Choosing Simplicity

I am a strong proponent in a book clearly providing what it claims it will provide. In this sense, "Choosing Simplicity" by Steven M. Ayer does NOT fulfill its promise. A book that talks about Choosing Simplicity is laying out that it is about creating a simple life, for all people from all faiths from all countries. Instead, this book is very explicitly targeted at Christians who believe in Jesus Christ, who live in the US and feel it's the "Greatest Country", and who are looking for ideas for time management and goal management.

Even in his notes Mr. Ayer boasts that he is the Cliff Notes for all other self-help books.

So to me this is not at all about simplicity. I'm not saying the book does not have *value*. There is valuable information here. However, the value applies most if you are a citizen of the US who adores the US, who adores Jesus Christ, and who wants to work hard and reach specific goals.

Mr. Ayer's philosophy is that he likes feeling as if he's reached a mountaintop. He wants to continually have that feeling. He's laid out a set of well known quotes and comments on each one in order to build that feeling of standing on a mountaintop. He absolutely believes in Jesus Christ the Savoir. He also says - repeatedly - that the US is fantastic, the US is great, and phrases things in "We Americans" terms. So this might off-put all the non-US people who read this.

There are also blatantly wrong statements in this book. He claims that "we Americans work longer hours than any other nation in the world." What?? It's clear that several other nations work FAR more hours a week than US people do. Where did he get his research from?

OK so let's say you are a red-white-and-blue American, you believe in Jesus Christ, and your idea of simplicity is to get all sorts of organizational and goal-reaching tips in order to optimize your success. In that case this book IS for you and offers some great advice. Worldly success on its own isn't the key - we all know many "successful" people who are miserable. Love yourself. Get good sleep. Listen completely when someone is talking. Be in the moment, and be persistent.

He quotes the "if this was your last day on Earth" quote - and I appreciate how he qualifies it. He says, if this was really your very last day on earth, you'd probably spend it with friends and family and not go to work. Fair enough. But the *intention* of the quote, as he then continues, is to live each day in a way you are proud of. I.e. if you went through today and then saw on the evening news that a meteor was about to strike the planet, would you be proud of how you'd spent the day?

On the down side, he gives the message that apparently God won't bless you with anything unless you have spiritual and mental health. I think he meant this in a motivational way - get your act together before you expect God to give you a Mercedes Benz (a la the song). But it still comes across as fairly harsh. Apparently if someone has Asperger's or other issues, God doesn't consider you fit enough for blessings.

Also, and this is a key complaint I have, he oversimplifies everything in the book. This isn't a Cliff Notes because that implies that useful information is imparted. This is more like an index. "Need help with X? Go and read these books." You never get any real information. You're told to persevere, but not how. You're told to build self confidence, but not how. All the hows are missing. You're lambasted that surely you can get physical health if you just want it - there are "zero excuses" for not having it. Really? I run a health related website and there are numerous quite valid reasons that people have health issues - and it takes intense planning and support to help people through those. If it really was that easy, then we'd all be healthy. It is definitely NOT easy in our economy to plan out good health on a budget.

So here is my summary. First, the book needs a much more clear title. "Goal Planning and Achieving for US Followers of Jesus Christ". That would make it absolutely clear to buyers what the content was about. Then I would add in more specifically helpful suggestions about what people should *do* to handle the various situations brought up. Finally, the ending section on how we should all fix our finances "within the next 6-18 months" should all be removed and put in the author's blog and webpages. Does he really expect the book to stop selling after 18 months? Does he expect buyers to manually calculate the book's release date, add 6-18 months, and try to figure out what is going on based on that? If he's really going to offer advice he should give dates ("from December 2010 through June 2012") and then offer tips for people who buy the book after that. But again it makes no sense to me to date a book like that. The author should want the book to keep selling after June 2012 without feeling dated.

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