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What is Personal Development?

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“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung

Yesterday I was at a birthday party of one of my best friends, who just turned 30. One of the guests asked me what I currently do, so I told him I’m building something in Personal Development …

… which earned me a blank stare from him! As the seconds ran by I could literally see him articulating the question: “What is Personal Development?”

So I was trying to find common ground by telling him Personal Development is a bit like Self-Help, but more proactive from my perspective. Just like Self-Improvement, which he had an understanding for. The fact that he obviously was lacking some real personal development of his own, got me into elaborating on the topic more and more, earning more and more interest from him…

A Definition of Personal Development

Personal Development is the conscious pursuit of personal growth by expanding self-awareness and knowledge and improving personal skills. 

Those skills include my mind, my body, my spirit as well as my level of success in all areas of life, however, I may define that. The ultimate goal of Personal Development for me is to be a self-realized human being. That means living consciously at my full potential and reaching real happiness in my life.

By progression, I mean that there are essential steps to take when starting out with Personal Development. I believe that in the process of personal growth there are specific milestones to reach and that without tackling these, personal growth is not really possible or at least not completely.

Maybe you are still not convinced that Personal Development is for you and you may still ask “Why?” The reason is simple:

Life is just better when we have done work on ourselves. 

And that includes our mental, physical, emotional, social and financial life. I think it’s fair to say:

Personal Development makes you happy.

You can’t really argue with that goal…

How to Start Personal Development

So how can you get started on your own journey of personal growth? Or if you have already started to consciously follow personal development, how can you get to the next level? During my now over 10 years working on that topic, I identified several of those milestones mentioned above.

There is the basic motivation to improve yourself. It’s either coming from inspiration and you are looking to get better than you already are, or it comes out of desperation: something unpleasant challenges you to grow. For instance, what brought you here today?

One of the first things you need is something I would sum up as acceptance. Acceptance means to see your life / your situation as it really is and accept that. Stop rationalizing things you are truly unhappy about and tell yourself the truth. That may also mean you have to look at areas of your life where it really can be painful to accept the status quo. If you connect to the truth you have laid the most important basis to really grow. You have to know where you stand. From there you can move forward. Without that, it’s just not working. Period.

I think the most essential things in Personal Development deal with how you look at the world and how you see yourself in the world, which then determines how you act in the world. Are you a victim or a winner? Do you see yourself as self-confident or not? Are you in control or not? Are you successful? Are you happy or not, and in what parts of your life.

Making the Unconscious Conscious

Much of it is about making the unconscious conscious. That’s what this blog is really all about (and then to do the work). It’s always the first part to become conscious of how we really work on the inside. Only then we can get control over it. For instance, the idea from above of telling yourself the truth, acceptance, is just the same: to make the unconscious reality, that we may have ignored before, conscious. Just that we can make progress now, while before it wasn’t even on our radar – in was just unconscious.

In psychology this is called the four stages of competence:

Quote from Wikipedia:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
    The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognise their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
  2. Conscious incompetence
    Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
  3. Conscious competence
    The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
  4. Unconscious competence
    The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

Makes sense. And in Personal Development we are talking about this process for our whole personality. During this process, we make unconscious beliefs that limit us conscious. We take responsibility for ourselves and stop pointing to others for results that we are responsible for. This moves us back to power again since we are the one in the driving seat. We are response-able, which enables us to dream again, set a life-vision and set some exciting new goals for our life.

We learn to get more energy and how to use it intelligently. We get more self-awareness and improve our mental focus. We develop a personal development plan that will guide us to where we really want to go.

7 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Do

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If every entrepreneur thought of himself as a startup founder, there would be a lot more successful startups and a lot fewer failed entrepreneurs.

The problem is they don’t.

For some reason I can’t understand, many would-be entrepreneurs have a sort of utopian belief that the rules of business, finance, and competitive markets don’t apply to them. They think they’re special.

Sadly, they’re wrong.

I don’t care what product or service you have in mind, what market you plan to address, or what type of customer you think you’re going to sell to. It makes no difference. The rules are always the same.

The good news is it isn’t rocket science, but if you don’t do certain things and do them right, you’ll never get your startup off the ground.

Focus on doing just one thing.

Initially, they focus on demonstrating a concept. Then they move on to developing a product, followed by getting initial customer traction, then phased production. A laser focus on one phase at a time enables the highest probability of success at the lowest burn rate.

Raise capital all the time.

Most companies that contact me for advice have no chance of making it because they tried to bootstrap it, are already short on cash and have no time to raise capital. Businesses have to grow and that can’t happen unless you’re constantly raising capital for the next phase.

Solve a big customer problem.

One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is that they come up with something they want to do that doesn’t solve a big customer problem better than anyone else. If you can’t come up with that, keep looking. That’s the key to making it. First figure out the problem. Then solve it.

Come up with a differentiated strategy.

You probably won’t nail it right out of the gate – few startups do – but sooner or later you’ll have to come up with a unique strategy that nobody’s thought of and customers can’t resist. Every startup either figures it out eventually or fails along the way. It’s one or the other.

Know their market.

Most entrepreneurs are good at something and they want to turn it into a business. Unfortunately, they don’t know the business side. They just think that, if they do it, it will sell. Unfortunately, that’s not how competitive markets work. You have to understand your market, your competitors and your unique customer value proposition.

Have a strong leader with a solid team.

There are basics of project management and building and motivating a team that every founder has to learn to successfully run a venture. I see startups with founders that have no idea how to manage an enormous gaping hole where key capabilities need to be all the time. Sad but true.

Work 24×7 and wear lots of hats.

If you think you have what it takes to run a startup, get ready to work 24×7 and wear all sorts of hats. And everyone you hire should be motivated to do the same. It comes with the territory. If that workaholic energy level isn’t there, chances are you’re not going to make it.

A recent, albeit limited, the survey found that the vast majority of Millennials think entrepreneurship is a mindset that has nothing to do with starting or running a business. Um … no. It has everything to do with starting and running a company. And if you think it doesn’t, you never will.

Want to Be Successful? Quit Slacking Off.

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It’s sort of interesting how much time everyone spends reading and writing about the habits of really successful people when I can tell you the one thing that sets them apart in one little phrase: They’re not slackers.

And the sad truth, the enormous elephant in the room that nobody wants to see, is that the overwhelming majority of you are never going to get there because you spend way too much of your time slacking off.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but if I don’t tell you, who will? Let’s just look at the facts, OK?

Elon Musk runs two companies, Tesla and SpaceX. Those are two full-time jobs. The guy barely has time to sleep. I hear he gets six hours a day on average.

Steve Jobs also ran two companies, at least for a time. It’s pretty well documented that, aside from his family, his work was his great passion and what he spent the vast majority of his time doing.

Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Tim Cook, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer — those are just a handful of entrepreneurs and executives who are famous workaholics. The truth is, every successful person I’ve ever known — and I’ve known plenty — had to work ridiculously hard to get there.

I may not be famous, but to those who know me, I’m a famous workaholic. I love my work and I love to work. I’m currently writing my first book in addition to my regular job. We’re talking six months working seven days a week. I can’t keep that up forever but I do it when I have to without a second thought, as I’ve done my entire career.

Now let’s talk about you. If you add up all the time you spend reading books, blogs, and articles; watching videos, podcasts, webinars, and seminars, and posting, tweeting, messaging, and connecting, how many hours a day on average do you think it comes to?

This is not a rhetorical question. I actually want you to take a minute, think about it and take a stab. I would guess the average among this audience would be measured in hours. Not minutes, hours. That’s hours out of every day. And that can make the difference between being successful and not.

Funny thing is, a lot of what people say they’re doing online is learning to be more effective and productive. You’ve got to marvel at the irony.

If I wasted all that time on all that stuff I wouldn’t have accomplished nearly as much in my career, I would never have ended up as successful as I have, and my life wouldn’t have been so fulfilling. And I’m sure the same is true of every highly accomplished executive and entrepreneur.

The reason is simple. If you want to do great work and have a great life, those two goals will occupy more or less all your time. Everyone talks about being successful and happy these days. Well, those are the results of doing great work and living a great life. They’re not the result of screwing around and calling it to work.

Look, of course, we all need hobbies. We all need downtime. We all need to have fun. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve been an avid reader all my life — just not business or self-help books. I mostly read literature, novels, and sci-fi. I also cook, drink wine, watch movies, run, shoot hoops, cut down trees, and grow fruit. That’s my downtime.

The thing is, most of the time you spend online isn’t really downtime. It doesn’t relax you. It’s not healthy. If anything it revs you up and makes you anxious. It’s mostly a distraction, instant gratification and a poor excuse for not working. And you know what that’s called? Slacking off. Once in a while is cool. Hours a day is not.

This is not rocket science, folks, just simple cause, and effect. It takes a lot of time and hard work over the long haul to be successful. It just does. If you want to be successful, you’ve got to quit slacking off all the time. Simple as that.

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