7 valuable reasons I STOPPED reading motivational books

Motivational books are alluring. And they’re lots of them. All of them promising you something incredible, something which you always wanted.

 

Why I stopped reading motivational books

 

These motivational books dangle big promises to your blinkered gaze. They strategically litter captivating stories on every page like metaphors, idioms and proverbs. They drop convincing statistics like bars in rap cypher.

But let’s be real.

How many of you have read a motivational book and your life was permanently transformed?

You read a dozen books on how to be a millionaire and you still can’t pay for your own dinner. There’s a signed copy on your table about reinventing your life but you remain miserable and stuck in the rat race. Isn’t all this failure a sign that something is wrong?

You will agree that they’re only two reasons you failed to experience the promises sold in motivational books. The tips in motivational books didn’t work. Or you didn’t follow the tips carefully. If you’re like most people, you believe the latter.

As a result, you blame yourself, your background and your life for all the mess in your life. Guess what? That’s understandable because the key message in all motivational books is that you’re the chief architect of your life. 

But is that true?

7 reasons I STOPPED reading self motivation books

I used to read motivational books. The thought of becoming the next Thomas Edison, Gutenberg, Wright sibling, Albert Einstein or Mother Theresa was seductive. So, I read books on leadership, personal management and word of faith.

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1. The motivation wasn’t sustainable

The motivational books were great but the motivation was temporary. I remember reading a book by Robert Schuller founder of the now defunct Crystal Cathedral. He recommended positive thinking. I tried for a while and failed to positively think out of poverty.

2. I am me and not them

And when I got my first degree, I realized I was never going to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. Forget what people say that some of these guys dropped out of school. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard. I couldn’t make it to Harvard!

3. Sometimes, successful people got lucky

No one really wants to admit they got lucky. Having read numerous motivational books, I never heard anyone say they got lucky. Luck is a bad word. It takes away the glory from you but I bet 50% of success is really lucky. And as believers we know better – it’s by God’s grace.

4. Motivational books are a product based Ponzi scheme

Have you ever met anyone who can honestly admit that a bestselling book by a famous motivational speaker is trash? I haven’t. Instead, I have met people who try to recruit me into the author’s elaborate Ponzi scheme. The smart author goes away with their seminar registration fees and profits from selling colorful eye-catching success packages.

5. Self motivation books offer empty promises that inspire guilt

People are lured by flowery hogwash. Brainwashed by testimonies of perceived success. But when you fail to experience the book’s selling point, it’s your fault. And you will rot in guilt.

6. I realized Christ is the author and finisher of my faith

The crafty motivational authors urge you to take ownership of your life because your destiny is in your hands. After all, you can do anything you set your mind to do and you can be anyone you want to be even though you’re born this way. But I am saved by grace, God works in me both to do and to will.

7. Most of the stuff in the books is recycled

Most of the advice in these books is either seventh-generation recycle material or fluff. Recently, a young Zimbabwean writer published a motivational book. I read the first page. It had a quote from Zik Ziglar, an example forked from Anthony Robbins and irritating structure mirrored from Mike Murdoch. The punchline where pure hogwash like lines from a Depaak Chopra book. I lost interest in the book.

The new kind of motivation. Actually, the ancient one

I will forever be grateful to God for the opportunity he gave me to go to Switzerland. Although I didn’t get the job, walking into the Fraumünster Church in Zurich was more than enough. God gave me the motivation I needed as a husband, writer and scientist.

There’s a letter by Johanne a Lasco to Heinrich Bullinger that opened my eyes to the goodness of God. Lasco wrote:

And there’s no human wisdom, no endeavour to which I attach so much importance that I would rely on it without the Word. Indeed I know that I will not be judged one day by people, however clever and gifted they might be, but according to the pure and everlasting word of God, which was conveyed to us by our Lord Jesus Christ through his Apostles.

I quit reading motivational books because they emphasize human wisdom and endeavor; they talk about the determination of inventors like Thomas Edison ignoring the root of the tenacity, they glorify the boldness of successful entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs while overlooking the source of that attitude.

What really matters is the root. If the root is detached from God’s Word it detaches you from the truth and the Spirit.

But I don’t deny that sometimes I need motivation. And like I said before, sometimes I can’t even encourage myself. So, I prefer motivation that comes from other believers through their personal testimonies or biographies. Ultimately, true motivation is in Christ, not human wisdom or endeavors.

So, in my upcoming book, Pew Theology one of my goals is to encourage people to effectively study the Bible. Therefore, they will be a couple of chapters on how to read the Bible and understand. But my challenge is this:

How can I write without coming across as another self-motivation junk?

Brian Zahnd once observed:

A Christian obsession with therapeutic self-help fads reveals how disconnected we are from substantive historic theology and the ancient practice of spiritual direction.

Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.

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13 Comments

  1. Awesome article. Your write up is profound.. absolutely believe motivation is not the way. We must go back to where it all began- the bible.

    The church also have largely embraced this motivation trend every Sunday and service.. thereby making Christians more frustrated by lack of results.

    All blueprint of principles and lessons are rooted in the word.

    Can’t wait to see your book publish.

    Great job

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  2. Edmond, You are right on target! I’m also writing (a book on our Christian hope) and want to stay away from the “motivational” format and clichés. The approach I’ve chosen is based on two things: Pray, ask for the Spirit’s help! And use the Scriptures as your resource. Go there for examples, quotes, everything! Nothing is more powerful. The world needs the Word.

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  3. Superb.
    I completely agree that most motivational books are guilt-producing trash. There are no systems or step-by-step procedures that can produce perfect results every time; the Christian walk is a relationship with a Person, not a Coke machine in which you input the currency of faith and get a Coke in return.

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  4. Edmond, you have recommended certain books of theology on this blog. Concentrate on imitating what was good and right with those books. Don’t focus on NOT sounding like a self-help book because that’s counterproductive.

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  5. Clear, Cutting and Compassionate article.
    Am going to share it widely!
    As an upcoming blogger, I pray that I won’t motivate people to think too highly of themselves and have no place and need of a Savior!

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  6. This is absolutely right! Thank you for sharing. Many more people-believers in particular-need to see this and realize where our roots should be. Praise God for His wisdom 😊

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  7. Thanks, Edmond.

    There are two idolatrous statements at the heart of these books: “If you don’t like your life, change it!” and “You can avoid all suffering!”. Both are bunk, deeply contradictory to the thrust of the Word. Our lives are guided by God, and it will not be guided to paradise until we cast away our earthly shells. There is wisdom we can embrace, but we cannot make life work perfectly for us. Attain the top of the apple tree and we’ll just long for a taller tree.

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  8. What I’ve always prayed before I start writing- and boy did I pray when I was my pastor’s ghostwriter- was and is “HolySpirit, if you don’t show up and speak to me, everything I write will be garbage.”

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  9. Excellent. I quit myself several years ago. I use the talents God gives me. He has always provided opportunities….. and taught me to judge success through opportunities for service, not money or fame.

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  10. I quit reading motivational books because they emphasize human wisdom and endeavor;

    I believe this is the number 1 reason to avoid self-motivational books.
    Scripture (James) is clear that worldly (human/demonic) wisdom is not of God. Christians really should avoid this kind of influence.

    The only useful suggestion I could offer you is to focus on the truth of Scripture and Christ’s honor as you write.

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  11. Hi, Edmond.

    Thanks for the article. The motivational and self-help industry are dangerous. It’s disheartening that some churches have chosen to water down the testimony of Jesus Christ in order to build mega churches.

    In African countries the ‘gimmickry” and theatre that is in some pentecostal churches which preach and teach a “christianised” self-help menu is doing great harm.

    However, thanks for the article as it is imbued with much needed wisdom!

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