Why We Should Not Consume Personal Development like It’s Rock’n Roll

“Rock’n roll,” sings Neil Young, “will never die.” A genre that suits immortality, not like the other genre I started exploring a few years ago: personal development.

“Start with the classics,” they say, so the classics were read: influence people with these 7 habits to get things done so you can think and grow rich by working 4 hours a week.

But my palate was still dry after them, so I tried to satisfy my thirst with more underground titles.

More than two hundred books later, my mind drowned in a tsunami of eureka

If the genre had its own uniformed urban tribe — leather vests, studded gloves, tattoos — I would have it all.

I can be considered a fan. I have my favorites, I re-read some books until I hate them, and I use them to evade work and procrastinate.

This is not, however, the way we are supposed to consume it, as if it were a lifestyle. So, as we are clear about what rock’n roll is, let’s find out by analogy how little we understand about this genre of personal development.

Personal development: 1. m. “Learning new things by yourself that make you a more skilled or capable person”

A definition suggesting that personal development is a temporary organ, an umbilical cord attached to the knowledge of another human being, pumping thoughts where they do not yet grow — designed to become unnecessary, disposable.

But instead of detach yourself from it, you become dependent. You read so much about productivity that you forget how to actually be productive.

An oxymoron, the contradiction that arises from bringing together two discordant concepts. A contradiction that has a culprit: the industry.

Because we don’t consume personal development for the sake of it

It’s not like when the Rolling Stones announce their first farewell tour (talking about oxymoronic things) in the ’80s, but they’ve been doing tours consistently for more than 30 years after that.

And the crowd always comes back for more. Can’t get no satisfaction. Yet, in the case of rock’n roll, it’s a favorable contradiction. Neil Young should change the verse to “Rock’n roll will never die, and it looks like those from Rolling Stones won’t either.”

Contradiction is not as healthy in our genre. Because every book we read, course we listen to, event we attend, mastermind group we join — we all do it for one, and only one purpose.

To quit.

But the personal development “industry” has a different agenda

Because we can say it’s for the love of music, or because they’re the most legendary band of all time, but the truth is that the Rolling Stones return because they’re still lucrative.

The personal development industry had a similar revelation, one that influence their entire business model. And it hasn’t gone bad for them. By 2022, they will be worth $13 billion a year — nearly the combined age of the Rolling Stones members.

And that would be fine, if consumers actually did something with that knowledge. But they’re not doing anything, they’re not becoming more skilled or capable, as the definition of “personal development” suggested.

It was a revelation similar to the one the shoemakers had

“Are your feet bare? Wear these shoes,” was the philosophy for selling shoes before the 1950s. Which presented the problem that, if you sold a pair of shoes, you eliminated the possibility of selling back to that customer.

The business had to reinvent itself to survive, so now we buy shoes based on style, exclusivity, social group…

The shoemakers of personal development had the same revelation: to turn it into a smoking factory of products that we buy to be part of a culture, to surf the wave of a social movement, to find comfort in the feeling of belonging.

Industry sells the illusion of success, the promise of results — but not the results themselves

Makes you dream about what you’re going to do when you gain the money, when you lose the weight. When you take control, when you drop the cigar. When you look down to the hole you were before, now that you’re at the top of your game.

The “personal development industry” emancipated itself from the definition, from the original purpose, and began to sell sentiment over utility.

Rock’n roll wraps you up in drugs, alcohol and groupies. Personal development does it in books, life hacks and masterminds. Both worlds have the potential to produce junkies.

That’s because of the addictive component books have

A kind of knowledge THC that makes us think, “One more book/course and I’ll drop it…”

The next dosis of knowledge will be the good one. The last one. This is the farewell tour, boys, we promise.

But this addictive component is the one that keeps you hooked, consuming frantically from the 28 different subcategories in Amazon’s self-help, with more than 70,000 self-help books, and more than 3,000 new ones coming out every year.

A healthy human being used to be a holistic, interconnected landscape…

And the industry has made a puzzle of thousands of pieces with it. So isolated, so different from each other that it is impossible to fit them together.

And we will always come back for more, because we become addicted to the search for the missing pieces. The illusive cure to ignorance, our THC.

You don’t need so much complexity. It is necessary to simplify, to compensate the microscopic approach of the industry of pointless solutions with some perspective.

Let’s take a look at that definition again, shall we?

Personal development: 1. m. “Learning new things by yourself that make you a more skilled or capable person.”

Personal growth comes from simple principles, like rock’n roll comes from three fundamental chords.

Of course you can roll up those principles, complicate the issue, and create subgenres. Pop-rock, pop-punk, punk-rock, rock-pac, pac-man — to infinity.

But we are interested in fundamental principles. Because if you understand the principles, you can adapt to any style.

What are the three fundamental chords of personal development?

They are there, in the definition:

“Learning new things.”

“By yourself.”

“More skillful or capable.”

You don’t need to pay $2,000 to Tony Robbins to tell you that live from a stage, bouncing to the rhythm of electronic music.

All gurus talk about the same thing, and you could understand these three pillars by reading just a handful of books. The extra money you pay for events — sometimes “extra” means “thousands and thousands of dollars” — will go to the glitter.

So you decide how you receive knowledge: in prose, or in verse.

The important thing is not to know more, but to know what to do with those three principles

“Learning new things” can be misunderstood as what we all do: reading non-stop. Infinite wishlist on Amazon. Return to the same thing over and over again and try to “memorize” it.

But learning doesn’t have so much to do with memory, and so much to do with change.

In Wyatt Woodsmall’s words, “we don’t learn if we don’t change. Learning is a malleable capacity, it is a liquid, fluid, adaptable state of mind. It’s more about letting go than acquiring.

“Learning new things”: the ability to adapt and mold your knowledge, your perception, your beliefs, your thoughts. First fundamental chord.

Second fundamental chord: “by yourself”

Just as I am an addict to personal development in the process of detoxification, I was also an addict to control, discipline, the suppression of emotions with raw force of will.

But willpower, or the power of our will, is by definition a tension between opposing forces. One that sooner or later, like any other tension, will be released.

And when it does, it will bounce towards procrastination, inaction, deception. Because while you squeeze with your willpower and make it tired, the force of laziness simply remains there, existing. And when the willpower stops squeezing, laziness is what remains.

“By yourself” means that you know how to audit your motivation, to find your WHY instead of obsessing with the WHAT. If you are forcing yourself through a path, you may not be entirely clear why you are walking it.

Third and final fundamental chord: “more skillful or capable”

It’s like that Cal Newport book, So good they can’t ignore you.

If you are skillful and capable up to a level that make your work stand out naturally above others, you won’t have to fatigue yourself finding a job, an audience, and a purpose.

“More skillful or capable” implies that your personal development aims to make you more competent, to gain skills that can create something good not only for you, but for the rest of the world.

“Rock’n roll will never die,” sang Neil Young…

But personal development should die. You should be able to cut it like an umbilical cord when you’re ready to use your lungs.

The path to independence from this genre goes through those three pillars: “learning new things,” “by yourself,” “that make you a more skilled or capable person.”

You don’t need motivational talks, you don’t need to go to seminars with thousands of people, spend fortunes on courses about every little detail of your life. Master these three chords, and the resulting human being will be able to deal with their problems.




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Loudt Darrow

Loudt Darrow

Informed. Opinionated. I might be wrong but never boring.