Books and Beyond with Bound

5.08 Can Tara Change Michelle's Mind About Self-help Books?

February 28, 2023 Bound Podcasts Season 5 Episode 8
Books and Beyond with Bound
5.08 Can Tara Change Michelle's Mind About Self-help Books?
Show Notes Transcript

Tara and Michelle debate over a question as old as time: “Do self-help books really help?”

They cover everything from productivity and dating guides to philosophy and wellness books. Can reading a self-help book help you cut sugar from your diet? Is there a definite way to get the most out of your self-help book? Was Tara able to change Michelle’s mind?

Tune in to find out!

Books mentioned in this episode:

  • Atomic Habits
  • The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
  • The 5 AM Club
  • Everything To Live For
  • Psychology Today
  • Forbes
  • Ikigai
  • When Breath Becomes Air

Produced by Aishwarya Javalgekar
Sound edit by Kshitij Jadhav

‘Books and Beyond with Bound’ is the podcast where Tara Khandelwal and Michelle D’costa uncover how their books reflect the realities of our lives and society today. Find out what drives India’s finest authors: from personal experiences to jugaad research methods, insecurities to publishing journeys. Created by Bound, a storytelling company that helps you grow through stories. Follow us @boundindia on all social media platforms.


So there is this element of shame right around like self help, maybe it's reducing now. And maybe it's reducing in like business management books and dieting books. But when it comes to emotional books like how to get over relationships or dating guides, right? Oftentimes, there's a thing of shame or wonder where you don't want to show that. Welcome to Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara canderel. I'm Michelle D'costa. And in this podcast, we uncover the stories behind some of the best written books of our time,


Michelle D'costa  00:36

and find out how these books reflect our lives and our society today. So tune



in every Wednesday to enter a whole new world with a new author. And a new idea. Yes,


Michelle D'costa  00:49

and after three years and 2 million listens, we are back with a fall back season five,



with hard hitting questions and life changing books.


Michelle D'costa  00:58

So let's dive in.



Hi, we're back with another Tara and Michelle special today. Yeah, and today we're gonna dissect the self help genre. And we're gonna answer the question, Does self help really help?


Michelle D'costa  01:17

Actually, you know, Tara, I was looking at the current Amazon bestsellers right in the nonfiction genre. And I was surprised to see that self help is in the top five. You know, like books like dopamine detox, atomic habits, energize your mind, psychology of money. iki guy? Oh, my gosh, I didn't expect it.



Oh, really? So those are the top five. Ah, yeah. But I feel like that's completely to be expected. Why you surprised? Oh, really?


Michelle D'costa  01:45

Because actually, Tara, you know, I'm not a big fan of self help. There are some really popular ones that I've heard throughout the years, you know, like whoever I meet, they recommend these two books to me. Okay. One is the monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma. Another one by him is the 5am club. You know, everyone's like, whoa, read it, read it. And both of these books are by Jayco. So I, you know, recently heard a lot about them, because they're actually been publishing Self Help for a very long time. They actually started in 1946. And these books are recommended by almost everyone, but you know, I honestly prefer fiction data anytime. Hmm.



Yeah, I mean, you know, like, I love fiction as well, Michelle, but I love reading a lot of self help books also, you know, like, maybe not 5am club because I'm not a morning person at all. Okay, but there is a reason why like, you know, these books are so popular on the best selling list your after your life, like since 1946. Your signal they started in 1946 Why are these books sort of selling hot of the cakes, right? Like, even like the saya dan, who is the executive editor at Simon and Schuster. We were doing a talk with him. And he said that, you know, these kinds of books sell much better. You know, and a lot of writers have come out with sort of innovative ideas for self help books, for example. Yeah, like for example, I was reading cheeky circus tweets. And she said that you know, Uncle Varrick whose books uncle Varrick was everybody knows is one of the top influencers motivational influencers today and she said that you know, his books are sort of like selling like, you know, off the charts kind of you know, and he's actually managing money of them now via via these books are interesting and why are they sort of selling see I don't read anchor I've not honestly read number of articles book though. I did buy his first book. I read his book, I but I do pick up surfer books, because I think they give a lot of new ideas.


Michelle D'costa  03:43

Which, which ones Tell me Tell me three books that that you've read in your light.



Okay, so one of the books that I absolutely sort of a door and like, it's my favorite book of all time is atomic habits by James Okay. Okay, because it is sort of like, it just changes the way you think about, you know, how you want to live your life, like, I'm trying to wake up earlier, I'm trying to eat less sugar, I'm trying to inculcate all these, like big habits or changes in my life. But the way that I actually have to inculcate all these habits is not like one day just because of willpower or nopony sugar today and cut, you know, he shows you a completely different way, like a step by step smaller, you know, process in which to make these habits sort of like muscle memory, you know, like on autopilot, but you don't have to think about it. You know, we're not eating sugar becomes like driving, you know, where it's sort of, and that really helped me so that is one book that I really, really liked. And a lots of other books, but I want to know why you don't read self help.


Michelle D'costa  04:51

Yeah, no, I have a lot of reasons. Actually. The moment you said you started speaking. I had my counter arguments ready, you know, so Okay. While we go into a you know in depth discussion later on, what I want to tell you is the talk mostly okay? Because you're talking about atomic habits. See, humans are known to let's say forget things easily. Okay? So let me say if I have a certain lifestyle for the past 30 years, okay? So for example, I'm lazy, okay. I don't like to have an active lifestyle. I don't go out. I don't work out what



Michelle? Like, let's Let's rephrase that.


Michelle D'costa  05:28

So okay, let's say I have a less active or let's say let's outgoing lifestyle. Okay, let's call it a less outgoing lifestyle. Now I want to become more outgoing. I want to change this habit of mine. Okay, I want to do more workouts. I want to do more, I would say more. Exercise. Fine. Now you can you tell me how can Adamic habits actually helped me with that? If I read the book once? How was it?



I'm not gonna tell you have. Okay, I'm gonna give you a challenge that will maybe change the way you think about self help books. Okay, I want to read atomic habits. I know you don't read self help books. Okay. So you read atomic habits. This is a new genre for you read it. I've read it. I want to know, have you changed your mind? Or what do you think was self help? So let's record again, like maybe after a few days after you accept it. Okay, yeah, we'll meet when you read the book. Okay. Okay, so, hi, everybody. It's been a few days, and I challenged Michelle to read atomic habits, which is my favorite self help book of all time. And, Michelle, you've done it. You have ventured into this genre, which you're not sure of. So yes, yes. I have a lot to say. Okay. And have you changed your mind?


Michelle D'costa  07:00

I'll come to that. But first, let me say Tara. Firstly, I have never read a nonfiction book in one setting. Never. Okay. So for me, this was a first okay, because I prefer imaginative walls, you know, and especially the opening scene of the book. My gosh, like I Okay, I don't want to give a lot of spoilers to our listeners. But you know, to just tell you so the book begins with a tragedy of something that has happened to James clear the author, and that just sucked me into the book. I was like, Oh my gosh, like, imagine something like this happening to somebody. Right? How do they recover? And I, in general, I kind of follow stories of people who've been through something, you know, terrible. And then how do they overcome that? Like, for example, Tara, have you heard of the story of Turia Pitt?



Know what, what is that?


Michelle D'costa  07:45

Oh, so she isn't actually she was an athlete, and Australian athlete, okay. And she was running through this forest, there was a marathon going on. And unfortunately, there was a huge grass fire that happened. And 65% of her body was actually burned in that. So I've been following her story for a long time, how she overcame that from scratch, like, you know, unlearning, and learning things like eating, walking, moving, you know, so imagine how painful it must have been, but through small, consistent efforts, she's finally made it out there. Now she's a mom of two, she's an author is a mindset coach, you know, so that's



a motivation kind of book, I would say that's a self help story. You know,


Michelle D'costa  08:25

like, when I read atomic habits, for me, it reminded me of that, because I think anything in life can be learned if you take it in small steps, small consistent steps. And for me, that was the biggest takeaway from atomic habits. But another thing that I liked about it, you know, Tara, that he mentions that if you associate a habit with your identity, with your pride, then you will do it, which I really relate to, like, see, for example, I think I'm a writer, right? So I'm proud to say, Oh, I wrote 500 words today or Oh, I got published in a magazine today, right? So immediately that I would say goes to my ego, that goes to my pride. So I feel like for example, as as you are challenged me because I want to get more into a more active lifestyle. I want to do more workouts, I feel the moment I feel like okay, I want to probably be like more into fitness, the more I associated with my identity, then I'll do it. So that's what I take from it.



Yeah, like Absolutely. Like before I like ask you, if you're a beginner about self is changing. I just want to comment too, on the book, and that's why I love it. I love this whole concept of identity and like so when I was a kid, I wasn't very sporty. I always thought that oh, you know, like, sports is not for me. Right? And then like, I started sort of like in college running and like, really enjoying a lot of outdoor activities. And then I really wanted to get fit because of health reasons. And this whole shift in like identity that oh, you know, like I'm into fitness. I'm a sporty person. I like the outdoors, you know, has made it so easy for me to sort of try different sports or like inculcate fitness in a daily way into my life because it's part of my identity. And I think that this book is really interesting in that so it says self help can change. Can can add to it, you said that? It clearly does.


Michelle D'costa  10:11

Yeah, Tara, actually, I'm not so sure if I'm a convert yet. I can't say that, you know, self help really helps. Because he there are certain, I will say there are certain examples or there it also is research to prove that self help might not help. Okay, so just hear me out. All right. I would say my first point is different strokes work for different folks. Right. So for example, I read this article in Psychology Today, which says that, you know, it's not a one point solution that works for everybody. Right? See what might work for me, might not work for you. So I will say that is my biggest bone of contention with self help, because it generalizes it, okay. And I read another article in Forbes, which says that, you know, sometimes it's even harmful, right? Why? Because they could give wrong advice. For example, it could mislead people into actually thinking that they don't need external help. So let's say for example, you do something more serious, like, let's say, I'm going through something traumatic, right. But the book doesn't address that the book doesn't really consider your background, your circumstances. And you know, where a person might actually need therapy, they won't go because there's a self help book. Right. So that's another point.



So I get what you're saying, Michelle, in terms of like, these books might make some generalizations, which might not work for everybody, they might sort of mislead as well, right? Like, for example, you know, there's a lot of these diet fads that come? And like maybe the books like talking about those diet fads. But don't you think that, you know, the authors are not responsible for how the reader sort of reacts, like the author of a self help book is putting forward an idea? Even if it's a diet book, right? They're saying that, here's why keto might work or might not work and things like that, right. It's a new idea, which they're putting ahead. Is it in the imperative the reader to sort of, you know, go deeper into it and understand, you know, is this for me, and if it's not for me, and if it's not for you, then discard it? You know, it's okay, maybe it's for some people and not for some people. So I think that's totally okay.


Michelle D'costa  12:19

But that is what I feel is because there's so much hype about Cypher, right? Today, we are actively discussing, why is it so popular? So see, when something is popular, right, anything in popular culture will, let's say, you know, I'm watching this, or I recommend to you, you're watching it, I read it, I recommend it to you, you're reading it, right. So my point is, let's say, you know, 10, people are reading a certain book, and then I am also tempted to read it right. And you know, like, I a lot of people get unsolicited advice from friends from family, and there's just so much of it. Now, why would you read another book, which also gives you advice all over again, but I totally get it that it depends on the reader. I also feel like there's this kind of peer pressure to read that and to then imbibe it in your life. What do you think like? Like, is there any book that you've read that you've actually imbibed in your daily, I would say your daily routine, let us talk about something like, you know, these lifestyle books that we have, because you have lots of categories of self help books, right? There could be lifestyle, like iki guy or SUSE God, you know, that we've read, which is about the goal and lifestyle, or the sorts of self improvement books something like let's say, you want to improve your memory. So you read that right? Or let's say, you know, you read management books, when you want to improve your management style. So there are so many categories like that I want to know which has worked for you.



Like life philosophy is like, subtle art of not giving a talk and yeah, the spiritual, you know, self help books for people who are interested in that. Books on meditation. And I have to say, I've read a lot. I've read spiritual books, I've read this beautiful book called When Breath Becomes Air, it actually did change the way that I thought about my own mind. Oh, really? How were in Yeah, basically, like, they compared the mind to like, a monkey, which is kind of cliched. But what they said is, think of the thoughts in your mind as a separate person. Like as a, like a another Thara sitting next to you, and saying every single thought that is there in your mind out loud, and then just watch that person. And think, what do you think of that person? And then I did that, and I was like, wow, that person, like, very rapidly Viners to me, running thoughts don't always connect to one another, then you sort of analyze yourself a little more and things like that. You know, like my family is really no heartfulness so they've given me some books to read about that. Now, that wasn't for me, so I didn't pick it up.


Michelle D'costa  14:45

So Tara, what is that was I've not heard of it? What is heartfulness? Oh, it's



basically like a kind of meditation technique where you sort of meditate for I'm not the best person to explain it. But like, sort of like you meditate from like the heart or I don't really like sort of Oh, Okay, but it's something different anyway. But what I was saying that yeah, like, there's so many different types of like self help books, as you mentioned, I think like, again, it's all about, like, the picking and choosing of it. And maybe some and some of the books I do agree with you like, one point I want to bring up is that some of the Hellfire books they say they are obvious things, which we already know. And they don't say anything new, some of them Ha, and some and when but when some of a radical new paradigm. That is when I find it very interesting, you know? So according


Michelle D'costa  15:32

to you, Tara, which one provided you a very different outlook or something radical apart from atomic habits, and When Breath Becomes Air?



Things like the subtle art of not giving a fuck, right? Like, I sort of didn't enjoy so much because I feel like maybe I was already in my own self exploration like, like, understood a little bit of the points. But I guess for someone else, like who's not thought of it that way it might work. You know, for someone who's a habit coach, atomic habits might not really work. But for somebody like me, who doesn't study habits, it worked, you know? Yeah. Okay. So this is one book that is really interesting. It's a new book. It's called the good life, okay. And it's by two Harvard professors. So I had done this whole exploration in college and stuff on what is happiness? And you know, the difference between willpower positivity and joy and how sort of happiness like everybody's happiness is a Nikka baseline happiness, what makes you happy, you know, what is a happy life, all of these questions have been coming up, and I sort of watch a lot of videos and all of this. So anyways, I came across a TED Talk that said that as to Google, what is happiness? But I love psychology, right? And I am really interested in the psychology of happiness.


Michelle D'costa  16:52

Okay, so I, yeah, no, I actually, I have an opposing view, which I wanted to say that, you know, books, which give you concrete info on things which are, which are, you know, not as subjective as happiness or healing? They might work but because happiness is so broad and so subjective it might not. So I'm really interested to see what you think.



I get what you're saying. Like, if it's a book on how do you how do you write better you feel? That's more objective? Exactly. Yeah. Was it happiness, that's very much like more subjective, right? But I feel like happiness is also objective, meaning there is a psychology and science behind happiness. And people have studied it, you know, actually, like, I think psychology is interesting, because there's like studies, you know, done on people's anyway, watch this TED talk with these two Harvard professors. And they had done the longest running study on a group of, okay, it is a group of vitamin, which they do talk about in the study and the problems that come with that. But anyway, it's a group of like white men who they've studied from when they were teenagers, to when they like, one college till the time they died till the time they were in the 80s. Right. And they every few years, they ask them questions about their life, the happiness, they had this happiness index, whatever question is all that they came to the conclusion that, you know, the men even forget about after a certain threshold of money, which means you're after you're comfortable, you know, the more money you make, the happiness level doesn't increase. And the biggest determinant of happiness doesn't matter if you're the CEO of a company, or doesn't matter if you're like a teacher in a school, you know, is relationships. And those men with the best relationship with the most friends with the most family with the most, it seems very obvious, but then they've put it into study, you know, like, there's proof when there's proof, and then they taken a book out, you know, with this study, and then they've also absorbed some of the questions that people have, like, some of the questions people have are like, Okay, you're seeing that relationships matter a lot, right? But I'm really shy person, and I'm in my 40s. And I don't know how to make new friends, things like that, which like, you know, when you hear the study, you're like, oh, no, like, I'm, you know, Yeah, or like, and then they, like debunk some of these myths that, like people, these belief systems that people have, that I'm shy or can't connect with people, you know, they give you like, paradigms and structures, like, you know, like, even like workbooks and worksheets. And so maybe the point where I like self help is not that telling me what to do, but that it's making me think in a certain way, or maybe introspective, go on a more of a journey of self discovery. So that is what I find interesting. Now, I want to know from you.


Michelle D'costa  19:33

Yeah, no, it was it was really cool to actually hear that whole anecdote because, you know, this reminded me of one of the instances in atomic habits. Okay. I will say the poll factor for me in the book, what the examples that he has given. I liked that, you know, the book began with him. The rest of the entire book was based on external research, you know, examples that he has heard. So those were really you know, that trivia like I'm a big fan of trivia. So that little trivia that I got from the book wasn't esting and one of the stories that he shared was there was a professor, okay, a photographic professor who divided his class into two groups. And this is, again for research to understand quality versus quantity. Okay? So one group had to basically they would be marked based on the number of photographs they produced, the student with a maximum number of photographs would win. And in the other group, it was quality. So you had to present only one photograph, but that would have to be your best. Okay? And yeah,



I remember. Oh, okay. Okay.


Michelle D'costa  20:33

So, so for me, I was very curious to draw what would happen, and I actually didn't expect the outcome. So the outcome is that the ones who came up with the most photographs actually ended up creating one of their best photographs towards the end, which shows that you know, you become better with practice, they were able to master the techniques of photographic through making, let's say, 100, or 200 photographs. But the other group, which was which were obsessing on that one photograph, they came up with something mediocre, there was a lot of anxiety, there's a lot of fear, you know. So I just loved that analogy, which also made me think different. If I identify myself as a writer. Now, this is something that's yeah, I have established a writing habit over the years now, I'm comfortable with that. But if I want to start something new, there's always this hesitant. So I think this book also made me think in that way, that it starts somewhere, it starts small, you know, maybe you can set a target, but then you will eventually reach that point, which was really, I would say, which was really comforting.



Yeah. I love that. It's like, you know, like, obviously, your first draft is not your like, last draft.


Michelle D'costa  21:39

Yeah, Tara, why I really liked that about the book, I actually have a whole list of reservations about the self help genre. And the very first one is the fact that you will see some of these books can be very information heavy, right? So one example that comes to mind is the L word by ASA tray. And, you know, while I really enjoyed the book, because, you know, it's a dating guide, and I was actually looking for tips on dating. So there's a whole section just about online apps, right? Online dating apps, and, you know, like, basically one versus the other, you know, the pros, the cons. So so she did it in order to tell people okay, you know, there are apps for certain reasons. So if you're looking for certain things, probably go to a particular app, right. There are so many like Grindr, Tinder, bumble, all of that. But you know, at the end of the day, Tara, there was a lot of information. So I don't really know whether, you know, that actually helped me. And another question is, do dating guides actually work? So for me, they don't, because what I realized is, you know, I tend to go back into, you know, let's say, I'm comfortable with a particular pattern, right, a particular dating pattern, I will go back to it probably for the moment, I'll be, you know, imbibing or kind of like soaking in all the info in the book, but then I will always return to the way I am. So Tara, what if a reader comes across a book with so much information? Okay, how do they know what to retain? Is there a solution? And do dating guys actually work?



So I don't know whether dating is really work. And we'd have to ask somebody who it has worked for, it doesn't work for you, which you've said, because you go back to the pattern of behavior. And that is actually the more interesting question that do self help books, which prescribe behavioral change? Can they really sort of make a long term impact on the person? Or is the person going to go back to their patterns? And I think, again, that answer is very subjective. And it depends on the reader, the reader wants to make that behavioral change, then that's fine. But to put the onus of that, on the author of the self help book, I think that is unfair. The author is just positing ideas. And personally, for me, I think dating guides sort of, don't really help me, maybe I'm not the target audience, or maybe that's just in my life now where I am in life, maybe that's not what I'm looking or actively seeking for. Like I mentioned earlier in the episode, you know, there was a period of time when I was actively seeking, like, what is happiness or whatever, you know, and then I was like, actively seeking out those books. And now I'm sort of if you ask me, like, what kind of self help books I'm reading, I'm reading sort of more like business management kind of books. You know, actually, what I'm reading is more online and the kinds of books that you mentioned you like, which is more sort of concrete, actionable information. I would like to know what about the dating guide, you know, has really resonated with them. I know that a Nero's dating guide is the first dating guide for the LGBTQ community, right? So that is really actually very powerful. And in terms of like, self help, and dating and love, it makes me think of you know, all those like columns in the newspapers and stuff. Yeah. So then my hinder websites, the sex column, and things like that. So I think like that, it's very interesting because there's like a lot of demand because there's so much misinformation. That brings me to my next point, which is I think, self All books are interesting because you are saying that yeah, you know, they make generalized statement. Sometimes what self help can do is also counter misinformation and give correct information, like my Tinder websites column, the sex column and Mumbai Mirror it give correct information. And the second point I would like to tell you is, you're also introduced to cultures and philosophies beyond your own. So it's a learning experience. You mentioned iki guy, right? So iki guy is a kind of different, like philosophy that, and it's again up to the reader, like, do I want to follow iki? Guy do I want to follow say, God, do I want to follow heartfulness? Which philosophy I want to follow is my choice which I can pick?


Michelle D'costa  25:46

Yeah, no. And you mentioned misinformation, right? So let's say there's right information, but there's too much information. So now what do I get



that like that actually, like? So there's this whole industry right now, where they're doing book summaries, and all of these things that are apps, with book summaries and things like that. That's a whole other debate and episode, which we can talk about. But it's very interesting, because there's two sides. One is, oh, you're taking away from the book, right? The second is, oh, the book is like too long and repeating the same point over and over. And also the books amaze me, that argument can be made that is taken away from the author's book sales. But I think that it's very interesting, you know, with these, like motivational speakers, and these kinds of books that are going around uncle Eric over on the Chirala, these kinds of sort of motivational books, it's not only that they have a book, that idea is so much bigger than the book. And that is the idea they're using to sell other iPads. So for example, atomic habits, it has, they have a book, he has a newsletter, his social media, you know, so you can say that ya, like the book summaries, and these distill down ideas don't help. But I think if you're an ardent follower, then you will follow all of the IPS and you will sort of go very deep into it. But that brings me to a question for you is that there's a lot of talk, even like funny reels about these motivational books and motivational speakers and motivational books and productivity hacks, productivity books that are coming. Yeah, in the self help genre. Now, what is your opinion on on those and do read those,


Michelle D'costa  27:18

I think productivity is, is a very interesting field. Okay. And one thing that I would really like to explore further, you know, keeping in mind that I have certain reservations is time management. Okay. So there is a, there is a technique, which is a, I think it's called the Pomodoro Technique, right, where you focus, let's say you do a focus task for around 25 to 30 minutes, then you take a break for around five minutes, and then you paste into data. So I actually I have tried that. So I would seek out those kinds of books. But I'm a little skeptical about books, especially written by such motivational speakers, because I, you know, hold this belief that it might not just be them who's actually producing so much content, which is going out. So again, with with productivity, I think it has to align with your identity, I think it has to align with your deep belief system. So for example, I believe that one can definitely cut out on distractions or on social media, and they can definitely improve the time that they spend on focus projects. So I would rather go for books, let's say which help in time management, which



chamber right like because I am never going to read a book about like 5am club, but then already believes in 5am Club is going to read about 5am. Club. Exactly. So


Michelle D'costa  28:33

it's your idea, your belief system. Correct. My first point was okay, like, it's a lot of information heavy. And this is from experience, right? I felt that that it's a lot of it's information heavy. The second thing is, you know, most of these books, they give me this textbook vibe, okay, they actually transport me back into my school days, we had to read books, and then you know, write exams and score marks.



But what I'm really interested in is, you know, you said that you only pick up books about things that you are already interested in, and I'm saying the same thing. Right. So then the question comes back to, does self help really help you? Or are you just picking up things that you already believe in and reinforcing that? I think that is interesting. Yeah.


Michelle D'costa  29:19

Yeah, I think there are two sides to it. So if you ask me, okay. But in general, I'm a very, very curious person. I am curious about learning new about new cultures, okay, about new things, let's say trivia out of that, right. But there are some of my friends, they are very comfortable in their zone. I have noticed that like, sometimes if I want to strike a conversation with them, I'll ping they will say, hey, you know, did you see this in the news or add? Let's say there's a new concept, okay, there's commercial, I just ping them and say, What do you think and they be like, Oh, whatever. You know, that's the kind of reactions which is completely



which is completely fine. Has there been a book or have there been books that you have read, you know, that have not helped you? Is that why your reservation is coming up? Ah,


Michelle D'costa  30:00

yes. Okay, and this might be so there's one book and this might be controversial, because a lot of people like it, which is the subtle art of not giving a fuck, okay? I'll tell you why. Let's say there's like, there are certain social norms, right? So let's say there's a group of friends who go out, you know, who like to, like, let's say hang out in in pubs. Okay? I have been very comfortable to say, I'll be at home, I read my book. So actually, when I read that book, I'm like, I already know this. This is V. You know, I think the book would actually help people. If they are constantly adhering to societal norms. If they're constantly anxious of pleasing people, then yes, I think the book would work. But then, you



know, but then my counter to that it wasn't the right book for the right time. That doesn't mean the full genres ship. Yeah, there might be some books that are the right book for you at that right time.


Michelle D'costa  30:51

No one actually, you know, a conversation has made me think, Tara, though we are on the same page. And yes, I do read certain kinds of self help. And I'm looking out for more, I would say I do feel sometimes they are exploitative. Why? Because it also deals with very, very deep emotions that you might have, right? So let's say, I have an inferiority complex. I can't speak in public. So I feel a book, which teaches you how to, you know, be good at public speaking, it also is exploitative, in a way.



Why is it exploitative? It's teaching you what you can't do? Yeah, but I also feel,


Michelle D'costa  31:24

you know, it's okay, it's fine. If you're not good at public speaking. Like, I feel it's exploitative, because it's also telling you, okay, you might not be great, if you're not good at public speaking, it's okay. There are many people who are who are, you know, soft spoken in their own zone, that's fine. Like, I mean, everyone has their strengths, you're what happens is it says no, one thing is better than the other, which is, which is what I don't like. And that's the thing is, I feel that I even the writer, or the other person who basically, let's say, promotes this kind of idea, or you know, a particular philosophy, it's kind of like putting them on a pedestal. Right? It's kind of like saying that, hey, if you are not an early riser, you are not a great person, you know, on or let's say, if you don't follow a certain diet, you're not a great person. I don't know, that's how I feel what do you



I do I disagree with that, like, a lot. You know, I don't think those people are trying to be great people or not be great people, they have a philosophy of life, they think in a certain way. And they think that their philosophy is something new, and can be used to help people and to better people, if those people choose to take up the philosophy. So, you know, for example, the 5am club, I would never read it, but maybe one day, I might be interested in learning about this new philosophy out of curiosity, or meet somebody might talk to me about it. And maybe it will percolate or not what I do think, is that there is some sort of like, pedestal, like putting, you know, where that person in advertently and not consciously become someone who is sort of, you know, these influencers, you know, like, very popular, and inadvertently become sort of this influencer or motivational bro, which, you know, we're talking about in society right now. And people might subconsciously think, yeah, you know, they're better than me, because they have 2 million followers, just because they are promoting these amazing habits, they will be perfect at it, you know, it's like, Oh, if I'm a therapist, then I will be like, perfect at regulating my emotions. So I think that's the fallacy that we as consumers have, I think that that's not again, the owners of the writer or the book. Yeah, fair


Michelle D'costa  33:41




Robin Sharma may not be waking up at 5am every day. I don't think that's the point. I don't think the point is to be perfect. I think the point is to put a idea that you have a hack that has worked for you, right, and put that out into the world. And if people resonate with that idea, then they can use it and even be better at you than you are maybe maybe wakes up at 4am I think that is a more nuanced view of the whole topic.


Michelle D'costa  34:15

So what are you know, the fact that you mentioned about this fallacy we might have right about influencers? I want to bring up this movie that I watched, which actually fits this really well. So it's called CC, based on an actual influencer in life, okay, who called a lot of people. So it starts out with this person, you know, taking deep breaths and telling her followers Okay, please take deep breaths with me. She's just influencing her audience and everyone thinks, oh my god, she's so peaceful. She's she's got everything sorted in life. And in reality is it's completely I don't want to spoil it for our listeners. But Tara, I would suggest you watch that movie.



Please do. Basically, she's selling something that she like is a bogus, right? Yes. Okay. So my contention to that is it's fine. Even if it To bogus, and it's helping someone even I'm saying, oh, you know, look at me, I wake up like, it's fine. Obviously, it's problematic to sell something that is fake, right? I'm not saying that, like you should sell something that is fake or whatever, nothing like that. But if the question is, does self help really help? My answer to that is, it doesn't matter the author's intention, or what the author is doing, if the idea is presented in a way that is interesting, you know, and the reader is taking some help and using that idea, and taking it in their own way, then it's great. So my answer to the self help really help is UI, it helps if you get the right book at the right time. If it's what you're looking for, if you are, you know, using that and taking it ahead and your life and you're actually trying to make behavioral changes. If I want to be happy, I can follow 10 philosophies may be the answer to the self help really help is that you have to go and try out those 10 philosophies see which one works for you. So you have to read that module, immerse yourself that much in the subject, because there's no one answer, these books are so different. And there's no one answer to that need.


Michelle D'costa  36:13

So what I've also thought is, you know, why not explore or read different philosophies, okay, different schools of thought, and then pick what you like from them, or what you don't like, whatever.



So you don't like self help, right. And a lot of reasons why people don't like self help is because they feel ashamed. You know, there's all those montages in movies where you have like Charlotte from Sex in the City, like go zoning herself a book of how to deal with the divorce, because she doesn't want to be seen in that section. She doesn't want to want durability or emotional need to read a book about how to deal with divorce coming, right, and being seen by people. So you know, as like, I just want to know, like, there is this element of shame, right around like self help, and like, maybe it's reducing now, you know, especially with the motive, maybe it's reducing in like business management books and dieting books. But when it comes to emotional books, like how to get over relationship or dating guides, right? Oftentimes, there's a thing of shame or whatever, you don't want to show that. Is that a reason why you're skeptical of self help books? Or what do you think about that? Hmm,


Michelle D'costa  37:19

yeah, interesting, because this also reminds me of an incident that happened. In my end, during my MBA, there was a girl who was extremely soft spoken, okay, someone who's very quiet in her own zone, but we, you know, as every degree requires you to do certain things, they required us to do a lot of presentations in groups, okay. So she had this tendency where she would go up, let's say, you know, towards the Blackboard, and then she would completely freeze and, you know, start trembling all over and it was so visible, and all of us just felt very, you know, like, what can we do? Like, you know, can we like, help her out? Because if you don't do the presentations, you don't get the marks? It's as simple as that. Right? So one day, I actually caught her reading a book, which, which was, I think, how to be more assertive, ah, curious. I said, Okay. You know, she's released, and I just thought, Okay, give her some time. So I think a few weeks later, I think probably when she was done with the book, I checked with her and I said, you know, I saw you reading that, how was it? I just thought of picking it up. And she said, no permission, you won't need it. And I said, Oh, okay. Why? Like, I'm really curious. Like, I read stuff. She said, No, no, see, because I think it will help me because I'm not assertive. And I really, and I saw that vulnerability on her face. And as you said, as you spoke about shame, I think, and that's something she wouldn't admit to everybody. You see, like, it's not something I'll go on the rooftop and tell people, you know, hey, I'm not assertive, you know, I need I need help. But yeah, so I do feel that that that shame, or that kind of that vulnerability that you have is something which is very real. So if I go to a bookstore, and let's say I wouldn't probably like pick a book, which is, which highlights my weakness right there. Right? Because everyone can see it. Probably I'll buy it on Amazon in private.



Yeah, that's why I like Kindle is good.


Michelle D'costa  39:03

Yes, I do. I do think with online shopping with more private reading, the shame can easily be tackled.



This conversation has made me realize that it's a blanket statement to say that, you know, whatever was great because you have to choose books that work for you, depending on your need and then even within those books, you have to identify which parts work for you try them out. And you know, if something doesn't work for you, if you don't resonate, that's fine. So I think just because, you know, it's being told by Guru, motivational speaker, business head, whatever, you know, you can still take all of these things I think what you're trying to say is that take things with a pinch of salt be more discerning about the topic and really call out what works for you. I think that like is a more nuanced approach


Michelle D'costa  39:49

Yeah. No, yeah. And I if I think about it, I like I think are cognizant is also made me think a lot about the whole genre, right, because I obviously started out With so many reservations about self help, but one solution that I see that I will definitely be implementing, or you know, I'm not sure. You know, for our listeners, maybe who has who haven't read so many self help before, I think what I'm going to do is if, let's say, if I'm trying to improve on a particular, you know, area in my life, okay, so let's say time management, whatever it is, I'm not only going to pick a self help book, but I'm going to try to do some other things around it. So for me that helps that made that makes me take, take it more seriously in my life. So for example, I would probably attend a seminar, which, which also talks about the same or you know, watch a TED talk, or I would even go to, let's say, a class, which helps me in time management, what I mean is, I would rather build like an ecosystem around that to take it more seriously. So I feel centered can help when it's coupled with the other things. And before we end that I would really love to know, which are the self help books that have actually worked for our listeners, you know, yeah, yeah. Because because, like, for example, there are so many popular ones like to say, right, there are Psalms, which rise to the top like iki guy and all, but have you read a book that others are not reading? I would really want



to know Yeah, no, no, that yeah, for sure. Awesome. Well, bye bye. So here we are, where the end of yet another journey into the many worlds of Books and Beyond with bound. I'm Tara Karneval.


Michelle D'costa  41:23

I'm Michelle D'costa. And this podcast is created by bound a company that helps you grow through stories. Find us at sound India or all social media platforms.



So tune in every Wednesday if you live, eat and breathe books, and join us as we discover more revolutionary books and peek into the lives and minds of some truly brilliant authors from India and South Asia.


Michelle D'costa  41:49

And don't forget to keep your love for stories alive for books and beyond.