Self-actualization books can be an addiction.  You can get caught up in the joy of being seduced into believing that the untapped “potential” inside you is just sitting there waiting for some wise person to unlock the door for you.

Self-help writers try to massage your head and marinate it in self-actualization juices that are supposed to help you reach your “full potential.”  Many of the books they make are wordy, high-flying tomes that are a bargain by the pound.

Click the button below to check out a You-Tube video, WHY YOU SHOULDN’T GET ADDICTED TO SELF-HELP by another self-help maven and would-be “mentor,” Tai Lopez.  (I am not sure what I think of Mr. Lopez, but his videos are a bit of fun….)


Right now I’ve got three little books sitting on my work-table.  They are all less than 160 pages long.

One is a fairly new book by a prolific author on leadership and success who is one of the top motivational speakers in the world.

One is written by an inspired educator at Stanford University who introduced many students to the art of improvisational theater.

The last, a book that is mostly pictures and artfully designed pages with large text, was co-written by two friends in 2010.  At the time the book was written, one of them was a business management coach of some renown in Japan and the other a musician who worked in magazine publishing.

All three books are extraordinary.  Each one is a fast read.  Each one reveals deeper levels of insights if you ponder on the messages they hold.  They all tell you the same thing:  “Change is an inside job.”


Book:  BULL’S-EYE:  The Power of Focus

Author:  Brian Tracy

Publisher:  Simple Truths, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.  [2015]

I have a friend who swears that Brian Tracy changed her life.  She was once an easy-going sort going nowhere slow.  Tracy’s motivational books, she says, turned her head right around.

Now she is calling out her shots and making them one after the other.  All her wishes and daydreams have become goals, complete with plans on meticulously prioritized lists.  She is either knocking off the targets she’s made for herself one after the other after the other or picking herself up from a stumble and moving on to the next plan.

The girl is going for it; and she credits Tracy with her turn-around.

The man’s been working in the fields of economics, history, business, philosophy and psychology for over 30 years now.  He’s a top-selling author of over 70 books, translated into dozens of languages.  His books are the business Bible on many folks’ shelves.

Besides that, he’s produced hundreds of audio and video programs and has been a business consultant for more than 1,000 companies.  Some of them have been among the biggest companies in the world.

In the book he tells you, “You have the ability right now to achieve more than you ever have before, as long as you incorporate three essential mental skills into your life:  clarity, focus, and concentration.”

Tracy tells you that you can learn each of these skills through practice and repetition.  Then he tells you how — step-by-step-by-step.

This little book – just 100 pages long — is like a distillation of the business master’s long immersion in human development.  It’s heady stuff.   As are all of Tracy’s books, this one’s straightforward and full-speed-ahead.


Book:  IMPROV WISDOM:  Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up

Author: Patricia Ryan Madson

Publisher:  Bell Tower, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, division of Random House [2005]

The year that Patricia Ryan Madson retired after four decades of teaching drama at Stanford University, she published a delightful book, IMPROV WISDOM, that basically tells us that since we’re making up life as we go along anyway, we might as well try to get good at improvisation and have a bit of fun along the way.

She says, “Improv points to ways of being more and better alive, ways of cutting through our patterns of procrastination and doubt.  It is up to each of us, however, to make the move.

She declares, “A life of meaning and value is achieved through purposeful action,” and she directs, “Step on stage.  Take a bow.  Have a good time.

Using the ways of improv as her guide, her whole way of moving through the world is based on NOT developing a script.

No matter how well-designed our script may be, she points out, it starts unravelling when we interact with others who have scripts of their own.

Then the fun really starts.

The result can develop into a duel of conflicting scripts that ends up in either a major blow-up and falling-apart or an unsatisfactory capitulation by one or the other leading to compromises that work for no one.

Or, it can become the start of a new third thing that works for both…if there is spontaneity and flexibility and good will on both sides.

In improvisational theater, the performers think on their feet.  They accept everything their co-creators offer and they try to work with it, exploring options, capitalizing on and supporting each other’s moves in a grand effort to produce…a vaguely defined Something.

Sometimes they succeed in producing a lovely bit of work and sometimes, not.  There is joy in the effort, however, and beauty in the struggle.

Madson points out that the addition of spontaneity to an ordinary, everyday life beats back the fearful grayness of spirit induced by our uncertain times.   It can be used to add the color back into your life.

In order to help you do that, she refined what she calls “the maxims” of improvisational theater to 13 simple strategies that can help you find a better way to deal with life’s challenges.

If nothing else, her way of looking at the world is a beautiful kind of madness that finds the goodness in any situation and makes full use of whatever happens.  All it takes is being willing to be completely present.


Book:  WOW:  A Handbook for Living

Authors:  Zen Ohashi and Zono Kurazono

Publisher: One Peace Books [2010]

On the back cover of this book there is a statement:  “This book will not change your life.  You will change your life.

The book began because Zen Ohashi, a Japanese business management coach, was asked to put together written material that would explain his methods for a company that was implementing his program and techniques.

He had two weeks to do it and immediately suffered writer’s block.  Nothing was coming out right.

So, he got help.  He called a friend, Zono Kurazono, a fellow member of his music band,  to come and help him.

Kurazono was a magazine editor as well as an active songwriter, singer and guitarist, so he was a good choice for the work.

Ohashi described what he needed.  Ohashi was thinking of a straight transcription job:  Ohashi would talk about his method and Kurazono would write it down on paper exactly. For that, Ohashi offered to pay his friend $100.

Kurazono came over right away carrying a large rolled-up piece of paper.

Ohashi gave a 15-minute presentation of his method.  Then Kurozono unrolled the two-foot by two-and-a-half foot Post-It note he was carrying and stuck it on a wall.  The Post-It listed three levels of service.

  • Standard: $100 (simply transcribe exactly what’s said directly on to paper)
  • Premium: $500 (take notes on what’s said and prepare materials)
  • Executive: $1000 (take notes on what’s said and prepare materials that will not only be presentable and clear, but passionate and interesting.)

Ohashi went for the Executive level.

The project took a year.

During that time Ohashi broke down his methods into 31 techniques, each with its own exercise.  Kurazono added pictures and massaged the typography until every page was an engaging bit of design.

It was not boring, and the techniques were all tiny little steps and changes that made sense and seem easy to do (but are really not).

Somewhere in that process, by the time the book was done, it had become more than a business technique manual.

Ohashi’s techniques and exercises that helped people increase their productivity at work became tools and practices for addressing issues that might be holding back a person from having the kind of life he or she wanted.

After it was done the friends decided to self-publish their manuscript.  They thought that they might be able to sell it on the Internet.  They took the manuscript to Kinko’s to be printed and bound.

Their first customer was the girl who worked at Kinko’s.  She fell in love with the book while she was putting it together.

The new published authors left the print shop with 24 copies of their new book and their first $18.  It went on from there.

Apparently this is the only book these authors wrote.  At least, it’s the only one that became an international phenomenon in its time.

The book itself is deceptively simple.  It’s an easily digestible, practical guide to ways that enhance communication, build relationships, and preserve emotional balance.  The pictures are eye-catching and often have little to do with the words, but somehow they do work to help you retain the thoughts presented.

It is a short read and, if you like the style, might have you going back to it again and again.

It is very open-ended.

It asks questions and presents novel ways of looking at assorted issues.

It points fingers toward directions one could take when trying to deal with a challenging situation and it creates a process where you can find your own answers, often with the help of a friend.

An interesting read.


All of these books (like any other book in this genre) only work if you actually implement and consistently use the moves they lay out for you.  If you don’t do the work, THEY don’t work.  That’s just how it is.

In any case, I must say, collecting insights is a good hobby and if you’re close to a decent public library, and you don’t go in for attending massively expensive conferences and get-togethers of like-minded beings, it’s even cheap.

The insights do not take up a lot of space and they make great starter points for assorted writing projects, including Life-Built Poems.

Who knows?   You, too, might even get to be a blog-writer.  Woo-hoo!

Here’s another poem:


When you’ve moved

Mountains of crud

Out of the way,

Hammering out a window,

A door, a tunnel entrance

From inside to outside

So the light from

A million million suns

Can shine into your

Self-made cave and

You can see where you sit….

After all that effort

And painful exertion,

You are tired,

But it is not the time to dawdle.


Your next goal is clear:

With the help from the light

And from time and change,

You must spread

The universal solvent of

Understanding, balance, and return

And rub it all over the mountain,

Inside and out, until the thing’s

Dissolved into the light….



This could get to be a full-time job.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture:  Three Books (my files)



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you….)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.









24 thoughts on “CHANGE IS AN INSIDE JOB

  1. cesario solorsano says:

    Very helpful thoroughly written interesting content. Poems are written the best when they are short, but have a deeper meaning. I never knew poems can be used in this type of way, very interesting. The pictures were helpful in giving a visual and the content was easily understandable and broken up. Thank you for this excellent review.

    1. Hey Cesario:

      Thanks for the visit and your comments. Please come again….

  2. I agree with your final thoughts. These book are to help a person get started, giving a person food for thought, but they cannot do the work. The common denominator is the person. He has to take action. Not just one day but everyday. It takes a persistent effort to change.

    1. Hey Loretta:

      Thanks for the visit and the comments. Please come again….

  3. I am one of those people who get all excited about reading the self help books, get ready to implement what needs to be done, and then it falls into the too hard basket to try and change those habits that have infiltrated my mind for 60 years!! I seriously need to change my thought process on being able to implement a least one idea from each book instead of being overwhelmed by thinking I have to try them all.



    1. Hey Di:

      Thanks for your visit and your comments. It is a truth. Trying to change everything all at once is the downfall of most attempts for self-change. It is just too, too much and every stumble makes all the other stuff you are trying to do at the same time wibble-wobble. And then you fall down…again.

      However, I have found that doing just one thing until you get good at it works really well. Then when you’ve got that one sort of hammered, you can start another one and so on. It’s cool, that strategy…. Like nibbling at cookies, sort of. If you don’t focus on it too much you can eat a whole package of cookies all by yourself. (Hee!)

      Please do come again!

  4. Hollie Rose says:

    I agree no-one else can change you, it has to be from you. Recently I had a bad experience with someone who unfortunately is making her own life hard and she needs help. However, she won’t hear of it and professionals I’ve spoken to say that there’s nothing to do. She has to want the help and the change and until then nothing they do will help.

    Great books, I would love to read WOW: A handbook for living. Sounds amazing!

    1. It is a truth that we can all get sucked into a vortex of another person’s confusions, Hollie.  It’s part of our own lessons, I suppose.  We each have to learn (sometimes over and over if you’re a stubborn sort like me) that none of us can love someone else to safety.  (Sigh!)

      Thanks for your visit and for sharing your story.  Please do come again.

  5. There is no stop to learning and human will continue to learn directly or indirectly through out their days on earth but then it is always good to learn through the direct means, like reading books and the likes. Going through all the reviews of these book, I felt like ordering for everything but I’ll just go for the “WOW”. I think I love the concept

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts Salim.  I’m glad you found the post interesting.

      Please do come again….

  6. Todd Matthews says:

    Improv Wisdom definitely caught my eye in part because Patricia Ryan Madson’s views on life reflect my own. Unless I’m much mistaken, she’s stating moving on intuition is the way to go in life over trying to plan and perfect, which often leads to, well, uncertainty when a plan goes awry, at least in my experience.

    My own life’s experiences has consisted of planning, careful planning, which always lead to failure. In the world of writing books, we refer to these people as outliners, and perhaps it might work for some. But improvisation, if mastered, will work in any given situation; the ability to think on our feet and as we’re undergoing tasks will work in the end, kind of like living life by the seat of our pants, life on the edge. That’s my kind of life. 

    1. Good for you, Todd!  I agree.  Improv is a heck more fun than pencilling out all of your moves ahead of time.  Mostly, all that pencil-work means is getting blind-sided by the stuff you just don’t know about or really can’t see.  

      Thanks for the visit and for adding your own thoughts.  Please do come again.

  7. This is a mind blowing article. The message is well constructed and really is well passed across to the readers. I love poems and they are filled with inspiring and motivating quotes and messages. I agree with you that taking action everyday and not just once is the right thing to do. This article has blessed me and inspired me more.

    1. Brent, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m pleased that the post was helpful to you.

      Please do come again.

  8. Whitedove1 says:

    Thanks for writing out this lovely article and I must say its a must for everyone to read and digest. Books are our best friend in loneliness, and inspirational books are really working the way it’s written. But making use of these words are what brings result to our expectations. Your post is lovely and amazing, I would love to get a book by Brian Tracy through your link. Thanks for the insightful article. 

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Whitedove1.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again.

  9. So much fuss about motivational books that work on ones’ psychology. Change indeed is an inside job. I have listened numerous times to Brian Tracy audio and I have some of his books. He indeed is a change agent. Motivational or inspirational books can help change a person mindset. one’s mindset matters a lot in life. It is possible for someone because of a past bitter experience to write himself off and find it difficult believing he can ever succeed. Motivational materials help if the person would implement the lessons. 

    1. Tolu, thank you for the visit and for sharing your thoughts.  You’re right, I think.  Motivational and inspirational books are doorways to discovering different attitudes and ways of walking.  

      There are so many different choices.  Any of them can work…if a person actually busts out a recommended move and keeps on doing that over and over again.  

      Please do come again….

  10. Wao, this is excellently educative. Thanks so much for this wonderful presentation of a deep thought. I humbly agree with your final thoughts. This book is to help a person get started, giving a person food for thought, but it cannot do the work. The person has to take action. Not just one day but everyday. It takes a persistent effort to change. However, collecting insight is a wonderful hobby. And if you are close to a decent public library and you don’t go in to attend good conferences and get-togthers of like minded beings. It is even cheap. Best wishes!

    1. Thanks for the visit and for taking the time to comment, Sajua24.  I am glad you enjoyed the post.

      Please come again.

  11. mohammadahm1 says:

    I think your article is a complimentary article.  I read your article and realized that there is a change in the lives of every person and it can be read books.  And you told about the different writers in your article, those who gave different inspirational messages to their books.

    It is really awesome for us. So, thank you for sharing your article .

    1. Thanks for the visit, mohammadahm1.  I am pleased you enjoyed the post.

  12. I enjoy the self-help type of book, but I do enjoy it when it is a quick, easy read. 

    It is definitely true that no one else can change us, we must do it ourselves. It is great when we do not take ourselves too seriously, but can enjoy life. Thanks for introducing me to these books, and your perspective on them.

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Carolyn.  I hope you will find the books helpful.

      Please do come again.

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