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"Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina."  A review.

October 16, 2009 reviewed by Mike Strawbridge

When I first started reading Steve’s book I was curious if it would be any different form what I have read on his blog.  I had partly expected that it would just be a collection of articles from the blog, although knowing Steve from his blog writings, I also expected something more.

In the beginning of the book he explains that his intention is to provide something unexpected in his book or else he would consider it a waste of his reader’s time to read the book.  I was not disappointed. His book not only provides many new insights not previous expressed on his blog but provides a coherent structure for understanding the information he has previously expressed on StevePavlina.com.

Steve expresses the basic building blocks of personal development as Truth, Love and Power.  From these core values, he extrapolates every thing else.

By combining the core principles in pairs he explains the basic principles of oneness, authority and courage.  By combining all three he derives intelligence.

In part two of the book he explains how to apply these core principles to everyday life.  It is part two of the book where he accomplishes what many philosophers and guru’s have failed in the past – he gives concrete examples of how to apply these abstract principles in a way that actually helps one live a better life.

I remember when I was active in the Baptist Church that my biggest complaint was that we did a good job of preparing people to die but we never taught them how to live.  Steve gives practical advice on how to apply these core principles to such areas of life as ones career, making money, health, relationships and ones quest for spiritual development.

In each area of life he shows ways to make better choices in life by looking at each situation through the ideas of truth, love and power.  By applying these core principles to each situation he shows us how to make choices that balance and empower our lives.  We learn how to reach goals that satisfy all of our core principles rather than sacrificing in one area to succeed in another.

Many of his teachings go against the grain of standard American social conditioning.  For example, his views on health and diet may be considered extreme by some however he shows how he arrived at his decisions using core principles and does not try to force his beliefs on any one.  Instead he expects the reader to use the concept of core principles to make up his own mind about things.  Again that concept seems to go against the social conditioning that we must follow the teachings of a strong leader if we are to be successful.

While I found the book to be wonderful for causing me to question my own motivations, there were a few areas where I had more questions than answers and found myself somewhat irritated by the book.  For example, I seldom related to the quotes at the beginning of each chapter.  I had hoped that after reading the chapter I would go back and reread the quote and go “Ah Ha” but that was seldom the case.  I still don’t know what many of the quotes have to do with the chapter they preceded. 

My second complaint with the book was in the section on courage.  He talks about pursuing a “path with heart.”  However he fails to define this path assuming the reader just knows this.  I kept having images of the Wizard of Oz and confusing the Tin Man and the Lion.  I asked some of my friends what they thought he meant by a “path with heart” and they confused me even more.  Maybe as I continue to explore the core principles I will discover what he means.

My last complaint is a silly one, but one that if I am to practice the principle of “honesty” I have to express.  On my copy of the book the registration of the embossing or the slip cover was out of registration with the print.  Having been in the printing business for over 20 years, this really was a huge indicator of poor quality.  Every time I picked up the book, I would notice the mis register and my first thought was of poor quality.  So in this case, I defiantly have to say, you can’t judge my copy of the book by its cover.

 I have already identified many ways where I plan to apply the principles taught in this book to improve my life.  I plan to start right away by applying these principles as described in the chapter on relationships.  I also see how I can make the principles here a foundation for my own personal coaching business.

 I see using the three basic building blocks as an easy way to explain to people how they can find balance in their lives.  By teaching these core principles to my coaching clients, I can help them see how to easily balance their lives and make healthy choices.

Maybe I am a bit closer to understanding what he means by a “path with a heart.”

Mike Strawbridge October 16, 2009