Sunday, December 30, 2007

The survey says....Happy New Year!

I'm sure it hasn't escaped the attention of regular readers this past week that I've been conducting a little poll about the perceived utility of self-help: "I think mainstream self-help products are....", and then a choice of four replies. It was hardly scientific, and the sampling (29 votes) turned out to be smaller than I'd hoped, but the final tally was 2 for "usually helpful," 12 for "sometimes helpful," 10 for "seldom helpful," and 5 for "never helpful." (Looking back, I guess I just couldn't bring myself to include the option, "always helpful.") I'm almost surely inferring more than is warranted by the cold inert numbers, but inasmuch as the middle two categories garnered 22 of the 29 votes, and were within a vote of being evenly divided, I strongly suspect that what determined which way those people went—"sometimes helpful" or "seldom helpful"—had more to do with their own respective mental outlooks than anything else: that is, whether they're folks who generally see the glass as half-full or half-empty. The positive thinkers chose "sometimes." The negative thinkers chose "seldom." For all I know, they could've had exactly the same scenario in mind but interpreted it differently. For example, a positive thinker might say, "Well, I do know that Ted bought a self-help book and he said it helped him, so I'll say sometimes." A cynic might say, "Well, the only person I know who says he was helped by a self-help book is Ted, so I'll say seldom." Anyway, such things interest me. (Which goes a long way toward explaining, perhaps, why I don't have actual friends.)

I want to thank all those who voted. I'll be running more of these polls as we move through 2008. I started off with a relatively bland and obvious question, but the poll topics may become nichier and more targeted as we go along; and if these polls catch on, I may someday use the results—again, unscientific though they be—as "anecdotal evidence" or "armchair comment" in something else I publish.

Also after the New Year, we'll pick up our discussion of juveniles and sentencing. And on that forward-looking note: Happy 2008 to all. May you attract* only good things (which is to say, no fires or hurricanes) in the coming year.

* And by the way, if you haven't yet watched the comedic video linked here, with its devastatingly funny riff on the law of me, you owe it to yourself to watch it. Right now! Before next year....

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