This self-help book is meant to be so life-changing that the publishers are giving it away for free. Either they’re thinking that they have a duty to the human race to share this explosive piece of writing, or they’re doing it on the basis that you’ll then go on to buy Seth Godin’s ‘Poke the Box’. My money’s on the latter.
The premise of The Flinch is that we’re all carrying around atavistic programming that drives our response to threatening or challenging situations. This is the flinch of the title, our instinct to draw back, protect ourselves, put our hands in front of our faces. Thousands of years ago, when our ancestors lived in a world full of very real threats (sabre-tooth tigers, bears etc), the flinch was what kept us alive. But, Smith contends, what used to keep us alive is now holding us back. In the 21st century, capitalist Western world, very few of the things that we face and flinch from represent any real threat. We are simply programmed to avoid a sense of danger or insecurity, and as a result we don’t go for our dream jobs, get out of dead-end relationships. In avoiding the things that scare us, we are limiting our potential, and this book, through some cheesy self-help prose and a series of ‘homework’ exercises, seeks to break that cycle.
It’s an interesting premise, but not dissimilar to that of ‘Poke the Box’ or ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’. So while using the frame of ‘the flinch’ makes it mildly thought-provoking, the content and message of the book is hardly ground-breaking.