The Best Self-Help Articles Are Songs
Michael Thompson wrote a fantastic article for Mind Cafe (I Asked a Bunch of ‘Self-Help Haters’ to Rip Apart My Article) that freaked me out a little. Thompson lives in Spain and, apparently, Europeans hate self-help people. Point #1 was:
“This guy just wrote an article about the importance of learning from your mistakes and then quoted Elon Musk who’s been married like 37 times.”
Gulp. Because I just did that. In my defense, I qualified it:
Musk has said and done a lot of things since that phone call.
I had one experience with Musk. He handled it with class. I learned a lesson. Whether Thompson was writing about my article or one of his own, I can’t quite figure out. But it’s besides the point. He’s one of Medium’s best writers. I strive to achieve a modicum of his success. As always, his article got me thinking. I don’t feel like I’m writing self-help. I’m relaying my experiences.
Self-help, in and of itself, isn’t always the issue. It’s the mentors and gurus offering the advice. Often, they’re opportunistic hacks, telling tall tales and selling big dreams on the basis of their success. Success they can’t seem to stop telling you about. Do the loudest voices offering self-help do it because they like to hear themselves talk (about themselves)? Do they pervert all over their followers, who look to them for answers? Does noisily offering self-help validate the mentor’s success when the mentee fails to attain it or even come close? All burning questions.
But we’ll save them for another day.
I draw a distinction between types of self-help. For example, there’s self-serving self-help. And there’s genuine people relaying their life experience — with humility — in an honest effort to provide at lease some semblance of tangibility for the reader. I strive to fall in the latter camp when I write about life or something less perplexing, such as writing.
I use great songwriting as one model. Great lyricists provide the best — and most authentic — self-help. I’m sure you have your favorites. I have mine:
- Tom Petty