Today I’m going to review Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich. This book is listed under the ‘self help’ section so before I talk about the book I want to delve briefly into the industry as a whole. I worked in the self help industry in the mid nineties in Australia, working for the top speaker and writer in the country at that time. I saw the industry from behind the scenes and a lot of it left me cold.
The industry has a high proportion of charlatans. A great number of writers structure their books in a way that is designed to keep the reader having to come back for more. The books are generally obtuse and unnecessarily lengthy. Wayne Dyer wrote a fairly good book titled, ‘Real Magic’ and then spent the next twenty years writing the same book with different titles in more and more complex prose. Where only a single word was needed, ten were commonly used. Their other source of income was public speaking. These courses were often expensive and would leave the recipients feeling a real natural high – they were energized by the experience. Six weeks later and they’d have to come back for more. A group of these speakers joined together and they would cycle through countries at different times. From my perspective, very few of the attendees effected any change in their life. They became self help junkies.
The industry did have, however, some gold amongst the dross. The question to ask therefore is where does Gorilla Mindset fit in this equation?
Firstly, while women can certainly use the techniques, it is aimed squarely at men. This is unusual in the self help industry which is dominated by female readers, although most of the writers do tend to be men. The male market has been ignored and put down over the years so this is a smart move on Cernovich’s part.
The book is short. Although having 200 pages, by my calculations it clocks in at around 40,000 words. I finished it in 2 hours. If I were to pick up a book by John Randolph Price I would need a lot more time than that to work out what he’s talking about.
The book is structured as a work-book. Readers are encouraged to write in it and return to it on a regular basis. It focuses on a few key areas:
Self-talk: When I studied meditation this was known as ‘monkey chatter’, the endless internal conversations that repeat endlessly in your head day after day. Meditation is designed to reduce this chatter to as little as possible. To focus in the now. Cernovich, instead, seeks to harness this chatter for positive purposes by changing the internal dialogue and using affirmations. None of this is new in the context of the industry, but it is undoubtedly new for what I perceive to be the majority of his readership. He has packaged it into an easily digestible format designed to give results.
Your physical body: Cernovich attempts to propel the reader out of a life of mere existence to one of being. The physical body is a prime example of this. Instead of taking your body for granted as a ‘sack of meat’ he shows ways that a person can get the most out of their body and take responsibility for their physical well-being. This also includes a large section on food and juicing, which also fits into his sideline juicing business.
Money: When I worked in the self help industry there were the three big things that people always wanted: health, a great relationship, and money. The best book I read on money was ‘The millionaire next door’ which Cernovich mentions in his book. The section on money is geared towards Cernovich’s own experiences and his businesses. He is a relentless self-promoter which is not a bad thing. In fact, many of the sections of his book are tied back to his website which is a smart way of getting readers to click back to his blog on a regular basis. Becoming your own brand is all well and good, but for a young guy starting out on the path to self improvement who may at this point not have much to offer this section could prove disappointing.
Visualization: The last part of the book concerns visualizing where you want to be. Once again, this is a very common technique from the industry as a whole. Other writers needed multiple books to cover what he does in 10 pages.
So where do I see this book fitting in? Cernovich cuts to the heart of each topic he talks about. He does not mince words. More importantly he does not build the reader up to consider themselves a ‘special being’ or other such nonsense that routinely plagues the industry. I get the feeling that Cernovich would not have much time for weak excuses or feeble attempts followed by failure. The onus is squarely on the reader to apply the techniques in their own life. He is trying to teach you to be disciplined. Typically with other writers you get the feeling that they are changing you, whereas Cernovich stresses that the reader is the only one that can effect change. This is a positive thing.
On pages 46 and 47 he mentions that growth is painful. For the neophyte, perhaps some more explanation would have been helpful here. Typically a person will go backwards before they begin to progress – they need to go down to go up. This defeats many people. I feel that more could have been said on this point.
On page 57 he makes the assumption that the reader is in fact a voracious reader because they are reading his book. This is my biggest problem with the book. A young man in his twenties in today’s world is essentially an empty vessel that needs to be filled. Reading, and good reading is a critical part of this. I feel, however, that many of his readers might not be voracious readers at all but may well have pushed themselves to read his book. It is possible that Cernovich is projecting here; perhaps it is easier for him to make the assumption, or perhaps he assumes that his readership reads voraciously because he does.
Whatever the case, the hole in this book is that he doesn’t address how a young man fills that empty vessel that is his head or even why it is so important. Affirmations, visualization, having a healthy body and a positive outlook, these are great but will only get you so far. Being curious and wanting to learn and think critically are key components to the recipe of personal success. Perhaps Cernovich addressed this in an earlier book or has plans to do it in the future. Still, I don’t think that making the assumption that his readership are voracious readers is a good one. He does mention again towards the end of the book that reading is important, but once again not why.
To be fair, he quotes from and lists a number of books that have influenced his thinking or for further study. But only the motivated reader will likely follow up any of his recommendations. The neophyte would be quite easily defeated by some of the academic works he mentions.
But this is just a quibble on what is otherwise a very good starter for someone desiring to effect change. If you have not effected change in your life, if you are struggling with your day to day existence, then this would be a good book for you to start your journey. For me it was a nice reminder that the hard work I did on myself over a ten year period in my twenties and thirties was well worth it. I practiced most of the techniques he talks about. They can work for you as long as you don’t rely on them as a magic pill solution. Hard work is the key. Cernovich stresses this and for that he is to be commended.
If you are interested in further reading on the subject, I recommend these books:
If you’re really keen and want what I call the tome of the ancients for all this self help stuff:
That book is pretty heavy going though.
Mike Cernovich’s website is Danger & Play which is on my sidebar.