Frequently, we see influential people we look up to – in business, art, et al – write about their success. They write about how they achieved it; they write about the steps they took; they write, often, about what you can do to emulate this success.
It’s all crap.
Well, it’s not all crap. But the part about how it applies to you? That you must consider carefully.
All any thought leader can do is talk or write from their point of view. They do not share your experiences, your situations, your worries, your challenges. To the extent they do intersect, their advice is sound. Beyond that, it’s a good story that may have some value, but ultimately is the influencer telling you “How to be me because my life is the best-ever/awesomest and here’s how I did it” than it is about you improving your life.
My favorite example is from five years ago, when entrepreneur Jason Calacanis wrote a thoughtful screed on how entrepreneurs should do their own marketing and publicity, which I dubbed “How to be Jason Calacanis.” The points about being careful what you spend for outside counsel are helpful; but overall, the advice about, essentially, doing it all yourself was only truly helpful to entrepreneurs who had the stomach and personality to be entrepreneur, money man and spokesperson all in one. Most entrepreneurs, frankly could use some sort of outside help.
There are plenty of other examples out there, including recent ones of successful women trying to make their road to the top, and how they stay there, relatable (think Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” among other examples). There is no way I am going to insert myself into those debates, where I have no place – but it appears they do not necessarily resonate with everyone.
Extrapolate this to any book, lecture, or blog post that veers into the “self-help” category. The sharing is wonderful; there is always something to take away from anyone’s story. But these aren’t instruction manuals, and I would be wary against treating them that way.