May I Help You?

July 15, 2014

Apparently I’ve been ambling in and out of Amazon’s “Top 100 Most Popular Self-Help Authors” list for the past nine months. I had not really thought of the stuff I write as “self-help,” exactly. Whenever the term comes up, it invariably calls to mind the wisdom of Steven Wright:

“I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswomen, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.”

Still, this list represents a thumb on the pulse of the masses and is updated hourly, so I figure, hey, it must be an accurate metric of how helpful I am to the planet at any given moment. Maybe I should pay attention to it.

I hit #29 on the list on Thanksgiving Day of last year.

I was not aware of this at the time and have to admit, as far as I can recall I did not feel a thing. I don’t remember hitting anything at all that day, other than the post-turkey couch coma.

I did not, in fact, become aware of my standing among Self-Helpful Human Beings till this summer, when I noticed this listing on Amazon.

As I write this, I am currently at #86 (think of it as an homage to Maxwell Smart), where I am sandwiched between Arianna Huffington and M. Scott Peck.

And trailing behind the three of us, in 88th place, is my good friend Cameron Diaz.

#86 Self-help

Cameron and I first became acquainted a few weeks ago, when she was perched fetchingly in her present position (#88) and I had come up from behind to breathe down her neck, metaphorically speaking, from a threatening #89. (With Bob Knight and The Power of Negative Thinking looming menacingly behind me.)

#89 Self help

Since that time Ms. Diaz and I have been jockeying back and forth, sparring and parrying. While the competition is at its heart a good-natured one, it is nonetheless a serious competition which we both are fighting desperately to win.

You see, I am driven by the need to prove I am more helpful than Cameron.

After all, she stole my marketing idea.

Look there — how she’s showing off her legs on the cover of The Body Book. See that? That was my idea. That’s the exact pose I was planning to take on my next book! (And look at her subtitle: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Body. C’mon! “The Law of Hunger”? Obviously she got that from The Go-Giver.)

Soon after that 89-to-88 face-off, I hauled out into the passing lane and zoomed ahead onto the 61–70 page, where I found myself stuck for a while at slot #65 in an awkward position between Ann Patchett and Esther Hicks.

#65 Self-help

You cannot imagine what the conversation was like during that hour. Ann was reminiscing about what it was like to accept the PEN/Faulkner award for Bel Canto, and Esther kept breaking in and going, “Abraham wants me to tell you life should not be a struggle — Ann, have you read The Law of Attraction?”

I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

Then, I backslid. I must not have been paying attention, or not self-helping enough people. I fell all the way back down the ladder to #88, Cameron’s old spot. And why wasn’t Cameron in that very spot? Because she had gotten ahead of me, that little vixen!

There’s something about Mary, all right. Something scary.

#88 Self-Help

What was worse, not only had my old nemesis Scott Peck also pulled out in front while I wasn’t looking (he must have taken some road a heckuva lot less traveled than I thought, to slip past me like that without my noticing), but now Gretchen “The Happiness Project” Rubin was ahead of me, too!

Let me tell you, this did not make me Happy.

Folks, I’m struggling here. The only way I can claw my way to the top of this Dale Carnegian slugfest, this American Gladiauthor battle for ultimate self-helpfulness, is to find a few more willing souls to self-help.

As Jerry says to Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire, “Help me help you.”

Or I may be forced to shoot my next book jacket in a leotard.


  1. Bob Burg

    What a cool journey. You get to meet such interesting peeps. Of course, they should be doubly honored; they get to meet YOU!

    • jdmann

      Bob – Yes, it is a very busy social life I lead. The cross I must bear. I can’t self-help it.

  2. Max House

    John…it took the majority of my intellect to follow your sly/easy wit…but I was successful (at least I believe I was). But my lingering question is: HOW can I help you help me to help you??? Max

    • jdmann

      Max – Easy answer: by getting your friends to buy my books. Or, even better, find out who Cameron’s friends are, and get them to buy my books!

  3. Mark Given

    Hilarious…….or how about considering a tutu. They work for elephants!

    • jdmann

      Mark – A tutu. I should have thought of that. I’ll do it! Wonder if Bob Burg has a tutu. (Or Brandon Webb.)

  4. Fiona Ashe

    Brilliant, clever, sparkling wit! I adore your writing, John!

    • jdmann

      Fiona – Wait. You mean I was being witty? I thought I was being serious!

  5. Adrian

    86? 61? 88? 29? Balderdash! (to quote you)–
    John, you’re #1 in MY book 🙂

    • jdmann

      Muchas gracias, señor! (Is that book for sale somewhere?) But cereally, folks … I can’t think of an endorsement in the world that would mean more!


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