Steve Pavlina is the author of “Personal Development for Smart People (the Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth)”, and the author of the website www.stevepavlina.com. There’s even a brief Wiki article on him at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Pavlina. I don’t know about you, but the book title scared me to death. I had visions of Mensa International members sipping Earl Grey tea, and playing the Chinese game GO. Or equally as bad visions of Ivy League members drinking espresso, playing chess, and discussing the latest articles in the magazines Scientific American, and The Economist. But Steve laid my mind to rest, when he said that “intelligence is alignment with the principles of truth, love, and power.”
Steve’s book is divided into twelve chapters, centered on the themes Truth, Love, Power, Oneness, Authority, Courage, Intelligence, Habits, Career, Money, Health, Relationships, and Spirituality. Now this also scared me. Will I be reading some philosopher talking like Aristotle and Plato? Will I be reading a book that’s as difficult to read as Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, or James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake? Actually no! This is where Steve surprised me. His writing style is very easy to read, and reminds me of the simplistic – yet lovable style – of Nobel prizewinner Ernest Hemingway.
Here is the biggest surprise of all! Steve bares his soul in this book, and you actually develop a liking for him. You think of him as a long lost friend, whom you haven’t seen in years. He has much to share, starting with his early teen years, where he was arrested for theft – yet the judge was wise, and gave him a chance to perform community service. Steve shares his triumph over academic hurdles, where he triples his college course load, and ended up with majors in math and computer science. We live through his entrepreneurship in the computer gaming industry, where he loved the field, but failed miserably financially. Then we realize his career switch to personal growth, with no background in psychology, or career coaching. Yet despite his early failure to generate income – he “kept on Truckin” as a Grateful Dead song reminds us – and became very successful.
There are a lot of wonderful quotes in this book, and folks I can relate to. I like him sharing quotes by Swami Vivekananda (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swami_Vivekananda) and Carlos Castaneda (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Castaneda). Carlos – like Steve – overcame hurdles in his academic discipline to obtain a PhD in anthropology, and write about a magic man, that “has a path with a heart.” And this becomes a guiding point for Steve as well. But what makes this book special is the interjection of practical exercises. This is something missing from classical self-help books, like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, or How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. One of my favorite exercises is the one where I envision myself five years from now, coaching my present self – I think it was the time travel exercise. And there are exercises to envision everyone as one. Now these exercises are NOT pie-in-the-sky – far from practical – exercises in frustration. They are real, down-to-earth, but practical endeavors. I sometimes have pictures of Sam Walton, driving his own pick up truck, and shopping in his own Wal-Mart, when I think of Steve. Even his experiment with vegetarianism I could relate to, and even embrace.
If I had to rate this book on a scale of one to five, I couldn’t do it. It would be above the five rating. Nor could I compare him to other growth artists, like Eckhart Tolle (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eckhart_Tolle), who has more of the “oneness message” in his writings. But unlike Tolle, Steve is grounded in the real world. Both the spiritual and the practical are bridged, in a cohesive whole – akin to the Zen saying that the “mountains are once again mountains.” I’m already looking forward to a sequel! You can order this book at www.amazon.com – I do this all the time, and take advantage of free shipping, on orders over $25. You can find out more about this book at http://www.stevepavlina.com/personal-development-for-smart-people/. The only point that Steve and I disagree is the role of organized religion. I believe you can embrace both organized religion and the principles Steve writes about. But Steve isn’t really a radical here, and this is a minor difference between us. Thanks again, Steve, for putting my mind at rest, giving me a great book to read, and getting to know more about the “real you.”