In 1993, a book of stories was published that has since inspired and changed the lives of millions of people. Chicken Soup For The Soul kick started a 50 plus book series that is still going strong 20 years later. Thousands of people send in their stories every year, hoping for a chance to appear in the next edition of the blockbuster self help series ranging from “Chicken Soup For The Runners Soul” to “Chicken Soup For The Cat Lovers Soul”. However in recent years, it can be said that the authors are really trying hard to come up with new ideas. You know they are really scraping the bottom of the barrel when they have published “Chicken Soup For The Women Golfers Soul”! Ever since the runaway success of the first book, the authors have jumped on the bandwagon and put out new, often strange, editions at a furious pace while losing the creative brilliance of the original. Chicken Soup, in my opinion has lost the creative spark it once had and has devolved to a money making scheme. This begs us to ask the question‐ is creativity dead in the self‐help industry?
Series such as “Chicken Soup For The Soul” and “7 Habits” as well as authors such as Robin Sharma currently dominate the self‐help industry. He is a Canadian leadership thinker, author and blogger (Over 525,000 followers). Ever since the runaway success (Over 10 million copies sold) of his most famous book‐The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, he has released 5 titles such as “Family Wisdom From The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” and “Daily Inspiration From The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” which are all compilations of quotes from the original book. He has really managed to scrounge every bit of moneymaking potential off the “Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” bandwagon! In fact even though there are 11 books on his site, they all belong to just four separate series. He is really a case study for the preference of formula in consumerism as his books regularly outsell the competition.
Preference for formula can also be observed in other industries such as the video game industry. Gamers often complain about the dominance of blockbuster series like “Call Of Duty” making creativity difficult in video games. However these formulaic games only show an upward trend in sales while innovative titles sell relatively nothing. The first “Call Of Duty” sold 3 million copies while the latest games sell upwards of 30 million copies. Also in the “Mario” franchise, the old style 2D platformers sell far more than their “innovative” 3D counterparts. This shows that it is not a lack of innovation but the craving for formula and familiarity that is “killing” the video game industry.
This exact phenomenon can be observed in the dominance of series such as “7 Habits” compared to the amount of new titles getting noticed. The 10 billion dollar
self help industry is built upon the premise of spoon feeding people the exact same common sense in multiple books and saying it is a quick fix for life. Unfortunately, there is no such thing. People need to realize that changing ones life is a lifetime commitment. This is why most people who read self‐help books never actually change themselves. They think that just reading it will solve the problem, but obviously it does not. Self‐help books can help, but they are only a piece of the puzzle, not the big picture.
Also there is no variation in the message of self‐help books. They all tell you to stay healthy as well as ways to make yourself more self‐reliant. Man likes swallowing the same pill with a new coating rather than a new pill. This is a fundamental aspect of human nature as we all desire familiarity in our surroundings including in what we read. It is easier to accept a familiar format such as Chicken Soup For The Soul (Always 101 short stories) rather than a new style.
The ironic thing is, many of these books tell us to embrace the unknown and try new things. However, the authors themselves are not trying new ideas and formats. It’s almost hypocritical. However, we cannot blame the authors. They are just making a living by publishing books that people want at the expense of creativity. So the answer to the question I asked is a resounding ‘Yes!’. The self‐help industry has lost its creative spark and readers of such books should be aware of this as they fork out increasing amounts of money. It almost reminds me of PT Barnum’s famous quote. “There is a sucker born every minute” To that I say, for every sucker there is an overpromising and under delivering self‐help book.
Anand Satheesh is a grade 8 student at Long Fields Davidson Heights secondary school in Ottawa, Canada. Anand is on a mission to shift the consciousness of youth. He believes, if an individual can work on Consciousness (your being), Compassion (your feeling), and Creativity (your actions) at a young age, the rest of his or her life will be filled with joy. Anand loves to express his thoughts through writing. His first book “Emerson For the Digital Generation” is ready for publishing.