Hero is a follow-up to the huge-selling The Secret. Appraising something by their talismanic author seems unavoidable in my self-help expedition. Deep breath …
The presentation of this follow-up appears to be the same. There are plenty of visual images of inks and textured papers that are suggestive of ancient documents. There are frequent quotations from contributors who have made millions and started up major projects of various kinds. The book pre-ambles about these people, their humble beginnings, and their achievements. Readers are then launched straight into themed chapters. The structure is twofold:
- Readers are addressed directly with inspirational sounding imperatives to follow along with claims that they (you) have so much more in them (you) that can be drawn from.
- The contributors give examples from their own lives that serve as evidence to support the claims made about what readers can achieve.
I quickly found myself worried that there are millions of readers who will get swept along by all this without ever stopping to ask questions of it. For example, there is a logic presented that goes thus: the contributors were high achievers, therefore it’s possible for people from humble origins to become high achievers, therefore because anybody can become a high achiever, everybody should try to become one otherwise they’re not maximising their potential.
The errors in this book are surely obvious to all but the very silly. For a start, the book tells readers what their needs are. Not everybody has the same needs, and I don’t get what basis the author and the contributors have for assuming to know what’s good for others. I, like many people, have fairly simple needs. I’d like regular employment that pays a reasonable wage and has incremental career opportunities that make the work interesting in a way that grows with my capabilities. Unfortunately, there’s scant advice in this book towards securing these modest yet commonplace ambitions. Most of it is shallow clichés about following dreams, having belief, and all manner of puffery that I can’t believe anybody takes seriously. Did The Secret really sell that much? Blimey! Hero will probably follow suit.
The other dung-heap of staring nonsense is an appeal to the idea that your thoughts, responses, and desires have a connection with something murkily called ‘the universe’. Science isn’t my bag, but my O’Levels in Physics, Biology and Chemistry are enough for me to know that this is an extraordinary claim that’s presented without a shred of evidence. I don’t doubt that it calls upon either the previous book or a slew of other airy-fairy self-help that purports to explain all. I also don’t doubt that it’s possible to find a crank or two in the scientific community who is far enough outside the mainstream to put their name to all sorts of guff. In fact, I expect that their being outside the mainstream would be taken as a sign that they’re shunned by people with closed minds (or somesuch woofery). But here in concrete reality, to take just one example, medicines require mountains of testing to prove their effectiveness and side-effects, otherwise we rush to our lawyers when something goes wrong – and this closed-minded approach to an evidence-base is presumably shared by Byrne and her readers no less than anyone else. So why should a larger claim about cosmic, physical reality require less rather than more evidence and rigour than a headache pill?
I can only conclude that Hero exploits anybody with little education, money or sense of future. Ignorance isn’t always a moral fault. It’s mostly down to socio-economic conditions. I’m therefore happier to be a ‘naysayer’ than somebody who preys on those whose hopes and fears are easily misled due to critical faculties that are limited through no fault of their own. I dare say that some readers will help themselves as a result of reading this book. But I expect most won’t, and will end up adding to their own sense of failure.
Some commenters on my previous self-help review have quite rightly raised the issue of exploitation. But at least that book has practical advice on a reality that’s recognisable. Hero, by contrast, directly exploits readers who have limited rational abilities by pouring their own daydreams over them with extra platitude sauce. Shame on the author and contributors.