Two-thirds of the way into his self-help bestseller, “Get Out of Your Own Way,” Dave Hollis tells a story about how he became a better husband. His wife, Rachel Hollis — the massively successful self-help guru of the moment — told him that she was pursuing a lucrative deal for her company. Dave scoffed: There’s a 3 percent chance it’ll happen, he told her. Months later, Rachel presented him with “a gift you got me”: a bracelet with a charm reading “3%” stamped on it. She’d landed the deal.

“Now that’s a master class in effective passive-aggression. And thank God for that,” Dave writes, strangely triumphant. Passive-aggression can be effective, no doubt. But only in Hollisville will you find somebody who’ll tell you it’s the path to a healthy marriage.

And yet, a whole lot of people want to be in Hollisville. Rachel’s two self-help books, “Girl, Wash Your Face” (2018) and “Girl, Stop Apologizing” (2019), have sold millions of copies, serving as the backbone of a media and lifestyle company that includes podcasts, clothing, journals and motivational conferences, where VIP tickets can go for more than $1,000 a pop. (Those on a budget can watch the Hollises do their best Kelly-and-Ryan gabfest routine on Facebook Live.)

The daughter of a Pentecostal preacher, Rachel Hollis originally used women’s church groups as the model for her brand of motivational speaking. Over time, though, her rhetoric has become less churchy and more Oprah you-go-girl — with a more aggressive spin. There’s no room for excuses here, Hollis tells us in her books, live appearances and relentless social media posts: We’re all going to wake up before dawn and punch complacency in the face.

In 2018, Dave left his job as head of global distribution at Disney to serve as CEO of Rachel’s burgeoning empire, becoming more of a fixture at her events. In that light, “Get Out of Your Own Way” is mainly an act of brand extension, an attempt to bring men into the fold. Like “Girl, Wash Your Face,” “Get Out of Your Own Way” is broken down into chapters meant to debunk the “lies we tell ourselves.” Adapted for guys, this includes: “My Work Is Who I Am,” “Failure Means You’re Weak,” “I Need to Parent Like My Parents.” His wisdom on these matters, per the Hollis brand, is almost entirely self-generated: The occasional expert insight comes from other self-help books like “The 5 Love Languages” or business-leader airplane reads.

What Dave Hollis lacks in authority he tries to make up for in attitude, adopting a persona as the grown-up frat boy who’s been brought down to earth. Mostly down to earth, anyway. Chapters often open with a boast of some sort: He was “a great baseball player growing up”; he’s negotiated deals that “involved the biggest names in brands and entertainment”; he was “valedictorian at my high school”; he was “a nerd growing up.” (Yes, that’s a boast. In 2020, being a “nerd” just means you like Marvel Comics movies, and Dave was literally responsible for getting those movies into theaters.) Naturally, he faces reckonings for all those boasts, but his humblings are always about how he found his way to newer, shinier things to boast about.

It’s in talking about his learning process that things get odd with Dave Hollis. He seems to take a masochistic pleasure in Rachel’s tough-love lectures, sharing an always-be-closing email she sent him demanding that he step up his game: “You are massively talented — and it’s not going to be enough to get you where you want to be or this company where we want it to go. We grow like warriors as fast as our business does, or we’ll never turn it into what we know it can be. I love you.” (This message, he writes, was “magic.” )

But Dave’s path to enlightenment usually only requires Dave. The Hollises promote a philosophy of hardcore bootstrapping — there is little that’s wrong with you that can’t be fixed by digging deeper into yourself. That includes problem drinking, which Dave learned to manage after another drill-sergeant lecture from Rachel (“Stop talking about it and start doing something about it. You are in control of your life.”), a home gym, and buddies who “encourage me to drink the crap out of my sparkling water.”

Hollis acknowledges that help can sometimes be useful. He mentions his coming around to therapy in a reformed-caveman sort of way. (“Who needs therapy? Before I went, I was positive I knew the answer. Crazy people. Weak people. Broken people. . . . Not men.”) And in the sole chapter that reflects some genuine humility — truly, he could have written a whole book about it, a good book — he’s thankful for the support system that guided him and Rachel through their oft-frustrating efforts to adopt a child.

But the Hollis way is to attract a crowd, not create a community. The main path to glory in Hollisville is steroidal self-reliance, rooted in extreme honesty about your shortcomings. Honesty is a virtue of course, but for all the Hollises’ talk about extreme candor, their vulnerability is almost always a function of image management. Success, Dave writes, demands “being conscious at all times of how your actions and your hoped-for reception align to deliver the personal brand you aspire to.” Vulnerability is meaningful only to the extent that it sells. One senses that if vulnerability stopped selling for the Hollises, they’d soon pivot to selling something else.

Every chapter of “Get Out of Your Own Way” closes with a takeaway section headlined “Things That Helped Me.” At first this seems like an act of modesty, an acknowledgment that what worked for him won’t necessarily work for you. But ultimately it’s narcissistic, a way for him to tell stories about his ongoing “growth” and “fulfillment” — the mountains he climbed, the revenue targets he hit — and frame it as actionable advice. Success, in Hollisville, isn’t becoming a better person who’s more engaged with the world. It’s craven careerism. It’s admiration and money. It’s running your flaws through a sparkly Instagram filter. It’s thinking you’re improving when spite dangles off your wife’s wrist.

Mark Athitakis is a critic in Phoenix and author of “The New Midwest.”


A Skeptic’s Guide to Growth and Fulfillment

By Dave Hollis

HarperCollins Leadership. 240 pp. $24.99