Wake Your Mind Up - The MindGym

I have a problem with the label 'self-help book'. To me, this signifies new-age tat for the permanently lost, or motivational rubbish for oily salespeople. So, I think it's a rather unfortunate category for this book.

I recently decided that if I'm going to try to get better at my job, I'm probably on to diminishing returns trying to pick up more computer knowledge - I'm certainly not 'done' learning that stuff, but there's just better places to spend my effort. I thought I might try to pick up some 'soft skills' as they tend to get called. Fortunately, the company I'm at has a 'learning and development' department, and they recommend books, courses, etc. This is one of those books.

Reading the blurb, it looks a pretty good deal. It's the work of real, professional psychologists, producing a book based on feedback from training courses they do. The aim is not to tell you how to live your life, or pump you up until you believe you can do anything, but to provide hints and techniques to try to be more effective in various areas.

The book is divided into short chapters, arranged into categories on 'taking control', communicating better, dealing with bad communications, managing stress and improving creativity. All quite woolly sounding, but most of it's actually pretty concrete. The reason it's full of short chapters is because not everything's for everyone. There are reasonable chunks you can read which are interesting enough, but you don't really learn anything new because you're pretty sorted in that area already! Modulo my habit of procrastination, 'taking control' was pretty dull for me, for example.

On the other hand, I found the section on bad communications rather useful - having new tools to sort out screwed-up communications is rather useful. Other bits, while solidly researched psychology (e.g. 'matching' to establish rapport) feel a bit too much like the slimy salesman's tricks. I didn't really trust those bits so much. And some of the stuff is cheesy beyond belief. :)

All in all, it's an interesting grab-bag of techniques. It's not a book for broken people, and you don't have to change your life to use it. Instead, it encourages you to think about the way you do things, and provides a toolkit of alternative approaches. If you're going to read a book in this genre, I think you could do a lot worse than this.

Posted 2009-05-31.