Book review: Personal Development for Smart People

[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book because I agreed to write a review.]

I first ran across Steve Pavlina when I was researching how people make money blogging. He had a very informative article of how he made money blogging and in addition I found a lot of other interesting posts. While I don't agree with all his posts, I find much of his writing thought provoking. When I was learning about the law of attraction, Steve Pavlina had the only definition that I considered somewhat reasonable from an intellectual standpoint. (Others seemed to describe it as "wish for it and it will happen". Steve Pavlina's definition was closer to the one I decided on, "believe it's possible and you'll work hard and get it.") Recently I really enjoyed his 30 day raw food trial. (Not something I plan to try but I like how he tried and documented a diet for 30 days.)

Personal Development for Smart People is similar to Steve Pavlina's blog but most of the writing is new. The first half of the book discusses the core principles or values he thinks everyone should work on. They are slightly different than the traditional set you'd find in a personal development book with intelligence in the middle. Here are some of the ideas I captured to think more about later:

  • What do your goals mean to you now? You live in the present (something I often forget) so all of your goals should be doing some thing positive for you now. You should enjoy working on them or enjoy the sense of accomplishment or the dream.
  • Triage your projects not into important and urgent but into three categories: they'll fail no matter what you do, they'll succeed no matter what you do and they'll succeed only if you do something. (You can guess which ones you are supposed to work on.)
  • He did an experiment with polyphasic sleep. Not for me, but once again it made me think about the value of 30 day trials.
  • If you want something, ask for it. Nicely, politely, be ok with being turned down. If you are ok with being turned down, you'll be able to ask for anything.
  • Habits are good and bad. I always seem to be working on getting rid of the bad habits and forgetting I have good ones.
  • Beat bad habits like chess. In the early game, position yourself for success, in the middle game deploy your tactics and in the end game, go for your target.
  • One of his blog posts that I really like was moochers versus contributors and he brought that concept up in his book. Some people make make money by creating things (creating things of value to society) and others make money by mooching (i.e. taking advantage of market changes). I don't think mooching is always as bad as it sounds but I think being conscious of whether you are mooching or contributing is important.
  • Read books written by others whose perspective is different than yours, i.e. athletes, Buddhists, investors, etc. People with different perspectives than you.
  • Instead of thinking about accumulating wealth, think of it more like cash flow. (He didn't say it like that but that's what I got out of it.)

My review really doesn't capture the tone of his book which I think really shows that I don't think about the world the same way he does. He talks a lot about love for others, trying different lenses on, oneness, etc.

If you are into personal development books, I recommend Personal Development for Smart People. If you aren't in the personal development mode or you are just looking to learn more about a topic, I wouldn't put this one at the top of your list just yet.

6 Replies to “Book review: Personal Development for Smart People”

  1. Wasnt this post pretty off topic for Could you implement some kind of tagging to prevent off topic posts from making it to

  2. You know, I kind of agree that it was really off topic. When my blog was added to Planet GNOME, I warned that there would be lots of kid posts. (I should have warned about book reviews too.) I was told that ok, even good. If that’s not ok with the readership, I’m alright with displaying posts just tagged “open source”.
    But I think this is a topic that has come up with others too. I suppose I could do another post and ask the Planet GNOME readers to weigh in …

  3. FYI, I took the Planet GNOME on/off topic conversation over to Twitter. (I don’t know how you point at a thread of conversations on Twitter or I’d link to it! 🙂

  4. Interesting writeup.
    Regarding the anonymous commenter: I think that the post is quite *on* topic, the topic being, explicitly: “Planet GNOME is a window into the world, work and lives of GNOME hackers and contributors.”
    I think this perspective is the consensus among the GNOME community as well. Certainly it is the opinion of the majority of the writers.
    Finally, I do not think that anonymous commenters should have any impact as to your perception of what is or is not acceptable to any community.

  5. Man, you summed up my opinion of Steve / Steve’s blog pretty well there. 🙂
    I bought this book a few weeks ago–haven’t read it yet since it’s still the middle of my academic term, but am looking forward to doing so eventually.

  6. Great review, I’ll have to check out Steve’s blog and book. I agree with your point on moochers versus contributors. Contributors are the people that inspire me to keep going my own way, moochers just make me frustrated and cynical.

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