Top critical review
A Muddy Intro to Many Ideas
April 10, 2018
I am going to dare to be critical whilst still awarding a 3-star review. In summary, this is a great introduction to an assortment of philosophical ideals: some that have been around since the ancient Greeks and some being developed in the modern age: existentialism, stoicism, epistemology, ontology, etc. For those not versed in philosophy, many of these ideas may be new and interesting. Unfortunately, Gary doesn't reference some of these philosophies for your further reading but this is understandable as his focus is on coaching you to overcome yourself not to be a literary scholar. For little more than ~$10 and a few hours of reading, give it a shot and see if you learn something. As much as I am going to be critical, the book has its utility and will be useful to some of its readers, so who am I to tell you not to read it? You should read everything and challenge it--the pursuit of knowledge means to never stop engaging in the dialogue.
One of my biggest gripes with this text is that Gary seems to contradict himself throughout it and complicates his overall message. He is adamant that this is not another self-help book that focuses on positive thinking; however, it is one of the first concepts he introduces. In sum, he teaches that assertive language affects emotions, feelings, and ultimately decision making and that one should engage in healthy inner dialogue. He also later bashes the quote, "Change your thoughts, change your life," calling it bullsh*t. Where he is attempting to go with this is to say that actions speak louder than words and no matter what you think, unless you take action, your life will not change.
Okay, this is fine but he took a six-word quote and said it was invalid over the course of ~200 pages. The problem is that he views ideas singularly and criticizes them in isolation; however, if you took any one of his chapters singularly, it would contradict his overall philosophy. For instance, positive self-talk is useless without his later instructions on asserting and acting on them. Overall, I think the overt criticism of other ideas throughout the text followed up with very similar approaches hurt the message Gary was trying to send to his readers. You may find yourself confused or frustrated without having a deeper understanding of some of the philosophies on which Gary touches. In the end, Gary pulls it together but it may take a while to see the differences he is attempting to portray--the book could have been more concise and focused.
Another gripe would be that on page 21 he tells you that if you are easily offended not to read his book and to give it away immediately. The very next page he claims, "I have designed this book to be as accessible and useful to as many people as possible." Really, is anyone proof-reading this thing? Look, if you're going to be a self-help coach how can you tell the people who may need to hear your words the most, to shove off? This move was very Nietzsche-esque in that he believed he was a writer for everyone and yet no one at the same time. But Nietzsche was writing critical philosophy and engaging his own ideas--he wasn't writing it for them and that's why he didn't care if anyone read what he wrote. Gary, is writing for the people who he believes need help--that is his profession. So why scare away people who need the help?
TLDR: This book is a bit all over the place but does come together in a way that you will be able to understand by the end. If you are not well versed in philosophy and psychology, give it a go as it won't cost you an arm and a leg or too much of your time. Gary, I think you're doing good work but would encourage you to collaborate with some colleagues on condensing your thesis. I would also advise you to encourage your readers/clients while staying true to your no-bullsh*t approach as these do not have to be mutually exclusive.