Book Review: Real Help by Ayodeji Awosika
Ayo starts by surgically removing your excuses for why you can't move your life forward
I love the nerdy Bill Gates shirt. Photo from Ayo’s website
Ayodeji Awosika gets it. He fucking nails it every single time.
For a 32-year-old kid, and he’s a kid to this menopausal dumb blonde, he’s figured out the magic elixir in the not-strictly-American dream we all share: To live our lives with meaning and purpose, and maybe even make money doing it.
Guess what: You don’t even need ‘privilege’ to pull it off. Which means the secret to his sauce is to toss your aggrieved entitlement, regardless of your tribe.
I wish I’d been as smart as him when I was his age. Hell, I wish I was that smart now.
It strikes me as unutterably bizarre that I look to a 30-year-old guy for life help, but Ayo gets it. I found him on Medium last year and his posts resonated like a Tibetan singing bowl. I got hooked by his first book, The Destiny Formula. I just finished his newest, Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement and I encourage everyone who’s serious about wanting to change their lives to buy and read this book. Ayo knows what he’s talking about.
His advice isn’t sexy. His version of self-help and self-improvement aren’t for those who don’t have time for more than listicles promising greater productivity before 7:00AM or who’d rather just cut to the chase and buy an expensive ‘kit’ to achieve world-renowned success.
It’s for the folks who understand where self-help starts: With the wo/man in the mirror.
Ayo’s blueprint resembles the unsolicited advice you got from those boring old farts in school who didn’t know anything about the real world and thought hard work and
constant improvement were the way to succeed. Excuses end right here.
In our ADHD-social-media-addled world we want everything now Now NOW!!! with instant likes and followers, viral success with our first video, a $100,000 job fresh out of university. No one with the attention span of a gnat wants to hear Ayo’s story of working for five years at a low-paying job and hustling his ass in his free time to take classes, learn how to blog, read fifty books a year and keep his ‘eyes on the prize’.
That’s not sexy. That’s too much trouble. That takes too long. Plus the world is working against you and shit.
But it’s the truth. It’s the truth. And many people can’t handle the truth, as some famous guy once ranted in a movie.
Real Help removes all your excuses, and the lies you’ve been telling yourself. It shreds your sense of aggrieved entitlement. (Everyone’s.)
Why do I like Ayo so much? Because he’s not a freaking victim. He takes responsibility for his past decisions, bad actions and now his future. He doesn’t whine and moan and spout a lot of silly academic theory (he’s college-educated, even though he never finished) as to how The Man keeps him down.
It’s ridiculously refreshing in a world where whiners worship at the shrine of self-imposed victimhood and personal responsibility is the ugliest of faults to be exorcised from one’s soul forthwith. Its apotheosis is a tantrum-prone manchild who was placed into power by a nation overrun with adult babies who wonder why their lives keep getting worse rather than better.
Real Help lays out some hard truths, based on numerous highly-respected books written by people smarter than Ayo on how the world works, sans the entitlement. I’ve already encountered some of what he lays out for why wages are going down and mental illness is going up. He doesn’t get sidetracked by emotional hand-wringing over economic inequality or systemic discrimination, even as he acknowledges they exist. His approach is as Stoic as his personal hero, former Roman Emperor and author of the nearly 2,000-year-old Meditations, Marcus Aurelius. The world is as it is, you can’t fix the system, so find new ways to work around it.
Success is easily within your grasp, but it won’t happen overnight.
Ayo traces the story of how he travelled from loser busted drug dealer to a writer and self-improvement coach with a six-figure income. “I’ve been through the racist justice system,” he says. “I know.”
I think of this as others excuse themselves into ever-more-restricted pretzels to explain why it sucks to be them. You can’t do this and you can’t do that because of systemic discrimination and intersectional gender politics and society’s dictates to your special interest class and the patriarchy thing and your kids. When you have kids you have to put your dreams on hold! Sacrifice all for them! Everyone knows that!
My own excuse pretzel straightened out just a tiny bit more this week as I came to realize it’s not ageism keeping me out of the workforce so much as a lot of crazy forces at work in our ever-evolving post-industrial economic landscape. Increasingly abusive employment practices and shrinking wages fueling inflated C-suite salaries will destroy jobs and whole organizations long before robots get a whack at it.
Ayo recommends spending less time following the news and triggering yourself on social media, so you can focus on your work and not get sidetracked by society’s toxic messages that you need to earn money a certain way, live your life a certain way, and consume mindlessly ‘to impress people you don’t even like’.
His message isn’t anti-consumerist, but intelligently consumerist.
I know he’s right because as I trail him down that path to success, I’ve encountered some of the same feelings and problems he has, so I know to pay attention when he tells me what lies ahead.
He’s made those mistakes for me. Here’s where your brain starts to tell you you can’t do it. Here’s where I see a lot of writers on the cusp of success back down and turn away. Here’s why you should work inside your wheelhouse and play to your strengths, rather than work on your weaknesses.
The road to fulfilment and success looks a lot less rocky when you know what to expect.
Photo by Helen Melissakis on Flickr
After I finished Real Help I went through it again, skimming and taking notes. It’s now a twelve-page document of new advice and insights and tips I don’t want to forget.
“Whenever you try to “succeed” or “follow your dreams,” you’re going to have to do so in a world that will indirectly and directly attempt to stop you. It’s a natural consequence of how things work, not a planned conspiracy. Keeping this in mind will increase your odds of success, because you can be less emotional about the process. It does no good to shout into the sky. The game is rigged. What are you going to do about it?”
Losing the ‘conspiracy thinking’ is a giant load-off. Remove the emotion and your ego from the equation when you realize most people are miserable in their lives and jobs and you now have the spine and the blueprint to fix yours. You can’t do anything about the rest.
I’m beginning to shed the blinders too, as I’ve watched us all become increasingly pigeon-holed by job descriptions that narrow the employer’s fantasy candidate to the point where eventually they’ll merely demand a departing employee leave some DNA behind so they can clone her replacement.
“Once you accept other people for who they are, how they behave, and what they believe, you’ll feel less like you’re fighting this imaginary uphill battle against the masses. The masses will simply fade to the background while you get to work. As more and more people fade into the background, you’ll find you might be the only one left.”
Once you abandon the anger and frustration and most of all, the stories and narratives that make you the victim and everyone else the oppressors, finding success suddenly appears more within reach than you ever knew. Ayo makes clear he doesn’t define success for anyone else. Just because he wants to ‘conquer the world’ and build a million-dollar empire doesn’t mean that’s the route for others.
Success is whatever really and truly makes you happy. That might be boatloads of money and your own empire, or it might mean better relationships, leaving a job you hate, starting up your own business or, most importantly, living your life by your own standards rather than others’.
Just know what you want to do and more importantly, why you want to do it.
Real Help offers no quick-fix solutions. It encourages you to define and pursue your dreams and keep them within reason. Aspiring to be an actor is fine; aspiring to win an Oscar might be just a touch unrealistic.
When Ayo reached out to ask for my help as an affiliate marketer promoting Real Help, I agreed, not to do him a favor, or even for the prizes he’s offering, but because I love his work and this book. This roadmap is the real deal. It doesn’t guarantee success but it acknowledges failure as a learning experience without fetishizing it a la Silicon Valley. It encourages you to help create new opportunities by getting out of your hidey-hole, meeting new people, and doing the world.
I have a sticky note on my computer desk from a TEDx talk (not Ayo’s, but he’s done that too).
“The universe conspires with you; your self-doubt conspires against you.” Real Help really will help if you’re genuinely committed after your own pivotal moment when you say, as Ayo once did, “This shit has got to stop.”
As skewed and unjust as the socioeconomic system has become for all except the 1% (and its money siphon is coming for the higher classes next), Ayo describes how you can forge your own path and make money online with little or no out-of-pocket expense. You need to learn what you don’t know, continuously improve, read a lot of books, take a lot of largely free or inexpensive classes, come up with your plan, and don’t do something stupid like quit your job before you’ve got a reliable monthly extra income and even more important, money in the bank.
If you’re fed up with the grind and a life that makes you suicidally ideate, Real Help will show you how to eliminate it intelligently, what to expect, and how to overcome that super-asshole who’s always talking shit to you to keep you down.
Not The Man. Not The Patriarchy. Not the politically demonized minority du jour. Not even your boss.
Your ego. Your inner critic. Yourself.
Just have a lot of patience. Ayo believes in you, even if you don’t. Yet.