5 Secrets of Limitless Personal Growth

For the past six years, I’ve been helping entrepreneurs and business owners improve their skills and increase their confidence - without expensive credentials or unnecessary detours. Here are five secrets that will help you grow - on your own terms.

1. You Don’t Need Permission

It’s often easier to feel confident about what you’re doing when you have a credential. (Example: “When I have my MBA, people will take me seriously as a manager/entrepreneur…")

Here’s the secret: you don’t need the credential. For many, formalized education is less about learning new things and more about feeling insecure. Instead of moving forward, you’re relying on some outside authority to proclaim that you’re now “good enough" to do what you want to do.

That’s baloney - you’re already good enough. True story: there once was a doctoral student named Joseph Campbell who wanted to study world mythology for his dissertation. His professors told him to study something else. Instead of accepting his fate and choosing another (less interesting) topic, he left school completely, lived in a small cabin in upstate New York, and spent 12 hours a day studying and writing about what he was interested in.

After spending 6 years, Campbell was offered a full professorship at Sarah Lawrence College (sans-doctorate), and quickly became the world’s leading expert in world mythology. You don’t need anyone else’s permission to do what you want to do - begin today.

2. “Do It Yourself" = Better Results

My wife, Kelsey, is a phenomenal cook. She’s never taken a course, but she has an amazing repertoire of skills and knowledge gained over time through reading and playing in the kitchen. Every once in a while, a recipe will flop, but that’s okay - it’s always a learning experience. More often, it’ll be a masterpiece. (Our friends still talk about the Pumpkin Curry Bowls.)

The Personal MBA is a DIY approach to business education - it’s taking responsibility for learning into your own hands. The best way to learn about business is to spend time gathering the most useful concepts you can, then putting them to use in the real world. Experience teaches better than any professor can.

Sure, you’ll make a few mistakes as you go along - everyone does. The important distinction is that, instead of doing meaningless homework, you’re actively building improving an actual business. You can learn more (and have more fun) by doing it yourself.

3. You Learn What You Care About

When I was in junior high, we were required to take a Home Economics class. Most of the classes involved cooking and sewing. I viewed Home Ec as a waste of time, and as a result, I spent most of that time messing around and doing other projects. Sadly, I didn’t retain much from that class.

A few years later, I was in college, and I was suddenly 100% responsible for my own housekeeping. All of a sudden, I cared very much about how to cook and how to iron - and I learned what to do (and what not to do) very quickly.

The same goes for personal growth. When it comes to learning, you will always learn and retain information concerning subjects you care about most effectively. The best reason to learn something is not because someone else says it’s important: it’s because you need it to accomplish something you have your heart set on.

If you don’t care, you won’t learn. If you don’t learn, you won’t grow.

4. There’s ALWAYS a Better Way

The world, for better or worse, is a suboptimal place. Things break. Meetings take too long. Projects get delayed. Products are hard to use. Businesses underperform. Careers go off track.

Here’s the good news: everything in your world can be improved, if you choose to spend time and effort improving it. Every single business that exists survives and thrives by improving the suboptimal.

What are you trying to improve? In the immortal words of Thomas Edison: “There’s ALWAYS a better way - find it!"

5. Personal Growth is a Path, Not a Destination

Personal growth, whether it involves business or anything else, is a never-ending process. There’s never a point where you’ll say, “Okay, I’m done - no more learning for me." Every new concept you come across is a gateway to thousands of other opportunities. That’s what makes personal growth so fun and rewarding… there’s always something new to explore.

Learning about anything is a path - there’s no end to the process. Sure, there will be milestones: reading a book; mastering a new skill; launching a business. Eventually, however, you’ll find there’s a new path for you to take, and the journey continues. There’s never a limit to how much you can grow.

Read more essays by Josh Kaufman →

Published: July 6, 2010Last updated: July 6, 2010

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