Posted by: Michael George Daniel | December 16, 2008

Personal Development for Smart People

Steve Pavlina's Book 'Personal Development for Smart People'

Steve Pavlina's Book 'Personal Development for Smart People'

Steve Pavlina is an incredibly smart, organized, driven person who is recognized as perhaps the most successful personal development blogger on the Internet. Yes, I said blogger. His first book, Personal Development for Smart People, with the subtitle of The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth, reflects all of his outstanding qualities and is drawn from the enormous collection of material he created through his blog site,

The website is a tremendous resource of free material created by Pavlina based on his decision to develop a personal growth business. His strategy of providing free articles that reflected his experiences, thinking and articulation of personal growth insights helped him develop an amazing readership. It is from this platform that Pavlina was able to attract the attention of the esteemed Hay House publishing company, known for its work with spiritual and personal growth material. The book reflects Pavlina’s qualities of creative insightfulness and rational organization in a way that can be powerful for lots of people having a wide range of experiences and approaches to actualizing their highest human experience.

The book’s introduction describes Pavlina’s interesting life story including his catholic upbringing, a period during his late adolescence in which he rebelled by becoming a prolific shoplifter and his subsequent meteoric college career in which, after having been kicked out of UC Berkeley, he completed a double major at California State University Northridge in just three semesters by taking a triple load. The college experience lead him to study time management techniques and set the stage for his foray into personal growth ideas and theories. With a degree in computer science, he started a computer game development business and continued following his growing interest in personal growth.  Eventually the interest in personal development took center stage and, using all of the knowledge and experiences he had gathered, he started

Working with incredible verve and focus, Pavlina created a massive amount of written content, as well as audio podcasts. All of it was offered for free. He developed income through advertisements, affiliate programs, promotional offers and donations. The website became the most popular personal development website in the world with readers in more than 150 countries.  The growth of the website was largely word of mouth. Personally, I recommended the site to lots of people including friends, family and wellness clients of mine.

As with pretty much everything he does, Pavlina saw the unique opportunity for developing the book as a chance to organize his accumulated knowledge on the subject matter. Although the website is extremely well-organized – having the necessary technical organization of interwoven links, outline and summary presentations, archiving and a flow of fresh material – it offers an organic network of ideas and threads woven together as a rich, diverse resource. The book, on the other hand, offered the opportunity to develop a conceptual organization that could distill the material down to core principles that would facilitate a deeper understanding and an ability to apply the material across a wider spectrum of people and situations.

From the introduction of the book: “While studying personal development for many years, I learned that this field is very broad and fragmented. Any area of your life can reasonably slide under the umbrella of self-improvement, including your health, career, finances, relationships, and spiritual beliefs. Each subset of this field has its own purported experts, all of them sharing different ideas, rules, and advice..Unfortunately, these experts often disagree with each other…Some say you can achieve success through hard work and self-discipline; others advise letting go and allowing God or the universe to handle the details. Some experts encourage you to change’ others say you should accept yourself as you are. If you try to incorporate all these different ideas into your life… you’ll end up with a fragmented, incongruent mess.”

“I soon realized that an intelligent approach to personal development would have to resolve these incongruencies somehow…It would have to make logical and intuitive sense, satisfying both head and heart.”

The framework of core principles of Pavlina's work.

The framework of core principles of Pavlina's work.

The result of his efforts to organize the material are what Pavlina calls fundamental principles. These are core concepts that can be considered universal, complete, and basice. They are building blocks that are consistent with each other and can be practically applied to most if not all situations in everyday life.

What Pavlina did, when he set before himself this problem of finding an organizational solution to describing all of the things he had learned about life and personal growth, was organize the task of writing the book into a process of asking and answering the right question: how can I invent a model that will hold all of these things that I have learned and want to say?  As with everything else he does, Pavlina set to solving theproblem with his usual intensity. What he came up with is simply elegant.

The model that Pavlina put together is a triangle of three core principles that relate to each other through three other principles – a relationship among Truth, Love and Power. This is the framework of his book and his work.

The three principles are related to each other through three other ‘sub’ principles: Truth to Love through Oneness, Truth to Power through Authority, and Love to Power through Courage.  Pavlina suggests in addition to these six principles, there is a seventh that comprises all of them. This he calls Intelligence.

The book is painstakingly organized around the model of seven principles. The first half of the book  focuses on the basic principles themselves, elucidating their characteristics and inter-relationships. The second half of the book draws out the application of the model to specific areas of one’s life including habits, career, money, health, relationships and spirituality.

If you want to read a passionate, thoughtful and thorough presentation of personal growth ideas, you will enjoy this book. It certainly offers those of us that want to organize ‘spiritual’ principles into a rather neat package a way to do so. But it provides tremendous depth as well. Pavlina believes, and lives, the idea of walking the walk. His process involves literally experimenting with different ideas, thoughtfully observing, and writing about his experiences. One interesting example from the blogsite is his work with the idea of changing his sleep pattern from a dirurnal cycle to polyphasic, meaning multiple phases. He has some 36 blog entries describing a five and half month experiment in which he slept about twenty minutes every four hours instead of going to bed (at night) like most every other human being. Constrained by conventional ideas, he is not.

I strongly recommend this book! It is fresh, thorough and insightful. It offers a framework for thinking about and living your life that reflects Pavlina’s motto of ‘living consciously’. In fact, that is perhaps its most powerful attribute – on the simplest level. Buy offering an elegant framework into which we can put the challenges, disappointments, successes, highs and lows from any area of our life, with out even trying, we take a huge step towards mindful living that is the essence of a rich, satisfying experience. For me, this is so important and relevant to my own area of interest, the nexus of our own personal and conscious living and the survival of the planet. As we learn to re-emerge into ourselves, remembering who we are and taking control of our lives, the addictions and compulsions fall away; we become a trim tab on the rudder for our societies, helping our culture turn away from unsustainble beliefs in consumerism, the growth economy, nature domination and the need for violence to maintain the underpinnings of our shaky civilization.


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