Why Shelf-Help Books Only Help Your Shelf

Expert-it is & Other Diseases

“That book was great! You should read it.”

Beware the pursuit of knowledge.

The great majority of business books (and other non-fiction) are really just “shelf-help” books. They help your shelf look better. But they don’t change anything. Why?

I get a lot of business book recommendations from people. When I do, I usually ask them how they have used the book to push their business and/or their own life forward. What I’m really asking is, “Did this book transform something, anything, or was it just intellectually stimulating without changing anything?”

Head vs. Heart

We’re addicted to intellectual knowledge, which is only one of the two kinds of knowledge we find in most dictionary definitions of knowledge:
1) Intellectual knowledge – knowledge of the head.
2) Life/experience knowledge – knowledge of the heart.

The ancient Greeks had two words for knowledge:
1) Gnosis knowledge of the head – the pursuit of information
2) Epignosis – knowledge of the heart – the pursuit of transformation

Too many books are based in gnosis, which, by itself, does nothing to make us successful. The reason we’re addicted to gnosis, is that head knowledge makes me “feel” more equipped to deal with my business, without having to actually do or change anything. It’s cost-free.

Consumers flock to the 3-easy step diets, the magical-millionaire website promises and the business book that claims it will get you a 4-hour work week. Educational institutions are the worst perpetrators of this lie – you’ll be richer tomorrow because you know more (gnosis).

Most seminar leaders know you will pay more for a seminar with a 3″ binder and 6 CDs than a simpler one that will change your life.

The Trenches of Transformation

The best business books aren’t informational, but transformational. Very few come from the trenches of transformation, where someone took big risks, put themselves out there, worked hard, sweated through it, and lived to write about it. I pay a lot more attention to people who have done what they are asking me to do, who are sharing from their experience, not from their head knowledge.

When I was in my early 20’s people told me I should be writing books. As I was formulating my first book of knowledge created in the ivory tower of my mind, I met a guy who had written a successful book when he was in his late-20s. He told me he had learned so much through experience that he realized his book was a load of hooey. But since it was in print, he would live with that mistake the rest of his life.

After that meeting I vowed to not write until I had experienced transformation and knew with my life (epignosis) that it could transform others, too. As a result, I didn’t publish my first book until I was 56. The most gratisfying thing about that book – it was named #1 Business Book of the Year not for volume of sales, but “for impact”. And people who read it don’t say, “that was interesting”, but “that changed the way I do business.”

Stay Away from Gurus and Experts

Research shows most people don’t get past page 18 of every book they buy. That makes perfect sense to me because we are not naturally cognitive, we are naturally intuitive, and we know in our hearts that the “3-easy steps” book we bought won’t give us the success it promised.

Are you reading shelf-help books or transformational books? Please recommend your transformational books to others here – thanks!

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