I have a small collection of business books here. Each promises to help me start, run or sell a successful business. At some point in my business book buying I realised something important.
The most successful business books are those that are the best at being business books.
Or, put another way
The success of a business book has only a little to do with the quality of information in it.
If we crunched the numbers and measured the success of businesses based on the books that their CEO’s read and purport to act on (adjusting for the popularity of the book), I doubt very much we’d get a list that looked like the business bestseller lists. To write a successful business book you need to make the reader feel good about themselves, feel motivated, and feel powerful.
Sabio wrote today about Dating websites. In my professional experience the same thing is true here. The most successful dating sites are those that are the best at being dating sites. The success of a dating site has very little to do with the quality of matches it produces, or the long term happiness of its clients. To make a successful dating website, you need to make your customers feel good about themselves, and feel loved.
…I almost feel bad approaching the barrel of religious fish holding this shotgun…
But it is certainly true that religions promise enlightenment, spiritual fulfilment, community, counter-cultural release, and a different way of living. But those that are successful are good at being a religion, something that has very little to do with supplying those things.
And I’d say that goes for all kinds of religion. It is easy to see the Joel Osteen brand of evangelical pablum in these terms. But often progressive and liberal brands of religion work in the same way. And, just like business books and dating, you can’t tell by listening to the rhetoric. You have to look, in the words of the Bible, at the fruit.