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Women, ethnic groups, and younger people

Are these people represented in the world of personal development, if so by whom, and are there materials and courses tailored specifically for them?

You may be forgiven at first glance for thinking the world of personal development is entirely populated by white, middle-class, middle-aged men, and aimed at a similar demographic. Do not allow that first glance to put you off.

Firstly, a lot of those men started out decidedly working class. Secondly, if it seems there are not enough women, ethnic groups or young people represented in the movement, that may well be the case, but you can’t force people to step up and teach, that has to be their own decision.

The good news is that all those groups are represented if you scratch the surface, and many from those groups are very successful and highly regarded by their peers in the arena. Some truly amazing women whose works are at the forefront of the personal development world are; Mary Morrissey, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Beck and Ricki Byers-Beckwith, though there are many more once you start to look.

The same can be said for people from different ethnic backgrounds, prominent examples being; Michael Beckwith, Robert Kyosaki and Les Brown, all of whom I study and enjoy immensely; and there is a young man with many books on the market who ‘translated’ his father’s best-selling and hugely empowering works into books aimed specifically at teens and young people, Sean Covey, son of Stephen R. Covey. There is also available ‘The Secret to Teen Power’, a spinoff of the highly successful book and film ‘The Secret’.

While the majority of prominent figures may seem at first to be middle-aged white men, by doing just a little research of your own you will discover people of all ages, both male and female and from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, active in the world of personal development today.

Writing styles change over time, while the essence remains the same

Word of warning. Two classic books I cherish and credit with a great deal of my success, personal happiness, spiritual strength and overall fulfilment have been known to alienate and offend people by the way they were written.

I have even known someone to die because of the offence she took to one of those books (the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous). She would not be “spoken to like that” by a man who was already decades dead and who only ever wanted to help people in her predicament.

This book was written in the 1930s, as was “Think and Grow Rich”, and both authors, Bill Wilson and Napoleon Hill, were very much a product of their era and their writing style reflected that. They weren’t to know how the accepted writing style would change in the coming decades, so they wrote for their immediate readership; however both authors clearly state that their words are for all who seek the solutions they offer.

Why the books have remained word for word as they were in the 1930s is because, as we say in England, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” To some even the thought of altering the text as it is seems almost sacrilegious. If you are, say, a young woman and you have just come into possession of “Think and Grow Rich” I implore you to please use your common sense and look past Hill’s constant references to men. Rise above it.

It certainly wasn’t his intention to offend some young woman eighty years after he penned those words, and he would be the first person to delightedly encourage you to read and put into practice his findings, but when he wrote that book and was asked by Andrew Carnegie to take 20 years to interview the 500 most successful Americans, those 500 were all men.

That’s the way it was back in the early 20th century. If you want to be a success today, regardless of age and gender, read Hill’s book and simply ignore the old-fashioned writing style. Pay attention only to content and substance. Don’t be like the woman I knew who took such offence to an outdated writing style that she never read the book that could save her life and eventually succumbed to her alcoholic condition and died. Don’t play the victim, it won’t help you in the long run.

Assume any resource you find is aimed at you personally

So while there may not be a mountain of materials specifically aimed at women, different ethnic groups, or young people, it is my opinion that it doesn’t really matter. The materials that already exist are for everybody, and it would be patronising of me to think otherwise.

If you can read this and make sense of it, you can read any of the excellent materials out there and make sense of those, too. I’m not talking down to you or trying to simplify anything, because I don’t believe you are an idiot. You may be younger than me. You may be a woman. Your skin may be a different colour to mine. Would you want me to treat you any differently because of those factors? I hope not.

We are all the same, and the same opportunities to thrive and succeed are there for all. The tools and materials are there for all to use, so don’t play the victim and wait for a book especially written for you because you are a single-parent black lesbian with PTSD and I “don’t know what it’s like” to be you.

No I don’t know what it’s like to be you, but I do know what it’s like to be me: a broke middle-aged, unemployed, homeless alcoholic with no qualifications, no curriculum vitae, no work history, no contacts of influence in a country where I barely speak the language, literally starting from the gutter with nothing but a determination to make the materials I could find given those criteria work for me.

Well they did, immediately, because I didn’t play the victim. I read those materials with an open mind and a willing heart, and they worked for me. They will work for you, too, if you just approach them with the same open mind and willing heart and a determination not to stop until you succeed. That’s all you need to get going, whoever you are.

The rest will come, I promise you, if you just take those first few baby steps.

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Fino Menezes

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