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The Pros & Cons Of Self Development

Jul 18th, 2007 | By | Category: Happiness, Motivation, NLP, Personal Development

Patterns of Excellence (or POE) is a self-development program that focuses on learning NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) to achieve more success & more happiness in life. It is conducted by Adam Khoo & Stuart Tan.

Just today, I was checking out the wikipedia entry for NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) … and I was shocked at the amount of controversy it has generated! Lovers and haters of NLP viciously vandalize the encyclopedia entry just to prove their point.

I love that program. And I love the idea of having experiences that accelerate our development as persons. In fact, for the past two years, I’ve been going back to this program as a coach – guiding and helping other people get more out of their lives.

But I also know that the whole self-development circuit attracts a lot of flak and many people are instantly turned off by it. And I don’t often understand why. But I would like to start a discussion and see where that takes us … maybe some readers have comments on the topic?

Let’s Begin With POE – Whoosh 23!

Last weekend was the 23rd edition of the POE program. As usual I was down there to coach. But my role in the coaching team has changed a lot … whereas in the past, I used to coach participants directly … these days, I coach very few participants.

I guess it’s got to do with the lack of challenge. The coaching team and its newer members has raised their standard such that I’m not required for most participants. I only need to step in to work with the people with the most complex challenges.

As usual, this POE was a whole lot of fun. Again, I was reminded that this program is designed so beautifully … I’ve never seen another program cover so much stuff and teach so many things in such a practical sense.

Of course, very few ppl in Singapore can match Adam & Stuart as trainers … the way they mix motivation, humor & learning into their training style is pretty amazing.

Watching A Friend, Allowed Me To Reflect On My First Time …

It was also strange … because for the first time in a long time, one of my close friends was attending the program. Like a good coach, I kept myself away from him (The other coaches took good care of him).

But it did give me a chance to reflect on the program. To remember what it was like my first time … when I attended this program and what I felt.

When I signed up for this program was in mid 2005. I was one semester away from graduation. Although I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur … I wasn’t quite sure of much beyond that.

And so when Adam & Stuart gave a free 2 hour seminar on the Principles/Patterns of Extraordinary people … I gladly signed up. Honestly, I’m not much of a skeptic … I thought the 2 hour preview was pretty awesome … so I coughed up all my life savings into the whole seminar (8 days = 2 modules).

The month after that I showed up for module 1 of the course. For the next four days, we had trainings, games and so much stuff that my mind was blown away.

Although I did have some worldly experience (by that point, I had pretty much traveled the world and lived away from home for 4 years) … I had never imagined picking up the information I was getting now.

Specifically, I remember returning to the “real world” and imparting my new-found knowledge to my friends. Day, after day … I would take them out to lunch and share the tidbits I learnt … that I thought will benefit their life.

They were all excited as I shared the new stuff with them … I’m sure some of it stuck to their mind.

But Motivation Is Also Frowned Upon

Let’s be honest – we’ve all done it. Mocked our friends who paid thousands of dollars to attend motivational seminars. Mock the “gurus” who teach these success principles.

And I’ve faced a fair bit of that. Initially, my friends didn’t say much … they figured this poor guy spend a grand getting sucked into a seminar.

But when I started going back to coach at this program – for no money – just to help other people … The underlying tension was even stronger than I thought. People mildly disliked it when I paid money for self-development … but they REALLY disliked it when I helped such a program for free – like I’d been sucked into a cult.

Many people I know regard the whole motivation / self-development market as a group of cults. Of teachers who artificially hype up the lives of students. Teach them things that they don’t really need to know. And rob them of money they don’t really have.

And students are thought of as suckers. Just like people who go to psychologists for therapy … participants who go for coaching/motivation are thought of as sorry figures who need help.

Let’s call these people the criticizers.

Yet, People Swear By These Programs

Me, included. A lot of people I know get immensely turned on by the prospect of paying for their education beyond college.

Going for self-development programs, money-making programs, buying books, joining personal coaching … or even low-cost alternatives like joining Toastmasters clubs to get more public speaking practice …

Why? I guess there’s an underlying belief that this is the missing piece of the puzzle … once they attain this, success is inevitable.

The good part is that belief helps a lot of people. They tend to get into a much better mindset for attaining the results they want. And more importantly, they make the decision to set themselves apart – to stand out from the crowd with their achievements.

The bad part is that often, people forget that knowledge is just knowledge. Even with the best knowledge, 90% of the challenge is actually taking action and attaining results … not basking in the warmth of good knowledge.

Let’s call these people the participants.

So, who’s right?

The criticizers are correct to an extent. Not everyone needs such a program … and often, the cost of these programs is highly overstated. And since many of these businesses rely on word-of-mouth to sell more seminars, the participants often end up blowing their own horns.

And the criticizers are wrong to an extent. The mindset of not actively improving can’t be a permanent one … because the end result of that will be mediocrity. By adopting these mindsets, the participants are taking action to stand out – and standing out will always lead to some criticism.

But one of the fundamental principles I follow is to avoid judgement.

And so the right answer depends is “It Depends” … What’s your gut feel?

Are you repulsed by the idea of self-development?

Of paying for seminars? Of having desires that seem far away from reality?

If you are, then go with your gut feel. Just don’t fall into the mindset of mediocrity … there’s no wrong in wanting to excel in your field. And just because things don’t always go according to plan … it’s no excuse for not having any goals at all.

And most importantly, allow a little graciousness when you judge other people who believe in self-development. That belief has the power to give them the resources they need. Maybe they need something you don’t … to the best of your abilities, support them and trust that they can make their own decisions & learn their own lessons.

Or do you love the idea of self development?

Love going to seminars? Buying books? Picking up knowledge?

If you are, then go with your gut feel. If you believe that always collecting more knowledge is critical to your growth, then continue doing that.

But be gracious while dealing with criticism. Maybe your friends don’t need the resources they do. Maybe there will be a time in the future when they look for the same answers they do. In any case, use your NLP skills to built rapport – not p
ick up fights.

And definitely don’t fall into the “junkie” mindset. Even with the best “knowledge”, “strategies” and “secrets” … 90% of success is pure hard work. Be ready to put in that effort if you desire the results.

I know this is more of an entry, than a journalistic article … but if you think you have something valuable to add to this discussion, then do leave a comment below

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  1. No Comments so far?? wow! Call me a criticizer. Now i have never heard adam or stuart speak, but I am willing to accept that they are excellent speakers who can deliver what they promise. What irks me is that for the amount i’m going to pay, i won’t get to interact with them one-to-one. Instead, this interaction will happen with one of the coaches, who more likely than not is someone who attended the last iteration of the program. How much could they have developed in the time between the two iterations, and are they really what I paid for? To convert me to a participant, i would expect a lot more time with these two (or someone else of their experience and caliber) for the same amount of money. Everybody has a valuable lesson to teach other people, the issue with self-development is often you pay through your nose, but don’t get the lessons from the source. Instead you read a book or attend a seminar, which can never really be as effective.

  2. Like this post Rachit. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot since my experiences as both a participant and a coach.

    I very agree with you that knowledge after all is just knowledge. I realized I didn’t change much after the program. However, I still see it worth my money because it laid the fundamental for my ACTIONS. Each action I took changed my life in some way or taught me a good lesson. That was what has been making the differences.

  3. Same here Rachit. Totally feel that the money is worth it. Though I do agree that maybe the premium is unfairly priced. I can resonate with what I would like to call the “self-empowerment rut”. Go deep in finding who you are but not so deep that you end up losing yourself in the process.

  4. Hi Rachit,

    Think I share the same thinking with you to certain extend. I used to attend lots of similar seminar to only find myself standing at the same point. The value of those self development courses or seminar depends on how much value your mind percieved it to be. Different people have different perception on the same thing, as the saying goes One man’s food can be another man’s poison. Of cos I am not saying those trainers are out to “give out” poison, what I am saying is every individuals has his or her own belief. Nothing right or wrong. There is so many successful people out there who never attended such seminars before yet they are always successful in things they do, which I guess they have their own sets of belief which works for them. Some individuals are self motivated and success driven so to them the path of success is on auto pilot mode, for some, they are just trying to figure here and there which strategies actually work form them.

  5. I think more often than not these books and seminars are attended with the idea that it will give a person what they need to take action. A phrase, a sentence, an epiphany. But more often than not, it just equates to “the self-development rut” mentioned above and “analysis paralysis” in people. It’s as if we attempt to substitute one form of inaction for another form of inaction (intelligent/knowledgable inaction).. These books, audio, and seminars are meaningless if there is no action. Meaningless. What i don’t like about the self-help field is that much of the material you buy isn’t user friendly.. There is so much information thrown at you that you don’t know where to begin which then results in more inaction. I believe that this field understands the underlying knowledge addiction without action much like the big fast food chains understand the addiction to fast food convenience for example. This brings consumers back for more and more. The more they get, the more they need. A few close friends of mine and even myself at one stage were immersed in this sea of confused inaction. It’s terribly frustrating. The way i found a way out of it was to pick one book and master it, read it over and over until i know it subconsciously. For me that book was on how to set and reach goals. This allowed me to remove the confusion from all the information and increase my action orientation. It was hard at first to stay away from buying new books and magazines that caught my concern. But i’m now taking action and it wasn’t until that books important information was ingrained in me that i went onto seek more information. Read less more, not more less. Become very very familiar with your information and above all else, take action straight away, that day, that minute. The perfect plan doesnt come from inaction, it comes from action and making mistakes and corrections.

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