Friday, January 13

Snarky Review: No Excuses! by Brian Tracy

Oh hey, guess what? I have a facebook page now! So follow the link and click like if you want to want to keep up with me over there, or if you want to contribute to the part of my self-worth that I gain from the internet (which is a pretty big part.)


This double-negative stresses me out. NO No Excuses! This is an excuse-only zone!

Of course, I got this book because I'm a loser. I doubt many winners bought this just to feel good about themselves, right? In my constant half-assed quest to get my shit together, I figured I could get a few tips on how to stop sucking and be awesome instead. 

Here's what Brian Tracy taught me about winning:

  1. You should stop doing those things that make you a loser, and start doing things that winners do (Though I'm paraphrasing, he literally doesn't get more specific than this.)
  2. Your suckiness is at the very core of your identity and personality – so “to achieve greatly, you must become a different person.” Yup.
  3. WINNERS DON'T HAVE FRIENDS. Socializing is an overrated waste of time. Are your “friends” going to give you a yacht? No? THEN WHY ARE YOU HANGING OUT WITH THEM?
  4. WINNERS DON'T HAVE FUN. They're too busy winning. And if winning is fun, you're not doing it right.
  5. WINNERS DON'T EAT ICE CREAM. Ice cream is equal to “personal weakness, underachievement, and failure.” That's on page 13 if you want to look it up. I'm not even kidding.
  6. Winners accept responsibility for everything. EVERYTHING. Even Hurricane Katrina (p.57).

Sure, all the loser / winner talk is alienating because Brian Tracy doesn't understand that the audience of his book are obviously looking to better themselves, and so fall into the 'loser' category most of the time he mentions this great divide. But goshdarnit, Brian Tracy's a winner.

A winner who will fuck you up without getting blood on his lovely sweater.

The worst part of this book wasn't even getting called a loser every few pages, it was the constant barrage of invented terms, arbitrary definitions, and RULES. All the rules. Brian Tracy loves rules*. Rules He Can Capitalize Because That Makes It More Official. And the rule about rules is “we can put them in quotation marks because it sounds like we're quoting the Grand Handbook Of The Universe, even when no external source is noted.”

The amount of rules and invented terms is really astonishing. Because I love my readers (and hate myself, apparently) I made a list of my favourites:

Someday Aisle – the place where losers live without goals (but presumably with ice-cream?)
Excusitis – the disease losers have.
Path Of Least Resistance – the path that losers take.
The Expediency Factor   this is defined at least three times in really ambiguous terms. But I get the gist that it's something about losers not thinking of the long-term consequences of sucking so much.
The Law Of Unintended Consequences – Uh... sometimes when you do stuff, other stuff happens... that you didn't intend? Apparently this only happens to losers.
The Law Of Perverse Consequences – Not as fun as it sounds. Zip up, losers.
The Iron Law OF THE UNIVERSE MOTHERFUCKERS – It's fantastic that Brian Tracy just casually mentions this as if he irrefutably knows how the entire universe works. Also called the Law Of Cause And Effect and the Law Of Sowing And Reaping.
The Law Of Correspondence – if you suck on the inside, your life will suck on the outside. So, look around you... that's how much you suck, apparently.
Choosing Organisms – what everyone is. Because people make choices. And are also organisms. Don't capital letters look like they're having more fun? Let's put them on every word!
The Law Of Concentration – Apparently, this law ensures that whatever you concentrate on becomes a greater presence in your life. So Benedict Cumberbatch should spontaneously materialize beside me any moment now.
Response-Ability – the ability to take responsibility (?!) I'm so glad we have a term for that now.
The Failure Mechanism – an incredibly vague part of your brain that clicks your default life setting to “lame.”
The Success Mechanism – an equally vague part of your brain that is triggered by having goals, and turns your brain into the rudder / compass / ship / mermaid of your life.
Major Definite Purpose – the goal that's most important to you. So important it gets its own military ranking *salutes* Major Definite-Purpose!
Mindstorming – exactly like brainstorming, only without the copyright violation.
Just Over Broke – the hilarious acronym that the word job apparently stands for – when it comes to losers who are just getting by that is.
Personal Services Corporation – an odd extended metaphor that has something to do with growing your own stock and also investing in yourself and also making yourself a company that you work for. Ignorance is strength. We were always at war with Eurasia.

I get the feeling the first draft of this book was 50 pages long, because the amount of padding is incredible. And it's not just tangential anecdotes, it's mind-blowingly condescending explanations of really obvious things. 

Here's a list of things that apparently take at least a paragraph each to explain to the humble reader.

  • Why dinner comes before dessert.
  • When to pay in restaurants, and when to pay in cafeterias.
  • Parenting is an important responsibility (as opposed to the popular misconception 'parenting is a ham sandwich'.)
  • The (American) Constitution and the Bill Of Rights are legal documents.
  • Doing good things makes you feel good.
  • Doing bad things makes you feel bad.
  • Children are dependent on their parents.
  • Frivolous lawsuits are frivilous.
  • Writing things down is a good idea.
  • Watching TV is unproductive.
  • Homing pigeons are neat.

Like any condescending self-help book, this one has exercises. Deeply unhelpful stuff, too – every single one is a variation of Make a 'To-Do List. Do it. Loser.'

It's achingly clear that Tracy really believes that life is a competition with winners and losers, but when he puts it like this it's really a bit scary: “In biology, life forms are categorized from the least to the most complex, from single-celled plankton all the way up the increasingly complex spectrum of life to the human being. Similarly, human beings can be organized along a spectrum as well, from the least to the most developed.” (p.42)  GOSH THAT SOUNDS AN AWFUL LOT LIKE A PREMISE FOR EUGENICS.

No Excuses falls into every trap of bad self-help books (and even invents a few ones) – it's condescending, vague, unsympathetic, badly written, and, well, unhelpful. It also does that thing where arbitrary words are bolded AND italicized to bring the point home – I'm sorry, but unless the message is THIS PAGE IS POISONOUS DO NOT LICK, there's really no need for this ugly double-formatting.

This book is not about how to get your shit together, it's 293 pages of why people who have their shit together are happier than those who don't. SPOILER ALERT: because having your shit together makes you happy. 

So I'm gonna give it a big fat 1/5, or 2/10. Avoid!

*As Monica Gellar would say, “Rules CONTROL the fun.” Frankly, I doubt Brian Tracy would approve of the fun at all.

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