Eleanor Bailey on a required reading survival guide for millennial misfits
YOU MAY think that the twentieth century is a cynical place. I say there has never been a more idealistic age. For we have the greatest invention of the modern era - the self-help book. We may be more miserable and desperately insecure but at least, these days, we think we can do something about it. Your Personal Survival Guide to the 21st Century by former newsreader Roy Sheppard, published last week, is for anyone who feels their life is going nowhere, dreads being washed up at 50 or fears that they are getting left behind in world of growing technology, where everyone else is younger, funny, cleverer, thinner and blonder. There's a lot of us about. His premise is that life - working and leisure - is changing faster than ever and if you don't change with it, your life is going to be like owning canal shares when steam trains came along.

Sheppard, a "business speaker and corporate communications consultant" who claims to earn three times as much as a self-motivated freelancer than he ever did in full-time employment, advises organisations such as Arthur Andersen, Price Waterhouse, Lloyds and Hewlett-Packard on change and appears on television and radio talking about what individuals can do to equip themselves, mentally, spiritually, physically and financially for the great unknown.

His book covers health, psychology, diet, money, time and work. In all areas it asks, is your life outmoded and if so, what can you do about it? Are you living the lifestyle of a body that's going to cope with 30 years of retirement - by the year 2020 life expectancy should be over 100 - or are you heading for 30 years stuck in a chair watching Countdown and dreaming about the micromotor, a grain of rice-sized chip that could be put in your body to clear your cholesterol if only you'd paid your health insurance?

For technophobes there are "Things you really should know about even if technology bores you", including a BT-researched "technology calendar" of advances to get ready for. For example, were you aware of barcode home shopping ( expected in the year 2000), housework robots (2008), and brain "add-ons" (2033) - which are intended to increase your brain power and which will be essential when lifelong learning becomes the norm after the year 2000. Predicting the end of cash in 2005, the money chapter extols the virtues of e-cash. Anonymous, instant purchasing around the globe will make buying the latest line of trainers from New York so easy there will be no point doing it any more. E-cash will, however, save you having to find the coins for your morning coffee. Global e-cash, The Guide points out, will leave the single currency wranglings as irrelevant as fighting for deckchair space on the Titanic.

Time is already one of our most precious commodities, and it's going to get more valuable. We need to take steps now to make more of our time and battle against the assault by "time robbers" on our valuable time, says the guide. But it's not all bad news. In the future, says Sheppard, electronic advertisers will pay you small amounts of e-cash to read their ads. The longer you spend, the more they will pay: "The unemployed could become full time 'advertising consumers'". The much-discussed gap between haves and have-nots will, however, widen. Take these steps to avoid falling into the latter category: Have what is colourfully described as "FU money" (at least 10 per cent of all current income) saved up for those inevitable periods next century when you have to change career, change location and start afresh. Get guarantees from your bank and building society that your money will have some antibiotics against the millennium bug. Know what's important to you to avoid getting trampled; "The most sensible and potentially secure individuals in the future will develop 'You Incorporated'" explains the guide.

Most people already know they need to get more education, diversify, chill out and get properly teched-up, but don't do anything without reminders. The Survival Guide is an entertaining and occasionally bleak kick in the right direction.

'Your Personal Survival Guide to the 21st Century' by Roy Sheppard is published by Centre Publishing at pounds 9.99