Anyone with internet connection can share their life and their wisdom by starting their own blog.
Personal development on the web is booming. And there’s one thing to note about some of the popular sites.
They have a backstory. One that’s dark, and puts fuel to the fire.
Let’s look at two of the most popular personal development bloggers. Steve Pavlina explores personal development for smart people, and Jonathan Mead explores the less boring side of personal development.
The personal development shadow
From Pavlina’s own About page:
Steve’s passionate pursuit of personal growth began while sitting in a jail cell. Arrested for felony grand theft at age 19 and expelled from school, the full weight of responsibility for his life came crashing down upon him. In an attempt to overcome his out-of-control kleptomania addiction, he decided the best course of action was to go to work on himself.
From one of Mead’s articles:
A few things helped me overcome – my therapist prefers the word “integrate” – my [cocaine] overdose and addiction. I began taking my personal development seriously. I quit drinking and smoking pot immediately after my overdose. I broke all ties with my old friends, including my best friend…I was committed.
The strength of the shadow
Those stories are hardly what you’d expect to find on such inspirational websites, right?
They’re dark. They’re painful. They’re hard to share.
But they’re real. That’s what makes them inspirational.
Steve and Jonathan got hurt. They hit rock bottom in their lives. They faced their darkest pains. But they got up. They dusted off. And now they plow through challenges, like champions eat their competition for breakfast.
They picked up, they moved on. They’re building stuff now. Powerful empires. That empower other people.
Growth needs the shadow
Powerful personal development comes from a dark place, one of pain. One of learning, growth, integration. You cannot grow when you’re only basked in light. You have to experience the mistakes and the heartbreak that comes with living too.
It’s in balancing the pain with the optimism, the anger with the gratitude, the mistakes with the wisdom… that you discover the true power of growth.
The dark sides of two of my favorite personal development writers
The blog that’s empowered me the most this past year, Copyblogger, was also inspired by pain — caused by a near fatal snowboarding accident.
I trusted Brian Clark’s sound writing and web advice much more when I found out he really was doing what he loved — what it took facing death to embrace. I trusted him because I knew he was real.
Sarah Ban Breathnach, the author of my favorite self-help book, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, created her masterpiece when she was struggling to keep afloat in her own personal life.
I trusted her more when she shared how at the time of writing Simple Abundance, her marriage was deteriorating and eventually dissolved, and her relationship with herself was barely hanging. She revealed these shadows in another of my favorite books, Moving On: Creating Your House of Belonging with Simple Abundance. In reading both of these, I trusted her wisdom because I knew she was real.
Seeing beauty in balance of dark and light
When you see something shiny. Something happy. Something resilient. Something strong. Extraordinary, remarkable.
There’s likely a backstory. A good one. A dark one.
And that makes whatever is shiny glisten even more.
What do you see in personal development?
If you enjoy reading powerful personal development, just as I do, I’d like to hear your thoughts on whether there’s a shadow that drives it.
Do you think that real, positive, substantive change can arise without an adversary or a shadow?
Do you think lasting happiness is possible by simply not experiencing negative emotions, and never sinking into the depths of despair?
(Which is how much of the personal development boom portrays the ideal relationship with emotion.)
How about your favorite personal development writers — do you find yourself trusting them more or less when they reveal their dark sides or their shadows?
Want to learn more about long-term personal development? Then get started working with your emotions today.