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Don’t Fall Into The Trap Of Only Reading Tips On Self Improvement

By: Brian Kim - January 3, 2007

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It may seem from the title of this article that I’m against any article or book out there that lists tips when it comes to self improvement. That’s certainly not my intention. Tips are great, but tips are great if and only if they are based on a solid foundation.

You see, everybody loves tips. Here are 10 tips to manage your time, 5 tips to improve your self esteem, or 10 ways to be more productive. You’ll often see these types of articles on the front page of yahoo or msn.com. They’re short, easy to digest, and don’t take long to read.

Here’s the thing though. Tips are like junk food. They’re good once in a while, but they won’t do you any good if you rely on them too much. We should be chewing on something that has greater nutritional value.

There’s a hidden danger that comes with relying on tips that most people don’t realize. The people who offer these tips in a short article or book often attribute the solution to a particular problem via these tips, when in reality, they’ve actually laid the foundation down first which is the real solution without ever realizing it. The tips they offered are then byproducts of that foundation.

What happens then is a person looking for quick fixes to a problem comes along and finds an article chock full of tips and thinks these tips hold the solution to his problem. He the tries to apply these tips but to no avail as no results are showing. Results are not showing because he hasn’t laid down the foundation FIRST.

Here’s an example to better understand this concept. Imagine a shy person who is not very “graceful” in social situation so he goes up to a guy who is social by nature and asks for some tips on how to socialize better. The person who is social by nature will be confused because in his mind, he doesn’t rely on tips. He already has the foundation built within himself. He tries to convey this to the shy person but the person keeps on pressing him for tips. He wants the quick fix.

Reluctantly, the social butterfly gives some general tips – smile, be polite, give a firm handshake, hold eye contact, etc. So the shy person listens to all these tips and gathers up the courage to apply them. He crashes and burns. His smile is not natural; when you shake his hand, it’s like shaking a wet, limp fish and he struggles to hold eye contact with the other person during the conversation. What’s the problem? He’s trying to apply the tips without spending the time build the foundation FIRST. What’s the foundation in this case? Being comfortable with yourself. You must be comfortable with yourself before you can become comfortable with others. Shy people are always wondering what other people are thinking of them so they tend to be uncomfortable with themselves because they feel as if a hundred pair of eyes are watching and scrutinizing their every move. People who tend to be less shy in social situations are generally for the most part comfortable with themselves so they can then focus on the more important aspects of socializing like the conversation itself and the other person.

I like to think of tips as a band aid to a patient who is constantly bleeding because he has no platelets to clot the injuries in his body. Band aids can help stop the bleeding, but only for a little while because it’s a short term solution to a long term problem. Treat the long term problem, in this case increase the number of platelets so you won’t need as many band aids in the first place. Sure you’ll get cut in the future and a band aid would be needed then, but since you worked on the foundation of increasing the platelet count, the platelets will take care of the job. All the band aids (tips) in the world won’t help somebody whose platelet count is low (foundation is non existent).

Another example is tennis. A beginner wants to learn all the cool moves he sees on TV - top spin, back spin, slice, volley, etc. The instructor in the meantime is trying to get the beginner to master the fundamentals – forehand, backhand, serve. Once the fundamentals are learned, then he can go on to learn the different types of variations and get tips on how to do them better. Many people just want to learn the flashy points of the game without spending time to build the foundation so it’s no wonder why beginners are so frustrated. Everybody wants the quick fix and tips do just that. Nobody is willing to sit down, roll up their sleeves, and get dirty and try to understand the fundamentals and master them to build a strong foundation.

Tips are useless without a foundation. So next time you come across an article that’s giving tips on a particular subject of self improvement, make sure you’ve mastered the fundamentals and have a foundation on that subject first, and then those tips will start to help you get results.

Don’t be a tip junkie ;)

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3 Responses to “Don’t Fall Into The Trap Of Only Reading Tips On Self Improvement”

  1. The Foundation Of All Self Improvement Says:

    […] More Articles… « « Don’t Fall Into The Trap Of Only Reading Tips On Self Improvement    The Longer You Wait, The Harder You Make It For Yourself » » […]

  2. Max Marmer » Blog Archive » Thrashing Duck Syndrome Says:

    […] Personally, I find it very interesting to hear about people’s challenges and how they are approaching solving them. Our information society often reveals only the successes and punchy takeaways, hiding the process and all the false starts along the way. Success is often the result of  ordinary actions taken over and over again. There is no magic formula and by exposing your intermediary steps you can gain feedback on the daily processes that really matter instead of just relying on a few lessons that the winners have encapsulated and enshrined after their triumph. Brian Kim voices this well, “There’s a hidden danger that comes with relying on tips that most people don’t realize. The people who offer these tips in a short article or book often attribute the solution to a particular problem via these tips, when in reality, they’ve actually laid the foundation down first which is the real solution without ever realizing it. The tips they offered are then byproducts of that foundation.” […]

  3. genevieve Says:

    Sure, but how do you work out the foundation? Surely it is better to have some tips than nothing. The guy who is really shy may be all nervous and unable to smile without it looking fake and all that, but at least he is trying to improve himself. The person may be able to tell straight away that this guy is incredibly nervous, but it is better than not trying at all.
    That being said, i do agree with your point on the foundations.

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