The last 100 years of self help
Many moons ago, I was big on scoffing.
I'd scoff at books that supposedly told people how to live; I'd scoff at friends who were trying to learn new skills; I'd scoff at basically anyone who was getting better or smarter or more interesting.
And then I discovered that self-help books are not only massively entertaining, they're actually — hold yer horses — helpful.
That's how I came across a little book called Laugh and Live by silent film star Douglas Fairbanks. He was probably (definitely) before your time, but his career inspired the plot of The Artist, and you definitely saw that movie, so you get the gist.
What really struck me about his attempt was how so many modern self-help books echoed his words. Basically, for the last 100 years, people have been giving the same advice. There are only a finite number of things we can do to sleep better/get rich/be happier/increase productivity. What has changed is how these tips or hacks or plain-spoken advice tidbits are marketed to eager readers.
I dig into all that for my latest story for TIME magazine. Take a gander at "The Last 100 Years of Self Help."