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Craig Stanland


13 Things Wrong With The Self-Help Industry

Some thoughts on what I believe is wrong with the self-help industry - as someone who's in the space.

    1. Hyper Focus on Positivity

    There's a lot of material promoting positivity at all times.

    This denies a considerable component of the human experience; sometimes, things suck. And it's ok to feel down, angry, shame, guilt, embarrassment, jealous, or whatever.

    If we deny our emotions, we deny a part of ourselves. How will we ever accept ourselves fully, deeply, and implicitly if we deny a piece of what makes us, us? How will we ever feel whole?

    2. Homogenized Content

    A tremendous amount of content is being produced, and very little is unique. The space has become a giant echo chamber. See #8.

    3. Marketing over Actual Value & Knowledge

    There's an emphasis on marketing over value and knowledge which leads to pretty packaging but an empty box.

    4. Idolatry

    A few in the self-help industry elevate themselves above their audience. By sharing only their successes and wealth they manufacture disparity, which leads to #5.

    5. Lack of Empathy

    There's a lack of empathy in the space because it can be highly ego-focused. Putting one's brand above the issue removes empathy. If you put yourself on a book cover, it's about you and your brand. There's nothing wrong with it; just acknowledge it. People seeking solutions are vulnerable and often hurting in ways we can never know.

    Current model: Brand >Empathy

    A solution-focused model: Empathy > Brand

    6. Authenticity

    There's very little authenticity in the space. This ties to #5. I don't categorize @JamesAltucher in the self-help space; however, he's an outstanding example of authenticity.

    7. Followers vs. Leaders

    There are too many followers and not enough leaders in the space. Only some people are willing to say something new/controversial, or authentic. See #2 and #8.

    8. Following Trends

    There's a tendency to focus on trends, "This is what's hot, so I'll jump on this bandwagon." I told someone in the space how important self-trust is to me. They replied, "oh, that's good because self-trust is really hot right now."

    Self-trust isn't something that runs hot or cold - It needs to be cultivated regardless of the noise.

    When everyone follows, and nobody leads, we get #2.

    9. Predatory

    The promise of the elusive silver bullet. Far too many snake-oil salespeople are taking advantage of people's vulnerability for the sake of $. Ties to #5.

    10. Regurgitation > Experiential

    Too many people regurgitate existing content w/o real-life experience related to what they're promoting as the "silver bullet." People who regurgitate tend to be master marketers. I know people who prioritize learning how to market before even knowing what they want to sell, and then they pursue #8.

    11. Ignores The Nuances Of The Human Condition

    Most self-help doesn't address their audience's underlying issues/obstacles. Humans are so nuanced that it couldn't possibly, yet it promises it will.

    If I don't feel worthy of success, I will get in my own way until I address that belief.

    A motivational quote cannot cut through an underlying belief that's diametrically opposed to the quote.

    12. Empty Calorie Content

    Most of what I see in the space is copy, not value-added content. It's written to illicit the reader to take action towards something that will benefit the creator of the copy, not the consumer of the copy.

    Copy > Quality content that inspires the reader to look within.

    Which leads to #13

    13. Phony Altruism

    "I give 99% of my content away for free."

    No, you write 99% copy to entice people to your paid offer.

    You're not doing it out of the kindness of your heart; you're doing it for the expansion of your bank account. Nothing wrong with this; don't bullshit about it.

    Also, most of that 99% isn't valuable; it's the tip of the iceberg - that leaves the consumer hanging and chasing #9.

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