Looking through the reviews of business, self-improvement, or any how-to books on Amazon and you’ll invariable see a lot of these two types of reviews:
Reviewer A: “Wow. This was life-changing. I learned so much.”
Reviewer B: “Nothing new in here. It’s just a bunch of common sense. Waste of money.”
I’ve made both of these types of accusations against books. But sometimes there is a subtle nagging somewhat defensive feeling I get when I accuse a book of “common sense”.
First, let me make a distinction between tactical common sense like this:
Wash the dishes before you dry them; don’t leave all your cash in the driveway, don’t cover yourself with hamburger before swimming in shark-infested waters, don’t eat an entire jar of peanut butter for breakfast. (That last one is a constant temptation for me).
and more strategic common sense like this:
Save some money for a rainy day, tell your loved ones you care about them, don’t overeat, exercise, don’t work yourself to death.
For this post, I’m referring to the latter type.
If a book seems “common sense” to you, try asking questions like this:
- Am I applying this “common sense” to all the areas in my life? Consistently?
- A lot of people appear to have benefitted from this book. What did it do for them?
- What behavior am I hiding that is not really applying this common sense?
It’s possible the book is just “not for you” but the more it’s not for you, the more I encourage you to consider that it might be hitting a little too close to home in some area of your life you might be conveniently avoiding.
A know-it-already dismissiveness is sometimes the best way to sort out the important parts from the things we don’t need reminded of. But unforunately self-assuredness is also a popular escape mechanism our subconscious uses to help us stay exactly the way we are.
Are you reading books to change who you are, or to confirm that you’re doing the right things? Are you hunting to feed confirmation bias or truly on the quest for self-improvement and learning?