Personal Development for Smart People

As I was writing in an earlier post, Personal Development with its subtopic of Mental Toughness is not taught in any PM classes that I've encountered, and I believe it is important for any individual, and a lot more for a (Guerilla) Project Manager.

I have recently finished reading Personal Development for Smart People, by Steve Pavlina. I especially liked the chapters about Power and Courage. I believe Guerilla is a lot about claiming power and having the courage to do so. Steve argues the power is in all of us, and that when we don't claim it, we are actually using our power to defeat ourselves. That is an idea I strongly support, because I have seen many people (and have been myself sometimes) using their energy to complain about a given situation instead of trying to change it. They would spend (and I used to spend) endless hours giving opinions on what X or Y should do, in some cases X or Y being their managers or clients, when they could definitely change the situation themselves. I also agree that it takes courage to make the necessary changes because you might expose yourself to risks. It also takes courage and some experience to understand that after the failures from your past, you emerged as a better person, so there is gain in either winning or losing.

I also enjoyed the chapter about habits. Habits are sneaky things that remain hidden in the sense that people don't pay a lot of attention to them. Yet they affect in the most direct way a person's energy, mood, attitude, enthusiasm and productivity. Steve talks about getting up early, exercising, time wasting, addictions but also about techniques to conquer bad habits or to install healthy ones. I especially like his very unconventional 30-days trial technique which I believe to be very powerful.

30-days trial means install/banish a habit for 30 days and see how it feels. This technique can be a mind trick because it is easier to commit e.g. to 30 days without caffeine then to a life time. After the 30-th day, the benefits of being caffeine-free become so obvious that you don't want to go back; plus that the reflex of drinking coffee is gone. It can also be a trial-and-error strategy: you want to establish a new habit but you are not sure it is good for you. For instance, I have decided to become a pesco-vegetarian after a 30-days trial. I was worried that no meat would mean less energy, but much to my surprise it was the other way around, so after 30-days I never wanted to quit this diet. I also used the techniques of over killing and progressive training to give up coffee - except for the one in the morning, sugar and sleeping in late.

This book seems to resonate very well with me, especially since I tried to read a lot of self help crap that I found useless in the end. As the author intended, this is the book to give you epiphanies, moments to say "Gotcha!". I am not saying it should resonate with everybody, but I insist it is an area where a Project Manager should put a lot of effort and focus.

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