I have been reading books proactively since the age of 11. However, not school books or academic books. Rather everything and anything else in between.
It started off with comics, went to story books, then history books which were told in a story-book fashion, followed by encyclopaedias that featured nice pictures of animals and yes, who can forget — The wisdom filled in the Bible.
However, all this changed at the age of 15 when I bumped into my first ever non-fiction book “Grow Rich with Peace of Mind’ (I wrote about it here — https://medium.com/w-i-t/25-years-ago-this-one-book-changed-my-life-forever-faa8c064e5d4 ) And that lead to a transformative revolution in my life.
Once I reached the number 800 — I stopped keeping a count of how many books I read, rather I focused on reading a book to apply its principles into my life, and in my role as an educator — write reviews about them online and post videos about them. So that whomsoever wanted to refer those video — could do so.
But very lately, I have started to notice a really disturbing trend. Many youngsters have started picking up the habit of reading self-improvement books — however with a different set of results.
Let me share with you a few paraphrased statements that give you an idea of what I am talking about:
- A young boy announcing to his family:
“I think I have ADHD which is why I cannot study.”
- A young man statement to me — who was brought to me by his Father for not wanting to study
“Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson & Larry Ellison dropped out of college, followed their dreams and achieved success. Why can’t I do the same?”
- A student writes to me
“I read about Nootropics in Tim Ferriss’s book. Can you tell me how I can get them in India?”
- A 14 year old boy lets me know:
“I practice visualization & affirmation for 15 minutes everyday because when I reach 25 I want to be a billionaire.”
- A group of 18 year olds in the gym ask me:
“Which steroid cycle would you recommend if I wanted to have a build like Arnold Schwarzenegger?”
Now the question is, where did these kids pick up these bits of information?
Either the Internet (blogs/articles) or from Best Selling Books.
In fact, in my Quora whatsapp group, all the boys in one particular group (ages 11 to 19) have been sharing a PDF of a book titled “The subtle art of not giving a f*ck” by Mark Manson. And I was asked by these boys what did I think of this book?
At first, I asked them, “well, I am curious to know what did you pick up?”. To which one by one the boys let me know the following opinions:
- “We shouldn’t give a dam to what people think or say”
- “We should be masters of our own fate and stay away from unwanted advice or opinions”
or like what one of them humorously added
- “We should give a flying Fu*k”
Then I was asked to chime in my views, to which I responded:
“Listen boys, you do not need a book to tell you “Don’t give a fu*k about what people say or think.” I’m pretty sure you don’t give a dam anyways. However, what you need to do is first focus on making money, gaining experience, building your credibility, completing your education and developing your expertise BEFORE you tell the world to go and fu*k off. You cannot NOT achieve anything and then show an attitude of arrogance.”
However, boys as they are boys, some of them agreed, the rest didn’t.
The problem here is, when you are young, you tend to cherry pick whatever you feel suits or supports your fantasy while discarding or discrediting the rest. And this is exactly what most youngster do today — which can prove to be dangerous.
Not everyone who drops out of college can become Mark Zuckerberg, not everyone who develops bad habits can become Robert Downey Jr. not everyone who takes a gamble in life will become Donald Trump and not everyone who takes steroids will become Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, given that these books are marketed as “International Best Seller” or there is a big name of a big celebrity emblazoned on the cover — well whom do you think these youngsters will listen to?
As I sit right now contemplating what most of these youngsters keep sharing, I am reminded of the dreams, the goals and the aspirations I had when I was 16. To become a Millionaire by 25. To become a Billionaire by 30. And to be the owner of 1 Million Properties World Wide, Star in Hollywood, have the most beautiful women by my side and retire by the age of 40.
Well, I am 40 now as I write this article and I chuckle to myself thinking of all the stupid, grandiose and immature plans I made with my silly little head. The problem is, there was no one to guide me other than what I read in these books.
Its not that everything I read and learnt from these books was bad. However, not everything in these books helped me either. And given today how many so called ‘International Best Selling Authors’ are coming out and manipulating the ignorance, stupidity & naiveté of the people around — you will always have someone who believes in ridiculously rubbish books like “The Secret” or some Deepak Chopra’s mumbo jumbo. And until maybe realization sets in — they will continue to build castles in the air.
I do not know what would happen in the future, but I do know that the majority of these youngsters are going to get their dreams and their hopes destroyed. I just do not know how to make them understand that life is not what you read in books, what you watch on TV or what you assume you discovered online.
So until either of us finds a solution, I think the best course of action is — let them stop reading a bit, go out into the real world and experience what it is to get their hands dirty. Maybe with that practical experience, they will know what works, what doesn’t work and what truly was never meant to work.
Until then — I believe the bad influence of these intentioned books will continue.