The Only Self-Improvement Book You Need to Read

The Only Self-Improvement Book You Need to Read

‘Instant Wisdom: 10 Easy Ways to Get Smart Fast’ by Beth Burgess quickly sums up most of the self-improvement books published in the last decade. Read ‘Instant Wisdom: 10 Easy Ways to Get Smart Fast’ and you can abandon the self-improvement genre for a while, at least until Burgess’s next book comes out.

My Not So Secret Love of Self-Improvement Books

I’m caught! 

In her review request, Beth Burgess, author of Instant Wisdom: 10 Easy Ways to Get Smart Fast, wrote “I was looking at your website and I noticed your (secret) love of self-improvement books. Since you loved ‘Outliers’, I think you’d really like my new book… and wondered if you’d be interested in reviewing it.”

I hate to admit it, but she’s right! I love self-improvement books, but the sad thing is few of them are terribly helpful, which is why I am telling you that you must read Instant Wisdom.

Why You Should Read Instant Wisdom

I know that last sentence makes no sense but hear me out. 

There are tons of self-improvement books out there, but they all regurgitate the same information in their own, often long-winded, way.

Instant Wisdom also repeated a lot of information I’ve read in a number of other books, but instead of being long-winded, Burgess clearly summarized the pertinent information in most of the self-improvement books I’ve read in the past decade.

If you read Instant Wisdom, you can skip just about every other self-improvement book out there.

Instant Wisdom Review

The subtitle of Instant Wisdom claims that it offers 10 ways to become smarter. I don’t think that’s quite the case though. Instead, Brugess’s tips will help you think more clearly so you can better use the intelligence you already possess. Ultimately, Instant Wisdom is a book that can help you get out of your own way.

Although there wasn’t a lot of new information for me in Instant Wisdom, I did learn a few things and enjoyed Burgess’s casual style. Unlike other authors of self-improvement books with a casual style, Burgess isn’t crass, just fun. So, let’s talk about my two favorite bits of Instant Wisdom. 

Socratic Questioning

In Instant Wisdom, Burgess, like Neil Degrasse Tyson, urges readers to question everything. She explains that “we often fall prey to cognitive biases and logical fallacies, like thinking that all the taxi drivers are lunatics, just because we had one bad ride. We make generalizations and blanket statements, and imagine that things are simply common sense, when there is often no such thing. These very human flaws make us assume that certain things must be true or false, even if they aren’t. And we rarely even realise that we are basing our opinions and conclusions on false presumptions and beliefs.” Her solution, Socratic questioning. 

Socratic questioning is the foundation of critical thinking. The point of Socratic questioning is to ask a succession of probing questions in order to get to the heart of the issue at hand or to find holes in an argument. Socratic questioning is used in classrooms, particularly law classrooms, all the time, but you can ask yourself probing questions about your personal issues and decisions any time you want. In Instant Wisdom, Burgess explains how use Socratic questioning and says that Socratic questioning will help you stay flexible and ditch rigid, black-and-white thinking, which will make you less stressed and, yes, wiser too.

The Law of Attraction Doesn’t Work

The second part of Instant Wisdom that resonated with me was Burgess’s criticism of the Law of Attraction. If you regularly read Picking Books, you can guess that I’m a stickler for evidence. That’s why I will never endorse books that tout the Law of Attraction. You can imagine how eagerly I highlighted Burgess’s criticism of it.

She writes, “If you’re familiar with the Law of Attraction, you may have heard some ludicrous things about it, like that constantly focusing on a Ferrari, and just believing you will get one, will eventually attract a brand new Lusso straight to your driveway. I have some very sad news for you. Ain’t gonna happen.” Instead of believing the “ridiculous claims and horribly cheesy movies,” Burgess encourages readers to harness the power of their minds in scientifically supported ways.

If you’re interested in why the Law of Attraction is pseudoscience, check out this article from the New York Times.

No Self-Improvement Book is Perfect

I definitely recommend reading Instant Wisdom, but no book is perfect. I only have two criticisms of Instant Wisdom though. First is the lack of citation information. Burgess references a number of studies throughout the book but doesn’t provide enough citation information to easily verify her references. Second, Instant Wisdom is too short and to-the-point. On the one hand that’s a good thing; however, Burgess could have explained some of her tips in more detail. Otherwise, Instant Wisdom is a handy self-improvement book for when you find yourself feeling stuck. 

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