Nine surefire tips for personal development

Justin Knabb & Christopher Ore

How do you choose to design your life?

Although we get but one chance to live, the beautiful thing about life is the freedom we have to craft our own identities. Like artists, we control the portraits we want to paint onto our canvas. Each one of us has the opportunity to dream of something great and turn it into a reality.

The question is, how do you choose to use the talents and interests that distinguish you from others? More importantly, are you willing to transcend everything ordinary in the world and use these gifts to develop them into something truly exceptional and different?

The purpose of this article is to provide suggestions for making the most out of your personal development. Only you, however, can make goals for yourself and work to make them happen. Only you can find ways to accelerate your potential. Only you can make the choice to make your life something extraordinary.

1. You’ll never become extraordinary by taking the ordinary path.

Want an easy way to differentiate yourself? Observe other ordinary people and do the exact opposite. Ordinary means waiting for opportunities to come to you. Ordinary means being satisfied with a “B” effort in anything. The ordinary person is comfortable, settled and passive. It is the difficult choice to take the road less traveled that makes life much more interesting.

2. Create a road map for your life.

You cannot work toward a finish line in anything without first determining how to get there. Setting personal goals is similar to preparing and performing in the different stages of the Tour de France. It is wise to have a long-term objective. However, some stages are tougher than others. Break down your goals by week, month and year. Lay a strong foundation of achievement, and success will breed further success. It is practically inevitable with the right planning.

3. Take time for weekly


Do you have a written vision or mission statement for yourself? Why not? This is different from setting goals – it is your personal gospel of the truths that you hold sacred. Introspection means looking at the goals you set and thinking of ways to improve and build on them.

4. Get out of the box and out of your comfort zone.

This is a sequel to the first suggestion. A great analogy here is, “You can’t steal second base while keeping your foot on first base.” Worlds of opportunity are always open to you provided you’re willing to take some risk. Take the initiative: try to contact your role model, meet with the dean of your college and pursue that incredible summer internship. None of this will happen by staying totally comfortable.

5. Make it a habit to read good autobiographies.

Instead of trying to sum up the best books out there, here information so you can buy them and absorb the material yourself. Some personal favorites:

-Lance Armstrong, “It’s not about the Bike: My Journey Back to Life”

-G. Gordon Liddy, “Will: The Autobiography of G. Gordon Liddy”

-Pat Croce, “I feel Great and You Will Too!”

-Frank McKinney, “Make It Big! 49 Secrets for Building a Life of Extreme Success”

6. Get involved with charitable events and service organizations that have personal

meaning to you.

Quite simply, there is no better feeling than giving back to others. One can only appreciate the value of charity and service by experiencing it.

7. Seek out successful individuals for guidance.

When acting on the fifth suggestion, don’t just read. Take it a step further: track the author down and contact him/her! Since most authors put their hearts and souls into their books, they may be honored to meet with you personally. For example, Justin contacted Frank McKinney (a builder of Palm Beach estates worth as much as $30 million) and is planning to meet him over winter break. Christopher had lunch and conversed with Dr. Burton Malkiel, author of “A Random Walk Down Wall Street.” It’s possible!!

8. Invest in your future. Consider seminars on negotiations, personal selling, communications, presentations and the like.

A classic example is a Dale Carnegie Course. If you spend $22,000 on tuition each year, what is another thousand or two for some the most practical skills you can learn? These courses teach skills that will serve you from this day to the rest of your life. Check out Dale Carnegie’s”Training for Young Adults,”

9. Recharge your batteries.

Basically, it’s important to make it a priority to relax and have fun. Work hard each week, and play hard on weekends. As Stephen Covey says in his ubiquitous “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” take time to “sharpen the saw.”

Christopher Ore is the Assistant Director of Graduate Business Programs, College of Commerce and Finance.