The Best Self Help Book Ever!

As we cling on to our past
‘Those were the days but they didn’t last’
Life was simple and more fun
I have struggles and things are coming undone.
It wasn’t so in the good ol’ days
all was better in so many ways’.
I wonder if you have a different lens than I !
a different book on which you rely!
I see struggle and strength
conflict and pretence
world trembling with new hope
some simply trying to cope.
I see achievements new
dreams relived and many came true,
talent reaching new heights
I also see many a sleepless nights.

The sights may not be too removed
but something time has always proved –
Past; if you don’t comprehend
will never seem to end.
Only when you see
the world for what it is,
the answers rush through
and you are truly free !

Would you be surprised to learn that the last 25 years of the 20th century really brought the niche ‘self-help’ category in books into limelight? That the growth in self-help books was about 96% just between 1991 – 1996? That self-help (or self-improvement as it is named now) is more than a $10 billion per year industry?

While an industry grew did we understand that ‘No two people can be the same and of course billions will be different in billion unique ways’. You don’t have to walk, talk, grow, live a certain way unless it is your way. And we have seen from history that ‘change is the only constant’ and ‘what goes around comes around’!

Let’s take a walk down history. Just a few years ago, we moved into the 21st century. The world became one century older and wiser when the clock moved beyond mid-night on 31 december 2000 (one timezone at a time). Unlike my dislike for my growing age, the world does love to move forward ! We are in the 21st century now – the era of progress, new thought, equality, possibilities and the digital age. But we were not just a century older, we were also leaving a millennium behind. Our teens were over and now we were expected to be more responsible, isn’t it? It is still sinking in and before we start taking our responsibilities seriously with a level-head and wisdom, let’s relive the final moments of our teens.

1901 – 2000– The century that was busy redefining change, driving self-expression, innovation, new discoveries and even redrawing the world map. Man’s first flight, the first silent movie, the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, color TV, the first functional (modern) computer, Elvis and then Michael Jackson came into our lives. We were stretching our potential, breaking definitions and absolutely nothing was impossible.

A millennium of coming of age reached a break point and collided – two world wars, interspersed with the great depression, Vietnam war and the Cold War, Apartheid, the building and then breaking of the Berlin Wall, the first concentration camps and suicide of Adolf Hitler, nations re-conceived themselves and the ‘Titanic’ sank – not in the same order, of course!

Nelson Mandela was released from prison, new nations took shape, new rulers came to power, movies turned on color and started talking, Mickey Mouse got a home in Disneyland and the world was literally at everyone’s fingertips – the Internet had officially arrived !

Phew!! Never had a century seen more action than the 20th. There was a force moving us forward with conviction and a strong pull to hold tightly to the past. Don’t we all (who have left our teen years behind) remember going through such a conflict in mind, society, environment, expectations, fears and even physically??

Finally, remember the Y2K bug and the absolute horror of losing all your precious data in the final year of the 20th century? It reminded me when I was stepping out in the ‘real world’ – was I ready for the unexpected challenges!! Will I completely lose myself in the struggle to create my space in the world!!

It has been a collective thrill ride, isn’t it?
And to top it all, we were 1.6 billion in 1901 but 6.1 billion strong when we stumbled into the 21st century.

Imagine your teen years – a natural process of growth, learning, adjusting, friends, dreams, fears, building a base of ‘who I am’ and then imagine your final year when everything changes; a transformation beyond imagination, new possibilities, shattered realities, an environment more fierce, judgmental, competitive and hugely over-crowded. There is a reason that a psychiatrist is mandatory in stressful job environments. Very simple – stressful environments cause stress !! When the mind is pressured with stress – you need help to find yourself !!

All we need are few moments of quiet, few more when stress grips us tight and a history book ! We are not alone, never were and half the things we fret about are not even worth a fight!

Insights from my history book –

1. Nothing lasts forever – good or bad.
2. There’s always something new to discover or create
3. If you can dream it – you can achieve it
4. Power can easily corrupt – beware!
5. There is always something someone will not like; only do what you believe in.
6. What we don’t understand doesn’t always mean it’s wrong.
7. Harming the other is always wrong.
8. If you think too hard about your problem; you might believe you have a disease. Identify the solution you want; the path will become clearer.
9. Cut the noise – possibilities are bigger than what lies in front of your eyes.
10. I am bigger than my struggle.

Don’t they all say, “the key is to understand yourself”?
As we are not Tom Hanks stranded on an uninhabited island (movie: Castaway), “the key would be to understand ourselves and the world to find our reason in the world” !