(Verbose is a series that aims helping me understand the way other people write, so that I can be a better writer myself. Feel free to skip if you are not too interested in what I am reading.)
Perhaps it is time to admit it; I am currently obsessed with self-motivation books and posts. Any piece of literature than help me improve myself, really. Maybe I should stop – or maybe I am onto something.
Regardless, I have recently picked up The Rules of Life off of my parents’ bookshelf. How could I not? The cover can only be described as annoyingly confident. A baby blue and silver background with its provocative title on the front. Where the author’s name should be? No name, just the declaration: ‘The International Bestseller’. I mean, I had to see what it had to be so confident about.
I have seen an honest blog post in which the author provides a listacle on how to be unsuccessful, claiming that success is too diverse a story to narrow down into a to-do list of the right steps, but that many unsuccessful people had a shared a similar set of traits. I appreciated the recognition that success is not a carbon-copied story. I thought ‘happiness’ would expect a similar outlook. However, Richard Templar thinks otherwise. He believes that happy people all share these – or, at least, most of these – qualities or habits. Granted, this is a book, not a listacle in a single blog post – I guess that shows happiness as a long, demanding pursuit.
Templar, though under no illusion that he lives up to all 106 ‘rules’ all the time, classifies his advice under 4 sections – ‘for you’, partnership, family and friends and social. Under these, fall relevant rules in order to obtain the most happiness one can get. He does not suggest that happiness is a quick fix; these rule seem simple enough, but they may laborious to constantly implement. I can get behind most of these roles.
Some of them seemed to be idealistic, but Templar validated why and how they can actually be achieved. I find a few of these suggestions too materialistic and superficial, such as ‘#26 – Dress like today is important’ and ‘#45 – maintain good manners in all things’. Sure, not putting my elbows on the table will help me be accepted in a few more social circles – but why would I, someone who is fundamentally not fancy enough to care about that, want to be included in those circles? Wouldn’t being in those circles actually be more stressful than rewarding?
I have noticed that authors of self-motivation pieces adopt a very relaxed, casual tone. Usually, I find that grating, but I suppose that contributes effectively how relatable the piece needs to be for the reader. In Templar’s case, it came across like he was trying too hard (in a dad version of Taylor Swift kind of way). That, or he forgot to edit his thoughts into a more eloquent form. Either way, the tone was difficult to enjoy. Also, I had to be pedantic, but the fact that the blurbs did end in full stops was infuriating.
Otherwise, I found the book quite useful. It is useful, if nothing else but to help you re-establish what your personal priorities are. As soon as you think “Wait… that won’t make me happy” or “He has a point there”, you are deciding what you know makes you happy. After that, you know what guidelines you need to follow. It could be a sugar pill, but it works, so I will follow through.