A How-To Too Many

“9 Beliefs of Remarkably Successful People.” “7 Things You’re Doing Wrong on LinkedIn.” “5 Toxic Beliefs that Ruin Careers.” “7 Habits of Extraordinary Teams.”

Just one glance across Twitter feeds, glossy magazine pages, or general business directed articles yield a grandiose amount of listed advice. It seems that there are 7 secrets to anything and everything, 5 things you should always be doing before breakfast, and 8 constant takeaways to cram in. 

As I rummage my brain for anything of value I’ve consumed lately, none of it appears in a neat list form.  Yet psychologically, I, like many readers, am so instantly drawn to these articles proclaiming steps and bullet points and to do’s to sweep the world with a magic how-to wand. 

But where have these steps truly taken us? Are we any more enriched? Any stronger? Any more fulfilled?  Probably not.  In fact, likely the contrary. We’re bogged down by advice, stressed with more to do’s on top of to do’s, with words that will prove to be more than forgettable down the line.

Instead, there are many more ways to put our thirst for knowledge to practice. Try reading material scoping out the world beyond your typical line of sight. Facts are hard to remember, details even more so, but oftentimes what sticks is the great concept at hand. A biography can expose the instincts of the person in question, a novel or poem inspiring ideas otherwise lost in a mirage of numbered lists.

There is no neatly paved garden path for everyone, so why should we rely on broadly stamped how-to advice to constitute so much of our knowledge? Instead, we can sculpt our own garden, plant our own crops, pick our own fertilizer. A nugget here, a seed there, bringing together a vast array of insights.

They are called classics for a reason.  A reason why Aristotle, Thoreau, Franklin–all names that live through the ages.  Perhaps it’s time to put away the minute snippets and indulge yourself in the deeply cultivated words of our forefathers, history makers, and men of thought.