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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Introduction

God helps them who help themselves.” Benjamin Franklin – The Way to Wealth

Nothing is achieved without investment; there are no free rides, free lunches or lottery winnings without something being done or given in advance or in return. Another phrase, time-worn: You get out what you put into it. So this book guarantees nothing. Results will vary from person to person, just as hair, eye and skin color aren't perfectly identical in any two people, even twins. This book only gives you an option to do something about anything you would like to improve in your life, from an extreme of getting outrageously wealthy to simply getting along better with a loved one or an enemy.

People who want to change something in their lives will find some way to do it. This book is nothing but an introduction into the vast field of self-help or self-improvement. It became necessary to write this book after a study was undertaken of several successful self-help books written as far as 6 centuries apart. All of them were successful when first published and are being reprinted and sold today, some of them hundreds of years after their authors died. That was the criterion: they had to be still in circulation or best sellers long after their authors died – showing that people generally still found them useful and workable, not dependent on the personal magnetism of the author. Then some best-selling modern self-help books were reviewed as a cross-check of the accuracy of these points. The common points that each had were summarized and included in this text, modernized and made simpler to remember and use. The book was written in a modern style to make it simpler to read and understand.

I don't have to tell you these will give you success. That the majority of these books have been continual best-sellers for as many as 90 years proves people have found them useful and applicable. There are hundreds of thousands, if not untold millions of people who have improved their lives or gotten prosperous from using these principles, many even before you or I were born. I really bring nothing new to this world with this writing, only putting it all in one spot and giving you a simple system to apply these to your lives. This book's system of distilled principles will work as much as you put yourself behind them and you will get out only in proportion to what you put in to your study, your application and your doggedness in seeing this through.

As I've said before, this book is just a mere introduction to the common system of self-help subject as described by the referenced authors. All the references I've used to boil down these basic points to their system are listed in the appendix at the back of this book. You can and should read these yourself to further your own understanding and ability in the area(s) you've chosen to improve. All are available on the Internet in one form or another and many are still being actively published today.

How to get the most out of this book.

There are three commonly known approaches to study:

  1. Study with a purpose in mind – what are you trying to get out of this book? Why are you reading this instead of watching TV, listening to music or doing your homework?

  2. Don't go past anything that doesn't make sense. While some things you have to accept on faith for the moment while the author then gets on with explaining it or giving examples, watch out for things like oddball nomenclature or technical terms which look and sound weird to begin with. But also, sometimes the author uses a word which doesn't make sense the way he uses it. He could be wrong, but this would make the whole sentence not makes sense, and maybe the paragraph, section and/or chapter – your loss, not his (since you already paid for the book, spent time at the library checking it out, or downloaded it when you could have been doing something else.) So keep a dictionary handy, and maybe a thesaurus and/or small encyclopedia around, so you can at least figure out what he was trying to say.

  3. Make sure you can apply it as you go. While some textbooks (and professors) make their readers swallow a huge amount of theory before they get to (if they ever do) some real use you can put this stuff to, it's often best to work out examples for yourself as you read. This keeps it in the real category, not the “I'll probably never use this anyway” back-burner section of your mind. So if you get to a point where you can't actually put it to any use, go back over the earlier sections to see where it quit making sense, sort that out, and then come forward. You might have to sketch it out or make some notes for yourself to do this sorting. As has been noted by various education and self-help professionals, doing is the best way to learn – in addition to reading or studying.

Dale Carnegie also boiled it down quite simply at the beginning of one of his Public Speaking books1:

In order to get the most out of this book and to get it with rapidity and dispatch, do these four things:

a. Start with a strong and persistent desire. ...

b. Prepare. ...

c. Act confident. 'To feel brave,' advises Professor William James, 'act as if we were brave, use all of our will to that end, and a courage fit will very likely replace the fit of fear.'

d. Practice.”

These apply to learning about self-help in more ways than you can imagine. A great deal of these applications will be explained or pointed out as we go through this book. But the above advice also applies to many different in-life situations, such as learning to drive a car or taking a college course.

The other point is that this book is not just read it and stash it. The best use for this book is to:

  1. Read one chapter a day, plus any relevant section of the referenced authors for that day,

  2. Do the exercises each day,

  3. Finish the book by reading each chapter and summary,

  4. Start over, repeating 1-3.

The reason for this is that repetition enables you to be more sure of being able to apply what you've studied and also to see the results as you go along. The exercises are written on a gradual slope of increasing difficulty and improved ability. When you finish off the book and start doing the first exercises again, you now will get much more out of the exercises, since you are coming back to them at a new, higher level of understanding and ability.

While I tell you a bit more about this later, you can get more out of this book by reading the other authors listed while or after you read this book. I'm not published by these book publishers, and most of the referenced authors have been dead for some time (excepting only one) so I don't get a dime from sending anyone their way. Simply, this is an introductory book, a summation of what these other authors researched. It's usually best to get the original data from the original sources. This book is just to tell you who to look up on what subject, so you don't have to burn 20 years of your own life winding your way on false leads trying to get out of the labyrinth.

Self-help is an evolving subject. There have been many changes over the years and more will be coming. Here I hope you get a thorough introduction to the heavy-weights in the field and get well-started on your own journey of self-improvement.

So: Good luck. As the Irish saying goes,

May the road rise up to meet you on your journey.”

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