I’m done reading self-help books, here’s why

Here is a little off-topic rant that I wanted to publish for a while now. If you are a frequent visitor of the blog you know that I do book reviews on Project and portfolio management. But I used to read a lot of books in the self-help category as well. That stops right now, and let me tell you why.

Seven self-help books I’d recommend everyone to read.



Age had something to do with it

I turned 40 this year (it’s 2022, hello future you), and even though I don’t think it should be a big deal, and it really isn’t, it did make me think of the demographic shift. I believe that I am no longer the target audience.

And I might be completely wrong about this.  But I think the target audience is young (ouch) adults, that want to make a name for themselves and be (more) successful/wealthy.

So, did I “make it”?

Did I stop reading just because I think I’m too old now? Or is there more to it? Well about those other criteria I believe I did make it!

A name, that name is The Project Corner. And even though the “brand” focuses on niche mostly IT markets, it is a name well known. There are 1k+ mailing list subscribers¬†2.3k subscribers to the YouTube channel and every day there are at least 50+ people interacting with some of my content. I would say that that part is covered.

Successful/wealthy, these topics are difficult to pin down. Partially due to the shifting target, right? If you have a thousand bucks extra you want 1.5k, and so on. The same goes for success I believe.

But apart from that general answer, I do think I’m successful. I became an MVP in 2018 (renewed for year #5 this year) and people know who I am and what I’m capable of. I’m still very eager to learn and achieve more, which is very important if you want to be and stay successful.

And wealth, well… I won’t fly around in a private yet any day soon. Or take a dip in an infinity pool in Dubai hotels. But I am generating passive income, apart from a daytime job at Projectum (we are always looking for good colleagues in Denmark/The Netherlands). And I am investing part of that income. So, yes, I do think I am wealthy enough to lead a relatively luxurious life.

The repetition is another reason

After reading close to 20 self-help books, you start to see a pattern. Granted, almost every book contains a new insight, but reading 200+ pages for key learnings that could be distilled in a blog article (like this one), is not something for me anymore.

I think most self-help books contain a format of personal success of the author, and then quick tips on replicating this success for yourself. One big issue I have with this is the faulty thought that one person’s success can be duplicated by others. There is a large dependency on the outside world. You might be able to change yourself. But the outside will influence your degree of success/wealth.

There are roughly 5 lessons that keep coming back in the books I read. And I’ll give you my versions of the teachings, and some book titles in case you do want to pick up the book for yourself.

The things I learned (again and again)

Teaching 1: start a business

There are several reasons why you would like to start your own business. For some it might be a sense of personal worth, for others, it might just be the positive effects when looking at tax deductions (in some countries more than others I assume).

Two books I’d recommend when it comes to starting a business would be the 4 hour workweek by Tim Ferriss and Rich dad Poor dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. Both describe the need to set yourself free from employment and describe the benefits of self-employment in great detail with actionable steps.

Teaching 2: invest

Another golden opportunity to increase your wealth is to start investing. And the sooner you start the more time the investment will have to compound into something of a nest egg.

For me, I fell in love with dividend investments. A share might go up or down, but because of the dividend the overall investment (mostly) will rise across the years.

Another great investment area is real estate, I combined both by investing in a company that sells shares of its real estate portfolio against a 7% annual dividend (that I reinvest).

For this topic, I would again recommend Rich dad Poor dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. I read this book exactly at the right time. And I loved the way he described the difference between assets and liabilities and owning assets (for example investing or owning real estate).

Another must-read is The richest man in Babylon by George S. Clason. This book is an easy read as it almost reads like a novel and with less than 200 pages it’s a great start on any person’s journey to self-improvement.

Teaching 3: stay healthy

Drink at least 2 litres of water, and sleep enough (variations of 6.5 to 8 hours show up in the books). But also, meditate and exercise often.

Most books will also tell you about affirmations and journaling. Which can be described as a mental health exercise.

Affirmations come down to telling yourself over and over that you are going to reach the goal you desire thereby putting yourself in a positive mindset that’s open for opportunities in that direction.

Journaling helps you put your thoughts to paper, if you do it in the morning it might help you structure your day. If you do it in the evening it might help you find hidden gems and act on them.

The books that stand out in the sense of staying healthy would be the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod or the four hour body by Tim Ferriss.

Teaching 4: pay it forward

Apart from being a great movie. The theory behind “doing good and expecting good things to follow” is also something that most self-help books preach. Share your wealth, share your knowledge.

Some books will tell you that, once you made your mark, there is good to be done for others as well. I was particularly impressed by the book Titan by Ron Chernow. Not particularly a self-help book, but a biography describing the life of J.D. Rockefeller sr. He had massive wealth but shared that wealth freely with his church and others.

Others follow in his footsteps, and it may be partial to avoid paying taxes, let’s be honest. But looking past that, the money that flows back into the economy this way could make some life-changing improvements.

Teaching 5: do the worst thing first

A frequently heard phrase is “eat the frog” and I could relate that back to a Mark Twain quote:

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.

Mark Twain – source

What this boils down to is: get going! Do the thing that needs to be done right away, the first opportunity you get. Because we won’t know what is around the corner. And procrastination is a very easy trap to fall into.

The books that discuss this teaching in great detail were Essentialism by Greg McKeown and The one thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.



Final Notes on the self-help books

I would love to hear from you if you have a book that helped you out. I won’t read it (any day soon) but who knows maybe someone reading this post will benefit.

Freeing up time to focus on other topics then reading how others made their success helps me be more productive, giving me more time to write this post for instance. Or produce another TPC video. Have a look at my most recent video here.

I’m never done learning, but regarding self-help books, I think I had my fill. Onward; to reading “The definitive guide to DAX”.