I spend a lot of time in book stores, from mega-chain outlets to tiny emporiums of used tomes, sometimes no bigger than a closet, which exude a mustiness so pronounced that I often find myself wishing I had brought along a surgical mask.
My zeal for such places stems from a love of reading — it is equal parts avocation and vocation for me — plus the fact I collect books, though my modest stockpile reflects more aspiration than accomplishment at this point. My enthusiasm for the written word, particularly in hardcover form, is so unbridled that it is not unusual for me to dart like a spooked jackrabbit across several lanes of traffic — raising the ire and blood pressure of fellow travelers, both inside and outside my ride — whenever I spy such a treasure trove.
As I meander through the aisles of the shop du jour, I generally avoid the self-help section. It’s not because I believe myself to be above such advice. There are any number of people who would gladly tell you I am as flawed as the next soul, and I agree with them. Rather, it is because I inevitably decide, after leafing through some of the pages and reading some of the passages of such books, that I haven’t discovered anything I didn’t already know. Often, self-help advice is so pedestrian that I come away feeling cheated of the “ah-hah” moment inherently promised to me by the very nature of the genre.
I thought about this as I read Contributing Writer James Careless’ article (page 48) that offers common-sense tips culled from several two-way radio dealers regarding techniques they use to better manage their relationships with industry vendors. The advice is so straight-forward and solid that I predict you will say to yourself, at least once, “I already knew that.”
And then it hit me. The reason there is so much self-help advice in the pipeline — particularly that which covers the basics and no more — is because most of us fail on a regular basis to act on what we know to be true. Sometimes it’s because we suffer a brain cramp. Other times, it’s because we momentarily lose our focus given the pace of daily existence. Occasionally, it’s because the truism is in direct conflict with our desires. We know that we’re supposed to look both ways before crossing the street, eat our vegetables and treat others as we want to be treated. But do we? Probably not as often as we think we do, or should.
Perhaps the value of self-help advice then lies not in the lesson it offers, but in the reminder it provides.