Review: Personal Development for Smart People

My friend Steve Pavlina recently published a personal development book which I recently had an opportunity to read. If you’re not familiar with Steve, he’s a video game creator turned personal development blogger who has made quite a name for himself. Steve’s website (StevePavlina.com) gets over two million visitors per month.

Steve’s story is an interesting one – he’s certainly had his ups and downs. The lowest point of his life was sitting in a jail cell at the age of 19 for grand theft auto (and no, he wasn’t influenced by the popular video game). It was a wakeup call for him and he began to make subtle changes such as associating with people that encouraged better behavior, getting his college degree with a double major in record time and then starting up a video game company (something that was also a dream of mine at one point). Steve then became interested in personal development and began spending his time writing articles on personal development. With no special credentials, Steve has managed to become the most successful personal development blogger which is an achievement in itself.

With all that being said, you might wonder what a personal development book by someone like Steve would be like. As someone who has read a number of personal development books, this one can be summed up in one word: unique. With so many personal development books and programs rehashing the same advice , tips and techniques, this book had a refreshing dose of new ideas, suggestions and exercises that I had not seen before. One of my personal favorites is one where you imagine you’re meeting with yourself from five years in the future. You can ask your future self questions and envision what you might become. The second part of the exercise is to meet with yourself from five years ago and have a similar conversation. I found this suggestion extremely effective – especially as I was telling the me from five years ago to hang in there and that it’ll all work itself out in the end. It made the similar advice from my future self seem more realistic and believable.

As for how the book could be improved, a more workbook oriented approach might make it more effective. The problem with many personal development books is that you read them and learn some useful information, but there’s no push to put them into use immediately. Steve does suggest exercises, but it would be more effective if the book had some blank lines after these suggestions that encouraged the reader to fill in some blanks (or grab a sheet of paper and write answers there). The other place I struggled was with the introduction. Steve provides a great overview of his background, but it feels a bit wordy. I can see some people being turned off by Steve’s writing style as it mimics the way he speaks, but I personally prefer that style (and I use it myself).

Overall, the book is well organized and packed with information. If you’d like to give it a look, you can get your copy from Amazon.com
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