed at you. They’re aimed at executives, managers, business professionals and salespeople—those on a salary, or salary plus commission. In short, people more likely to have disposable income, and people therefore more likely to buy books. There’s next to nothing out there for us average schlubs. You should have chosen to go into management or sales. See? It is your fault.
Does all this earnest, upbeat advice even work? The answer is, it depends. The advice is sound, as far as it goes. It helps if you know what you want out of life. Write down your goals, figure out how you can achieve them, and get busy. Make informed choices. Stay positive. All well and good, but because this is real life, you’re going to hit speed bumps. You can’t negotiate a raise if you’re hourly. You’ll just get the same 2% cost of living increase whether you bust your ass or sit on it. Hard work will help you get ahead, but you’re better off kissing up to your boss. If your boss doesn’t like you, you might as well find a new job before he finds an excuse to get rid of you. Or before his boss sells the company, or the work gets shipped overseas. Then you’re all up the creek. Got any positive thoughts about that?
There’s my self-help advice. Take it or leave it. Because that’s the final secret of all self-help books: nothing’s going to work for you unless and until you decide to change. You have to take positive, decisive action. You have to actively work at changing yourself, and it won’t be easy. Sorry. That’s the only way to fix your problems. They rarely clear up on their own. I didn’t apply anything I picked up from the “beat procrastination” book, and I’m still procrastinating. I’m not earning any money, either. See?
Think of this the way you would about a diet. Diet books and self-help books fall under the same category. The same principles apply: there is no magic, quick-fix cure. The only proven, non-surgical way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise. Nothing in the book will help you unless you decide to apply it. And not just for a couple of weeks, either. For good. This is a lifestyle change. The minute you stop, the plan stops working. This is why the majority of Americans are overweight and unsuccessful. Or they could be unsuccessful because they’re overweight. Nobody wants to hire a fat person. But that’s a whole other can of worms.
Hey! There’s my self-help idea. Next time you feel like snacking, picture opening a can and finding it full of writhing maggots. Still hungry? Didn’t think so. I guarantee you’ll lose at least five pounds a week. I should write a diet book, but I’ll probably just put it off.