“There’s no way you’re going to get a quote from us to use on your book cover”
-Metropolitan Police spokesperson, referring to “Wall and Peace” by Banksy

Introduction

All my life, there have been people I’ve been looking up to for inspiration and guidance.  These types of people can be very rich, talented, intelligent, attractive, motivating, honest, fast, defensive, unique, loud, collected, respected, prepared for anything and most of all, willing to do whatever it takes to remain successful.  There’s always been a moment when I’ve said aloud, “I want to be just like…” and “if ____ can do it, so can I”.  Of all the people I’ve idolized, I know for sure that some people have written their own books, which sell based entirely on their image.

Examples of people I idolize and look up to include (in no particular order):

  • Pharrell Williams
  • Chad Hugo
  • Boris Vallejo
  • Bill Gates
  • Steve Jobs
  • Paul Reiche
  • Fred Ford
  • Alex Ness
  • Chris Nelson
  • Denis Dyack
  • Jay Z
  • Eminem
  • Daft Punk
  • Al Lowe
  • Frank Miller
  • Robert Rodriguez
  • James Cameron
  • Wes Anderson
  • Ryan Gosling
  • Chris Remo
  • Gene Roddenberry
  • George Lucas
  • Todd McFarlane

One thing about this list is most are celebrities, the rest are either filmmakers, CEOs or video game developers.  I am well aware I will never achieve the same success as those people.  The reason why these types of people inspire me, because I feel like the people mentioned above are free to do what they want, create something new, raw and not watered down.  They’re always doing what they feel is valuable and never stepping down simply because some manager disagrees with it.

I’ve seen hundreds of advertisements about getting rich legally, finding my dream job, finding true love, simple exercises to get the perfect body and discovering true happiness.  These are all things that happen under very difficult-to-replicate circumstances; finding ultimate success and true happiness is not something that can be done by following a specific path.  There are books about recipes, car maintenance and learning how to use computer software; these are things that guide the user towards very specific goals.

My First Self-Help Audiobook

I listened to a one-hour audiobook by a motivational speaker who talked about getting promotions and weight loss.  Overall, he seemed to mention random, indirect advice:

  • Whiten your teeth.  People with whiter teeth are more respected.
  • Avoid sugar.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages.
  • Avoid deep-fried and fatty foods.
  • Avoid red meat.
  • Exercise.
  • Start work earlier.
  • Work longer hours.
  • Take shorter lunch breaks and do more work.  There are no laws that prevent this.
  • Don’t listen to music while walking outside.
  • Always call clients and follow up with them.  Form relationships.  Ask if you can do more.
  • Avoid idle chit-chat at work.  Tell that person, “I’m too busy to talk right now.”  Let that person ruin someone else’s life.
  • Let nothing distract you.
  • Take part-time classes and never stop learning.  The more you learn, the more you earn.

At the end of the audiobook, the narrator asked that I go to a website and subscribe (for a fee) to an online success service where I can chat with other users about discovering my success.  While the above may improve someone’s health and work life, it’s described as if it’s a matter of making different choices.  I can’t do the above; not because I’m lazy and ignorant, but because I would feel even more miserable doing this simply because an audiobook told me so.  Any of the above points can be debated.  If I walked up to my friends and repeated this information to them, I don’t think they’d appreciate my “advice”.

You can’t get rich quick!

It is very possible to have a million dollars in my bank account.  I can win the lottery, strike gold, strike oil, discover a giant dinosaur fossil in my backyard or just happen to come up with that overnight million dollar business!  What all these have in common is they are highly unlikely and none of them can be achieved through a guaranteed logical means.

If we can’t reach this level of success, why bother?  Philosophical debates aside, one must work in order to live.  Money is required.  In the end, everything we do goes towards relaxation or paying off some living expense.

If I were to ask any millionaire how they became rich, I would be willing to bet my life they cannot tell me anything that I can replicate in order to gain the same riches.  Bottom line, they made the right connections, got lucky and are rich.  It just happens; an opportunity was present, the person took advantage of it at the right time and was lucky enough to gain an extremely large amount of wealth.

And yes, I know that money can’t buy happiness.

Constantly talking is not communication.

Advice is valuable.  However, it must be the right kind of advice.  I remember when I was getting my driver’s license, I decided to go to driving school.  Before my driving test, we drove on a road with a very slow speed limit of 40 kph (25 mph).  The instructor told me, “You will be driving on a road like this.  Be careful.  Watch the signs and your speed.”  I then drove to another area and parked at a curb.  The driving instructor told me, “Don’t park within 3 meters (10 feet) of fire hydrants”.  These are direct pieces of advice that are related to what I want.  In this case, a driver’s license.  If he started saying things such as “Always have a clear conscience”, “Wear comfortable shoes” and “Expect the unexpected”, I would feel offended.

It’s impossible to give advice to someone to go through life in a way that will apply to everyone.  In the case of the driving instructor, the advice was clear, concise and related directly to the task at hand.

People need advice tailored to their situation and resources, not hundreds of tips that sound like a good idea.

Love is blind. It will take over your mind.

I’m not Doctor Love nor do I give advice about love.  As of this post, I am single, never married.  Without getting too personal, all I can say is love is nothing like the movies and is quite predictable.  It is generally believed that 50% of marriages end in divorce.  Love can bring two people together.  However, one does not need to be in a relationship to be broke; it can just as easily happen to someone who is single.  There are millions of books dedicated to the subject of love.  Love is very complicated and is rarely synonymous with logic; the only thing they have in common are the first two letters.  I always hear about how exciting a relationship starts off; suddenly something happens, the climax ends and the relationship becomes worse and ends.  Everyone has a different idea of what defines “true love”.  Unfortunately, true love is not a stable currency that can be exchanged for goods and services.

Let’s just say that single people generally spend less money than those in a relationship or have kids.

You’re not getting any happier!

My grade 9 science teacher told the class, “Ask anyone out about their life; nobody tell you smiling.”  It was the end of the school year just before exam week.  At lot has changed since then.  If anyone asked me about my life, I wouldn’t discuss it smiling; I’d keep a straight face, get angry and complain endlessly about things that annoyed me.  Sure, there are things I wish I would have done differently, just like everyone else.  All I can do is learn from my mistakes; either avoid repeating them or be prepared so the consequences are not as severe next time.  As we get older, we start to accept that we are a tiny puzzle piece.  I am one of 7 billion people; Earth is just a pale blue dot in the universe.  Personally, I feel I am trying to find interesting things to stay focused on, getting things done rather than finding that philosophical path to true happiness.

Summary

No form of self-help can create a path to a successful life with love, adventure and excitement.  They’re nothing more than collections of advice that sound nice.  There are no logical, safe paths to riches, true love and happiness.  We rarely know what to expect and we can only react to what is happening in the present time and hope we’re prepared for it next time it happens.  The successful people we idolize probably wouldn’t be able to do it again if they were sent back in time to re-live their entire life again.  For these people, they just happened to see an opportunity, made the right decisions and got lucky.  Life is rarely fair.

There has never been a set path to success that everyone can follow and there never will be.  There are no free lunches.