Gabriel Mizrahi (@GabeMizrahi) joins us for this deep dive into why a lot of self-help makes you feel miserable by design and what you can do to improve yourself without being suckered by hucksters or succumbing to an existential meltdown.
What We Discuss with Gabriel Mizrahi:
- Why so-called “self-help” often makes you feel worse about yourself than before you sought it.
- How to separate actionable self-help from motivational “hustle porn” designed to prompt emotions and elicit sales.
- Why those inspirational bromides you’re seeing all over Instagram might goad you into short-term action, but won’t do much for you over the long haul.
- Striving to improve yourself is admirable and encouraged — just don’t get suckered into the myth that there’s a finish line.
- How to consume genuine self-help without being miserable while avoiding the big business con-artistry that pervades this space.
- And much more…
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You’re finally taking steps to become the best version of yourself? That’s great! But is the self-help advice you’re following really geared toward ensuring your improvement over time, or is it simply a carefully crafted marketing scheme that’s tantamount to emotional extortion — designed to keep you tethered to some program, product, or guru indefinitely while eyeing a mythical finish line of perfection that you’ll never see?
In this episode, we’ll explore why a lot of so-called “self-help” advice you’ll find saturating the shelves of every bookstore and corner of social media is more of an invitation to co-dependence on what someone’s selling than an actionable course of positive change — and how you can tell the two apart. As this is a deep dive, Gabriel Mizrahi joins us to guide the way. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
To dive even deeper into why striving to improve yourself shouldn’t simultaneously make you feel lousy about yourself, make sure to read this episode’s companion article here: How to Self-Help Without Feeling Terrible by Jordan Harbinger.
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
THANKS, GABRIEL MIZRAHI!
If you enjoyed this session with Gabriel Mizrahi, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- How to Self-Help Without Feeling Terrible by Jordan Harbinger
- TJHS 22: Deep Dive | How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People
- The Science of FOMO and What We’re Really Missing Out On by Nick Hobson, Psychology Today
- The $10 Billion Self-Improvement Market Adjusts to a New Generation by John Larosa, MarketResearch.com
- The Art of Woke Wellness by James Hamblin, The Atlantic
- Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian Says ‘Hustle Porn’ Is ‘One of the Most Toxic, Dangerous Things in Tech Right Now’ by Jim Edwards, Business Insider
- Fyre Fraud (Hulu)
- Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (Netflix)
Transcript for Deep Dive | Why Does Self-Help Make You Feel Terrible (Episode 160)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer, Jason DeFillippo. Self-help is a buzz-worthy topic which I have a love-hate relationship. Sure, I want to get better in just about every area and I've been working for a decade and changed to do so deliberately, but self-help can also be a double-edged sword. In fact, for many of us, self-help is probably one major cause of us feeling pretty bad, but why does self-help make us feel terrible? Does this mean we're doing it wrong? Well, maybe, but it might also have to do with the fact that a lot of people selling self-help are doing so in a way that creates deliberately these negative feelings in order for them to get into our wallet. Further, self-help and want-to-be gurus often try to make us feel broken so that they can come along and fix us -- for a fee, of course.
[00:00:49] It can also cause us to compete not only with ourselves but with other people in terms of getting better, which is just a recipe for disaster. Today, we'll dive down the rabbit hole of why self-help can make us feel so bad about ourselves, and why a lot of what we're seeing online isn't really self help at all. Gabriel Mizrahi, head of research and editorial here for The Jordan Harbinger Show joins me here today on this episode. He's the guy that makes sure what we publish is making you smarter when you read it, so he's a perfect fit for this Deep Dive here today. If you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage relationships using systems and tiny habits, which I've worked on for years here, check out Six-Minute Networking. That's a course that's free. It used to be called Level One. Now, it's called Six-Minute Networking. That's at JordanHarbinger.com/course. All right, here's me with Gabriel Mizrahi on this Deep Dive. Gabe, thanks for coming back on, man.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:01:42] My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:45] This topic is going to be really fun because it allows me to be a little bit of a prickly pear when it comes to this topic that I love because people are surprised when I say this -- I'm not a fan of self-help. I actually don't really like it.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:02:03] Interesting. Except for like self-help podcaster?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:05] Right. Well, that's the thing. I used to dominate the self-help category in iTunes for like seven years and I was like, “Self-help is really cool. It's so great.” But there's a problem with it and I don't know if it's getting worse now or if it's been getting, if it's been crap the whole time and I just haven't noticed. But it's become a big business, I guess it was before, but it's not just this thing that you do that's kind of a hobby where you work on yourself because you're thinking forward. It has become our entire life and if you don't believe me, pick up Instagram and look at any of these people selling the dream and we'll get into that in a little bit. Go to any self-help event, which used to be like, “Here's a bunch of tools to memorize things and memorize people's names and give better speeches like Dale Carnegie”, and now it's like dancing and jumping up and down with those noise sticks you see at sports stadiums because people just want feelings instead of tools. And we'll get into that in a bit as well. But I'm getting the same email every single day now, which is how do I parse useful self-help stuff from fluffy crap. And also, “Hey Jordan, I used to love your show but I can't listen anymore because I'm getting overwhelmed with self-help stuff and I'm just cutting all of it out. I'll come back to you in a few months.” And I've been getting notes from listeners because they feel bad. They're like, I feel like I’m leaving my friends or I feel like I'm leaving my brother on the side of the road and I'm like, “Come back in three months. We'll still be here”, or stay with us and stop putting so much pressure on yourself. So the question is, why the hell is something that's about getting better making us feel worse, pretty consistently, all the time?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:03:45] That is such a good question and, first of all, I love that you're one of the people asking it because you are part of this industry that as you pointed out, has become mainstream. It's not a subculture anymore. It's not a section of your life. Like wherever you go as you point out, whether it's Instagram or YouTube or just like overhearing people talk in coffee shops or even the way they sell you coffee or like what goes in your coffee, like everything we consume and talk about these days almost comes with this layer of self-help. I can't even drink coffee without knowing what possible benefit it will bring to your productivity.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:21] It’s fair trade. It's Bulletproof and it has MCT oil in it and also it's got nootropics in it now. And by the way, it's not coffee actually.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:04:30] It's not really coffee. It's this thing that'll make you awesome, but like if you don't have MCT, if you don't have nootropics in it, then are you really doing everything you can? You're not giving yourself the full advantage that you could be giving. So it's crazy. Like self-help, to your point, used to be this like a corner of the bookstore, right? And now it's part of our lives and sometimes it's such a part of our lives that we don't even see those layers. We can't even see the way in which the world is serving us this idea that we constantly need to be getting better. So I'm not surprised to hear that people are having a hard time with that because now there's this massive and constant expectation that we have to be working on ourselves all of the time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:08] Exactly. Remember when people started freaking out like, “Oh my gosh, I'm getting work email at home because I have a smartphone or I'm getting work email at home because it gets pushed to my Blackberry”, back in the day. This is the personal development equivalent. Now you can't just go on social media and be like, “Oh look, my mom got a new cat and posted photos.” Now it's like, “Are you hustling right now, bro? If not, you suck. I'm looking at a gold bar, whatever. Here's my jet.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:05:33] “Are you running back trails with a black hoodie while awesome music pulses in the background? No, you're at home with your cat. What's wrong with you?”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:39] “Wow, you suck. Oh, you're sitting around? You're wasting your life and you're going to die in a hole.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:05:43] Well, one way into the answer to this really great question you asked is to parse the term self-help because just within that term, I think, is part of the answer to this issue. Like, first of all we have to unpack like any idea of self-help, we have a few concepts. We have the idea that you have a self. We have an idea that it needs help. Yeah, thanks man. I've really worked on that, but there's also this more important idea buried within it, which is that that self can be helped and should be helped and that self-help is the thing that will help that self.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:18] Everyone just pushed back 30 seconds. And was like, “Wait, what? Yeah, go back. What was that again?”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:06:23] There's not any grand wisdom here. It's just interesting that the name for this thing that is helping us and making us miserable is already teaching us that there's something wrong and that it's not something wrong in this corner of our lives. It's something wrong with ourselves.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:40] Right. Your whole life is broken.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:06:41] In other words, if there weren't a self in need of help and if self-help weren't the thing that could give that help, the genre wouldn't exist at all.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:48] Right. Sure. And I get it. Nobody wants to feel broken and it's easier for many reasons, which we'll get into, to tell us, “Hey, this is broken. Everything can be optimized”, which is to an extent true, but also not necessarily something you want to be thinking about all the time. And yes, we're hosting a show right now where you can learn from other people's success and failure for that matter. And I'm straight up obsessed with getting better in all these different areas of my life. I know you are as well. And I think if growth weren't a huge part of everyone's purpose, we wouldn't be sitting here. So we're not saying stop improving. We're not saying stop thinking about where you can improve, right? But…
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:07:29] How can we improve and do it in a conscious way without making ourselves miserable in the process?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:34] Right. Can we do it in a way that doesn't come with negative effects or feelings?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:07:39] Yes, and I think the first step that we need to understand is that we have to recognize that most, if not all, self-help is designed to expose our flaws. Unfortunately, but it doesn't mean that it's inherently bad, it's just deployed in a very clever way that we usually don't realize. If you didn't feel a lack, if you didn't feel less than, if you didn't feel like there's room to improve, you probably wouldn't feel the need to consume any form of self-help in the first place. So most self-help practitioners or experts or authors, they understand that better than anybody and they prime us to recognize that there is that as you put it -- this feeling of being broken or being flawed in some way because then you're prime to receive their message or their books.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:25] It's like a beer commercial, right? “Look at all these people having fun, and you're not.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:08:30] That's exactly the perfect analogy because this is advertising and self-help needs to advertise in a way. It needs to create the need, just like marketers do if you're going to buy the product. So if you don't feel that lack, then you're probably not going to go out and search for that book with the title that seems to offer the solution to your problem. So they create that need and that's not a new technique, it's been around for probably 150 years at least, and probably goes back thousands of years actually, if you think about it, but it's what marketers have been doing for decades. It's not inherently corrupt, but it's part of the reason that self-help experts have this really subtle way of making you feel like crap. Sometimes before you get the wisdom that they're trying to give you, and sometimes during and sometimes forever because if you didn't keep feeling it, would you keep coming back and consuming the product?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:20] And the answer is probably not, and we can't afford it. We can't have that now, can we?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:09:23] No. Well, not in a capitalist society, right? Like not where you're trying to sell books or sell apps or whatever. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:29] Right. You need to watch this thing on Netflix and then go to the three-day event and then go to the seven-day event and then go to the $50,000-mastermind meetup. Right, exactly. With a bunch of other people that also fell into the marketing funnel that you are now calling your peers.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:09:45] Exactly. But now it's worth asking a new question, which is like, well, we deal with that kind of capitalist marketing model every single day with every category and that doesn't seem to make us feel miserable all the time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:57] My breakfast choices aren't making me feel bad about my…
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:10:00] Exactly. You're like, “I bought this coffee for the Sacco”, or like, “I bought this toothpaste versus that, four out of five dentists recommended it and Crest told me I need it”, but I don't feel bad about that. It's something that I needed. Someone told me I need it and that's okay. Why does self-help do that? And the reason is that self-help is not about an aspect of you. It's about you. It's about like your character. It's about your identity. It's about like are you good enough as a human being. So if someone calls that into question, of course you're going to feel bad. It's not like, “Oh I really need new socks. I can't walk around with holes in my socks. I better sign up for that subscription service.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:35] Socks of the week.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:10:36] Where they send it to me because I can't be that guy who walks around with holes in his socks. No, this is saying, “You don't know how to manage your career, son.” Like you know what I mean? Like, you really need to figure out how you're presenting yourself at work because if you don't, your life is just not going to be very good. You are not going to be very good. Of course, you're going to feel miserable if that's the message.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:56] Of course, we have unlimited comparison as well and we'll get to that in a second. But social media is not helping the problem, or Tumbler or whatever. Is that social media? I guess, it is, yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:11:05] It's that echo chamber that sort of puts you, but we'll get into that in just a second. But it is important to remember that self-help solutions always, always benefit the person offering it in some way. And I mean maybe there are a couple exceptions. Maybe there are like monks who are hidden in the forest who are not trying to sell you a book. But even then, I would argue that on some level, they are selling you an idea or at least an idea that you shouldn't buy into ideas, which is an idea, you know, like, you know, they might not be breaking in the cash the way a productivity app in the Apple app store might, but they're still giving you something and there's still some benefit to the person offering it.
[00:11:43] So just like with toothpaste, we have to be able to see like, “Oh yeah, I need toothpaste, but I'm making P&G rich by buying Crest.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:50] Right. And you can be making passive income online and flying jets with some guy that you saw on NCIS Miami. If not, you're a loser.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:11:58] And well, I'd feel like one now that you've said it. Yeah. And who is that guy or gal who created that app and what are they benefiting from my need to consume it?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:07] I think it's interesting that a lot of self-help experts that I know are completely uninterested in personal growth and development and just marketers.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:12:14] Oh, interesting. Would you said that most of them?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:16] The ones now, the ones that we're going to talk about later on as well, no names mentioned of course, but the ones that are sort of in the hustle porn category…
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:12:25] You mean like they treat it like it’s business.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:27] It’s just a business. They don't care at all about personal growth. They're doing other things that look like personal growth, but it's all just in marketing.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:12:35] So they get this more than anyone.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:36] They get it more than anyone. I don't know if they're even consciously aware of it. In fact, some of them are like well-known, well I won't go down that road, but they're like members of certain self-help cults you might say, and they're not really concerned with their personal growth. They're more concerned with marketing, this cult.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:12:53] I believe that. But it's also worth pointing out that like the fact that self-help experts benefit from us consuming it, doesn't automatically mean they're bad, right? Like there are great self-help experts. There are awesome books. There are really helpful apps. There are websites you should read. Like that's not a bad thing that we exchanged money for some wisdom. It's just important to see that they benefit and how. And ideally, the deal should be arrangement, the deal we enter into should be that we benefit and they benefit and we both benefit. The question is, is the self-help expert benefiting more or before or in a disproportionate way from the way we are? That's when it becomes a problem.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:32] One of the examples you gave in the article, which we'll link to as well is it's as if someone broke down your front door, told you, “Hey, your front door is broken”, and then sells you a new door and an alarm system and is like, “Hey, if you don't want this to happen again, you better get it.” It's kind of like emotional extortion in some way where it's like, “Hey, look at all these bad things that happened to you. Look at how bad you feel looking at my social media feed. If you want to join me on the other side of your crap feelings, come and buy my event where I'll sit here with all these other motivational speaker a-holes and tell you about how great your life is going to be if you just keep on investing”, and now we dance.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:14:10] I love that metaphor because if somebody did that to your front door and tried to sell your door, you would call the police and be like, “Get out of my house!” Like, this is a corrupt system that we're participating in. But if you open up the first page of a self-help book and the first paragraph is, “You’re broken.” You go, “Oh, Oh really? I'm so glad you're telling me. Let me keep reading.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:32] Yeah, or you open up your phone and your social media feed is full of FOMO-inducing here's-this-guy-jet-skiing.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:14:38] Which is even more problematic because even though it sounds more overt, in some ways it's more subtle, because it's under the guise of entertainment. You don't realize that you feel bad that you're not on a jet ski in the Bahamas. You're just enjoying a cool photo of some other world that you're not a part of. But in the process they're saying like, “You don't have this, but you could have this. And by the way, here's a link to a seven-day seminar that I'm teaching.” And then you're in the middle of that, you know, corrupt deal.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:15:08] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Gabriel Mizrahi. We'll be right back after this.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:13] This episode is sponsored in part by Skillshare. Jenny, my wife, as you all know, she's obsessed with Skillshare. I like it too. I mean, they've got over 25,000 classes in design. There's business stuff in there. So if you're curious, creative, you're trying to do something for your career, they've got social media marketing, mobile photography, creative writing. There's illustration, a lot of specific software stuff in there too. So whether you want a hobby, you're working on a side hustle, or you want to gain some new professional skills, Skillshare is there and they've got just everything. I mean 25,000, I can't think about how many different subjects that is. It's absolutely bananas. There's stuff in there from public speaking to reorganizing bookshelves. It's really, really interesting. I kind of just peruse it and just go, what do I want to learn? It's kind of, it's better than flipping channels on the TV, I'll tell you that. Jason, do you Skillshare?
Jason DeFillippo [00:16:02 ] I do. I've actually been going through a couple of final cut pro classes right now because I'm trying to figure out how to do some more video stuff and they've been incredibly helpful to get me up to speed really fast. And back in the day, I used it for logic pro, which I use to edit the show every day, so I highly recommend checking out Skillshare. If you want to get up to speed on a class taught by somebody who knows what they're talking about, definitely you want to check them out.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:25] All right, where do we get it?
Jason DeFillippo: [00:16:26] Join the millions of students already learning on Skillshare today with a special offer just for our listeners. Get two months of Skillshare for free. That's right. Skillshare is offering The Jordan Harbinger Show listeners two months of unlimited access to over 25,000 classes for free. To sign up, go to skillshare.com/harbinger. Again, go to skillshare.com/harbinger to start your two months now, skillshare.com/harbinger.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:49] This episode is also sponsored by DesignCrowd. Crowdsourcing is how busy people get stuff done in the 21st century. And thanks to DesignCrowd, you can focus on running your business, go figure, while you hand over the reins to your company's logo, web design, tee shirt, to a pool of over 670,000 professional designers from around the world and they'll crowdsource custom work based on your specs. So you pick the design you like best and then you pay the designer. So go to designcrowd.com/Jordan. Tell them what you want, they'll invite 670,000 plus designers from all around the world -- Sydney to San Francisco. And within a few hours, you'll get a few designs. And over the course of three to 10 days, you could receive 60, 100 or even more different pieces from designers around the world. You pick the one you like best and approve payment to the designer, and of course, they'll refine it for you and all that stuff too. So of course, if you don't like anything, money back guarantee. Jason, tell them where they can get their DesignCrowd on.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:17:42] Check out designcrowd.com/Jordan. That's D E S I G N C R O W D.com/jordan for a special $1 VIP offer for our listeners or simply enter the discount code JORDAN when posting a project on DesignCrowd. Don't forget we have a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from this Deep Dive with Gabe Mizrahi. That link is in the show notes at JordanHarbinger.com/podcast. Thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more about our sponsors and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit JordanHarbinger.com/deals. If you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to JordanHarbinger.com/subscribe. And now back to our Deep Dive with Gabriel Mizrahi.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:24] Even this show, because I don't want to be like, “Look how holier than thou we are.” Right? Even the show is designed to sell you something and what I'm selling, I shouldn't say we, I won't throw you under the bus with myself here. What I'm selling you is my belief. You know, I want you to see what I see, which is that most self-help experts are selling you something in order to profit. But also, most self-help experts don't tell you what they're selling. I know that you think, “No, the link is there. They're pretty forthright about it.” It's actually quite shady. There's not just, “Hey, buy my self-help seminar.” There's a lot of like, “Hey, look what I'm doing. I'm traveling. Oh yeah, we're on the way to this event. BTS behind-the-scenes stuff”, and I just want to be really clear because I'm not immune from this, you know, we sell products or we will and we have events and things like that, but I want the cards on the table.
[00:19:20] I want to be forthright about it. I want to be on the same page to be entering into the unspoken agreement with the same understanding. Maybe it's a spoken agreement now that we're talking about it, but yes, I'm selling an idea. You're paying me with your attention when you listen to or watch this show, and for that, I hope that we both benefit.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:19:37] Well, I love that you brought it up and that's the difference, is that you're making it explicit and that you're not pretending that it's otherwise. But like we said, there's nothing wrong with both parties benefiting. It's just when one benefits more or the other party benefits in this disproportionate way or makes them feel bad and that's the deal. Yeah, because somebody could listen and decide, “No, I don't want to consume it or I don't want to be part of that agreement” or, they're going to say, “I like it, but I don't want to listen or I don't want to listen to the ads”, or you know what I mean?
[00:20:05] Like when the cars are on the table as you put it then, and it's totally fair. It's part of one of the things I love about the show.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:11] I think I feel better having people listen, knowing that I'm not hiding the ball and I'm not trying to make this show so that people go, “Oh, I'm not productive enough.” It's like, “Here's a bunch of tools”, and we'll get to this in a second, but I'm not creating or highlighting a deficit that you have. I'm just saying, “Hey, if this is a problem for you in this one area for the particular day that we're doing that particular topic, you can improve upon that by getting real world tools from the guest and for myself.” Also, it probably helps a little bit, at least, that I'm constantly talking about my own failures so that people don't feel so bad because I've done all of the horrible, stupid mistakes that people probably have made or are listening to this stuff in the first place.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:20:54] Well, speaking of that, there's another reason that self-help makes us miserable, and that's that, it's designed to make us compete with other people. So in a lot of self-help these days, you'll notice that it's not enough to just be better than you used to be. You have to be better than everybody else, especially everybody else who's trying to do the same thing that you're doing, right? So you don't have to just be faster on the treadmill than you used to be or get further on work than you thought you could. Or be happier than used to be. You have to be happier, faster, better, more self-aware even than everybody else. And if you're not doing that, then you're failing again. And the reason this feels even worse than a lot of the other dynamics we've been talking about is that not only are self-help experts often, and sometimes subtly, making us feel bad that we're not who we should be.
[00:21:45] They're also pitting us against all the other people who are consuming the same self-help. And that comparison is really toxic because it's the engine of envy. It's the reason we compare ourselves and then feel like if we don't have what other people have or if we do, but we're afraid that other people might come in and take it or overtake us, then jealousy kicks in. This dangerous combination of jealousy and envy as part of the self-help process is really troubling. It can make us really unhappy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:14] Good point, right? So this competitive strain of self-help also has ties to advertising, and that's the problem. It's kind of like, look, I'm perfectly happy saying, “People who listened to The Jordan Harbinger Show have an edge.” But the problem then would be, if you don't listen, someone else has an edge over you. There's a difference there. That's important. I want you to feel good for listening to the show because you're like, “All right, I'm listening to something wholesome. I'm getting some ideas that I can use to improve my life”, but I don't want you to think, if you miss an episode while someone else's heard that episode and if you didn't, you are failing at life somehow because you went to the gym and you listened to music today instead of to the show. That's not how I want you to feel.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:22:57] Self-help has gone from being about betterment to being about better than meant, which is a pretty cool turn of phrase, but it actually kind of captures the problem, right? Like I said, cool turn of phrase and I meant annoyingly clever, not as cool, but you understand what I mean? That competitive edge to self-help kind of perverts self-help, in my opinion, because it turns it from this thing that's a private experience that's sort of about me or you, you know like what the individual, like what we are able to do that we didn't use to be able to do before and it turns it into this like race.
[00:23:36] And that's Instagram, that is Tumbler, that is the version of self-help once it gets into the echo chamber of social media in particular, because it's no longer about the personal journey, it's about how do I fit into the larger picture of what everyone else is doing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:50] And I recommend also we did a deep dive on comparing yourself to other people or how to stop comparing yourself to other people. And I think that is something that we'll link in the show notes as well. But that was really important because I, along with everyone else, fall into that trap sometimes. And it's so toxic because, and I've said this a thousand times on the show, when you're comparing your blooper reel to someone else's highlight reel, that's really problematic. But with the advent of the internet, I don't even know if you could say advent of the internet now that it's been around for 30 years.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:24:17] Sure, it was an advent, at some point.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:19] There was at some point, yeah. Now though, it's like you look at some professional fitness model and you're like, “Oh, I should be that fit.” But then you take another example where some of someone who's really well-read and you're like, “I should be reading that much.” And then you see somebody else who has like six kids and a really happy life and you're like, “I should be that happy and have a family that says.” So you're taking all of these highlights from all of these really high performing people in one specific niche and you're like, “Failed here, failed here, failed here and failed here.” You're not taking a fair assessment of your own life and taking some positive traits or tools from each of those people and applying them. I mean, we want it, we should be doing that, but often we're not actually doing that, so that's a recipe for never getting out of bed.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:25:00] It's a recipe for depression, for anxiety, for just that constant sense of failure for sure. But the problem is that competition isn't always bad. There is a healthy competition that can drive us to grow as human beings or drive us to try things we haven't tried before and that's good. So when benchmarking ourselves against other people becomes more important than benchmarking ourselves against ourselves. You know, that's when the toxicity that you just talked about spills over into relationships into how we view the world. It's not just a private struggle, it becomes a lens on everything. And that is when the self-help becomes problematic. So how can we truly get better if we're so focused on appearing better than that? That's a completely different issue from just betterment.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:44] Right, because now we can't just get better at stuff. Now we have to show everyone else that we're doing it, which actually could cause us to focus, sorry, on the wrong things. That's a whole different topic probably.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:25:48] It is, but it actually brings us to the last reason that self-help makes us miserable, which is that a lot of self-help these days is just motivation in disguise.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:05] Oh yeah. This is one of my pet topics, of that time.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:26:08] I mean, same here and I'm weirdly fascinated by it because it's such an odd feature of our generation in a way. Good self-help, in my opinion, I'm sure you agree, is about basically like long-term, lasting, meaningful transformation. That's it. Motivation, which often takes the form of motivation porn videos or like hustle porn videos, which I'm sure you guys have seen on YouTube, right? Like people have probably stumbled across these videos where it's usually like three to eight minutes of montage footage of people doing superhuman things. They're like running on men, running up, you know, mountain trails like working out and back alley is like leading meetings, looking like they're on top of the world, right?
[00:26:49] To like set to a score, like a swelling or castrato score of music as like, you know, life gets more and more and more awesome with voiceover from various self-help experts.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:59] That one sounds decent. I have been thinking of the worse ones. Yeah, I'm fine with those for the most part. I mean they’re still cheesy.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:27:06] Tell me about the other ones. I don't know.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:08] The ones that I think are really ridiculous, this whole thing has caused a race to the bottom because now it's like roll up an SUV, someone gets out, opens the door, step out in slow motion, suit, straighten up blazer, walk in slow motion towards the private jet. Right? And then, but what's funny from what I noticed as really funny is these guys will get in the private jet that they've leased or the scene that looks like a private jet that they leased, and they pull out their phones on the plane.
[00:27:36] And I'm like, tell me that the height of like cheesy millennial self-help niche guy is not, “Look, I have Wi-Fi on this plane.” They’re like, “I'm Instagramming while I'm in a video that I'm posting on Instagram.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:27:52] I could have done this from my couch but I did it in a plane. Yeah. I never really thought of it that way. But that is such a sad version of what awesome reality is like.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:03] 20 years ago, sure, same private plane, same SUV, except for they're having a party, they're drinking and talking with your friends on the plane. Now they're like, pulling out my iPhone XS Max or whatever, swiping up slow mo and they're staring at their phones and I'm just like, “Wow. They're not even interacting with each other.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:28:21] [indiscernible] enjoying life. Yeah. Well, that is way worse than the one I described that I haven't even.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:25] Like, at least your guys are working out and leading a meeting. These guys don't have jobs.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:28:28] Well, either way it's a form of, well, what you're describing is almost a form of lifestyle porn and what the first examples of the motivation porn, but they're totally connected because they're both trying to tell you like, “If you just power through, you can have these things and you will feel awesome if you do it.” Let's not mistake motivation porn with meaningful self-help. The two have been conflated and a lot of times when we see motivational motivation porn videos or lifestyle porn videos, we think that that's the key to becoming better. And the weird thing is that for a lot of people it does kind of make you feel better for like 45 minutes, right? It's like it'll get you through that spreadsheet if you were really struggling, you know what I mean? But is it going to make you spend the next two years doing something that will sustain you, that will make you feel purposeful, that'll make you love what you do, that'll push you to new places that you care about?
[00:29:19] Not because some other guy's telling you, you got to run up the mountain, but because this work and this life that you're trying to build actually matter. No, it's not.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:25] Yeah. Good point. I'm imagining somebody, I'm imagining myself actually going through all of my Instagram comments to engage with fans, going through my email inbox and I'm like, “Hold on, let me pause right here.” And then on the iPad, I just push play and there's like Gary V yelling at me. Or like, you know, with these other guys like, “Look, if you just work a little harder, you know you can do this.” And the guy's like running up some stairs to a rocky montage. It's just that doesn't happen. That doesn't work.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:29:56] Well, it's the cheap imitation of actual betterment, right? Like, it might push you a little bit harder, it might push you a little bit harder, but it will come at a cost to your psyche. It'll make you feel worse because these forms of lifestyle fetishization, like the way they fetishize working your ass off or working out constantly or stepping from the SUV to the plane. Even if it's fake, which it probably is. It's like that nitrous oxide boost in Fast and The Furious. Remember like when you're like at the end of the quarter mile race or whenever they are, I don't know how long those races are, but you understand. They're driving down that like, you know they're racing those cars and at the last second they press the button and it just sends the car like that much faster and just ekes out a win. But that's going to destroy your car after a while. Like you can't sustain that level of whatever that material is. I clearly don't know anything about cars and this whole metaphor is falling apart at the last moment, but that metaphor matters. Like you might go faster for a shorter amount of time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:53] We need to get Vin Diesel in here to explain this finally.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:30:55] Can you just do that and get him on the show? He can probably solve it. But yeah, like those motivation porn videos are the equivalent of that technology because they're just like power throwing you and you're going to get it. But then at the end of it, you'll be exactly where you were before the video and you might even feel worse.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:31:11] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Gabriel Mizrahi. We'll be right back after this.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:14] Action movies make this look like if you just grit your teeth and run really fast, then this slow motion explosion happening behind you, you'll survive it and you'll come out the other side. What people don't see is, “All right, I spent seven hours setting up my annual schedule of guests for this show and evaluating a couple of new hires.” It's like, that makes for really bad Instagram videos. It doesn't look good on YouTube.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:33:39] Who wants to see that? Nobody.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:40] Nobody, not even me and I’m there.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:33:42] Yeah, exactly. Hey, but that's the point, right? Like it's the actual work, but it's not the product that'll sell you, you know, sell people on courses or you know, get them to sign up or watch your video and give you a little ad revenue. It's not going to do that even though it's the least meaningful thing. So if self-help is strategically designed to make us feel bad, is it possible to consume self-help and not be miserable? Well, the answer I think is yes, absolutely, yes, but we need a new set of principles and mindsets to navigate self-help in a healthy way, and I think it all starts with knowing that you will never be perfect or finished or complete because that is the myth that almost all self-help experts are selling you, that there is something wrong with you, that there's something, as you put it, broken or flawed. And that one day, you will fix that thing and you can be perfect. You can be this like Uber-mench of a person who doesn't have any of those flaws anymore, and that ideal of perfection in some hypothetical future is what keeps our hope alive and makes people consume all of this self-help.
[00:34:49] What we end up realizing of course, is that you never really get there. You can become better. You should become better. That's our job as human beings, but it's a total myth that that process ends at some point. We're always going to be open-ended projects. Life is an open-ended process. We never finish this job. We can always become better, right? And it's not always good. Like, you can always work out for another 15 minutes. If you're working out four hours a day and you're not trying to be a bodybuilder or an athlete, does it make sense to keep going? No. But you could theoretically keep going as long as you want. Well, up to 24 hours in a day, I guess, right? So there is no end-game really. Even though a lot of self-help experts want us to believe that. And if we notice, if we realize that you will never really be finished, then it's a lot harder for self-experts to sell you that dream.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:39] Right. Because if there's no finish line, then what are you racing towards? And you can't really compete with someone else if you're not on the same track. So that should hopefully relieve a little bit of stress. And it's something that I constantly have to remind myself of as well. Because I'll look at these influencers online and I'm like, “I've got to be doing more Instagram.” And then I'm like, “Wait, no, I don't like it. It's a tool for me to engage with fans.” I don't like being like, look at my thing that I'm showing off. I don't care about that. I don't want Instagram to be my product. As a creator, it's a massive time-suck. I post funny things on there. I give behind the scenes looks at the show. The show is what I care about. And so I want to focus on that. But it's really easy for me to be like, “But this person is spending all this money and time and energy and they have a whole team for Instagram.” And it's like, but wait, I don't care about that.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:36:26] Yeah. What are we doing here?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:27] Yeah, what are we doing here? And also a lot of the people that are doing that are doing that because their shows don't have that much value. So they are able to provide more effort for that other platform because they don't have to go deep -- because they can't.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:36:41] And that brings us back to that product idea, right? What is the product that they're selling? Yeah, so this notion of perfection of being fixed and finished and complete, it's a myth and it's a myth actually, you know, to be fair, I don't think we can put it just on self-help experts who sell that myth. It's actually a part of the human mind. I mean, there would have to be something in us that's receptive to that idea for experts to take advantage of it. The human mind will always exist in this state of incompleteness. That is the design of the human brain. If it weren't feeling incomplete, it wouldn't go out and search for food and shelter and you know, try new project and look for adventure. But that built-in mechanism of lack is what makes us susceptible to self-help experts who want to exploit that lack.
[00:37:24] And that's okay. We don't have to fix that. It will never be fixed completely. We just need to notice that it's there and say, “Oh yeah, that's just like a weird feature of our brains.” We don't need to let it run the show and we don't need to look for self-help experts wherever we can get them to help us fix this thing that will never really be fixed. We only have to get better than we used to be. The only real way to protect yourself against that exploitation is to know that you don't need to be 110% superhuman, all of the time. That this mythical state of ultimate super humanness is a fiction, and that no self-help expert can ever resolve that tension. Even in like, especially if they promise they can, because that is the marketing that we've been talking about this whole time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:10] That makes sense. So the best self-help here is going to be something that frees us, gives us tools, principles, mindsets, lets us build upon ourselves and isn't something that we're now adding workload to our day. Having it goes through the ringer.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:38:27] Exactly. And to make that meaningful for us, we have to be able to make it our own. And that's the next mindset, I think, is that a lot of times consume self-help in a way that it's almost like we look at the piece of wisdom or the program or the workout routine and it's like this external thing that we need to live up to. It's almost like a religion, right? Like there are certain precepts and principles and rituals and there's a place we have to go once a week or maybe sometimes once a day or sometimes three times a day. Like, it's this institution outside of ourselves, and if we aren't living up to the expectations of that institution, we're not doing our job as human beings. That is such a recipe for being miserable. When you consume self-help and it's so antithetical, it's against the best version of self-help, which is something that gives you, personally, a tool or a principle or a mindset that just enriches your life. That doesn't make you feel like you need to live up to something and that if you're not living up to it, you're disappointing either the expert or your friends or yourself, but that empowers you or uplift you. It makes you better and if you don't make it your own, then you fall back into the trap of being miserable when you consume self-help.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:35] That makes sense. Yeah. I think that any brand that requires an unusual amount of devotion or time in the game is that's problematic.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:39:46] Yes. And please say that again because I feel like we forget that all the time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:49] Any sort of program or brand that requires you to really dive in and dedicate yourself to it, that's a huge problem. There was actually this “leadership course” that another self-help figure told me about a long time ago. And I went and it turns out like half the room was recruited by this guy. He runs a popular self-help show and it was not a leadership course at all. It was like this very cult-y self-help garbage, high-pressure sale environment. And you had to take off work into these three, I think. And I was like, all right fine. And then the next one, the advanced one was the following freaking week.
[00:40:27] And if you didn't go, you were letting yourself down and you know, blah, blah, blah, whatever. And of course, it was more expensive and you had to get rid of people that told you, you couldn't do it because there were negative influences on your life and all this garbage and all of the people that supposedly worked there, I would talk with them too. They were pretty secretive about stuff. But then it turned out that they had basically taken the program like three weeks prior. They were volunteers and I was asking who's been here the longest and the person who was kind of running the whole thing, who wasn't the guy on stage, but the other person that was running the whole thing, also a volunteer, in fact, paying to be there as part of this, they called it the PhD program, which is ludicrous because it was not an accredited institution of any kind.
[00:41:10] She was also paying to be there and running this whole thing, but she had been, I think in the whole game for like six or eight months. So I'm like, “Where's everybody whose life has been changed radically by this and is working here?”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:41:23] Right. Where are the people living their lives?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:25] Yeah. And the answer was, nowhere.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:41:29] And so as part of this, you're a disciple, that’s what they are. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:32] Yeah. So I got a contact information for a lot of them and I put them in my CRM software to follow up with a year later, not a single one was still part of the organization. Almost every single one was angry at the organization for having taken advantage of them. And I asked them, can you ballpark me the amount of money you spent on it? Most people had spent thousands. Some had spent upwards of $10,000 on this particular program. And I said, “What benefits did you get?” And of course they had a bunch of rationalized benefits that were pretty generic and they had overall a negative experience with the organization.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:42:07 ] That is a disturbing story. And I believe it. And I feel like there are so many examples of that out there. You know, organizations or systems that give you tasks or obligations and like concerns about your well-being instead of principles and actual tangible self-help that makes your life just better outside of the system that doesn't require you to, as you put it, to express this devotion. And if you're a disciple rather than a mere student, and even then, if you have to continue to be a student as opposed to just a human being who learned something, then that's usually a sign that the system or institution or program you're a part of might not be healthy or effective. Or, it's a sign that you haven't done the work to make it your own or both. So it's not that all institutions that involve some devotion are inherently bad, but I do believe that it's up to us to say, “Here's what I want to take from this. Here's how I want to apply it to my life. And I want to be able to do that in a way that doesn't require me to continue to pay somebody money or to show up at this certain time or to carve out valuable pieces of my life, weeks of work, or thousands of dollars of money to continue to get the benefits.”
[00:43:01] If that's the way the deal works, then there's probably something wrong. And I'm not surprised that you're so unhappy. But it is up to us. It is our responsibility to make it our own.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:27] So we're in the driver's seat. It's important to remember that and it's important to realize that like, look, if someone says, “Hey, are you doing the free course on the website?” Like for example, we have Level One, it's a networking class. I love it. It's free. There’s no upsell involved at all. And when people are like, “Oh, I'll do it later.” I'm like, “Okay, I'm going to call this person out on excuses.” And if they're like, “Look, I just had a baby, I'll do it next month.” I'm like, “Okay, I get it.” I'm not going, “You're letting yourself down.” I get it. I understand, at some level, some of these things are excuses. At another level, you're busy and you haven't prioritized it. That's your choice. I'm not going to push it harder than that. If someone is telling you that you have to quit your job or take time off of work, even though your boss is going to get really angry. In fact, this same BS-y self-help class thing that I took before where they had 8 billion NDAs by the way, because they don't want people to find out how crappy they are and it had rebranded like 50 times. I Google-d it, you know?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:44:22] Should we throw that in there as a sign that self-help could be bad if they take you sign multiple NDAs?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:26] Yeah. Look, if someone doesn't want you to record their course, I get it. If someone doesn't want you to ever talk about it other than to sell someone into the class and you can't say disparaging things about it, he got a problem. You got a problem. So there was a guy in the class and he was a surgeon, like a legit hospital on call doctor whatever, and they had somehow, one of the high pressure tactics at this class was to ask people if they were going to be there and like, you make this promise on blah blah, blah, and if you're late, they embarrass you in front of hundred or 300 people in the room. They call you out. And this guy was like, “Sorry, I can't. I'm not going to be able to stay all day tomorrow because I'm on call and I know I've got to…”, or he had surgery that he had to do.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:45:10] Sorry, I have to save someone's life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:11] Literally. And they were like, “You have to find someone else who can do that.” And he's like, “No. As a doctor, I'm not going to call another doctor and be like, ‘Hey, you're up for this patient of mine because I've got to go to a freaking seminar.’ I'll come back another time and I'll make up the day.” And they're like, “You're not allowed to do that.” And he's like, “Okay. Then I guess I'll miss the day.” And they're like, “You're cheating yourself. This is a racket. You're letting yourself down. You're letting all of us down.” And he's like, “I can't do it. This is a matter of someone's health. I'm not going to do that. I'd taken an oath to protect people's health.” And they're like, “You gave an oath to stay for the whole class.” And he's like, “This is ridiculous.” And they go, “You're uncoachable.” And he goes, “Fine.” And he left.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:45:51] Good for him.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:52] And I was like, that just happened. That was one of many events where I thought, this is ridiculous.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:45:58 ] That's absurd. I mean, they elevated the institution above the person, that's what they did. Yes, we are in the driver's seat. We have to make it our own. We have to apply it in our own way and we have to remember that it's self-help. It's self-help. It's for us. It's not for them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:14] It's not for the organization. It's not for the other people in the group with you.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:46:19 ] Exactly right. Ultimately, that application of self-help will create a bigger impact when it's about you and what it means for your life than becoming a slave to any particular regime or program. The next step, and it's totally connected and we've already sort of touched on it so we don't need to spend a ton of time, but it is important to look for the product. So we talked about how a lot of self-help is marketed like a product. It is a product, whether even if it's an idea or just asking for your time or your attention, but an idea, a system, a philosophy, a supplement, we talked about like nootropics or MCT oil, I mean a piece of equipment, a feeling, an app, a relationship, an experience, right? Like a festival or destination seminar or anything like that -- These are all products and that's not bad.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:00] No, it's not bad yet. You can have a product -- Bulletproof coffee? Fine product. Nootropics, whatever vitamins? Fine products.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:47:08 ] But it's important to identify that product to see it for what it is, especially when that product is subtle. It's so funny. This is a little bit off the beaten path, but you know these two Fyre Festival documentaries just about…
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:20] Oh my God, I was just thinking about this. That’s so good. Yeah, we’ll link them in the show notes.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:47:25] Have you seen them so good? They are so good. They are so disturbing. It's like watching car crash in slow motion, I guess, is the best way to describe it. But what really struck me when I watched it was what these guys were selling and what they were selling in a way was very clear. It was like this aspirational lifestyle and this destination and this like the best party you've ever been to basically, which is fine, fair enough. I mean, people go to clubs and parties all the time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:52] Models, villas, bottles, DJs and a beach. And it's like, but not a problem. How vague [indiscernible]
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:48:00 ] But even if it exists, even if it turned out that Fyre Festival was legit, how vague and amorphous was the deeper product that they were selling? The deeper product they were selling was exclusivity, aspirational living, being part of like this cool group of people in this special place that nobody goes to that used to be Pablo Escobar's Island. Like, what is that?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:24] That turned out to be an offshoot of Sandals Resort that was still under construction.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:48:29 ] That's because they moved the venue or whatever. But like, I find that so interesting because I bet if you talk to the average person who bought tickets for Fyre Festival, I mean, it's so easy to make fun of them but like I bet a lot of those people are not completely stupid.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:43] Are you kidding? I would have loved to have gone to an actual event like that. If we’re asked about it and I'm glad I didn't, I would've bought the villa.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:48:52] Also didn't cost $300,000 or whatever for a house that didn't exist, but like that's a different thing. The point is…
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:57] I would've gotten a smaller package.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:48:58] I would've done the beach.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:02] AKA, the FEMA tent with a wet mattress.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:49:06] Oh my God. Yeah. Those images were amazing. Watch the documentary, but when you watch it, look at how they sold the dream in a way that was kind of hiding in plain sight, but at the same time, was completely missed by these people who didn't see that what they were really buying was this access to a version of themselves that they wanted so badly. And that's the same thing that happens with self-help. And I'm not saying it's as toxic always, right? Or as manipulative, but that is what we're doing. Like, we consume ideas because we believe that the idea will make us who we want to be -- the best version of ourselves. It's aspirational in nature at its core. So we have to be able to see that product because when you know what's being sold to you, you can consciously choose whether to accept it and whether you're consciously choosing to accept the terms of the deal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:59] Yeah, good point. Because when you watch or listen to The Jordan Harbinger Show, there is a certain percentage of people that are listening that are just entertained by this that like learning stuff. There's very few people, I think, are like, “I want to be Jordan.” Like, I hope you're not listening or watching and you're like, “I want to be you.” That would be kind of ridiculous. Look, I'm flattered by that, but here's the thing. When I look at other influencers, what they're selling is, “You could be kind of like me, I'm tall and good looking and I have a jet.” And it's like, Hmm. That to me is ridiculous and it sort of caters to people with low self-esteem, but the problem is it's insidious. They're not saying you can be more like me. They're showing you a bunch of things that you kind of, it's implied you should have this already.
[00:50:44] “Oh you don't know how to get this? It's really easy. Just come to my event and I'll crowd surf and then we'll be friends.” It's complete BS. It's aspirational garbage. Is it motivation or is it tools? Is it aspirational or is it an actual roadmap for you to develop a skill? Those are very, very different things.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:51:01] Yes. And when you feel bad for consuming self-help, it's often because you know deep down that you're being sold something that you don't need or that doesn't actually work. You might need it but it's not actually giving you what you need. So it's just really important to notice that product and connected to that. So deeply connected to that is we have to remember that when we consume self-help, we've got to focus on action rather than feelings. So a lot of self-help as we've talked about is designed to make you feel certain things.
[00:51:30] The motivation porn, the lifestyle porn, the hustle porn video is the perfect example. That video is not going to give you any concrete tool that you can take into your life. It's just designed to provoke a feeling. Usually that feeling is some version of, “Aaaahhh!! I can do it.” Like I'm going to power through him, I'm going to get whatever that projects that I can't get.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:50] Cue slow motion pulling awaited sled behind me while I run in a sleeveless shirt.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:51:55] And what is that feeling? That feeling is that I could be powerful, that I can be effective, that I'm the kind of person who could sit down and grit my teeth and get it done. Or maybe that I can look like that person if I just do the thing that I'm avoiding. But that is a feeling to feel empowered, to feel motivated, to feel inspired or hopeful or vulnerable -- all of which are wonderful and important experiences.
[00:52:16] I hope everybody gets to feel those things in the right way at a certain point. But when a self-help product only gives you a feeling, then you can be sure that there's something missing. That's the problem. Either the product in question doesn't really have much substance to it, which is motivation porn videos, which is very common or you haven't found a way to translate that feeling into a set of actionable principles or tools in your own life. You're still at the stage of like, “I want to feel or be near these things, but I can't actually apply them in a way that is sustainable.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:50] Yeah, good point. So when we consume the self-help, we can kind of, where the show where the video we can go, “Alright, which emotional experiences come up? Am I feeling like, ‘Yeah, inspired FOMO.’ Am I feeling bad that I'm not doing that? Do I feel like I need to get the thing that they have in order to be that way?” We're trying to not do that on this show. We're trying, we're like, “Here's a worksheet. You get homework.” Probably not a great feeling, but at least you know you're going to get some takeaways from the show. And that's the idea. You're listening in your car, you're listening on the train, you're listening at the gym. Great. You should feel good about listening to this because you're like, “Oh, this is fun, entertaining. And if I want to take the takeaways, the tangible stuff, I can go to the website, grab the worksheet.” And that's all there is to it. That's why I think we have a more intelligent audience than a lot of the sort of motivation porn type thing. It's also an older and more educated audience generally, and I think that's important because hopefully that means people have already gone through that other phase or avoided it entirely and have landed here going, “This is where the beef is, or the meat.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:53:53] This is the real thing. Yeah. You're not selling people a feeling. You're selling them value, meaning. And what you described of taking inventory of your feelings is really important and that's a very concrete thing that I hope we take away from this episode that we have to have that self-awareness to be like, “What am I feeling right now and am I feeling that because I'm feeling it in response to the thing? Or, am I feeling that because they want me to feel that?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:18] Right. The positive feelings can be really addictive. That's why these channels have 8,000 videos a week and they're all the same.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:54:25] Exactly right. Yeah. They are very addictive. And again, nothing inherently wrong with any of these feelings, but we have to ask ourselves, is the feelings the product? And that's when it becomes a problem. Because positive feelings, as you point out, are very tempting. They're very addictive. And because they're addictive, they're so easy to sell. When you experience them, you'll probably want to keep seeking them out because again, feelings never last. You get your hit and then it fades. Just like motivation, especially if you have trouble finding them in other parts of your life, you're going to start to look for them in the obvious places where you can sell them, i.e. YouTube. So if you feel hopeless, you might consume a self-help video designed to give you comfort. Or if you feel shut down, you might consume a book that'll make you feel vulnerable.
[00:55:06] But that doesn't mean that you are comfortable. It doesn't mean that you're vulnerable, it's just making you feel that way for the moment.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:12] Right. So just because you feel hopeful, it doesn't mean you're cultivating hope. Just because you're feeling vulnerable, doesn't mean you've opened up and you're now empowered and in control. You feel that way temporarily, which is what the video can do. But the rest, all the hard work, it's kind of like, “Eh, that's heavy lifting. We'll just ignore that for now.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:55:29] Exactly. Those are just feelings and what we really want is action. So I think at the end of the day, just to zoom way out is this is for me what I have had to come to terms with my relationship with self-help, and it's part of your show and it's why I love it so much that at the end of the day you have to come back to basics with self-help. It's not complicated. Self-help, at the end of the day, is only valuable if it gives you a handful of things. If it makes you happier, if it makes you more fulfilled, if it makes you more excited about life, if it brings you into deeper connection with other people, if it makes your life more meaningful, if it helps you understand your purpose, then it's probably doing a good job and you have the right relationship to it. Now, I'm not saying that self-help is always easy. That's not what we're saying. Self-help can be difficult, but there's a difference between struggling and pain. There's a difference between being challenged and suffering. Like, self-help can challenge you, it can push you, it can be uncomfortable, but it doesn't mean that if you are not feeling discomfort, if you're not feeling pain, if you're not miserable, then it's not working. That's a totally different thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:35] Interesting. Okay. And I agree with that. I also think, look, the reason we're so focused on practicals and worksheets for every show is because it is shameful for me to think that any episode of this might be just like hollow and empty because it's such a waste of time and disrespectful to the viewer, the listener. So self-help, in my opinion, or any sort of educational product, which by the way, that's why we're not in the self-help section of Apple podcast, we're in the education section. I think it's a more apt label. We should be getting new tools and ways of viewing the world. Not easy solutions or temporary feelings. So we want tools, not feelings. If all you're getting are feelings, push the little X on the corner.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:57:18] Yeah, and to go back to your example about that creepy seminar that you stumbled into, like self-help should also create habits and mindsets and to your point, tools and principles that you can make your own, not obligations and requirements that keep you tethered to the expert or to the program. Because if that is more important than the benefit you're getting, if your allegiance to the organization matters more than the value it's creating, that's a problem. And again, that might be the institution's fault or the teacher's fault, but it might also be our fault. It might be our fault for not making it our own, or deciding to what extent we participate in it or what our relationship is to it. Is this thing designed to add to my life? Am I interpreting the education the right way to make it meaningful for me?
[00:58:00] Or am I just doing it because I feel that I owe this organization something or they've made me think that I owe this organization something because that's their version of progress. That is when it makes us miserable.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:11] So can we put a button on this?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:58:13] I think self-help should bring us into a deeper relationship with ourselves at the end of the day. I think that's really the bottom line. It's everything you've been talking about on this episode. Everything you talk about on every episode is just about becoming a more fulfilled and better human being for you -- not for someone else, not better than someone else, and not because someone else told you and made you feel bad for not doing it, but because you chose, in your own way, to become better. And that's why I think it's really important to recognize self-help when it's making us miserable and to adopt those mindsets that allow you to work on yourself without feeling like you're failing or that you're in incomplete or like you're broken because you don't need to believe any of those things to consume self-help in the right way.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:53] Gabriel, thank you very much, man. As always.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:58:57] Thanks for having me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:59] Great big thanks to Gabe Mizrahi. The article that goes into even more detail on this topic is on the blog of course at jordanharbinger.com. And if you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage my relationships using systems, tiny habits and not a lot of social media, not a lot of clutter -- check out Six-Minute Networking. It's a course that I made to replace Level One. It is free.
[00:59:21] It's over at JordanHarbinger.com/course, and it's got new drills, new exercises. If you liked Level One or if you were too lazy to start doing it, Six-Minute Networking is a great place to kick that off. It takes just a few minutes per day. I'll let you guess how many. And this is the stuff I wish I knew a decade ago. It's not fluff. It is crucial. And that's all at JordanHarbinger.com/course. Speaking of building relationships, tell me your number one takeaway here from Gabe Mizrahi. I'm @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. And there's a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at JordanHarbinger.com/youtube. This show is produced in association with PodcastOne, and this episode was co-produced by Jason “Deep Dive” DeFillippo and Jen Harbinger. Show notes and worksheets are by Robert Fogarty. And I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be in every episode. So share the show with those you love and those you don't. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen and we'll see you next time.
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