Not too long ago I was very sceptical of self-help books and viewed them as mostly ‘hokum’ designed to target the desperate with wishy-washy ideas and a lot of big talk. It was only when I actually started reading a few of them that I realised this wasn’t always the case. Sure, some of the time it’s true – and a recent book I read that made wild claims based on a misunderstanding of quantum physics shows that I wasn’t 100% off the mark – on some other occasions self-help books can offer useful information that can help you to get more from your own brain, to better understand how to influence others, and to better understand the psychological elements behind things like marketing.
But you don’t need to read the books yourself to get these lessons… that’s what the internet is for. Here I will share with you five of the best lessons I’ve learned from self-help books that can help any online business to thrive.
The Zeigarnik Effect
From: 56 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot by Richard Wiseman
The Zeigarnik effect describes an interesting phenomenon – which is the tendency for us to hold more information at the front of our mind when we’re halfway through a task. This was first observed in catering – ask a waiter what someone had to eat before they pay the bill and they’ll usually be able to recount their order. Ask them again after the table has paid though, and they’ll instantly be able to recall less.
In other words, our brain is in a state of heightened awareness when we’re working towards completing a task and ‘anxious’ to complete it. You can use this to overcome procrastination – just challenge yourself to do one minute’s worth of work, and you’ll find that you then won’t rest until the task is completed.
From: The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
The Personal MBA is a business book with a heavy self-help element. One of the sections that I found most interesting here was the concept of ‘loss aversion’ which explains why we make many of the business decision that we do. The central concept here is that we are more motivated by risk loss than we are by the prospect of reward. In other words, the human brain is wired to avoid taking risks even if the odds are in our favour. This is bad news in business of course where risk is generally highly rewarded, so we need to think of ways to overcome this principle.
To overcome loss aversion, try to find ways you can manage risk, and teach yourself to weigh up the pros and cons rather than go with your gut instinct to cut and run.
The Adaptive Unconscious
From: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcom Gladwell
Blink is a self-help book that advocates the use of ‘snap judgements’ and explains how they can often be more effective than reason (except in the above example). The reason for this is that our unconscious mind has access to much more information than we do consciously and thus can make surprisingly smart decisions which it conveys in the form of emotional urges. Trust the maths, but don’t discount your intuition.
From: The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman
Written by LinkedIn’s founder Reid Hoffman, The Start-Up of You has some interesting things to say about networking. For one it says to think about the five people you’d reach out to if you were out of work – and reach out to them now (when you don’t need anything for them). Likewise it also advocates setting aside a coffee fund to spend on networking with interesting people you want to learn more from.
From: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
There are countless books on influence, and many have similar lessons. One such lesson is that the urge to reciprocate is incredibly powerful. Do someone something for free then, and you’ll find that they go out of their way to repay the favour and then some. Think about how you could use this to sell more from your website, or even encourage people to link out to your site (here’s a clue – linking out to other people without asking for anything in return is a good way to win favours).
About the Author: Jimmy Trott is a local SEO. He started his online business 5 years back and has seen steady growth. A passionate blogger, he frequently writes on topics related to online business and provides useful tips and tricks.