Self development is NOT a destination

This is first and foremost a finance website, but if you follow my content, it’s probably because you have some interest in self development, because my content tends to have that angle. This article is a warning though on taking it to extremes, and why self development is a useful tool, but it’s not your final destination.

Too much of anything is a problem—even studying self development. Now, I’m probably one of the biggest people into personal self development that there could be. If Amazon had frequent flier miles, I’d be in executive class. It’s good to get coaching if you need it. That being said…

It’s not a substitute for your actual goals or a goal to itself.

Say you want to work on your interpersonal social skills for networking, sales, or just for fun. What I’ve noticed is that people who take self development too far, including myself at times, is that too much of it can make you one dimensional. Some people who are too engrossed in self development are just boring to be around.

The intent is to improve your charisma, but the result is being dull, academic, uncalibrated, making social interactions feel like “work” instead of fun, and “running out of things to say.” That’s the exact opposite of what it’s intended to do.

Too much theory leads to theory overload. When you’re on theory overload, you get the idea that you’ll go ahead and pursue your business goals or your personal goals—eventually. You start thinking that you need to study a bit more of this or that theory first.

That’s great that you’ve got Ray Dalio’s Principles and Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile practically memorized. But, if your goal is to be managing a fund one day, are you actually setting up mock portfolios (or real money) to build a performance track record and expanding your network to one day raise capital?

Maybe you can quote Michael Porter, Peter Drucker, and Jim Collins all day. I’ve read their stuff and I have the utmost respect for all of them. This article isn’t meant to be bashing on them. My point is that it’s what you do with that knowledge that matters, not just having the knowledge for the sake of it.

At a certain point, you just need to draw a line in the sand and go.


If you’re in a slump, perhaps where you’ve been grinding hard for a while on your business or personal goals but something just isn’t quite clicking, maybe take a step back and reflect on why you started pursuing those goals in the first place. I’ve wrote in my previous article Going For What You Want that you should physically write down your goals. Go back to that list and ask yourself, are they still truly your goals now? If so, great—but, are the actions that you took in the past to pursue them still the same actions that you need to take going forward, or do you need a course correction?

Think of it this way. Most beginner workout routines are some variant of three days per week in the gym. It makes sense for beginners. It gets them on a cycle, and it’s a reasonable time commitment that won’t burn them out. Is it really the best option though? No. There’s no serious, competitive athlete who would only train a mere 3 days per week, unless they were rehabbing an injury of some sort or on a deload week.

If you’ve been operating for a portion of your life below the level that you would like in business, socially, or whatever area, sure, studying self development can give you the basic skills and direction. It’s like getting a beginner’s routine in the gym. Having some basic some direction on how to squat, bench press, and deadlift and doing so 3 times per week is better than just mindlessly going through random exercises and wondering why you aren’t making any progress. That’s fine, and it can get you from average to good. However…

To get from good to great, you may need to do things differently.

Some of my personal goals revolve around my desire to live a life of adventure and make an impact. I appreciate and value things like beauty, art, nature, travel, and new experiences.

Accordingly, right now I read less Tony Robbins and more Ernest Hemmingway. I spend more time in museums. My next vacation is more likely to be a snowboarding trip or hiking trip rather than Las Vegas—although of course there’s never a bad reason to go to Vegas. Maybe it’s going to be travel abroad, since I’ve always wanted to visit cities like Toronto, Sydney, Tokyo, Berlin, London, Rome—this list could get long but I think you get the idea. I’ve wanted to get back into photography, so I just got a Canon 70D and some lenses off of eBay.

If you’ve made some progress to your goals, but something is still incomplete, maybe simply piling on more self development material isn’t the answer. I had this realization when I was reading some article a while back—I don’t even remember what the article was about specifically—but all I kept thinking was…I already know this stuff.

There’s a principle that you attract what you actually are, not what you want. If you want to live a more adventurous life, start going on more adventures. That’s it.

I said this before in my YouTube video on the CFA Program. Simply having a CFA Charter isn’t what matters. It’s what you do with it that either makes it worthwhile or not. I know plenty of people who are CFA Charterholders who aren’t doing anything that I’d consider particularly breathtaking or earth shattering. Meanwhile, one of the most effective people in wealth management sales I’ve ever met doesn’t even have a bachelor’s degree. Not joking.

Your goal shouldn’t be to just amass a big pile of self development literature. Your goal should be to kill it in your career, with your social life, and with your personal goals and hobbies. You likely already have a good idea of what a person who is at a high level of success in those areas is doing. Turn your laptop off, go out, and act accordingly.

Keep hustling,

Alex Cook

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