Book Review - Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth by Steve Pavlina
I was recently sent a copy of Steve Pavlina's book Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth. I'm always game for trying to make myself better. Pavlina's book is quite a bit different than most personal development books that you'll read, in that he deals much more with *who* you are rather than *what* you are doing. I don't know that I would recommend it for everyone, as it's got a number of slants that run contrary to my own personal faith and belief system (but there's a section in there that would explain how that's limiting...) Still, if you want to think beyond the "what do I do next" level, Pavlina will take you there...
Part 1 - Fundamental Principles: Truth; Love; Power; Oneness; Authority; Courage; Intelligence
Part 2 - Practical Application: Habits; Career; Money; Health; Relationships; Spirituality
Afterword; Resources; About the Author
Steve Pavlina is an interesting person. He was someone who lived a life that was pretty reckless (shoplifting, drinking, generally wild), and came to a realization that this wasn't the type of person he wanted to be. Thus started his search for personal growth and development, focusing mostly on the internal person. This mentality shift allowed him to do a number of rather incredible things, like earning a four year degree from California State University - Northridge in three semesters by tripling the normal class load. He was doing well as a computer game developer, but he didn't feel like this career choice was resonating with him. Instead, he decided to start a website focusing on personal development, which is where we find him now (and he's doing *very* well at it). His life goal now is to seek out truth and share it with others.
Pavlina has a framework for the inner person. Imagine a triangle with the points labeled Truth, Power, and Love. These are the core principles. There are four secondary principles (labeled on the sides and in the center) that are made up of a combination of the core items: Authority (Truth & Power), Courage (Love & Power), Oneness (Love & Truth), and Intelligence (all three). He explains how each of these principles can affect your life, and how they might manifest if they are out of balance. This part of the book is more "theory" than "practical", as he's laying the groundwork for the second part of the book, which is the practical applications of these principles. Here is where most readers of personal development books will feel more at ease, as there are actual actions to follow. Conversely, if you don't have the fundamental principles down, then these actions will be mostly superficial and short-lived. Taken as a whole, Pavlina presents a methodology that touches on all aspects of your life.
I did take away a number of concepts to try out. For instance, he's a big proponent of 30 day experiments. For instance, he became a vegetarian based on a 30 day experiment he tried to see how it worked. That eventually lead to becoming a vegan, again based on that 30 day commitment. He also tried unusual things, like adapting to polyphasic sleep (30 minute naps every 4 hours, thereby sleeping only two hours a day). That was actually successful, but he eventually dropped it as it put him out to sync with others that he wanted to spend time with. On the flip side (and where I struggled with the book), there's a heavy emphasis on thinking patterns that would be more new-age or eastern in nature. Imaging yourself to be one with the pencil you're holding isn't something that resonates well with me, nor would I subscribe to the thinking that each person is the final arbitrator of what is right and wrong for themselves.
There is definite value to be had in this book. I know a number of people who would subscribe wholeheartedly to all of the content here. Others like myself will end up filtering the material through their own values and world view. Based on which one you are will likely determine how well you like the book.