Why Do I Write?

I write for people that aren’t being helped by self-help. We’re awash in ideas about personal improvement, and clearly some people are seeing their lives improve by those ideas. But most aren’t. Can we just admit that? Our culture is swimming in self-improvement delivered in the form of books, blogs, podcasts, online courses and TED talks. And the amount of this stuff increases every year. So why aren’t we getting better? Why are we getting worse?

And we are getting worse. The problem with most of our current ideas about self-help is that they tend to benefit those who have already been helped. The rich get richer. The smart get smarter. The already ahead get even further ahead. That isn’t hippie liberal crap, although I’m guessing your mind already went there. No, it’s just social science. Data. Facts. I may tilt a bit left these days, but my brain still tends to analyze the world the way I was taught at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University – I want to know what is true.

Here are two things we know are true: 1) Every year we spend more and more on self-improvement ideas and 2) Every year we are more depressed, less socially connected and less likely to see our economic futures improve. Does that mean self-help is bad for us? No. Of course not. But what it does mean is that self-help is not enough. Put simply, you can’t succeed alone. No one has. No one will.

People with high levels of social capital know that already. Ok, yes, I did just slip a nerd word into the conversation: social capital. Think about it this way – financial capital represents the money or credit you have, usually in a bank or in your pocket, that you can use to buy things like houses, cars and Ring Dings. Social capital is all the other resources you have in your network to allow you to overcome obstacles and find resources for personal advancement.

Social capital is what most self-help books leave out. I want to make it a key part of our national conversation about self-improvement. That’s why I write. And, for all the people like me who were not helped by self-help, I write for you. For us. I hope you join me on the journey.