Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Shift by Takumi Yamazaki


Where I got the book: won from LibraryThing as an Early Reviewers giveaway.

As I worked my way through Shift, I kept wondering if Takumi Yamazaki had read The Secret (which I did not like, if you remember). There are some definite echoes of The Secret in this small tome, Yamazaki's debut in the Western self-help industry (he is, apparently, "a best selling author in Japan").

Or maybe he hasn't read The Secret. Maybe this style of self-help philosophy is just in the zeitgeist, a result of a generation that has been told, and told, and told that its wishes can come true.

The premise of Shift is that you can, by the power of thought, shift yourself up to where you want to be. Get that promotion, that house, that car (isn't it funny how these books are so often about getting money, as if money really solves problems?) You are impeded from reaching your potential by homeostasis (the idea that things find their own level, i.e. we are all much more comfortable in our comfort zone) and scotoma, which is a blind spot or mental block.

Shift is punctuated by little exercises, to be done alone or in groups, mostly in the form of writing down your goals and telling them to other people. It is a 200-page book, but contains an enormous amount of white space because it needs to pad out quite a small amount of writing into an acceptable format for publishing. To this end, it also contains a whole lot of little drawings featuring the guy usually seen symbolizing "Men" on a restroom door. Restroom Man gambols through the book supposedly illustrating the Deep Thoughts contained therein, but I frequently found it hard to make the text square up with the drawings.

All this could be a problem of translation; I get the impression that the text was translated fairly closely from the Japanese, instead of being rewritten with a Western audience in mind. In editing non-English speakers it's sometimes necessary to insert an extra sentence here and there to show thinking steps that are left out in the original language; I'm no linguist, but what little contact I've had with Chinese has taught me that a lot more meaning can be derived from context than is possible in English speech. Could be that the same is true for Japanese, and this makes Shift a very easy book to read if you don't pay much attention to logical sequence, but frustrating for those of us who like to dot our i's and cross our t's.

The fundamental message of Shift, as far as I could make it out, is similar to The Secret: Think positive and all things are possible. You can make things happen. I also spotted some of the same unfortunate advice: For example, if you want to be rich you should live as if you are rich (which is fine until you realize you just blew a month's salary in a day) and you should hang around with the kind of people you want to be (also an expensive proposition if your goal is to be a multi-millionaire).

I felt very sad when I read that if a friend comes to you with a problem, the solution is to say "Oh hey, that should be no problem for you!" and then start chatting about something else. In
other words, you shouldn't really listen to problems, because you should be too busy chatting up successful rich people instead. I'll be sure to do that the next time I see a friend who has cancer or whose husband just dropped dead. Yeah.

I've said it before: I have nothing against positive thinking, and nothing against people who are willing to work on their attitude to achieve their goals. I think that having goals is a good thing. But becoming the person you were intended to be goes a whole lot deeper than reading books like Shift. I wouldn't recommend it, even for the sake of seeing the Restroom Man drawings.

1 comment:

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