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Beyond the Psyche

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“Do you think inspirational books are really useful?” Varkita Goyal, blogger, asks at a blogger community. The first inspirational book I read was How to Win Friends and Influence People by the godfather of inspirational books, Dale Carnegie. I read it as a school boy. I found the book in my father’s library and was drawn by the very title. I wanted to win friends and influence people. The book had all the tricks and techniques, if I remember correctly. But I never won any friend, nor do I think I went on to influence anyone.

As I look back I know that the problem was not with Carnegie or his strategies. The problem was with me. What I needed were not tricks and strategies but a lot of polishing. I had too many rough edges and I lacked the self-knowledge required to deal with them. Unless you possess a certain fundamental self-knowledge, inspirational books won’t do any miracle for you.

Eventually I read a lot of inspirational books. All sorts of them, from simple practical psychology to spirituality-based books. They helped at times, but not as much as serious works of literature did. The best among the inspirational ones were the works of John Powell, if I remember correctly. I read Powell in my early twenties. The very title of his books will tell you that they were more spiritual in nature than psychological: Why am I Afraid to Love?, Why am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?, and so on.

A few quotes from Powell will give you an idea of what he was trying to achieve through his books:

“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.”

“Why am I afraid to tell you who I am? I am afraid to tell you who I am, because, If I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and it’s all that I have.”

Powell obviously goes beyond the psyche into your deepest core. He unveils you, helps you to accept that reality which you probably hate, helps you to love that reality of yourself without which there’s no authentic way ahead in life.

I think writers like Powell achieve much more than the usual run of psychological writers.

But now, as a man in the autumn of his life, I don’t read inspirational books. I read biographies and novels, history and books on current affairs. These books inspire me now. I guess I have grown up. I hope I have.

PS. Written for In[di]spire Edition 274: #Inspirationalbooks

Welcome to my latest book: click here for your copy


  1. If you have gone beyond the allure of run of the mill self help books, you have definitely grown up.

  2. I completely endorse your viewpoint that self-help books won't be of much use for any reader not possessing a certain fundamental self-knowledge. I also didn't get benefitted by How To Win And Influence People. And sometimes, even the writers of such books themselves also are not able to do what they aim (and claim to achieve through their books). The best example is the author of You Can Win, i.e., Shiv Khera who tried to inspire people to get rid of their obsession with their respective castes and inculcate the sense of equality of all in themselves by launching his own political party titled as Samta Party and fought the legislative assembly elections of Delhi in 2008. All his candidates got their deposits forfeited. He had also lost the Lok Sabha election (as an independent candidate) very badly in 2004. Finally he put down his weapons (i.e., ceased his efforts to improve the people by direct communication and politics) and capitulated down to something he had never supported in his life by his words - he supported BJP and campaigned for L.K. Advani in the 2014 general election. I hope, he must have realized that despite authoring You Can Win, he couldn't win despite his noble aim and mission. His campaigning for BJP and Mr. Advani and quitting his mission to change the Indian people established that he forgot a very important saying – ‘Some goals are so worthy that it’s glorious even to fail’.

    1. The example you've given is quite interesting. I once listened to Shiv Khera, one whole afternoon at Sawan Public School. It was a very interesting session. He knew how to engross his audience. People admired him. But as you say, he couldn't translate his vision to success in his personal life. It is easier to motivate others sometimes? Maybe.

  3. One thing I have found is reading inspirational books or talking about them is something people like to boast about as soon as they start work especially in areas like sales or marketing .... I am not sure what magic answer they are looking for in them .... I have found some fiction books that have more deep and meaningful lines than some of the inspirational books .... But some as the examples you have given can hit us at the core of our selves ... Good luck with your new book

    1. There may be people who find inspiration from certain books and i won't deny them the pleasure. But I'm glad to find another soul who finds inspiration in literature.

  4. Nice post.I like your point of view and I also feel in the same way.

  5. I think the author has done lot of research to write this post.
    Thank You author for the wonderful post.

    Business Insane - "READ THE SUCCESS"


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