24 Jan, 2022

#186 Why Shelf Development Can Ruin Your Life


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“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” – Nathaniel Branden

Everybody has stumbled upon at least a snippet of self-help books. Millions of resources telling you how you can start improving yourself and listening to peoples’ testimonials about how great they all turned out to be that you start trying out these tips and end up…failing. 

Why is that? Is there something wrong with you? 

Of course not. 

You are a human being. You are bound to have flaws. You are bound to experience failures. But that doesn’t mean that you are not worthy to be who you want to become. 

In this episode, listen as I dive into self-development and how it can potentially ruin your life if consumed without acknowledging who you truly are.


✅ You have all the potential to succeed in life. But you have to understand yourself first, in order to truly start your journey towards success. 

✅ Competing with yourself is what you should aim for. Comparing your progress with other people will not help you realise your goals. 

✅ You are in charge of who you want to be. The answer is always YOU. You can read all these self-development books but if you don’t acknowledge yourself, who you are right now, and who you want to become, those words will not work. 

More on this topic: 

📝 Why Self-Help Books Don’t Work (And How To Nevertheless Benefit From Them)

📝 Why Are Self-Help Books Not So Helpful After All? 


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Pete Cohen is one of the world’s leading life coaches and keynote speakers. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world have been motivated and inspired by Pete’s presentations. He has professionally impacted the lives of thousands of people worldwide, including business executives, professional athletes, and everyday people.  Pete focuses on the importance of closing the gap in our lives between where we are and where we want to be, both personally and professionally.

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Pete is the author of 19 published books, several of which have been best-sellers across the world, including Shut the Duck Up, Habit Busting, Life DIY, and Sort Your Life Out. He has also presented his own show on TV called The Coach and was the resident Life Coach on GMTV for 12 years. His new book Inspirators – Leading The Way In Leadership is available for free here –


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Pete Cohen 0:01
Happy beautiful day. It is Pete Cohen it is the Mi365 podcast. today's podcast is called Why Shelf Development Can Ruin Your Life Pete What are you talking about shelf development? What have you completely lost your marbles? I don't play marbles. I'll see you after the theme tune.

Pete Cohen 0:42
Guten Tag Guten Morgen happy beautiful day. It's Pete Cohen here we're talking shelf development. So please guys, please get some shelves. Let's put those shelves up and let's develop our lives. No, not really. So I heard this phrase, you know, there's no point doing shelf development. You got to do self development. You know, because a lot of people I was actually looking on my bookshelf, and I've got some books there. I don't know how many self development books have you read in your life? How many self development books have you bought? And not read? I don't know. I think I got into shelf. What was this first self development book that you ever read? For me it was called over the top by Zig Ziglar. And it really was it was fantastic. I must admit it was such a breath of fresh air for me, because I'd studied psychology and I must admit I left and my head was a little bit scrambled. I really just had spent so long learning theories and just kind of then regurgitating them and I I actually remember that leaving feeling very, very vulnerable, very, very insecure. And I thought, what actually am I going to do with with what I have with what I've learned and I was going to go on holiday and I was feeling very, very low. And I said to a friend of mine, Lincoln. I said links I'm going away Can you recommend something for me to read? So he read the lead me Zig Ziglar is over the top. And I must admit I loved it. I remember just reading it and my my girlfriend at the time who was actually having psychotherapy. It was really interesting because I was telling her about you know, the fact that you could change the way you think and you could have you could believe in yourself and you won't have to be limited by your past. And for her. That wasn't something that she wanted to hear. She really didn't want to hear about the possibility she was going through some real trauma of abuse that she had been through in her life and she was coming to terms with that she had kept it to herself for so many years. And immediately there was polarity between the two of us I was pulling in one direction she was pulling in another but however I read the book, and I was literally just blown away by what I was reading and then I came back I went to a bookstore in Hampstead and I looked at the shelf for the shelf development books because let's face it, self development really isn't the answer to everything right? I mean, it they're just words and books and videos and of course it isn't. It's the application of knowledge which I think is where you know you can have something on the shelf you can take it off the shelf and you can read it but still nothing changes. And you know, I really it's not that it can ruin your life. But I think for a lot of people maybe their life would be better if they'd never read a self development book. Again, I

Pete Cohen 3:28
don't know because I don't know everybody. But I have written 20 books on personal development and been published by the biggest publishing houses in the world Random House, Harper Collins, sort your life out habit busting life DIY, fear busting so many other books, lots of weight loss books. And you know a lot of people you know, of the 100,000 people that bought the weight loss one of the weight loss books I wonder how many people actually lost weight and kept it off? Probably about 2% because, well, there are many reasons, I think, but the second book I read was called Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins. And I must admit, again, that book was a massive game changer for me. It gave me so many different perspectives. I remember reading he talked about this analogy of an idea. So think of an idea like, I'm going to build this business or I'm going to be fit I'm going to be healthy just this idea. And he said think of an idea like a table top. So it's just a table top with no legs. How do you get this thing to stand up? Well, it's often the actions it's the things that you do that support the idea. And that was a massive game changer for me, especially when I was working in the field of fitness at that time. You know, as a personal trainer, I started a weight loss program that was bought by a medical insurance company for a couple of million in 2003. Because basically, I'd stumbled across across something I was one of the first people probably in the world actually, that was really looking at behavioral change when it came to weight loss that you know, realizing the way people were thinking the way they thought about themselves. That really was the secret and I think it is, I think the way that we think it's massively affects our life for most of us in the Western world. But just because I'd found a solution and I'd helped a lot of people, it didn't help everybody. You know, and this is really what I want to kind of delve in. I mean, the self help industry I think in 2020 was worth something like 11 billion, you know, it's big bucks, right? And I think there is this premise around like the weight loss industry that you have a problem and this is the solution. And that allows people to live in lack. You know, if you're as curious as I am, I'm one of the most curious. I'll promise you if you and I met, I would be more curious about you than you would be about me probably. I don't know. I mean, I'm just in my life. I don't meet as many people that are just as fascinated by the person that is in front of you. That you get a chance to find out who is this person what is important to them. What are they passionate about? I love to ask that question of people, rather than you know, what do you do? I love to ask the question, what are you passionate about? I also have to ask the question, What can I do for you? I also love to ask the question, how do you feel about where you are? I'm a bit more cautious about asking that question because you know, sometimes if you ask that question, someone might think what are we talking about, but it's a good conversation starter. And I kind of wish that someone had asked me that when I was young, you know, really asked me how do you feel about where you were and it would have been amazing if I'd been able to express how I was thinking and feeling. But no one asked me that question. I mean, look, I'm very grateful. My parents did everything they could to help me. But I don't remember them ever sitting me down and say, How do you feel about where you are right now? Let me ask you that question right now. How do you feel about where you are? You know, because there's so many feelings that we can have, right? I mean, think of how many feelings that you could possibly have in right now. You could feel what you could feel excited, you can feel depressed, lonely. How much of that is just your own reality. I'm a member of two. I mean, yesterday I was been asked to talk about the metaverse and and the other one. The other world that's been Korea all these worlds that have been created and someone was saying Why would anyone want to go in that world? And I said to him because they don't like being in this one. They don't like being in this world. They like the idea of going into another world where perhaps they might not be judged. They might not have to live in a world where they do a job that they hate doing, you know who's to say that that might become reality for them. And they come into this world and say this isn't reality. That's my reality. It's really fascinating. Don't you think our world is just about to go through one of the biggest changes that it's probably ever gone through. And it's called development it's called evolution. The evolution of technology is taking us to a place where people are going to be in going into another world. And a lot of people will find it confusing that someone will go and buy a pair of virtual shoes and spend $400 I have a friend that did that the other day. You might think that's crazy so that when he's in this virtual world, people can see the shoes that he's wearing. Again, a lot of people are going to struggle with this. But for a lot of people this is going to make huge sense. In fact, it made sense for years. I remember how long ago was it been that game that you could that you would you would see yourself on the screen and you could have a virtual life and people will get married in the virtual world. I mean, there's going to be the world is going to change. But ultimately I think we have to decide as individuals well who do we want to be?

Pete Cohen 8:31
Because when we think about why self help can ruin your life. I think one of the reasons it really messes people up I think is because people get a taste of what's possible. They get a taste of you know, they read a self help book, they get excited, they do something, something changes they get they get a little better at something. And then invariably what seems to be the history of man is man goes back to what man knows. That man repeats and repeats and repeats. And it's not to say that I'm not saying that that's right or wrong. It's just if you observe what people do, very few people reinvent themselves very few people transcend their past. Most people keep reproducing you see reproductive block mass why man is here we keep reproducing. But what's fascinating is just to be able to stop and think about how do you feel about where you are right now? Because with with self development, I think often makes people think that there's something wrong with them. And I would say yeah, there is something wrong with us. It's called being human. You know, we're not perfect. We don't we don't live forever. We've all got insecurities and imperfections. But I would always start off with the premise of you're just great the way you are. I mean, you're a mate, you're fantastic. But that doesn't work for a lot of people because a lot of people fundamentally believe they are not enough. They are living in lack. They are not as lovable as they could be that we live in this world. That's basic, those messages are coming thick and fast to all of us. You know, I was actually reading about Denmark because Denmark is supposedly one of the happiest countries in the world yet every day someone they have about 500 suicides a year. That every day, you know, at least one person is taking their life. So how could you be in the happiest place where some people are choosing to take their life? I mean, if you look at the charts, I think it's Lithuania that has the highest suicide rate. And actually South Korea as well as is way up there as well. Why would people want to do that? What what must be going on inside? People that would make them want to do that? I mean, I'm an incredibly curious soul because I love to, to find out what is the experience like of being you? Is that one of the most fascinating things to have those conversations? That's why I personally love clubhouse because clubhouse has been this place where I can listen to people from all over the world and start to see that the common ground. You know yesterday I've just been asked to do a big speaking engagement actually for a Japanese company. And they were saying that we have to be careful because of the diversity issue and the fact that we're dealing with people from everywhere in the world. And I said, Yeah, I know I do. I know we need to be careful with that. But what's the common ground? What is the common ground that every single one of us has in common?

Pete Cohen 11:26
I think there's a few things but one of them is that we all in this big story. We love stories. Everyone loves stories. Everybody, right? Everyone loves everyone knows the story of Charlie in the chocolate factory or the Wizard of Oz. Or, you know, someone is called to an adventurer, and they don't often want to go they want to stay where they are. They get someone who helps them go to a place they've not gone before they face something which almost destroys them. They then train and get stronger, they reinvent themselves they become more than they were before they take on the thing that almost destroyed them, they destroy it. They take on the power of the thing that they destroyed, they become a better version of themselves, and then they pass it on to somebody else. We love those stories. And that's what I encourage people to think about and I'm not here to tell people look, I've got the answer here. I don't not saying I have the answer. I've just spent my life finding solutions to the problems that people have. I love finding solutions. And if I can't find the solution, I'll find someone who has. So my point around all of this is it's not that self development doesn't work. It's just maybe for us to start looking at things with a fresh pair of eyes because you know there are amazing techniques that we can all use right? Lots and lots of techniques. Use this technique like the technique that Mel Robbins is the five second rule, and I use that this morning. I don't abuse that rule 54321 I get out of bed. You know do I feel like getting out of bed and of course I don't you know, I'm blind down is comfortable. My body is loving where I am. But you know what I love to learn. I love to make progress. And that's the thing. I would really encourage you to think about that. There's nothing wrong with you. Could you be better? Yeah, I mean, isn't that the greatest thing in life that we could get better at something and if you if you if you're immersed in self development, I would really encourage you to think about how can I use this? How could I practice this? You've probably heard of the thing about playing at the edges. It seems to be that when people play at the edges of something where they just go to a place where it's just a little difficult. It's a bit of a dynamic tension. And they do something that is a bit hard or they do something they didn't feel like doing. And they do it there's just this wonderful feeling of just getting better. You know, I speak to companies all over the world and I say to them, you know, what do you think the people who have a job here want you know, and it's funny that none of them have ever said what the research shows, the research shows what people want is they want to be themselves. They want to be accepted. They want to get better at what they do. And they want to feel that they're a part of something. But you know, that doesn't just have to be a job. What about all of us? We live in a world that the biggest problem I think with shelf development is comparison. It's the big one of the biggest issues in the world this this thing of comparison, you know, what do you do? How much money do you what car do you drive? So in someone like Denmark where there's massive polarity between where people are there's no problem there's no, there's no it's no surprise that you feel like I'm not good enough social comparison. It matters it's mattered probably since the beginning of time. Just don't get above your station and don't get rejected. You know, so much of who we are as tied up to employment. If you don't have a job, you don't have anything. You don't have an identity if you don't have a relationship and we know whether we like it or not. Social media is obviously a great tool, but it's also destroying our sense of self that I am not the way that we are. I'm going to throw this one out there that I'm going to say why don't we compare less and connect more? Let me say that again. Why don't we compare less and connect more make connections? Because that's what I'm interested in. I'm a serial connector. And I've only just got started with with connecting. But it's to wake up for me, you know, this is what I learned. And what I've been teaching people to do is to make a decision or make a decision of what you want. You know, to make a decision about Yeah, who you want to be Who do you actually want to be in the in the future and start to carve out that person. See, I know that who I want to be is it's fitter and healthier than than I currently am. So what does that mean? Well, that means I've got a carve out every single day regardless of how I feel. So that's what I did for an hour before I started this room. Did I feel like doing it? No, of course I didn't feel like doing it. But what's that got to do with it? For me personally, I'm not saying for you, but you know how good it feels to do something that you didn't really feel like doing? Do you know how good it feels? To know that you're making progress? You know, in what we are about to embark upon is to help people go past that point of feeling like giving up you know, the honeymoon period. New Year's resolutions they resolve to make a resolution which never lasts. And that kills people's self confidence because deep down we know. We know that we didn't do what we say we're going to do now.

Pete Cohen 16:22
I really encourage you to make that connection between making connections and realizing that when you're comparing yourself to others, and that's a challenge to step away from that. Yesterday, I got rid of a whole load of stuff in our house. And again, I'm going to get rid of a whole load of stuff again today because I just don't need it. I've got books that I'll probably never look at again and someone could be reading that book. I want to get rid of stuff and I want to become more and if that's what you want to do then, you know personally I would love to help you do that. I'd love to help you feel that you're making progress, but not in comparison to others. Personally, one of the other things I've learned is competition. I love competition. I love to see people making progress. I never used to because I was so insecure. So I thought well, if he's making progress, then I'm going to you know, think badly of him and badly of myself. Rather than you know what I want him to succeed or her to succeed because it inspires me to do more. None of this stuff is complicated, but I think if you want to make the decision of who you want to be and what makes you feel most alive. You know in Japan there is this term called iki guy in Okinawa that very well known for and when I was in Japan and I was asking people what they eat the guy's and they laugh because they don't really talk about it. But they know they have a sense of self. They have a sense of getting up every single day. So what I would really encourage you to think about if you want to think about it is having a sense of purpose. And asking the question, Who can I become? Who can I practice being as I grow, and as I grow? What contribution would that have on the people around you? Because you know, 1000s of years people would sit around and they talk and you know the philosopher that the elders in the community and they would share and there would be wisdom and guidance, really important and people would stand up for the rights of others and people would talk about, you know, just be careful of the mind because the mind is a funny old thing. You know, we've spoken about this so many times in Buddhism they call it dukkha and Hinduism they call it Maya, which is this kind of the illusionary part of the brain, the dysfunctional part of the brain that could easily look out for danger. What's wrong, what's missing? Maybe it's time to get your RA is your reticular activating system, which is a bunch of cells located at the top of your brain stem, to get them to start looking out for something different to maybe what you're currently looking out for. And maybe stop looking at it as right or wrong or good or bad. But if you're looking out for comparison, if you're looking out for trying to fit into this world rather than you decide to fit into a world, because there's nothing wrong with you. There's nothing wrong with you at all. I'd say there's nothing wrong with you. Could you be better? Yeah, of course you could. It's the world The world is crazy. It's a crazy place. It's a very mean a nasty place, and it will hit you but ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forwards because ultimately, that we're only going one way right we are going forwards. And you know there is this famous story of Hercules of Hercules walking down a road and two goddesses come up to him. One goddess says vocalist Listen, come with me. life's gonna be amazing. Can everything you want? Yeah, come on, let's go. And the other God says Hercules, I'm not promising you that at all. What I'm going to promise you is a life of challenge. A life of virtue, life where you're going to have to face things which are difficult. But ultimately, your greatest reward will be who you become, through this person becoming this person and choosing this path. Now, it's probably no surprise the path that he chose. I actually decided tell you this, it's not actually true. What sort of life do you want? I mean, do you want the life of Riley who is Riley by the way? And maybe you've never even heard of that expression? Who do you want to be Who do you want to become? You know, we would love to help you and support you in moving forwards because when we look at the key elements of of what makes a great life, or a change life or a more inspired life where you're breathing life into what is in front of you is making that decision to become more than you currently are. Not in comparison to anyone else apart from yourself. Maybe comparing yourself to your former self and the self that you want to be, as Gandhi said to be the change that you want to be in this world. So look at yourself in the mirror, give yourself a wink and say hey, you know what, you're amazing. I'm going to fall in love with you again.

Pete Cohen 21:18
I'm going to support you. I'm going to be kind to you. I'm going to be considerate to you.

Pete Cohen 21:30
Maybe it's time I think the moral obligation that every human being should have is to look out for others. To go from comparisons to connections. Let's make some connections. Let's help people change their narrative. Let's help people create habits which will serve them so they can create a future that they want. Let's create an environment. Let's help people that are experiencing trauma. Let's ask the question, What can I do for you?

Pete Cohen 22:07
I'd love to know because we've only just got started

Pete Cohen 22:22
I've only had two cups of coffee

Pete Cohen 22:36
he wants to go and see Genesis in London

Pete Cohen 22:44
it's time to turn it on again

Pete Cohen 22:50
I want to thank you for listening to the podcast

Pete Cohen 23:01
I just want you to know honestly I support you. I thank you for listening to the podcast. I really encourage you to stay involved. Stay connected. I am here to help. You want to take our 30 Day Challenge just DMS the word kickstart it's absolutely free

Pete Cohen 23:22
whatever you do today, tonight, tomorrow, make it incredible. And we will see you next time for another Mi365 podcast. Let's get ready to rumble


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