Is everyone saying the same thing?

A podcast microphone
Photo credit: Kelly

I’m going to plant a seed in your mind; one that asks why and will forever change the way you think about professional development. Are you ready?

Over the past 15 years or so I’ve been passionate about personal development. This is ironic because I feel like I’m nowhere near as personally developed as I would expect to be given all the books, podcasts, and videos consumed over nearly two decades. Reminds me of a quote I’ve tweeted: “If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” – Derek Sivers.

Other than the irony of my own personal development (or lack thereof) another thing I find amusing is just about every personal development book, podcast, or video I’ve read, listened to, or watched all seem to be saying the same thing. Or maybe I should say, all pointing to the same something. The number of people who’ve created successful platforms based off this genre alone is stunning.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not making a case to limit the number of speakers for a topic just as I wouldn’t petition for a limit on the number of restaurants that can serve hamburgers. Different speakers each bring their own unique perspective to a subject. You might find yourself enjoying one more than the other while someone else may be completely opposite. Same holds true for restaurants. I digress.

I do have a theory though. Just as we all hunger for food, and thus the multitude of restaurants, we all hunger for something else whether we’re aware of it or not. There’s an appetite deep down within each of us and it has a hunger for something other than food. 

I’ve consumed enough information to easily spot the common thread that runs through just about every single topic on personal development. Once you spot this it’s fascinating to watch how the different authors dance around the subject. Christian authors use words like destiny, calling, identity, gifting, and anointing. Secular authors use words like mastery, being in the flow, fulfilling your purpose, etc.

“If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”

Derek Sivers

So many of us seem to have an insatiable appetite for this type of information. Take a look at the self-help section of your local bookstore or library and admire how large a selection it contains. For bonus points, spend time reading the titles and see if you catch a theme. What is it in you and me that drives us to desire personal development information so much that Market Research predicts it’ll be a $13.2 billion dollar industry by 2022? In case you missed it, that was billion with a “b” and if you’re still curious as to what a billion dollars looks like, check out this handy reference.

There’s a need out there that’s so big and seemingly so hard to satisfy that dozens upon dozens of people (think Tony Robbins) have authored books and created their own personal platforms helping people fill this void in their life.

Motivational speakers aren’t the only ones captializing off our need for something more. There’s the long list of popular personality profile assessments such as Myers-Briggs, Birkman, DISC, NBI, and Enneagram. Many promising to help us gain a better understanding of who we are and how to tap into our greatest potential.

Whether it’s popular speakers or elaborate personality tests, all are helping to fill a void in our lives. I want to take a look at this void and ask questions like What is it? Why does it exist? How do we fill it? What does it look like once we do? and How do we even know when it’s filled?

My theory is all paths lead to the same destination; more specifically to the same someone. Personal development just seems to be the particular topic I’ve stumbled into for researching this. I hope you’ll join me as I explore how deep this rabbit hole goes.

Next time we’re going to learn about airplanes, compasses, and crabbing. You might be wondering what the heck does any of that have to do with personal development. Well, I guess you’ll have to stick around to find out. So follow along and be sure to leave comments or questions. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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