How “Personal Development for Smart People” gave me a New Perspective

I first mentioned Steve Pavlina last year when I announced the InspirationEverywhere gallery. (The first batch of inspirational posters I created included a quote of his regarding courage and fear.)

For those of you who have never heard of Steve Pavlina before, he created what became one of the most-read personal growth site on the planet: Podcasts like Podcast #014 – Embracing Your Passion and articles like 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job contained ideas that stuck with me. And it was on Steve Pavlina’s forum where I learned about Blog Carnivals, an extremely useful tool for networking with other bloggers that has proven to be indispensable.

But this post isn’t about blog carnivals or inspirational posters. This post is about “Personal Development for Smart People”, Steve’s new book, a book that has given me an entirely new perspective on the field of personal growth.

Thank You, Steve!

TLP Pyramid (rainbow glow only) But before I delve into that, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Steve publicly for all that he’s done, including the powerful example of human growth that he’s set for millions, and eventually billions, of readers throughout time. From reading the thoughts he’s shared on web these past years, I’d say he’s one of the few souls on this planet that has maintained focus and committed themselves to a life of service.

Personal Development for Smart People

Recently, Steve’s first book, Personal Development for Smart People, went on sale around the world. And I consider this book as one of the most holistic and purest distillations of fundamental growth principles that I’ve come across. The book’s underlying principles relate to every aspect of the human experience, including travel and especially art. For instance, Steve mentions that money isn’t a barrier as nearly as often as we make it out to be. Quite correctly, he points out that:

People who are dead broke have travelled the world.
~ Personal Development for Smart People p.188

But I may be getting ahead of myself. Before I discuss any more specific applications, it’s important to understand some of the underlying theory.

Unified Development Theory

Truth-Love-Power Pyramid 2010

So much could be said about this book, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Steve has tapped into a system of thought that has its roots stretching far back to the very foundation of the human race. Once you read the book, this becomes more evident. The book’s underlying purity of form and focus reflects how much work Steve put into distilling the core principles of personal growth. Overall, the book could be considered the first book to propose an all-encompassing Unified Development Theory. For decades, scientists have been searching for a Unified Field Theory to explain all four of the basic universal forces under a single theory. These four basic forces are gravity (or the gravitational force), the electromagnetic force, and two forces you may not be familiar with: the strong and weak nuclear forces.

Although physicists have thus far been (apparently) unsuccessful at discovering a workable Unified Field Theory, Steve Pavlina has succeeded in doing this with human development theory by distilling personal growth down to three universal principles: Truth, Love, and Power. Steve recognized this parallel to mathematics, and on page 122 he notes that discovering truth, love, and power operating in your life is “almost like discovering a new law of mathematics or physics.” The elegance of how these three principles work together is where his book’s timeless quality arises from.

When isolating the core principles of human development, it was important to Steve that the principles be universal, applicable to anyone, anywhere, in any culture, at any time, to all areas of life, and be essentially timeless. Tall order perhaps? When searching for a fundamental principle of consciousness, we should ask nothing less; and the principles Steve isolated meet these qualifications.

How the 3 Principles Work Together

The first part of the book focuses on the fundamental principles of Truth, Love, and Power; and how these 3 core principles work together to form Oneness, Authority, Courage, and ultimately Intelligence. Summarized, the core principles are defined as:

Truth: The ability to perceive ourselves and reality as accurately as possible.
Love: The essence of the decision to connect with someone.
Power: The ability to consciously and deliberately create your world around you.

The book then focuses on how these three principles work together to form Oneness, being Truth and Love working in harmony; Authority, being Truth and Power working in Harmony; and Courage, being Love and Power working in Harmony. And when Truth, Love, and Power are harmoniously aligned, Intelligence is the result. Looked at another way, your intelligence is proportional to your ability to be aligned with Truth, Love, and Power. The first 7 chapters of the book outlines these 7 core principles.

How to Practically Apply the Core Principles

The second part of the book focuses on the practical application of each of these principles and dedicates a chapter each to habits, career, money, health, relationships, and spirituality. Most of the pragmatic advice is contained in the second half of the book. Steve devotes a section to each of the 7 principles within each chapter, so no angle is left unexplored. That’s roughly 42 sections. Interesting how many places “42” pops up…

One of my favorite aspects of the second half of the book was a list of 66 habits that can help boost your personal effectiveness. My favorites were:

27. Insanely Bad. Defeat perfectionism by completing your task in an intentionally terrible fashion, knowing you need never share the results with anyone. With a truly horrendous first draft, there’s nowhere to go but up.
30. Intuition. Go with your gut instinct. It’s probably right.
40. Mastermind. Explain your most challenging problems to several other people, and invite all the advice, feedback, and constructive criticism you can handle.
46. Paying it forward. When an undesirable task is delegated to you, re-delegate it to someone else.
61. Troll Hunt. Banish the negative “trolls” from your life; and associate with positive, happy people instead. Mindsets are contagious. Be loyal to truth, love, and power; not your pity posse. (I recently did this on my Twitter account.)

The book’s probing nature provides a fresh perspective to the deep questions of life while still being extremely accessible to a casual reader. Throughout the second half, he offers an excellent variety of questions, challenges, and real world exercises in relation to these 6 areas of life. When these questions, challenges, and exercises are honestly answered, attempted, and explored, they have the potential to reshape your entire perspective on reality.

A Personal Adventure for Smart People

One part in particular caught my eye. When Steve discusses how a message is separate from a medium, he makes an interesting statement that teased my imagination:

My message is about consciously growing as a human being, but I can express that same message through different media. I can write about it, speak about it, or even make a movie about it if I wanted to.
~ Personal Development for Smart People p.162

I realize that Steve is discussing his work as an example of how a message can show up in different media, but one does wonder. Since Steve has already written and spoke about personal development at great length, could it be that he’s entertaining the idea of writing a movie someday? Consider that with over 2 million monthly readers to his website, Steve has already more than proven his ability to write compelling content, and I would be quite interested to see his talents applied to scriptwriting. Perhaps this is only wishful thinking, but what if it’s not? 8)

The Shoulders of Giants

It’s been said that inventors always stand on the shoulders of giants, and I’ve found this equally true of writers. One of the foundations of Human civilization is the new generation’s ability to make improvements on the previous generation’s work. In Personal Development for Smart People, Steve made some of the best possible decisions on what to quote from the generations before him.

For instance, one of my favorite additions to the book was the inclusion of Dale Wimbrow’s poem “The Guy in the Glass” at the end of the first chapter. The poem struck a chord in me because it elegantly pointed out how important it is that, at the end of the day, you must live in a way that is true to yourself or you’ll live in a pit of regret. You can fool everyone else, but you can never fool your heart into thinking it’s fulfilled if it truly is not.

In a way, that poem sets the tone of the book, but as one turns the page a new quote sets the tone for the chapter about Love. In fact, every chapter begins with a profound quotation that sets the tone for the rest of the chapter. Probably my favorite chapter starting quote is at the beginning of the 2nd chapter:

Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough.
~ George Washington Carver

Another beautiful quote is at the start of the Career chapter:

Work is love made visible.
~ Kahlil Gibran

A Plethora of Profound Passages

Overall, I found the book to be incredibly encouraging and consciousness-raising, Below is a collection of my favorite excerpts from the book:

  1. You are meant to be free. (p87)
  2. You can’t be a true authority unless you commit to being a lifelong student. (p89)
  3. Does it make any difference what percentage of white belts eventually become black belts? Maybe the answer matters to a statistician, but it shouldn’t make any difference to you. All the matters is whether you’re committed to becoming a black belt. You decide whether you make it or not. (p172)
  4. Don’t let a few failures get you down. Just keep making the best decisions you can. (p172)
  5. Don’t let moochers dissuade you from your path. Let your inspiration come from the desire to provide even more social value. (p186)
  6. In order for your financial goals to be sound, they must reflect your truest, deepest desires. (p187)
  7. Instead of focusing on specific financial goals, I decided to aim directly for what I thought money would give me. I thought it would provide me with the freedom to travel, so I set travel goals instead. (p188)
  8. The truth is that you don’t need any specific sum of money in the bank or a specific level of income to achieve your goals. There are countless ways to do so, and my of them require little or no money. People who are dead broke have traveled around the world. Why not you? When you decide in advance that a lack of funds is an obstacle to achieving your goals, you disempower yourself. If you want something badly enough, target it directly. Don’t automatically assume that money is necessary to achieve a particular goal; this narrows your options and stunts your creativity. (p188)
  9. Don’t force yourself to choose between your integrity and your income and your income — demand that both be satisfied. (p189)
  10. Often the simplest way to create value for others is by sharing what you love to do. (p190)
  11. True wealth comes from within. (p194)
  12. If you give more value than you receive while ensuring you’re being treated fairly and not falling into a pattern of self-sacrifice, the excess value you provide will overflow into public goodwill. Superior service gets noticed because it’s so rare. (p195)
  13. Do your best to create and share your value with others, and you’ll help create a richer and more abundant world for all of us. (p197)
  14. If you find yourself in a situation that weakens you and you don’t choose to leave, then you’re choosing to stay, which means you’re choosing to abuse yourself. (p223)
  15. It’s been said that you can predict the future by looking at the people with whom you spend the most time. That isn’t far from the truth. Your relationships will have a tremendous influence on your self-development. (p224)
  16. If your primary relationship prevents you from connecting deeply with others, you have a cage, not a conscious partnership. (p228)
  17. In all its various forms, human relationships are a beauty to behold, well worth the price of admission. (p233)
  18. It can be disconcerting to stop identifying with any fixed ideology and to realize that all beliefs are lenses and cannot define us. (p243)

The emphasis is added by me. Numbers 7, 8, 10, 11, and 12 resonate the most with me currently. What about you?

You are a Single Cell

Throughout the book, Steve often makes the analogy that a human being is like a single cell in the complete body of Humanity. How one cell acts effects the rest of the body. He highlights that:

The health of the body cannot be maintained when the cells choose to fight amongst themselves.
~ Personal Development for Smart People p.247

Using this analogy, I’d say that Steve, and others working to contribute positively to humanity, are the brave white blood cells of our time. It isn’t easy being on this path. It requires determination and commitment, but it’s incredibly worth it. Reading this book was transformational for me, and I highly recommend that you check it out for yourself. Steve has even provided the entire first chapter for free on his website so you can get a taste before you buy. If you do purchase the book, please use a link from this post. Byteful Travel gets a very small percentage of all sales which goes to support the operating costs for this site.

To conclude his book, Steve summarized the core message the book at the end of the last chapter, and I’d like to close this article by sharing the last part of that summary now:

Enjoy your incredible human journey. Accept the highs and the lows as equally valuable. Recognize that your deepest sorrows reveal your greatest joys. Share your stories with others, and know that you’re not alone. Be grateful for your time on Earth.

Live consciously.
~ Personal Development for Smart People p.254

Thanks again, Steve. 🙂

Checkout Personal Development for Smart People on →

11 bits on How “Personal Development for Smart People” gave me a New Perspective

  1. I have no idea how I stumbled here, but I’m glad I did. I’m a digital artist, and I long to travel the world, and I am an entreprenuer, so a lot of your messages strike home.

    And ironically, couple of weeks back, a friend mentioned Steve Pavlina, so I’m right at home here.

    Many thanks.

  2. Welcome, Solomon! Sounds like synchronicities abound!

    Stay tuned. In the coming weeks I plan on sharing my trip to Chicago. It was the first time I’d ever visited the city, and it was a blast.

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  7. personalbooknotes,

    Are you sure you’re allowed to reproduce so much of the content from the book? You have 10 posts outlining the book’s content. Hmm. At what point does it become plagiarism?

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  9. hello, i really like your blog. I have been into personal development for several years, and are always looking for new ideas.

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