Fake Personal Development

Be suspicious of anyone who suggests these things.

Be yourself.

Coda for: give up on your life now. You’ve done enough. There’s no need to improve yourself anymore. You can just be yourself. Time to start stagnating.

They could be talking about the unchanging portion of you that makes you who you are. Your “inner child,” perhaps. But they’re not. When someone tells you to “be yourself,” he’s telling you to give up on personal development now. Don’t be yourself, change yourself. If you need to be told to be yourself, you obviously don’t want to be yourself to start with. That’s alright, because you’re outward appearance does not define you.

It’s no crime to change yourself. What the “be yourself” people really mean to say is “don’t let other people or society change you against your will,” not “refuse to change at all costs.” But if you’re at either of these extremes, work on coming back to the middle, not being yourself.

Fate is against you.

While it’s comforting to believe my lack of success is the world working against me, it isn’t true. For 99% of people it isn’t true. It’s also a limiting belief, because by subscribing to it, I’ve immediately put my fate in the hands of others. It may allow me to make more progress for a time, but ultimately I will have to give it up to reach the highest level.

The whole point of personal development is to take control, not surrender it.

Budget your time / money / life.

All budgeting is a kludge. Real people don’t need to live by lists and check boxes. If you need these crutches, you only need them until you develop your budgeting intuition.

Budgets are training wheels. After a few months of budgeting, you give up your training wheels. Every decision you make is so good, the consummate of your decisions transcends all lists and check boxes. If every purchase you make is needed and justifiable, why do you need a budget? To prove to your mommy that you’re not wasting money? If you’re so close to bankruptcy that good expenditures will push you over the edge, budgeting is the least of your problems.

Don’t spend your life in training wheels. Outgrow the training wheels.

This applies particularly to “getting things done” fanatics. These people spend 10% of their time working and 90% developing systems to budget their time. They’ve become so obsessed with budgeting, they’ve forgotten the real thrill that lies in doing.

If you budget $120 for entertainment, and you’re at the end of the month only having spent $80, what do you do? Most teens / twenty-somethings spend (waste) the rest of the money. Our government does this too, which is why they develop huge deficits but never a surplus. If you have a surplus, you have no budget anyway. You’ve transcended budgeting. Congratulations on your new budget-free lifestyle.

Count your blessings.

Coda for: accept other peoples garbage because you’ve had too much good fortune of your own. Give all your worldly possessions to bums on the street because they deserve them more than you.

Whatever stuff you have, you deserve to have. Most of you aren’t thieves. Don’t treat yourselves like thieves.

The truth is, you need your blessings to provide larger blessings to others. I can’t make much progress in photography by giving my cameras and lenses to a needy child who wants to explore photography. It’s more important for me to keep my camera, so I can produce art that impacts and inspires friends and strangers.

If it makes you feel good to count your blessings, go ahead, but don’t let other people take from you just because you’ve been blessed. If you do, you’re saying they can use your property and energy better than you.

Live every day as your last.

This is another kludge. Kludges aren’t shameful. When you’re building willpower, they’re all you’ve got. But you have to shed your training wheels eventually.

Pretending you’re going to die at the end of every day is ridiculous. It’s not something a personally developed person needs to do. It’s something a personally undeveloped person may have to do to develop his sense of purpose. It drives you to replace comfortable busywork with important action. But once you’re on the true path, such games become juvenile.

No, you’re not going to die today. You can if you’d really like to, but I’m sure you do not.

Other people can teach you.

Nobody can teach you anything. You can only be taught if you’re willing to learn, and if you’re willing to learn, you can learn without being taught. If you want to learn, then your teacher is no more than a director and you’re really home-schooled. If you think you need to go to college to learn photography, then you’ll never be a good photographer. You’ve surrendered your life to the will of others. You’ve already given up. If you want to become a creative, interesting photographer, you have to do it yourself. If this scares you, you can’t do it.

Sure, you can change your mindset to one that allows you to learn. But don’t think others can teach you what you refuse to learn.

I’ve found this applies especially to my college courses. If I won’t learn the material yourself, I’ve already lost the battle, because I’m leaving it up to my teacher to teach me, when all he can do is reinforce what I already know. If I can’t learn it myself, I’ve got nothing.

“I will solve your problems.”

No you won’t. Only I can solve my problems. You can give me suggestions and new ideas, but only I can absorb and implement them. I can know the solutions to my problems without ever implementing them, and I’ll continue to have problems despite your solutions.

The real answer is that any form of growth or improvement requires hard work, both mental and physical. If you need to clean off your desk and organize your possessions to move to the next level, then you’re going to be doing a lot of thrashing about for a few hours (or days, depending on how much stuff you have). This is a part of growing. Personal development is not all in the mind, and other people cannot do it for you.

Blame others.

You can easily fall into the trap of blaming your mother for all your life’s short-comings, or “society,” or your boss, or your hometown, or your skin’s color. These are all traps. They feel like a warm bath because they relieve you of responsibility, but they’re about to turn into a boiling soup that cooks you alive in your own cowardice.

No, you can’t blame others. There are no ifs or buts, and you are not a special case. It may be painful, but in the long run, personal responsibility is always the better choice.

Change yourself, not your life.

You do have to change your life sometimes. If you’re tired of your parents bossing you around, don’t meditate upon it for six hours a day. Come up with a plan to get away from your parents. If you can’t do that, then you’ll have to be bossed around a bit longer.

All the wishful thinking in the world won’t touch the lives of others. Personal development is useless unless translated into action. It doesn’t have worldly power in the theoretical realm, despite our wishes.

One of the main goals of personal development is to give you clear directions, thoughts, and purpose. These are all “mind games,” but they make you invincible when taking decisive action. It took a lot of decisive action for me to get up at 6 A.M. and write this article. I could’ve easily slept longer or played video games or wasted time trying to find articles like this instead of writing. I did look for a few minutes, but it yielded nothing of value, so I immediately started writing (typing).

I wouldn’t have written this a year ago, not because I was incapable of it, but because my mind wasn’t sharp enough. I could have the idea, but the idea would be useless because I would go nowhere with it.

The purpose of personal development is to get your mind working with you so you can become an unstoppable force in implementing your worthy objectives. It’s not about blaming your parents or blaming your past or blaming society. It’s not about handing your keys over to others. It’s ten times better than psychology, because psychology is mostly crap (sorry to my psychologist readers :grin: ).

When you’re not living to your full potential, it’s very comforting to not hold authority over your life. This is why so many people enjoy fascism and want more of it in the United States. It tells them what to do. Unfortunately, when you are living to your full potential, it feels silly not to control your life.

Personal responsibility may make you sick to your stomach now, especially if you’ve squandered a couple decades to the whims of others. But this doesn’t mean you should give up power over the rest of your life. When you crash into a car or drive into a lake, you don’t give up driving for the rest of your life. Even if (God forbid) you kill another person, you still need to keep driving to go places, because driving gives you freedom like no other.

Buses can’t match the freedom driving provides, just as blaming others can’t match the freedom personal responsibility provides. When you’re aligned with your truest intentions, personal responsibility gives you unmatched strength.

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