Self-Improvement's ultimate goal? Creating James Bond villains

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One of my first coaches observed that the end result of self-improvement and motivational techniques is to create James Bond super-villains. Bond, on the other hand, embodies the exact opposite of those aspirational ideals.  

Consider: what marks the extreme Bond villains such as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Dr. No, Hugo Drax, and Raoul Silva?  

  • They are ambitious. They think big, dream big, plan big.  
  • They take action on their vision.
  • They are single-minded in the pursuit of their goals and put in the hours to achieve those ends. (Work-life balance must be an adorable middle-class concept to a guy like Blofeld.)
  • Those big plans require extraordinary self-discipline to achieve. No villain binges Netflix. 
  • They are persuasive leaders who inspire loyalty, or at least command the loyalty, of other powerful people. 
  • They have no hangups about money, either getting more or hanging on to it. 
  • They leave no money on the table. They take the money and the table and then sell the table to get more money. 
  • They don't care what people think or say about them. 
  • They have no issues with negative self-image or negative self-talk.
  • They don't second-guess themselves. 
  • They set SMART goals and employ mind-boggling Gantt charts to help them achieve their (to them) utterly reasonable visions. A secret missile base inside a dormant volcano doesn't just grow itself, you know. 
  • They exercise a tremendous organizational prowess to run tight, clockwork-precise organizations employing dozens or hundreds of people. 
  • They have no conception of "leaving their comfort zone" because their comfort zones cover a lot of ground. 
  • They have no filters on their personality, thinking, or behavior -- they are who they are, like 'em or not. 
  • They do not ask for either forgiveness or permission. 
  • They think outside the box. 
  • They think win. Win. Win. 
  • They feel free to do whatever they want to do. 

Look at that list. Self-help books and motivational speakers by the hundreds build careers teaching only one or two of these attributes to their audiences. There is absolutely no reason in the world every villain on Her Majesty's Shitlist should not succeed with their diabolical plans. 

Yet into every scenario blunders that damnable James Bond: emotional, impulsive, instinctive, reactive; an opportunist who improvises without doing proper research; who acts inconsistently, impulsively, rashly; who is suspicious of everyone around him when he's not manipulating them; who works hard instead of smart; who destroys years of delicate and methodical preparation in a few loud explodey minutes.  

The Bond villain is ruthlessly, terribly orderly and methodical, a top-down thinker, patiently building his organization step by step, consolidating gains and reversing losses. He's even planned for his escapes in case things go wrong! Isn't this type of worldly success and behavior what traditional mainstream self-help and motivational literature -- especially those books sitting on the "Business & Economics" shelves -- holds up as the ideal?  

James Bond, on the other hand, is the (secret) agent of chaos and destruction whose job is not to change the world, but, in a sense, to protect the status quo. Is he really the guy we're meant to emulate?  

Of course, there are downsides to being a villain, too. 

Michael E Brown @brownstudy