"Noah was a brave man to sail in a wooden boat with two termites." - Anonymous

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I recently finished the book "SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless" by Steve Salerno. (SHAM actually stands for self-help and actualization movement). Mr. Salerno has experience both researching and working in various areas of the self-help industry.

Food for thought! The basic concept of the book is about how the SHAM industry not only pulls in unthinkable amounts of money every year (5.7 billion dollars US in 2000 and growing) but the deeper damage that is has done to North American society. Lawsuits and divorces that are the result of the change in thinking by those who hold tight to the teachings of Victimization, Empowerment, and Recovery. Declines in educational performance. The real story behind people like Dr. Phil, Marianne Williamson and Tony Robbins and other 'thinly credentialed "experts"'.

Don't get me wrong...I'm all for positive outlooks, believing in yourself, yada, yada. However, in an industry that claims to want to solve a problem, you would think people's lives would get better. If it worked, people would not need further help from these authors and gurus. But studies show that the effect is quite the opposite. In fact, people are more likely to buy a book about a certain self-help topic (love, money, relationships, etc.) if they'd bought a similarly themed book in the past 18 months. WHAT???!!!

I don't get it.

One of my theories is that deep down, people essentially do not want to take responsibility for themselves. They want to turn themselves over to the power of the universe. A common theme in self-help is that if you believe deeply enough in something, then it will happen. Will it? Really? The quote at the beginning of the book could not be more perfect:

"Compared to the possibilities in life, the impossibilities are vastly more numerous. What I don't like to hear adults tell people your age is that you can be president or anything else you want to be. That's not even remotely true. The truth is that you can run for president, and that's all...In our wonderfully free society, you can try to be just about anything, but your chances of success are another thing entirely." Marilyn vos Savant (who, by the way, was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for Highest IQ).

I would love to tell my boys that they can be anything they want to be. I think though, that the message will more likely by something along the lines of "If you are honest with yourself and make your contributions to society, all else will fall into place."

Or perhaps people want to place the blame for their shortcomings on someone or something else. Everything is a disease these days...shoplifting, acoholism, drug abuse. And more and more often companies, fellow employees, communities, etc. are being forced to see them as such and make allowances for it (whether they like it or not).

I don't know what to think...it's obviously not black and white, is it? I just have seen so many of my friends start on this mindset that they need someone to lead them down a path to their personal greatness. And most of that leadership is laced with fluff and vague statements ("The thing you notice about losers is, they don't win" Seriously.)

I'm not perfect, nor would I ever think to be. In my mind perfection means done and I am never done. I am always growing and learning. I have many moments of self-doubt. Am I capable of raising 2 boys into wonderful, loving, contributing adults? Am I the wife my husband thought he was marrying? Am I good at my job? But, I go on. I buckle down and I work harder at those things and I excel where I can and make no excuses when I don't. And the accolades are that much more enjoyed when they're not expected, and are hard-won. Really. If you just expect everyone to realize you are brilliant, you will be disappointed many times. You have to earn the recognition.


And now, on to my next book, "An Ordinary Man" by Paul Rusesabagina. This book inspired the movie "Hotel Rwanda". After hearing Romeo Dallaire speak about his experience in Rwanda and then reading "Shake Hands with the Devil" I've been fascinated by the events leading up to and during the 1994 genocide. I am considering becoming a "sister" to a woman in Rwanda through the Women For Women International. I would become a support for her financially and emotionally for 1 year through donations and correspondence.


Last, a late "Happy Thanksgiving" to my American neighbors. I hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as ours was in October. And now on to the excess of the Christmas season! Eeep!

1 comment:

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks for mentioning the book, Debbie. I enjoyed your comment on same. I also want you to know that the photo you use on your profile literally brought tears to my eyes. It probably would've anyway since I'm such a softie at heart--but given what we've been through recently (see link below, or my blog of Nov. 11), and the fact that you much resemble the girl I wrote about, especially in one of my favorite photos of her and our beloved Sophia... Well, let's just say it reached deep inside to that place where "that ache" lives.

My best to you and your boys...