The Shortest Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Read

Based on me reading a lot of them

Jessica Wildfire
May 9, 2020 · 12 min read
Photo by Alex Azabache from Pexels

I’m proud to say that despite all my weirdness, I’ve seen plenty of mountain tops like the one in this photo.

Who cares how you get there, as long as you do?

There’s a ton of self-help books floating around. If you’ve read even a few of them, you’ve probably noticed they take forever to get to the point. Trying to read them all would take years and hundreds of dollars. But you’re in luck. I’ve read dozens out of curiosity.

Here’s what they all say:

The Secret Desires Chapter

You crave something that you’re too scared to admit to yourself. It’s not exactly that you want to make millions of dollars, or appear on the cover of magazines. It could be something simple like hiking the Appalachian Trail, or learning how to play the piano.

The longer you hide from what you really want, the more you’ll suffer. Dead dreams always come back to haunt you.

The Goals Chapter

You have to break your big ass dreams down into specific goals. You have to come up with a plan. You have to do research. You have to ask around. Keep your goals simple. Don’t get distracted by shiny objects.

The Mortality Chapter

You have to go about every day like you might live forever, but also like you might die tomorrow afternoon.

The Limiting Beliefs Chapter

If you haven’t been going after what you really want, it’s probably because you’ve accepted lies about yourself.

Examples of lies:

  • You’re doomed to repeat your parents’ mistakes.
  • If you’re not #1, you’re a loser.
  • Being happy means always being the center of attention.
  • You’re not tall enough to play sports.
  • Real artists have to suffer for their work.
  • You’re not smart enough to start a business.
  • You’re too emotionally damaged to ever have kids.

Sit down and pinpoint the beliefs poking holes in your big ass dreams. Figure out where they come from, and put a check on them.

The Negative Self-Talk Chapter

When you believe lies about yourself, you talk down to yourself. Everyone does this a little. We don’t even realize it half the time.

Examples of negative self-talk:

  • Comparing yourself to someone else and what they’ve accomplished.
  • Diminishing your own achievements out of habit.
  • Reminding yourself of all your past mistakes.
  • Convincing yourself that nobody really cares about you.

It’s important to be realistic about what you can get done. Everyone has limits. But your negative self-talk speaks in absolutes. It says you’re a nobody, that you’ll never get anything you want.

It’s just not true.

The Environment Chapter

Your environment shapes everything. By environment, we’re talking about your physical surroundings —and the people you spend time with. If you’re serious about life, clean up where you live. Get rid of the temptations that keep hogging your attention. This could mean tossing out the potato chips, or putting your phone in the closet.

The Growth Mindset Chapter

You can be someone with a narrow mind and a fragile ego who never listens to any criticism. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Or you can be someone who assumes there’s always something new to learn, and some way they can get even better at what they’re already good at. In case it’s not clear, you’re supposed to go with Option B.

The Micro-Habits Chapter

Don’t try to overhaul your life in a few weeks. Make little 1 percent improvements. It’s a lot easier, and something you can keep building on. Get used to the idea of always making little tweaks to yourself. You’re not meant to hang in a gallery.

The Useless Excuses Chapter

People who really want to do something find a way to do it. Even if your odds really suck, and you live in a shit hole, you’re still better off trying whatever you can instead of giving up.

Sure, people with privilege have it easier. They always have, for thousands of years. But this is a self-help book. It can’t solve injustice.

The Thinking Too Much Chapter

There’s two kinds of thought. There’s the kind where you’re engaging with the world, with facts, with action.

And then there’s sitting on your ass, building a maze inside your own skull. When you catch yourself doing that, go for a walk. Read a book. Listen to some music. Go to sleep. Do anything else but think.

You’ll only come up with some crazy ass bullshit that makes no sense to anyone but you.

The Grit Chapter

People who give up on their big ass dreams don’t accomplish them. People who can crawl through mud stand a better chance.

The Comfort Zone Chapter

Outside your comfort zone is where all the good stuff happens. You have to go out there for a little while. Don’t worry, you can always come back inside your comfort zone later to recharge. The good thing about your comfort zone is that it expands the more you stretch it.

Ever meet anyone who never ventured beyond their comfort zone? Did you find them boring, even lame?

So did everyone else.

The Material Wealth Chapter

I’m not sure why self-help books feel the need to say this, but there’s nothing wrong with making tons of money. Let’s tweak that: Making tons of money is great as long as you don’t exploit anyone.

Do you really think it’s bad to have a house paid off, maybe a car and some nice clothes? Do you like living paycheck to paycheck?

Okay. Didn’t think so.

Money obviously improves your life when you use it to buy a decent house, warm food, and clothes for your family, etc. Money diminishes your life if you never think about anything else.

Money is always a means to an end.

The Money & Finances Chapter

If you want more money, stop eating out. Stop popping into Starbucks every day. Buy a Mr. Coffee. You already know this. So just do it. You also probably have a handful of online subscriptions you forgot about. That said, we need to increase the minimum wage. That shit is ridiculous.

The Gratitude Chapter

When you feel like shit, take a break. Take stock of all the people and things in your life — including your body parts. Your life sure would suck a lot more without those. Gratitude isn’t really about feeling better, but doing the work to keep what you have. People don’t usually like it when you take them for granted. They tend to bail.

The Perfectionism Chapter

Perfection is a moving target. Stop trying to judge the quality of your work. Do the best you can, and let other people decide how good it is.

The Emotional Intelligence Chapter

Emotions are like onions. They have layers. Nothing you feel ever falls into neat fruit baskets like “sad” and “happy.”

You don’t have to act on every emotion you feel.

In fact, you probably shouldn’t.

Sit with your emotions. Peel them down — especially the bad ones. Look at the core before deciding what to do next.

The Relationships Chapter

If you want love, you have to meet people and go on dates. You have to let go of your fantasies and learn about the person in front of you, and decide if you can build a life with them.

People convey their love in all kinds of ways. If you actually pay attention, you’ll figure out how to love them.

The Winning Friends & Influencing People Chapter

Stop talking about yourself so much. Ask questions. Ask for advice, even if you don’t really need it. Ask for opinions, even if you don’t care about them yet. Get people to tell stories. Figure out common interests. Give people compliments. Then you can talk a little. Do this, and you might actually start to enjoy hanging out with them.

Even introverts and nerds can learn how to do this.

The Health & Nutrition Chapter

You don’t have to be skinny to be healthy. You already know that fast food is terrible for you, just like those delicious egg rolls. So stop screwing around. Some books go into a lot of detail about healthy dieting. But they all wind up making similar points:

  • Reduce or eliminate carbs, processed food, fast food, frozen food, dairy, soda, and most sugars.
  • Try to eat more legumes, dark green vegetables, a little fruit, lean meats, and healthy fats.
  • Cinnamon helps regulate your blood-sugar.
  • Garlic, coffee, and green tea can help you lose weight.
  • Cut out the late night snacks and binge drinking.

Stop counting calories all the time, unless you want to wind up in a padded cell. It’s smarter to start working on a meal plan rotation, and cooking for several days at a time. Get used to eating the same thing a little more often. Don’t try to overhaul your diet in one go. Inch up to it. If all you do one month is introduce green vegetables, that’s a win.

And no, the occasional egg roll won’t kill you. Once you establish a good diet, you can pick one day a week to splurge.

The Sexual Health Chapter

It’s weird that most self-help books leave this one out, because it’s important. Porn is great, but too much of the wrong kind can screw up your sex life and kill your relationships.

There’s no shame in kink if it’s consensual and legal.

Sex toys are awesome. Roleplay is awesome. Cosplay is awesome. Dirty talk is awesome. Masturbation is awesome. Do it once a day. Do it twice. Four times could be pushing it.

The Self-Care Chapter

Anything we didn’t cover with healthy habits and nutrition goes here. Everyone’s different. Some of us have depression, personality disorders, and all other kinds of stuff. Figure out what makes you a whole person, and do it. Maybe it’s listening to jazz. Maybe it’s gardening. Maybe it’s something everyone else would run screaming from, but it doesn’t hurt anyone — including you. So go for it.

The Mental Health Chapter

A good attitude can’t solve everything. Sometimes you need meds and a therapist, or a support group.

Go get them.

The Organization Chapter

Look at you. So much stuff. Poor thing. I know what to do. Get rid of it — anything you don’t use. Next, buy some baskets. Put up some shelves. Organize by category. Put all your books in one place. All your media in one place. All your clothes. All your cleaning products. And so on. Don’t drag it out. Just get it done. That’s basically it.

The Time Management Chapter

You only think you don’t have any time because you do all this bullshit:

  • Social media.
  • Surfing the web.
  • Email.
  • Meetings.
  • Happy Hours.
  • Netflix.
  • Staring at your belly button.

Start keeping track of that and cut it down. You don’t have to murder your social life. You don’t have to cancel Netflix. But odds are, you can carve out two hours a day from all this to focus on what matters to you. Netflix is supposed to be a reward, not a crutch.

The Boundaries Chapter

You don’t need everyone to like you. You don’t have to volunteer everywhere. You don’t have to say yes to everything. If someone gets pissed off because you skip out on the bake sale, screw ‘em. Spend your time doing what matters to you, not everyone else.

The Reflections & Projections Chapter

Take a good look at the people you spend your time with. Your social circles are like a feedback loop. They influence you. They reflect you. So does everything that triggers you.

But hey, almost everyone gets irritated at people who talk in movie theaters and answer phones in bathrooms. They aren’t a reflection of much. They’re just little pests—some days they get the best of you.

The Productivity Chapter

Stop making gigantic to-do lists. You’re not going to do all that. Make smaller lists. Get that stuff done. Make another list.

Stop looking for the perfect productivity app. Use the ones you’ve got. Fall back in love with post-its and notebooks.

Cold showers don’t make you more productive. They make you cold. If you’re going to be working your ass off for the next several hours, don’t you deserve a nice hot shower?

The Creativity Chapter

Ideas come from literally everywhere. You have ideas all the time. You just need to get better at knowing when you have an idea.

Originality is a myth. Everyone is always giving their own spin, remix, or combination of books and shows they like.

Stop trying so hard. Just keep practicing your craft. You’ll get better without even realizing it. Anyone at the top of their profession took years and years to get there. Their progress wasn’t a straight climb. They had lots of setbacks and backslides and plateaus. They had moments where they thought they might have to give up.

The Hobbies Chapter

Not everything in your life has to be about your big ass dreams. If you like video games, then play video games.

You don’t even have to be any good at your hobby. In fact, it’s healthy to have hobbies you suck at. They keep you grounded.

They remind you how to loosen up and have a little fun.

The Giving Up Chapter

Quitting isn’t always a bad thing, if it leads to you exploring something else you might be better at. Lots of people quit their Plan A, and their Plan B. Their Plan C was the gold mine.

The Results Chapter

You can cut out a lot of counter-productive behavior if you keep asking how your actions contribute to your big ass dreams. Tamp down your drama. Cut loose anyone who causes too much trouble.

The Self-Teaching Chapter

Real knowledge never comes from a classroom, even if you’re required to be there. Even the top colleges understand this now. That’s why they’ve all gone to flipped classroom models and project-based learning. It’s 2020. Whatever you want to learn, you can start with Google. Just be careful. Don’t fall down the anti-vaxxer and Reddit rabbit holes.

The Rest & Recovery Chapter

At some point you’ll start to think the more hours you put in, the faster you’ll get ahead. That’s a lie. Your brain needs rest. Your body needs rest. Pushing yourself too hard will tip you backward, not forward.

The Fear & Failure Chapter

You’re going to fail. Lots of times. A good failure is one you can learn from. Fear of failure is just another kind of failure.

Some people never get to see their big ass dreams come true. There’s lots of smart, talented people out there who never really got what they deserved. But they usually got something out of it.

A partial success isn’t a failure.

The Taking Things Personally Chapter

You’re going to get rejections. You’re going to get turned down for promotions. You’re going to get dumped and cheated on.

And so much more…

These things happen to everyone. The universe isn’t singling you out for punishment. But if you act like it is, then every single bad thing that happens to you will feel ten times worse.

The Decision Making Chapter

People who spend days and weeks agonizing over big decisions usually wind up making terrible ones. Do some research. Weigh your pros and cons. Listen to your intuition. And honestly, some deep part of you always knows whether a risk is worth taking. Stop crunching numbers and just sit still for a few minutes. Don’t think. Just make the call.

The Intuition Chapter

Lots of people wonder what’s the difference between impulse and intuition. Here it is: Impulse is quick and simple. Intuition is slower and more sophisticated. Use impulse for big obvious problems like tigers and traffic accidents. Use intuition for problem-solving.

The Luck & Hidden Opportunities Chapter

Yes, good luck exists. So does bad luck. You have to be prepared for both. If you’re hungover when opportunity knocks, you’re not going to make a very damn good impression, are you?

The Self Worth Chapter

Every single human being on the planet has some kind of value. They have some kind of purpose and potential. You’re not special. You’re just like everyone else in that sense.

The Imposter Syndrome Chapter

A little self-doubt is good for you. It keeps you from becoming too arrogant and complacent. Use it as a tool.

The Social Networking Chapter

You need fans and supporters. You need allies and friends. You need support networks. You need advice and critical feedback from people who know what they’re doing. Don’t network for material gain. Most people eventually see through bullshit.

The Happiness Chapter

Stop trying to be happy, and let it take you by surprise. Some of us crush our goals every single day. We still struggle with anxiety and sleeplessness. We still find an unflattering angle in the bathroom mirror.

The Believe in Yourself Chapter

Well, nobody ever accomplished their big ass dreams by telling themselves they probably couldn’t do it. Nobody ever won a gold medal by shooting for bronze and crossing their fingers.

If you want gold, you have to train for it.

Look at all the cool things people have accomplished throughout history. Those things all looked hard, even impossible, before someone did them. Don’t let someone else predict your success or failure. That’s yours. And if you’re going to try something, don’t half-ass it.

Full-ass it.

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Jessica Wildfire

Written by


The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +793K followers.

Jessica Wildfire

Written by


The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +793K followers.

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