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Self-help or shelf-help?


In this age of short attention spans, information overload and instant gratification, we’re all looking for the “easy” button to change our habits, improve our lives, add to our expertise, lose weight or find our soul mate.

The simple truth is that there isn’t one. All of these things are possible and not necessarily too difficult or complicated to achieve, but they don’t happen by magic or by pressing a simple button. They require focused and determined effort and action on our part.

It helps to have a clear understanding of the “why” in what we want/need to learn so that we can realistically decide and evaluate if a program is going to provide that answer – or at least send us down the correct path towards our ultimate goals.

I have rightly been described as being an “information sponge” and have also been a big proponent of investing in self-education, as well as furthering professional education and skills.

I have personally received much benefit from this practice, but I’ve also spent a lot of money and experienced just as many disappointments. This has occurred mostly when I’ve tried to seek in others or their products what I wanted to see in them, as opposed to what was actually there, or the benefit(s) they would realistically provide to me.

I was recently on my first call with my new personal business coach, and we discussed my past efforts and rather impressive collection of self-improvement and self-development books, DVDs and programs. He used a term I’d never heard before – "shelf-help" – to describe the propensity to buy self-improvement or self-development books and/or products that we never use, instead allowing them to collect dust on the shelf.

I’m certainly guilty of this, as my family will readily attest. The problem with this type of behavior, while it may be well-intentioned, is that it can cause the following negative outcomes:

  1. It can provide you with a false sense of security.
  2. It can cause you to become uncertain and make you feel inadequate.
  3. It can cause you to feel overwhelmed and more confused.
  4. It can cause you to become more indecisive.
  5. It can cause you to always chase the next “magic pill" or solution rather than focus on finishing and mastering the program(s) that you already own (a perpetual dog chasing his tail).

In the end, I would still make all of the investments that I’ve made in the past, and I will continue to invest in the future, but I will do so with the understanding and knowledge that the mere act of purchase does not constitute an “education.” Action is always necessary for growth.

My suggestion is to finish and master one program at a time, before you’re distracted by the next flashy, whiz-bang, shiny object that’s sure to come along. Now go blow the dust off and turn your shelf-help back in to self-help!

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Michael Schmidlen

Michael Schmidlen is a serial entrepreneur who has successfully run his multi-million dollar home-based business for 20 years. Michael is working on his first book, “Memoirs of THE Underwear Entrepreneur," where he shares his many business experiences and unique stories. The book is designed to be a blueprint for other small business owners, would-be entrepreneurs and startups to beat the overwhelming odds to create a successful, thriving small business model.

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