Why You Have To Tolerate The Incredibly Obvious In Advice Books

You probably have had it happen: you get that book on careers that everyone is talking about, get into it, then read something so blindingly obvious you stop.  You ask why the author is wasting your time on stating something so incredibly obvious to anyone, and begin to question the book.  Why waste your time with things you already know?

I've been there before.  There's few books about business or careers I've read that haven't had some section that has made me wonder why the author is wasting my time with such things.  Why tell me something I know – give me something I don't.

I resist this urge, because there are several truths of great career books (and indeed many advice books):

  1. A good author repeats the obvious to be complete.  Yes, something may seem obvious, but the book is just incomplete without the obvious elements.  You can't write a guide on video game careers or networking or resume writing without hitting the stuff everyone should know because that's part of the overall picture.  Take it from someone who wrote a career advice book, I definitely went for being complete – and as for why . . .
  2. Just because it's obvious to you doesn't mean it's obvious to other readers.  You may have unique experiences, education, or just be better-informed than some people.  A good author covers enough ground for an appropriate audience – and often a broad one.
  3. The obvious things may have subtleties you never thought of.  You may be great at resume content, but maybe you never thought of layout.  You may be excellent at networking, but never really thought about connecting via your local church.  Obvious advice may not be as obvious as you thought.
  4. Sometimes the obvious things work better in a "configuration" you never thought of.  I've especially notice I see this in job search books – that much job search advice is obvious (network!  Tailor your resume!)  How you put the obvious pieces together is very important.

Why do we get disgusted with some of these business advice books when they state the obvious?  Beyond wasting our time, I think too often we're afraid of being ripped off – especially in the advice/coaching/self-help market.  We know that market has enough shysters and unoriginal material, so we too easily assume the worst.

So next time that must-read book seems to be stating things everyone should know and you want to drop it?  Give it a little more time.  Your friends and family and trusted reviewers probably knew what they were doing – you just ran into something that you happened to know.

But the rest of the book is probably worth it.

– Steven Savage