Book Review: Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina


Photo: courtesy Flickr, Kazze
Review by Mitch W. Steel

“Enjoy your incredible human journey. Accept the highs and the lows as equally valuable. Recognize that your deepest sorrows reveal your greatest joys. Share your stories with others, and know that you’re not alone. Be grateful for your time on earth. Live consciously.”

– Steve Pavlina (excerpt from Afterword)

Personal Development for Smart People.

I’d like to thank Steve Pavlina and Hayhouse for the kind invitation and opportunity they’ve extended to me and to review Personal Development for Smart People, The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth.

If you are searching for a personal development resource that is rich in both strategic information and tactical techniques to improve your SELF and, therefore, your life PDfSP is the answer!

As promised by Steve, PDfSP delivers a great deal of original content, both in terms of his own personal ideas and philosophies as well as specific application techniques he has used. His writing style (as you may know from his blog) is personable and easy to read. And, as with his blog, his greatest strength is not only his personal application of these many self improvement techniques but his personal story; how he went from a confused thief, lucky to receive community service to a new-age, thought-leader and owner of the #1 personal development website and blog.

And, since Steve is a Toastmaster, I figured I’d frame this review in the context of Toastmaster’s formula for critique called, “The Sandwich Method”. The formula is positive praise, followed by constructive and hopefully useful critique then, in closing, more positive encouragement and sincere commentary.

The Top Slice…

As mentioned previously and not to be overlooked, Steve’s work is easy to read. His ‘voice’ is candid, authentic and you are likely to sense a deep sincerity in his desire to help you – the reader. His work reminds me somewhat of the great Dr. Norman Vincent Peale – refreshing, unpretentious, very candid and genuine. (Read the all-time classic, The Power of Positive Thinking).

Similarly, Steve shares his findings in the context of his own self-discovery and that makes his advice extremely credible. Additionally, the proof of his techniques lies in his own realization of ’success’ (matches nicely with our definition here) and the effectiveness of his present life. While I believe the core or gut of the book- the application sections are likely to be the readership’s bread and butter- the principles and philosophies could take years to sink in. In fact, Steve urges you not to skip ahead to the application section, and admits as much in the introduction.

The Search (The “meat” – although Steve is a vegan)

I commend Steve on his pursuit and search for the universal underlying principles and laws for personal development. And, in reality who’s to say or judge what they are. I view such statements more as a framework for TEACHING and LEARNING and less as a declarative statement for some universal law. For instance “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is a tremendous framework for teaching and learning – yet in no way a comprehensive, universal law for success. Hence, the release of :The 8th Habit” … and, on it goes.

Life is dynamic – knowledge is static (see “The 3 C’s”). Last time I checked, Pluto was no longer in our solar system. Change!

In fact, in my mind, CHANGE could easily have been one of his three core principles, or four… or five… etc.

As both the educator or the educated evolve and “as the world turns” – the related lessons and even ‘laws’ must similarly evolve. Simply consider all the great physics ‘laws’ – that over time have changed. The ‘reality’ is they aren’t laws – they are theories. Which of course is what Steve Pavlina presents to us here. And here are his three core principles; truth, love and power. These support and spawn the four secondary principles; oneness, authority, courage and intelligence. While his theories align very well to support all these principles – and vice-versa. I wonder if he may not be “over-thinking” it? As I mentioned above, who’s to say? Perhaps that is why he titled the book personal development for SMART people.

In a world in which humans are, as my favorite song writer Jack Johnson states, “clever but clueless” the ‘reality’ is nobody can truly say what a universal principle or law is; be it love, success, personal development, or, you name it. That is, with any absolute certainty (post). And, don’t take my word for it- strangely enough, I just ran across this gem in “Mindlessness” By Ellen J. Langer.

“We know that the first step towards the intellectual mastery of the world in which we live is the discovery of general principles, rules and laws which being order to chaos. By such mental operations we simplify the world of phenomena, but we cannot avoid falsifying it in doing so, especially when we are dealing with the processes of development and change”.

Sigmund Freud, “Analysis Terminable and Interminable”

So, are we dealing with what Freud suggests here – ‘change and development’? It appears as though we are since personal development is both change and development. However, keep in mind, this is coming from me, a guy who authored, “The 3 C’s of Succcess”. Admittedly, I will say “The 3 C’s” is a theory, a thought-piece, and perhaps, most importantly, a framework for teaching many of the very same lessons and principles — yet, less of an absolute.


I do wish Steve had spent more time illustrating and supporting the list of 66 habits. Why they are important, how they might have applied to his life and what technique he used to improve each habit. For instance, he lists habit #30 as “Intuition. Go with your gut instinct. It’s probably right.” This calls for more information. Seems to me Steve could have provided an example of when intuition has served him well. I think that would’ve been helpful. Or, perhaps, sharing any technique he used to refine his intuitive powers and how that may have assisted him to achieve his many goals. Having said that, I fully appreciate there are size constraints to any book and I’m sure he had to pick and choose content. Not unlike myself with this review, as there is really so much more quality content, yet I can only address so much here!

Summary… The Bottom Slice

Personal Development for Smart People is a very practical, useful and fantastic addition to any library on personal development! When you couple this book with the wealth of information posted on Steve’s Site it becomes a formidable force in your arsenal to help manifest the success you are not only looking for but, are capable of achieving. Or, as we like to say here at, this material is very likely to help you CREATE YOUR IDEAL FUTURE.

Personal Development for Smart People gets a very solid 4.25 out of 5 on my list of stars (that doesn’t actually exist). I’m no professional book reviewer. However, I’m a HUGE Personal Development FAN, having read seemingly everything in the genre and I’m most impressed with Steve’s first effort. Very well done! I recommend you not only buy this for yourself but for those special people in your life who may need a little guidance. Personal Development for Smart People would make for a very unique and thoughtful gift this holiday season.

Thanks again Steve! Wishing you all the Best! I look forward to watching this scale the Amazon charts.

– Mitch W. Steel

Where’s the cat? Why the stone sculpture? You tell me.

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