Helping Me Help Myself by Beth Lisick Book Review

Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

helping me help myself


Author: Beth Lisick
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (January 2009)
ISBN: 0061710733, EAN: 9780061710735
Page Count: 288 pages
Format: paperback

Target Age Group: adults
My Rating: 3/5 stars


Beth Lisick doesn’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions, but, in 2006, she decides that her life could use a few changes.  She and her husband are living from week to week on whatever money they are able to bring in from their respective work endeavors; their son, Gus, is wonderful, but a bit unmanageable; they have a garage full of junk so it is easier to buy new than to look for the old; she and her husband have opposite schedules and never seem to see each other anymore; and she has exercised since she was on the track team in high school!  It is high time for some changes so Beth decides that she is going to try and improve her life with the help of some of America’s best and brightest motivational speakers and writers.  She gives herself one year to see some changes and brings her readers along for the ride.

Throughout the year, Lisick reads/listens to:

January – Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be: Lisick reads his book and attends a conference where he is the motivational speaker.  She learns that she doesn’t get a lot of what she wants because she doesn’t ask for it – probably true for most of us!

February – Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Lisick reads through the book, gives a synopsis of all 7 habits and attends a Covey convention.  Her descriptions of who she meets and the Covey FranklinPlanner line is pretty funny.  Arguably the best chapter in the book as far as being motivational and funny.

March – John Gray’s Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: Lisick reads the book and attends a convention.  Her descriptions of what happens outside of the convention are more entertaining than what actually happens while the speakers are motivating.  Apparently Gray is a lot more into selling his line of nutritional supplements than imparting information about relationships these days – who knew?

April – Richard Simmons’ “Cruise to Lose”: Lisick attends a boat cruise with a chubby friend and enjoys a week of sweatin’ with the over-the-top Richard Simmons.  Her descriptions of the cruise, her fellow exercisers and Richard Simmons himself are entertaining and well worth reading.  This chapter reminds me that celebrities, even those who are mocked and generally discounted, can be really inspiring in person and superstars in their own sphere.

May – Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out: Lisick reads the book and pays a couple hundred bucks for a phone consultation of how to organize her house.  She manages to clean up a few areas and throws away a bunch of stuff because she is too embarrassed to send pictures of what her home really looks like!  This chapter hit a bit of a personal note for me as I am notoriously disorganized, but there was not enough of a change in Lisick’s life to motivate me to read the same book.

June – Thomas W. Phelan’s 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12: Lisick tries to use Phelan’s methods to save time from arguing with her toddler son.  I think, in many ways, this was the most successful book for Lisick as she was able to see some immediate results from the book and her efforts.  Good job – hopefully they continued to follow up and follow through with these methods as they really seemed to work.

July – Lisick was going to read a self-help book about sex, but decided that she and her husband’s sex life is fine, they just need to spend more time doing it.  She didn’t read a book this month.

August – Lisick was planning on hiring a professional stylist or wardrobe evaluator to help her pick out the right clothes and get rid of what isn’t working for her, but, in the end she realized she didn’t have the money for a new wardrobe and most of her clothes were pretty old.  She didn’t read a book this month.

September – Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: Lisick desperately grabs onto this book right before she goes on a vacation to Italy with her extended family.  This book reminded me of the divination classes that Harry Potter had to take at Hogwarts.  All gobbledegook about creativity and unleashing your inner artist.  Apparently this book is only owned by people who are not successful artists and there is quite a bit of mocking involved.  A bit confusing and a bit of a downer to learn about.  Not one of Lisick’s best chapters.

October – Suze Orman’s The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom: Practical and Spiritual Steps So You Can Stop Worrying: Suze Orman is not one of my favorite people.  She just doesn’t appeal that much to me and, apparently, Lisick agrees.  Lisick reads the book and then attends a speech by Orman and found that Orman pretty much recycles what is in her book.  A lot of women love Orman, however, and they provided some comic relief as Lisick describes the other people present.

November – Deepak Chopra’s Life After Death: The Burden of Proof: Lisick reads Chopra’s latest book and then attends one of his lectures.  Chopra’s ideas were too mystical and out there for me to follow through Lisick’s descriptions.  I am assuming that she didn’t understand most of what he said as she couldn’t explain it very well.  Lisick kind of rambles in this chapter about dreams and a car accident she was in and can’t seem to pull it together.

December – Sylvia Browne’s If You Could See What I See: Apparently Lisick was running out of steam and over the whole idea for the year as she skips reading the book and plunks down $50 for a ticket to one of Browne’s performances.  She stays for about an hour and listens to grieving people ask Browne to contact their dead loved ones.  A rather depressing chapter and, yes, you finally get the feeling that some of these motivational speakers are rip-offs.  I think that calling a psychic a “motivational” speaker or writer is a bit of a stretch, though, as I find anyone working with death on a regular basis isn’t much of a motivator.


I was excited to read this book as I feel like Beth Lisick has a very approachable, comedic writing style and I found myself engaged from the first page of her book.  I was hoping for something funny and entertaining, maybe a bit sarcastic and snarky, but ultimately, I was looking for some positive change in Lisick‘s life.  I didn’t really get anything that I was looking for, which was unfortunate, as this book had a lot of potential.  I also felt like the book started out strongly and then kind of petered out by the end to a whimper of an ending.  The other thing that bothered me about this book was the fact that the author very clearly had no real interest in changing her life, but felt like she had come up with an idea that she could sell and turn into a marketable book opportunity.  This was very disappointing as, about halfway through, I got the feeling that Lisick was doing a rather slapdash job of trying out the advice of the motivational experts and really had no intention of using their advice to change her life.  Naturally, not all of the motivational advice contained in the books that Lisick read will have personal application for everyone, but she should have been able to find something useful.  She pulled out a few tidbits, but I felt like she didn’t give any of them enough time to really see if they worked or not.  So, ultimately, we are left with a year’s of experiences that didn’t change anyone (myself and the author included) and didn’t expose any deep, dark secrets about the motivational-speaker world that we live in today.   In this respect, I feel that the author failed to deliver on project and left her readers disappointed and unfulfilled.


The author includes references to sex, alcohol, the nature of God, drugs, sleazy business practices and other adult issues.  There is some strong language.  Recommended for readers ages 18 and up.

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Filed under Humorous Books, Self-Help Books

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