A healthy dose of small business self-improvement cynicism

It’s not that I’m perfect or anything. As if.

Indeed, I’m all for learning and growing, and admitting my flaws, but small business self-improvement brings out the full-on snarling cynic in me.

And it’s not just small business self-improvement that gets my goat, it’s the whole self-betterment snake oil shebang with its cultish converts that creeps me out.

Is there a single, solitary aspect of modern life that escapes from groaning bookshelves and weighty webpages designed to make us better, more rounded, complete human beings?

It seems to this, undoubtedly deeply flawed, avid observer of the human condition, that there is a self-help system available for every occasion, and for every single human inadequacy under the sun. And judging by the bestseller lists, there’s an equally large number of us prepared to pay for personal progress.

This week I was gob-smacked and bemused to hear a successful young businesswoman announce, like a true entrepreneurial evangelist, that she reads ten pages of a self-improvement book every single day on her road to becoming the very best she can be.

Blimey! I can barely manage to get through the breakfast bedlam never mind find a few morning minutes for a spell of self-help. I have been known to lock myself in the bog now and again with a magazine or a good book, but it’s not quite the same thing as reaching for the stars.

Self-improvement gurus preach a mantra across the board that claims to help us burst through our self-imposed barriers, inadequacies and limiting behaviours, in a quest to become simply superb human beings, in life, love, work and business. There’s an entire Mitchell Library’s worth of guides for small business self-improvement alone.

I daresay that there are many top tips and business gems to be found amongst the swathes of Scots pines that have been sacrificed in the name of star-reaching. But surely I’m not the only sole trader who simply hasn’t got the time, energy or inclination for that brand of business baloney and snake oil salesmanship?

Maybe it’s just the hardened hack in me, but isn’t the self-improvement industry little more than modern day miracle cure marketing, designed to prey on our insecurities and lack of experience?

Maybe it’s just that I can’t be doing with the really, really rotten writing and dubious psychological profiling on show in so much self-help.

Maybe I’m just a high functioning sociopath with deeply ingrained narcissistic tendencies with no need of personal development.

Bollocks to that. Maybe I just accept myself, flaws and all.

Of course I want to grow and learn. Of course I want to make the most of myself and better my business behaviours. But I want to learn new skills and test my limits with help from my family, my peers, from those better versed in business than I, and from my own mistakes.

So when another sparky young entrepreneur told me today that she’s never felt more sorted since starting a business sharing her skills to help other people, I cheered her to the rafters for real, solid self-development.