Hero by Rhonda Byrne: A Popular Mirror of Daydreams

Borrowed from a library. Great! It cost me nothing and I had to return it.

Borrowed from a public library. Great! It cost me nothing and I had to return it.

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.

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9 Responses to Hero by Rhonda Byrne: A Popular Mirror of Daydreams

  1. Jonathan says:

    Does the book have any specific suggestions for improving one’s life or is it all just generic waffle?

    I sometimes find with self-help books (I’ve only read a few) that it’s possible to extract one or two useful bits of advice but usually not much more.

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    • Jeff says:

      It’s a while since I read and returned it, but I think it mostly addresses assumed attitude problems. It seems to me that if you get a reader to conjure up fantasies of wealth and recognition, and then validate those fantasies, then readers who ago along with this will feel a bit of a glow and some justification. Anyone for whom this is adequate to bring them onside is going to be more receptive to any kind of positive sounding waffle that says they can do anything they desire.
      There’s whole lists of advice in the McCann book, but it doesn’t butter anyone up. Mind you, it includes such nuggets as ‘Why rule out sleeping with your boss?’ Clearly not everybody’s cup of tea!
      I’m not sure which title to review next. Which books have you read btw?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jonathan says:

        I’ve read a couple of books by Dorothy Rowe which I found quite useful at the time, such as ‘The Successful Self’. Any others I can’t remember the actual titles or authors. The thing that really puts me off even starting to read them is if they have flow diagrams and ‘numbered programmes’ which are usually accompanied with a lot of waffle. They can be quite funny if you’re in the right frame of mind.

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        • Jeff says:

          Haven’t seen anything diagrammed except for books that offer employment advice. They’re more groanworthy than funny. But at least they have practical ways to do and not do things. What’s on their side is that the problems they seek to solve are easier to define.
          Dorothy Rowe does come recommended.
          Your original question is a good one. Precision a good rule of thumb. What you describe sounds possibly on the Anthony Robbins (TM) side of things.

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  2. Ste J says:

    I had a flick through The Secret after being told it was good and dismissing it after reading two sentences, which is something I rarely do. I am surprised that people get suckered in to what is a bunch of quotes about reaching for your dreams and living life, common sense and a little hope are much cheaper than this sort of cash in.

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    • Jeff says:

      I once got caught in a conversation with someone who’d read it. He was someone who has a track record of latching onto the latest thing in alternative spirituality books on the usual stuff – healing crystals, guardian angels, etc. etc. He struck me as a lost soul who would be putty in the hands of anyone who could offer ancient wisdom. And then there are those who scoff at any suggestion that outlandish claims about the nature of reality might just warrant a teensy weensy bit of evidence. Suggesting such a thing seems to incite red-faced rage and accusations of being ‘arrogant’. ‘Science’, you get sagely informed ‘can’t tell us everything.’
      You don’t even have to mention science to have this spat and hissed at you. Such a pity that asking for something substantive and verifiable can be seen as so terribly unreasonable.
      There are some spiritually inclined books out there that look milder and more mature in their outlook. I’m told M Scott Peck is quite OKish. My partner’s loaned me some Brene Brown, which I still haven’t got to yet. Not sure it’s my bag. But I gather it doesn’t claim any connection between ‘the universe’ and your character.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ste J says:

        Science seems to be increasingly anathema in today’s society, which is illogical at best and makes no sense but then the grim reality of life is perhaps the ultimate horror film for some people. Why have verifiable evidence when ridiculous notions can make you feel better. The odd time I come across a quote that seems pretty good but then I read more an it ruins everything.

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        • Jeff says:

          > Science seems to be increasingly anathema in today’s society

          There has been an anti-Enlightenment sentiment since the two world wars and the holocaust that has put progress into scare quotes. It’s also difficult to balance the myriad belief systems that cultural pluralism gives us. Then there’s the declining interest among schoolchildren in subjects like engineering. Yet the lack of confidence in science that this all adds to is selective. There’s convenient science, the stuff that gives us consumer goods; and then there’s the inconvenient science that tells us about the planetary consequences of the consumption of those goods. What’s most unhelpful though, to my mind, is the hubris in a physicist like Stephen Hawking commenting on AI, a narrow specialism that has nothing to do with his narrow specialism.
          Anyway, the self-help industry, for all its unfounded claims about the nature of the physical and metaphysical, fills a gap that science isn’t there to fill: meaning. As you say ‘ridiculous notions can make you feel better.’ I probably need to touch on the role of feelings in upcoming reviews.

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          • Ste J says:

            I think the general dumbing down of science programmes and such makes it harder for people to appreciate science. This ignoring bad science and new ‘faiths’ that cherry pick the best bits from traditional religions aren’t going to solve anything, when I meet somebody like that I always point out that their kids will be suffering for what they choose to ignore…as you can imagine I am really popular at parties.

            Liked by 1 person

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