Sunday, October 26, 2014

SAL Book: What's Different from Other Self-Help Reads?




In recent decades, the world has been deluged by tens of thousands of articles and books on topics related to self-help, personal development, and leadership. Why then, you may ask, would I have the temerity to write yet another self-help book, and what could it possibly have to say that would merit your attention in this fast-paced, highly competitive, virtual world?

The first reason is found in the unique and comprehensive metric introduced in the Self-Action Leadership (SAL) theory that provides a measuring stick for personal growth and freedom. This metric offers more than a blueprint for personal development. It also paints a clear picture of personal and professional Promised Lands, which are attainable at the apex of your potential.

The second answer is the extensive study, research, and uniquely personal story undergirding everything in this book. Since 1987, I have been obsessed with learning about, pursuing, and achieving personal growth, freedom, and success. Along the way, I have been humbled to the dust time and again by the hard knocks of reality. It has been a harrowing experience in all aspects of my life. Through it all, I have come out on the other side with a penetrating vision of what personal development, growth, and freedom entail. More importantly, I understand better how they are achieved. This book articulates this vision.

Most self-help authors pepper their books and articles with personal anecdotes. This book, however, is the anecdote. There really is no way to separate the story of my life, and of other’s lives, from the material in this book.

It is my hope that this extended educational narrative might provide you with long sought-after antidotes to your own deepest personal, and professional difficulties and dilemmas. In the process, I hope that leaders, managers, educators, parents, and individuals everywhere will be empowered with a new way to conceptualize, practice, and measure their own personal growth, success, and freedom.


This chapter was not included in original iterations of this book. I placed it in the manuscript just weeks before submitting the final draft to editors. My inspiration for its addition came from an unexpected source: a young bartender in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

I was recently in St. Croix teaching a professional seminar. During a break, I meandered my way to the bar for some refreshment. As I sat gulping my Coke, the bartender began asking me about myself. In an attempt to politely, but briefly, answer his questions, I ended up sharing more information than I typically give to strangers.

When he learned I was an author interested in the self-help genre, a look of obvious disregard crossed his face to which he replied, “Don’t you think self-help books are fluffy and unsubstantial?” I thought about it for a second and responded, “Well, I can see where you are coming from in thinking that, and yes, some of them certainly are.”

The young bartender then proceeded to express his interest in some well-known philosophical writings that are considered more intellectually robust than your typical, contemporary self-help read. As I listened to him, a powerful sense of reassurance flooded my soul about a nagging concern that my book was “Too long.” I realized with greater clarity that my book was never meant to be a novella. The complexity and importance of the subject matter simply place limits on its capacity for brevity if quality and substance are to be properly maintained. Length alone, of course, does not guarantee quality and substance; nevertheless, I have striven diligently and earnestly to trim the fat without lacerating the muscle throughout this text.

As our conversation continued, I explained that my goal as an author in the self-help genre is to produce self-help literature that not only provides compelling, substantive content, but that meets rigorous intellectual standards as well. If he someday reads this book, I hope he will be pleased with my attempts to reach the high standards I have striven diligently to uphold in its composition.

My conversation with the bartender that day spawned a vision of sorts. In my mind’s eye, I beheld multitudes of people around the world from all walks of life who, like him, are yearning not only for real long-term personal change, success, and fulfillment, but who – in an era of fast food, fleeting pleasures, petty social media exchanges, and other cheap, sugary meaninglessness that is so ubiquitous throughout our superficial and spiritually malnourished culture – are hungry for something that will not only challenge them intellectually, but provide a pathway for existential change. It was a glorious vision to behold. And since I was only drinking Coke (I don’t drink alcohol) I am confident it was no drunken mirage exacerbated by the oppressive, sultry temperature that hung on the beach that hot, summer day.

That young bartender won’t always be serving up drinks for a living. In fact, by the time this book is published, he will have already moved to North Carolina with his girlfriend, who plans to pursue a Master’s degree. He no doubt has ambitions of his own, the details of which we might have broached had my break not come to an end. As we parted, he asked me to write down my book title so he could check it out on Amazon. I don’t know if he actually will, but it he seemed genuinely hopeful that I could resurrect his hope for the lost art of the self-help genre. Maybe we’ll meet again someday and I can thank him for unwittingly expanding my perspective.

The World has enough easy books to read; it needs more challenging books to STUDY. The World has enough sound bytes; it needs more substance. It has enough talking points; it needs more character transformations. It has enough text messaging; it needs more textual rigor. It has enough skimming and scanning; it needs more serious reading and research. It has enough summaries; it needs more original sources. It has enough featured and fabricated headlines; it needs more facts and footnotes. It has enough style; it needs more study. It has enough fashion, facsimiles, and fa├žades; it needs more fresh AUTHENTICITY. It has enough fake; it needs more REAL.[1]

If this book fails to add something of value to the cause for which it stands, it will not be for a lack of effort or sincerity; nor will it be because it was too long. There are plenty of easy self-help books and 300-words-or-less leadership messages out there. I have no interest in piling another pamphlet on top of the pile.

Would you like to do something hard that will take some time, but will be incredibly worth your investment? If so, read on.


I did not write this book to help you solve your problems. I am not an expert at solving other people’s problems. I do believe I have a duty to teach and assist where I can, which is something I can do.

What I am an expert at is solving my own problems, with the aid of Grace. The goal of this book is to teach, empower, and inspire you to figure out how to solve your own problems through Self-Action Leadership and Grace, thereby opening yourself up to the endless opportunities you have for achievement and growth. If you are willing to help yourself, this book may prove very useful as you work through your own problems with determination and resolve.

“God helps those who help themselves.”

– Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

If anything in this first chapter has struck a chord with you, or awakened a dormant desire within your being to become something more than you currently are, I invite you to accompany me on this adventure of all adventures. There can be no greater personal quest. 

Are you ready to rise?

[1] The prosaic style and rhythm in this, and subsequent sentences in this paragraph—and others like it throughout this book—is borrowed from a similar style used in paragraph 16 of an October 2000 speech delivered by Margaret D. Nadauld entitled, The Joy of Womanhood.

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