Choice, Not Chance

“I didn’t fritter away my character,” we shall say, “I forged it, purposefully, joyously, lovingly, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. I was here,” we shall say, “and I lived by choice not chance, by design not distraction, on fire not off-handed.” So let us release the old tales and excuses, and let us go forth and build our ideal selves. Day. By. Day.”

- Brendon Burchard, Live. Love. Matter.

Several months ago, Kozo introduced me to Brendon Burchard. Despite the fact that I read most anything, I’ve really never felt comfortable with the self-help genre. In fact, even though I trust Kozo’s judgement implicitly, I would have hesitated to go pick up a book by this author, so I’m glad he mailed it to me.

I’m not sure what my problem with the self help genre is, but I’ve read my way through entirely libraries– leaving that section fully un-read.

Of course, you can’t avoid a genre forever.

If you’re a book-addict like myself, someone is going to send a book your way, and you’ll probably read it. It’s like when alcoholics say they have a certain drink, but everyone knows anything will do in a pinch.

My name is Rara, and I’m a bookaholic.

It’s through this method that I’ve been introduced to the works of Deepok Chopra, Steven Covey, Tony Robbins, etc, etc, etc, etc.  My thoughts?  If I never see another one of those books in my life, I’d be okay.

Now, I’m not hating on self-help book readers.  I love people who are constantly seeking to improve themselves, and their world, and the way we interact.  That desire is a beautiful gift and it is why so many of my most treasured friends would list it amongst their favorite genre.

I’m also not hating on the authorship– at times, I found all of those authors to be exceptionally profound.


It always seems like I’ve read all their words before.

Everything they have to say can be found in world scripture, or by interacting with strangers, or by meeting every new situation as if it will teach you something.

Unlikely missteps have been my self-help book.  Dime store romance novels have been my self-help book.  Andre the Giant, Muhammad Ali, Bette Nesmith Graham, Stephen Fry, Catarina Fake, and many others have been my self-help books.

And based on the hundreds of self-help books I’ve read through prodding, gifting, or incident– I don’t think I’m quite far behind the curve.  And, based on the number of friends I’ve had who have sunk their entire destiny while singing the praises of one of these multi-trillion dollar self-help gurus– I have to say that I’m firmly on the side of my way being the safer way.

Still, I recognize genius when I see it and Brendon Buchard’s books were glittered with many new insightful ideas.  Some that I’ve never read or encountered anywhere, and some (like the one quoted above) that were old ideas said in a way that was meaningful to me.

I’ll be referencing his works a lot in the coming days as I play around with my plans for the next year because I am rebuilding.  My mantra for 2014 is taken right from his quote above:

Choice not chance.


I haven’t been feeling up to speed lately, and I’m so glad for those of you who are sticking it out with me.  As I was writing this, I kept thinking how I would have normally whittled down all the ideas here to a tiny paragraph in a larger post that summarizes everything.  Alas, with my brain functioning as it is, I’ll have to work these ideas out of my mind moment by moment.  Post by post.

Are you a fan of self-help books?  Are there other authors in that genre that would have been better to start with?  Does your 2014 have a mantra or goal?

PS – Thanks, Kozo, for shaking me out of a box I didn’t even know I was in.

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  1. I feel iffy on the genre. I was thinking earlier today sometimes even motivational quotes don’t even do it for me. Hmm. Maybe I’m just a cynic.

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    1. I’m the same with motivational quotes. Sometimes, one will say what I want it to say– like the one above– and I think “Yes, that’s what I’ve been saying in 1000 words to people. 3 words is much better!” but usually it’s poetry or something mentioned offhandedly that inspires me. My “people who inspire me” list are usually comedians, boxers, and strange inventors, ha! :) I think my motivational-spleen is just defunct.

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    1. I understand that. Often their oversimplification is where they lose me. Give me a mantra, and I’ll give you 100 examples of where it won’t work. I don’t know if they’re turning a blind eye, or if I’m noticing something they didn’t… :) Still, I do try to learn from everyone I stumble across… self-help guru or not. :)

      (PS – This comment reminded me that I never replied to your email. So I just did. Sorry for the lateness!)

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  2. I was a fan of the self-help genre in my 20s, but two decades and a therapist later, I’ve learned to trust myself more than the gurus and experts. I love new ideas or old ones phrased more poetically. I bring more mindfulness to words and ideas and spend more time turning them over in my mind, allowing bits and pieces to seep in – without the earlier desperate search for “answers”.

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    1. “I’ve learned to trust myself more than the gurus and experts.” – Yes. I very much agree with this idea. No one knows me, my world, or my dreams more than me. I often say that I’m the only possible expert on myself. :)

      Perhaps my problem with the genre is that it’s posed as delivering answers, rather than offering you another chance to process old ideas mindfully. If more people read the books from that perspective, and if the labels on the front and the back of the books posed it from that venue… I might be a bigger fan. :)

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  3. I gave up self-help books about when my subscription to Redbook expired … 1978, give or take a year or two. All self-help books suffer from a central flaw: the premise that you can solve complex problems with simple answers. I know too ma ny people who are addicted to such books. Oddly enough, they always have the same problems no matter how many self-help books they read … and they continue to look for that easy fix.

    I won’t even review self-help books. You may not hate the genre (how sweet you are compared to cynical moi), but I do.

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    1. Yes, the addiction of the genre troubles me as well. I wouldn’t blame the books or the “gurus”, but they usually actively promote the idea that the book will change your life through an easy fix– so they’re obviously aware of the problem and have chosen to feed it.

      I think that’s why Burchard’s books didn’t bug me. The first I read was more of a renovating your business strategy book than a self-help book, though they shared some commonalities. Still, there was no “here’s the simple answer” to be found. And thank goodness for that. I may be only 29, but I’ve lived enough to know that there’s really no such thing as a quick fix.

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      1. Except for winning a really big heap of money on the lottery. THAT would fix a lot of problems … or at least make them a lot less difficult to bear. A tropical vacation … ah … yes … that would help.

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  4. Reblogged this on The GMLA and commented:
    Only a coward leaves their destiny to chance. Then they think they have a right to complain. Only the brave takes their destiny by the hands and claims it for their own without relying on any other. Would be rulers , controllers, victims, Die. You are weak Barbarians.

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      1. Not a big fan of self help books but I like Quotes. I am a reader since I was a toddler. I was reading my brothers Black Beauty, Fairy Tales, and Hardy Boys before school. By 7 reading Readers Digest condensed. My own bible at 8. College level by then.

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  5. Stephen Fry? Love!

    I used to be a huge reader of whatever was the best selling book at the time for self-help and/or weight loss. I can’t remember right off, but I remember a lot of Geneen Roth, Martha Beck and such. Not bad, but I need something more interactive. Now I read books as “assigned” by my therapist.

    2014 will be the year of “never say never”.

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    1. I think I have less problem with specific self-help books. Like, “weight-loss-help” or “money-help”.

      There’s just something so vague about a “general life fix”. It’s really hard for me to explain, because I usually agree with their principles… and I was raised by many of the basic ground rules they espouse… but so often the books just bug me. :) I guess I’m just contrary. :)

      I like your 2014 mantra!

      (Also, also– I love that we share a love of English culture. It’s fabulous. :) I was watching those montages on Hulu, with snapshots of shows from CBS or NBC and didn’t really notice any of the characters. Then they switched to a BBC montage, and thought, “awww, awww, oooh! him! love! her! ahhh!” through every little scene. Then I thought of you, because I have a feeling you’d be just as attached to them as I am. :D)

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  6. The problem for me is that most self help books spend the first 150 pages telling about how their secrets are going to change your life but not actually telling you anything. many have 500 pages for 5 paragraphs worth of ideas and it is too difficult for me to stick with them through all the self-praise to find out what they have to tell…

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    1. That could be my problem, as well.. I’m notoriously impatient. :) I do feel their plight, though– from the expert perspective, you have to toot your own horn for people to trust your opinion. Most people judge advice based on the person giving it.

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  7. I have enjoyed many self-help and while I would never expect any single one of them to solve my issues, I have benefited huge from all of them. They have given me tools to help me make my life better. Likely the ones that made the most impression was the Abraham/Hicks series.

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  8. Rara, Steven Covey is a member of my church, and I think he’s said more or less that what he’s written is in concordance with LDS scripture.

    I have read a fair amount of self help books myself– although I have a ways to go before being fully acquainted with world scripture, I don’t doubt that many words in those books would be in concordance. I’ve observed, as you probably have, that many of the Eastern Paths account for wisdom in day-to-day conversations with new people, and viewing new situations as teaching moments. At least, this is what I see in the Tao, and my interactions with Buddhism.

    I say to you: Hail, oh seeker of truth, and once again, well met. I greet you as another seeker of truth, myself. Please, Rara Truth-Seeker, come, and read my blog. There is a reason why I write on Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth/Hero’s Journey, because I am still seeking interconnections amongst all things, a search that has been a plethora of moments.

    Till all are one.

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  9. I’ve tried reading self help books and ended giving them away. I don’t much care for them. Seems all they really do is get rich from us poor folks. haha! I dunno, maybe they do help some people and that’s great, but I’ll stick with other stuff.

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    1. :) That’s the wonderful thing about reading– there’s plenty of stuff available so we all can spend all our days reading what we want and never run out of content. Yay for books! :)

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  10. Yeah I’m not a fan of self help books. I think it’s the type A personality. I read it and I think “Gosh, I MUST do all the things in the book to fix myself emotionally and spiritually” and then I just can’t do them, then I feel bad because I can’t do what the book says *sigh*

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  11. If I didn’t already love you, I would now love your for mentioning Bette Nesmith Graham. Not only does she kick ass for inventing Liquid Paper, she kicks ass for mothering musical genius and my father’s doppelganger, Michael Nesmith. I don’t need self-help books. All I need to do is listen to some Monkees music to feel regenerated. Nez can be pretty profound in his lyrics…or I simply need to be surrounded by the musically sublime voice of Micky Dolenz to feel centered. Seriously. Those guys are my gurus :) Incidentally, I just recently saw Mike Nesmith in concert last month and he was rockin’. I also got my picture snapped with him :) Super nice and cordial man.

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    1. She’s one of my heroes! :D I love that your dad looks like Michael Nesmith… that’s awesome. :) The Monkees themselves are amongst my heroes, too– I love the happiness in their music. As to the concert and picture– *fan girl swoon* :D

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  12. I too have a thing about that particular genre and often find that, yes the words seem so very familiar! I am a bookaholic as well and so I’ve read many anyway…and found profit, if nothing else by the uplifting spirit that sometimes can be found. Thanks for the interesting read!

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  13. For the most part I only like the ones that are anchored by some kind of spirituality. I don’t mind reading advice since I have so much to learn still about staying mindful, “being peace”, living with compassion, practicing right speech, etc. But the regular part of the genre where there’s always a list of the ten or eight or twelve sure-fire steps to success, happiness, etc. — they don’t even tempt me to pick them up.

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  14. I am not a fan of self help, but I definitely do subscribe to positive thinking. I liked The Secret. I liked the quote in this post and it’s got me thinking… once those wheels get turning… :)

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  15. Not a fan of self-help books, nor helpful gurus, whatever you call them. Especially the cult-like environment some of them seem to surround themselves. And I heard they charge through the nose for their “advice” to you given in some mass conference of sorts. Including climbing poles and walking on hot coals. but after the hype and the hoorah, people don’t really change for better. They just get addicted to the rush. No thank you. I’ll sit these types out.

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  16. Self-help books aren’t my cup of tea, but I can understand that they can be reassuring. If I need advice on where I’m going wrong, I grab a human being I trust who knows me. Then I get a cup of tea and a hug too. I hope you’re ok -big hugs to you, Miss Dino xoxo

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  17. I’m actually the same. I typically ignore Tony Robbins, and even cheesier types selling their newest “self-help” mantra.


    Perhaps there are people that have no center that need such help I suppose.

    But to me much of what they say is simple common sense, repackaged to sell.

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  18. I’m not a self-help book type, I’m kind of suspicious of them in fact. I guess I kind of feel like they are selling something that is already free. Since I don’t follow one author or line of self-help thought, I’m free to make changes as they are needed. I’m not sure where I will go in 2014 though I have been thinking about it and talking it over with others, I have no clear plan yet.

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  19. I love self help books and everything you’ve said I agree with 100% and I also just really love your voice. Thank you for sounding it.

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  20. Oh, I read some self help books back in my early twenties when I was flailing a bit. Mainly I was curious, but the cool thing is I read a lot about meditation and zen living. That’s what brought me to Yoga. Now that’s my self help and I think it works like a champ.

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  21. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve tried self-help books highly recommended to me but all the words seem I’ve read them before. If a person doesn’t have the sense to use ‘common sense’, no list of suggestions or directions is going to do them any good.
    I’m pleased someone had the ability to spell out rules and helpful advice and then publish them. I am just not that into reading them. :-)
    Take your time. Don’t push yourself too hard, Rara. Look after yourself. :-P

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  22. Self-help? Ugh!!! My mother had shelves of them, sitting side by side with literature and books about art. I have heard an author or two from this genre interviewed and thought that maybe their book would be different from all of the others. I am always disappointed and I don’t ever make it through to the last page. Self-help is not for me.

    I hope you are back up to speed soon, but take your time. A little rest is good for the soul – and probably the brain, too :)

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  23. For the most part, I agree with the “choice not chance” idea and have lived most of my life that way. But lately, the last five years or so since getting divorced, I have been living a more simple, less forced life, and am going with the flow more, which I have read is a sign of spiritual awakening, letting things unfold the way they’re supposed to rather than trying to control everything.

    “An increased tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.”

    I must say I kind of like it. :)

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  24. I’ve wondered for a while why we’re more likely to take someone else’s advice than to trust our own sense of what’s the right thing to do. It’s almost as if we don’t think we can learn something unless someone else teaches it to us. As a dedicated auto-didact, I believe that we all have (or can develop) the self-knowledge to do what’s best for ourselves– if we can just have the confidence to believe we can.

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  25. Hmmmm. I like the interconnection route and pick up and read things that are in alignment with the direction I am moving in or a direction that feels right to explore. These books or TED talks or lectures are often not in the self-help genre but in my self-help path.

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  26. I seem to avoid poetry as a genre. Even in blogs, if I see a post is written as a poem I glaze over and move on. I’m not sure why that is, perhaps it’s worth looking in to.

    Self help books are not a genre I typically read either however I will say there were a couple of books I bought which could be put in that category which helped me get through a very grief stricken and horrible period in my life. So, there is a place for them. For those of us who don’t have a therapist on the payroll or have trouble opening up to others about what’s going on.

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  27. Ah…self-help books. I never really got into them either…and with all the reading that I have been doing…I don’t think it’s been self-help but more of information gathering…and after some time there is a common thread…common threads more like. The messages are the same, just written differently to resonate with different people.

    The idea is always to bring about freedom for those who seek. Teach and share…and share fully. Give the tools and set them free because like that Buddha quote which I have been coming across quite often lately (hmmm…maybe that is a sign for me?) that no one can walk our path..only us.

    I guess that is why I write my posts the way I do. It’s never a “this or that”, it’s always a “may, could, sometimes”..and that isn’t a bad thing, I don’t feel it is. It is serves as a reminder that we take what resonates with us and leave the rest.

    Each of our journeys are unique. Coming from a society and culture which stresses on comparison, it takes effort for me to keep reminding myself of that and Life it seems is quite happy to bring me experiences to remind me ;)

    I don’t have a mantra or a goal for 2014..well nothing specific. I have an idea…and right now that suffices for me :)

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  28. I agree with you – some of the ideas put forth by self-help authors can often be found elsewhere, but often the ideas are buried in amongst a lot of other ideas not as palatable to the reader. By pulling something out & highlighting it a self-help author has just made it more accessible to more people. IMHO.

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  29. Haha, Rara, life is so funny. I just made some realizations that were so anti-Brendon Burchard, but I’m so glad you found some diamonds in the rough. I’m starting to think that my bigger self/purpose is beyond money. My original attraction to Brendon was to be a messenger yes, but also to be a millionaire. I’m now thinking that being a messenger is enough.
    I put myself in financial straits because i used to believe that “money was the root of all evil,” until someone enlightened me to the fact that the quote was actually “the coveting of money is the root of all evil.” I’m trying to eradicate the coveting. Not sure what that will bring to me in the future in terms of money, but I feel a lot more whole in both my spiritual practice and “business” practices. I found myself coveting a lot when I was at Brendon’s seminar, but I do think that if you eradicate the coveting and focus on the message, Brendon has a lot of good to share.
    Can’t wait to continue this dialogue. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m a lot more Adyashanti and less Burchard since I sent you the book. Still I appreciate you reading it. {{{hugs}}} Kozo

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    1. Oh, I agree. I watched a few of his videos and disconnected with the money bit. But, I loved all the (subnoted) talk of redefining the words we’re used to using– like “expert”.

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  30. After reading all the comments, I have another comment, Sorry. I’m starting to think that every book, person, inspiration, moment, failure, etc is self-help. Shakespeare is self-help for me, as is the Buddha, Jesus, MLK, Gandhi, Macklemore, Bob Marley, The Breakfast Club, Star Wars…
    Guess that makes sense coming from a guy whose blog is title Everyday Gurus. {{{hugs}} Kozo

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