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Kind Of Like A Self-Help Book

Keith Dube

You don’t win the lottery simply by buying a ticket and doing nothing with it; you have to play the game. Some people expect to become successful just by reading a book about becoming successful. It doesn’t work like that, buddy. The definition of self-help is lost upon us; it is about helping you to help YOURSELF.

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“I said give me your phone!” That’s the last thing I remember hearing before I felt the back of my head almost cave in as a fist crashed into it with so much force that if I had been wearing a seatbelt, it would have dislocated my shoulder and left me with the kind of whiplash that you don’t have to lie about in your insurance claim. The side of my forehead smashed against a glass door and I dropped, hitting my head again, but this time on the edge of a step as I landed. I curled up into a little ball. I could hear and feel everything as it happened, I just couldn’t do anything about it. I was trying to get up and defend myself, but whoever the middleman between my mind and body was, he must have taken a five-minute break because my legs did not get the message. I can hold my own, but it was three against one and they stomped on me like I was an oversized cockroach running around their flat. They beat me like a runaway slave. I’d like to pretend that this was a random robbery and I was just an innocent victim that was on his way to save some orphans from a burning building after church, but it wasn’t. It was a drug deal gone wrong, and all I wanted to do at that point in time was scream “Bring back our girls!” as they tap-danced on my windpipe. I felt like I’d walked into a Boko Haram training camp in an “I love Bush” t-shirt. I’ve been in a lot of unsavoury situations in my life, but before that day, I had managed to talk my way out of them. This was the first real beating I’d taken and I didn’t like it. When people teach you how to fight, they don’t teach you how to take a battering and when you eventually do, it puts things into perspective. I literally had to get kicked in the head like an old TV for me to finally see clearly.

As the legend that is Mike Tyson so eloquently put it: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth!” This was the day I questioned the direction my life had taken; it was the day I decided that things had to change. How did it get to this? How did I end up here, spread out like dirty laundry on the floor of a crackhead’s house, getting kicked in the face with the dirtiest pair of Nike Air Force 1s I’d ever seen? All these questions played over and over again in my head as I was lying there, getting beaten half to death, wondering if I would eventually get stabbed over £300. That’s not a typo by the way; I wasn’t trying to write 300K, or even £3000, I was blind in one eye for almost a month over six £50 notes. There are Gucci belts that cost more than that! My family would’ve been left in unimaginable pain over an amount of money that wouldn’t even put a dent in the funeral costs. It couldn’t even pay for the coffin. This is when I had to ask myself if I would have knowingly accepted £300 to take that same beating. HELL NO.

Which brings me to this book. Reading is a big part of the change that came to my life after this, and it is something that I try to share with the people around me every opportunity I get. It’s not that I didn’t read before that, I just expanded my library. For me, reading a book is like having a conversation with the author, so we can say I started having better conversations. This led to better decisions and better life choices. I would recommend all types of books to friends, family, and even people I’d met online, but a lot of the time they just couldn’t get into them. I can’t speak for all of them, but it was usually because they either couldn’t relate to the author, or the book was hard to read. There are times I’ve been put off a book simply because it’s full of unnecessary and complex words that leave you feeling like you’re trying to put together IKEA furniture without the instructions while also trying to cure AIDS. You end up feeling like you’re not good or smart enough to read it, and humans hate anything that makes us feel inferior. If you’ve played minesweeper, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There is nothing more annoying than picking up a book that seems interesting and informative, but is riddled with so many expensive words that you have to refer to a thesaurus every other line. It’s like trying to have a conversation with someone but they’re speaking in a different language. I couldn’t make those books any easier to read, so I decided to write one of my own.

“What type of book are you writing?” That is literally how the title came about. I’d like to pretend that this is something that was the product of months of flying to meetings and going back and forth with my marketing team, but it wasn’t. Heck, I don’t even have a marketing team. That’s just what I would say every time someone asked what type of book I was writing; I wasn’t sure how to describe it. I’m not doing well at winning you over yet, but hear me out. It’s not full of crap like your average self-help book, so that alone puts it in a different category.

A lot of you are just like me. Yes, YOU reading this! Yes, you that’s never sold drugs or been in any situation like the one I described earlier. Everything you’ve read so far may suggest otherwise, but we come from the same place and our experiences are very similar—you’re just reading about them from a different perspective. 3 x 3 = 9 but so does 9 x 1.

I’ve been through quite a bit in my short life, and in this book I talk about everything from my experiences with money, the fairer sex, and nearly getting killed a few too many times. It’s a compilation of seemingly disconnected events, but they all make up a larger picture that I believe is worth thinking about; things that might affect you or someone in your life. A lot of you have kids that are just like me. You can even read about how I got 6 points on my driver’s license from the passenger’s seat of a friend’s car, and the time the police made me walk home with no shoes on. There’s also the time I put a gun in my friend’s bag without telling him, but there’s a logical explanation behind that. I open up about my battles with depression and suicide and how moving from the streets of South London to Australia had a big impact on my life. It changed my outlook on everything. I also got to enjoy a lot of kangaroo meat while I was out there. I’ve always wanted to taste koala meat but apparently they have more sexually transmitted diseases than Charlie Sheen.

Whenever you recommend a self-help book to some people, they behave like you’ve referred them to a witch doctor—and just by how they look at you, you know they won’t be reading it. I’ve read enough self-help books to understand where the stigma comes from; a lot of them promise a magic potion to all your problems, but we all know there’s no method that’s one-size-fits-all. It’s like those personal trainers in the gym that sell generic cookie-cutter workout plans with no consideration of the fact we’re not all the same and our bodies react differently to things. They’re literally saying “Hey, this worked for me so it will work for you. Now give me your money!”

I’m not selling you anything—well, except this book of course, I’m not the Salvation Army—and I’m not promising that you will read this and your life will magically come together; that’s not how it works. Bill gates could give you a detailed 500,000-page step-by-step guide of how he came to reach his success, including everything he ate and drank, and it more than likely wouldn’t work out the same way for you simply because you are not Bill Gates. You don’t read an account of how someone else came to change his or her life and expect it to work exactly like that for you, it won’t. You read it with an open mind in hope of finding something in it that might help you on your journey. I’ve come across a lot of people that despise self-help books, and they say it’s because they don’t work; I say it’s because a lot of you are reading them wrong. You don’t win the lottery simply by buying a ticket and doing nothing with it; you have to play the game. Some people expect to become successful just by reading a book about becoming successful. It doesn’t work like that, buddy. The definition of self-help is lost upon us; it is about helping you to help YOURSELF.

I had three main goals when I was writing this book: I wanted it to be humorous, helpful, and easy to read—and according to my mother, it is. And my mother never lies! (I probably should’ve told my parents about the drug thing before I put it in the book though. Yikes. Too late now . . .)

Illustrations by Kingsley Nebechi