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It often seems that those who seek out Self Help books are the people least likely to do so. Whatever their roadblocks, they get nowhere, instead using their time to leaf through pamphlet after pamphlet, attending endless seminars and forwarding inspirational emails.
You know the type – you get the forwards and instantly delete them. Why? You’ve got shit to do.
Maybe you don’t, but I do. I’m that crazy workaholic that can’t be bothered wasting time on how to achieve my goals when… I… can see… them. Right… over there… can almost reach it.
Well, perhaps my sort of personality can still use advice from time to time.
And ideally, if an idea is good, it’s worth hearing whatever your circumstance, right?
I’m in a bit of an interesting situation, since I’m not the type that is in the market for self help books, yet my career path has taken me to the point where I’ve got one in front of me – sent in for review. I wonder if that makes me a better or worse candidate for its messages?
The book in questions is part of an upcoming release of educational and inspirational titles by Writers Of The Round Table Press. Called SmarterComics: Overachievement, it’s slated for release to the general public in April 2011.
Like the other books under the imprint, it’s a little shorter and wider than your standard comic format and is printed in black and white. It’s a adaptation of Overachievement: The New Model For Exceptional Performance by Dr. John Eliot, re-scripted into comic format by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Nathan Lueth. Lueth does a webcomic called Impure Blood, so you may have seen his work before online.
Dr. Eliot believes that the key to abnormal success is thinking differently – not necessarily hard work and dedication. He goes over a few key ideas – a trusting mindset where one acts mostly by instinct, why you should put all your eggs in one basket, confidence vs. arrogance and self-esteem, and so on.
A lot of his advice is really great. For example, he’s absolutely right that for great things to be accomplished, you need to act abnormally. Every single person who has broken boundaries, in every industry, was at least a little off from the accepted status quo.
I also think many of his specific examples will work well for those involved in sports or any other physical based craft (he uses surgery as an example.) Training your instinct and learning to “target shoot.”
But much of the advice might be too general or even somewhat problematic. For example, I can’t keep my mind clear and work by instinct when writing – the process requires a certain amount of second guessing, even though I do let myself type stream of consciousness fairly often. It’s a much better fit for my other career as a photographer, where I often find my gut takes the best photographs.
Also, while it’s not a bad idea to pursue those insane dreams, there is a certain amount of logic also required in success. He cautions against contingency plans and “being realistic” but, for example, I’m only able to pursue the insane goal of documenting every DC Universe Trade Paperback because the technological infrastructure was already in place. Without WordPress and a healthy amount of good timing and work by others, my obsessiveness wouldn’t amount to much that could actually be shared easily with the rest of the world.
It must be acknowledged that no advice will work un-tweaked for everyone and Dr. Eliot does a fine job of attempting to find general mantras and thinking patterns that will work for the average person. As self improvement ideas go, they’re generally good ones.
A lot of the actual confusion probably has to do with presentation. For example, Overacheivement, both the original book and this comic, has been marketed with lines similar to this one (from the Amazon page): “Dr. Eliot offers the rest of us the counterintuitive and unconventional concepts that have been embraced by the Olympic athletes, business moguls, top surgeons, salesmen, financial experts, and rock stars who have turned to him for performance enhancement advice.”
But this kind of makes my head hurt – is it a chicken and egg thing? He often punctuates his lessons here with quotations and examples from these same figures that he’s worked with. But they’re people that have turned to him for advice.
If they are already top surgeons and rockstars (and can even afford a personal coach), why do they need an expert like Dr. Eliot? Are they somehow accidental already rich and successful but still need enhancement? I suppose everyone wants to better themselves, but Eliot seems to suggest he learned many of these lessons while figuring out what got people like these to their current state of success.
It just feels a tad convoluted. I expect this, like many of the other logical fallacies, stems from the problem of actually marketing and applying these ideas. Some of Dr. Eliot’s experience is quite marketable (that with athletes and rockstars) but it’s not really as interesting as the psychological research he tries to base his ideas on. So there’s this battle between making the content relatable and backing it up.
The team seeks to bring Dr. Eliot’s ideas forward in an accessible and easy to digest format. They’ve been successful with this – I finished the book in one sitting with no discomfort. That, in itself, is a nice plus to the comic format as you can get an overview of all the concepts working together quickly, without being interrupted by other tasks while trying to finish a book. Of course, it doesn’t allow as much for the slow mulling over that a longer text might.
The comic format also avoids feeling overstretched – I’ve seen reviews of the original book saying that the advice was overly elaborated on in order to fit a larger page count. It’s a tad repetitive, but research suggests that it’s hard to ingest any idea without repetition. Perhaps Dr. Eliot’s rephrasings help you from having to go back and read the same ones over and over.
Through it all, Nathan Lueth does a good job keeping the eyes happy. He takes what could be boring subject matter and infuses it with a humorous pop culture sensibility. Examples are accompanied not just by office workers, but characters that play on the Aliens and Lost In Space Sci-Fi franchises, countless robots, Gary Larson’s Far Side, and probably a lot more too obscure for me to catch.
Compared to the last SmarterComics artist we looked at, Shane Clester, his work is more technically correct when it comes to anatomy, but has less of that indie comic homebrew feel. It’s a bold, likable, and commercially viable style.
The high point is that Leuth obviously enjoyed drawing all those robots, the low is that sometimes the work felt a little too much like advertising illustration – the comic persona of John Eliot especially.
He seems a little like a huckster, big smile and addiction to dramatic hand gestures. Of course, by the picture in the back, maybe this is entirely accurate.
Eliot himself says a performer can never have too much self assurance and whether you agree with him or not, at least he’s living by his own advice.
He may have had a step up by being a descendant of a Harvard president and the legendary T.S. Eliot, so there’s that “realistic” outlook biting again.
Overall, Overachievement is packed with information and hard to discuss in a small space. As a comic, it’s easy to read, but the ideas will take time to digest. If you work at it, I believe Dr. Eliot’s advice can help you.
But, as I’m sure Eliot would agree, no outside force can change your outlook on life. You have to do that.
Dr. Eliot gives some concise advice that can be useful to professionals in many fields, especially ones that rely on physical skills. Those reliant on analytical thought may have some trouble with some of the advice, but it should be interesting nonetheless.
The comic presents these ideas in an easy to digest manner alongside some fun art. It can be repetitive and somewhat general, but is worth checking out.
Self Contained – not applicable to this book.
No prior reading is required for this title.
If the book snags you, you’ll probably want to read the original title: Overachievement: The New Model For Exceptional Performance.
Soon I’ll be taking a look at another self improvement title by SmarterComics, Shut Up, Stop Whining & Get a Life. Should be interesting.
I’d like to see some titles that explore the scientific ideas behind Dr. Eliot’s advice in more detail. I hope SmarterComics has an opportunity to publish some educational texts in that direction.