The Power of One More- The promises and failures of the self-help industry
The Power of One More: The Ultimate Guide to Happiness and Success
byEd Mylett 2022
Once upon a time, when America was a much more open and optimistic place, self-help authors dominated the non-fiction book marketplace with upbeat best-sellers. It started with Dale Carnegie and Napoleon Hill, and expanded to people like Zig Ziglar, Wayne Dyer, Steven Covey, Jack Canfield, Tony Robbins, Dr. Phil McGraw, Brene Brown, and many more. The message of these popular books was pretty much the same formula:
1- You alone are in charge of your thoughts and actions, and
2- Once you accept #1 and work on whatever it is you want, you can accomplish almost anything.
I confess that I've read and listened to a lot of those books and they've helped me along the way, especially when times were dark. Taking responsibility for your life and happiness is a greatly empowering thought. Without it, we play the blame game and look for scapegoats to prove why we can't have anything good in life. But I've also found that there are limits to this self-help theology that individualistic, entrepreneurial Americans have taken to heart over the decades. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, not all of us can become millionaires as social media influencers, rock stars, hedge fund managers, pro athletes, or businesspeople.
In todays' economy, there are limits to what those at the bottom of the ladder can accomplish anymore, as the deck is decidedly stacked against them. Sure, a few lucky ones can rise, but many will never even attain what their parents had. This is cruel optimism at its core- if you fail, it's on you because look at how successful I am. If only you had just believed harder and done one more thing. Plus, none of us is an island. Our actions have consequences that sometimes adversely affects others. And we can profess all we want to have our act together, but we still need others to have a meaningful life. And to need others means to cede a bit of that hard-won personal power and to become vulnerable.
I thought about this while reading the latest from the latest self-help guru, Ed Mylett, in his new book, The Power of 1 More. Ed Mylett is a writer, podcast host, entrepreneur, and according to his LinkedIn page "one of the top business leaders, peak performance experts, and global keynote speakers in the world today. While many leaders and speakers just “talk the talk,” Ed is a team-made millionaire who has built one of the most prolific financial service businesses the world has ever seen."
The Power of 1 More is a call to work harder and put in that extra bit of effort that could make the difference between mediocrity and success. Mylett writes that we all have an "identity thermostat" that automatically adjusts itself when we get too happy or unhappy, based on what we think we deserve. Adjusting that stubborn self-concept is something that takes a lot of effort and/or counseling to overcome. Most people make consequential decisions about themselves early in life based on events in their formative years, and to overrule those decisions and feel worthy again is one of the hardest things that humans ever attempt. Books like this are a helpful push for some that encourages them to try new things, read better books, and think more constructive thoughts.
Positive thoughts can bring positive results, which compounds and expands as we feel better about ourselves and more in charge of what happens in our world. This can lead to a virtuous spiral that leads to greater confidence and better results out in the world. Unfortunately, negative thoughts act the same way, and can lead to a death spiral where failures beget more failures and more negative thoughts. Somehow, that positive frame of mind has to be protected and cultivated even in the face of failures and negative outcomes, which are unavoidable for most of us and especially destructive on the most vulnerable of us.
One of Mylett's more interesting suggestions is do divide your day into three sections and treat each of those as a separate entity, with goals and results all their own. For him those three sections are the morning, afternoon, and evening, each of which is like a separate day with separate events. This forces you to plan more and evaluate more, giving you shorter periods to evaluate. Shorter "days" force you to make better use of your time and become more accountable. Plus more planning and quicker results help keep you on track and on target.
Most of the ideas in this book are familiar in the self-help arena. Seek out better friends and colleagues, set simple and flexible goals, ask better questions to get better answers, don't sell yourself short with low standards, develop good habits to improve your autopilot settings, and don't be afraid to tackle the hard things first. Probably my favorite chapter was when Mylett talked about his father's battle with alcoholism and how he was inspired by his dad's courage in that battle.
There's a fair amount of religion in this book too, though Mylett tries not to overdo it, but if you're not a fan of prayers, that chapter might turn you off. If you're looking for a leader in the 2020's self-help movement, Mylett's your guy. He has taken to social media and collected followers with his muscular good looks and his can-do ethic. Mylett calls himself a "team-made millionaire" and he preaches the power of developing your own team and leading them to where you all want to go.
I spent a lot of time with authors and books like this, and for the most part they were helpful. But I recommend younger folks today take these teachings with a grain of salt. Yes, of course we all need to feel empowered and worthy, but the realities of 2020 are limited by unfair economics and climate change that limit what one person without a lot of resources can accomplish. Not everyone can be a millionaire, nor should they all want to be one. There are more important things in life than pushing yourself to do that one more thing and check off one more box on the endless goal sheet. Life is all about balance, and to take this stuff to heart too stringently risks pulling your life out of balance.
Everybody needs some good self-help books in their library, if only to correct the negative and defeatist thinking so prevalent in today's world. This book is fine for that purpose, though I recommend the classics by Wayne Dyer, Steven Covey, or Brene Brown before getting this one.