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Living by Instructions

I wonder who writes those ‘How-to’ books. You know what I mean. ‘How to become a topper’, ‘How to start a business with no money’ ‘How to have great sex – all the time”. I am not going to link to any of these abominations. They treat readers like prize idiots and I don’t know who’s the bigger one – the one writing it or the one buying it! Huffington post has a great entry on the ridiculous how-to books of all time and it’s a screamer ‘ How to massage your cat’ and ‘How to have sex in the woods’- Honest, these creations exist. But the best one was this – a how-to for women on peeing standing up!

Since when have we become such imbeciles? Do we need an instruction manual for everything in life? Unpacking some expensive electronic equipment and trying to set it up requires a how-to manual. Or operating a mixer. Or a microwave for the first time.  Dale Carnegie‘s smartest marketing move was to change his name from Carnegy to Carnegie – creating an association with the widely respected Andrew Carnegie, who was no relation. He started a torrent that widened into a flood of advice in 1936 that still is repeated in every generation. Apparently, the only changes made from the first Dale Carnegie primer on ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ were dropping the chapters on writing effective business letters and improving marital satisfaction – maybe it does not win you, friends. Then Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care. It has sold over 50 million copies and been translated into 42 languages across the world. It required all of JK Rowling’s considerable storytelling powers to overturn that record.

Now since making friends and having babies is covered by these hard to beat titles, the next set of self help books was forced to move further down the line. The cryptically named ‘The Secret’ unlocks the mysteries of life – health, wealth and happiness. Then Stephen Covey wrote his masterpiece – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people. Is there anything in the book that your parents and teachers at school have not drilled into you for years? Then the ode to laziness and wealth in the same book – how could it not take off? Timothy Feriss wrote the 4 Hour Workweek and the cash registers are still ringing – for him, not his readers. They are still plodding on with the 60 hour work weeks and making a tiny fraction of his millions. These authors wrote what readers wanted to hear. No one follows the advice, anyway

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