"Releasing your potential is a very dangerous idea. You should stay away from your potential. You'll mess it up." - Dylan MoranSelf-improvement is a dirty word.
On one hand, it’s a bit wanky and we think of it as quick fixes that don’t really work. On the other, it threatens our sense of self with change or compromise.
I used to think greater self-confidence awaited on the other side. You know, once I was somehow a better me.
The more successful people I’ve met, the more I’ve come to see it the other way around. Here’s what I’ve observed with some successful friends you may know, and their responses below:
Notice how in this framing, it’s not about specific or one-time gains? Exercise isn’t to look better. Learning skills isn’t to do something better. The emphasis is interesting - it’s the small habits that get his attention. These lead to better life-balance, which enables him to do the right things. This leads to his personal growth and happiness.
Take blogging for example. His blog The Startup Toolkit has been quite successful. “Figuring out blogging” was a coffee-shop project for Rob, like many other skills he picked up. He gave himself 2 weeks to write as many posts as he could, most of which were experiments of some sort. His subscriber rate jumped several orders of magnitude in those two weeks. Now, he’s one of a small handful of bloggers whose posts have broken 1000 points on Hacker News.
Rob wants to figure things out. He makes time for picking up skills but does it organically and experientially, integrating his learning with his existing way of doing things.
He found this better model and Business Models Inc. took off, freeing Patrick, both financially and to do work he loves. (The guy is always smiling!) I don’t think this would have been possible if he had constrained himself along the lines of a “leaving consulting” identity.
Kevin knew his weaknesses and would defer to me readily when appropriate. In retrospect, I can see it took a huge amount of self-confidence to seek out and trust people with complimentary skills, and to press forward and figure things out as we went.
Massive failures and rebounds are a common theme in entrepreneur biographies, but there’s almost always something more than brute tenacity behind them. Look at Felix Dennis, Donald Trump or Richard Branson, and you’ll see there’s an attitude to perspective and behaviour that underlies their success, and that’s what allowed them to break through brick walls.
Self-improvement and experiments are backed with a genuine curiosity and willingness to try something new.
Self-improvement requires a certain kind of self-aware confidence as a starting point. Enough so you have a willingness to try, even if you won’t succeed. Enough to be sure of your own identity, so you can enjoy the process. And enough to be humbly aware of your own behaviour, so you know where to focus.
I have not looked at it from that perspective before. Is self confidence something you're born with or can you develop it? Or do some people think you always need more? I remember one guy at my Business University Nyenrode when we were both studying for our MBA. He - the smartest ass of the class - "I like you Patrick. You are not the smartest in our team, but you always have a positive mindset and you make things work." I think that has also something to do with self confidence. It is about just making it work...Kevin Haluk:
You taught me that you have to take care of the people around you. Because it's people that make us successful. I've been told that I should focus, so I do the opposite - and it seems to be working.Joel Gascoigne:
Self improvement is certainly something I consciously work on. I love your observation that there is a lag, that is definitely true if I look back. I'm planning a few changes yet again to my routine and habits, so this is a nice reminder to push forward with the adjustments :-)
I’m in a cozy place, preparing for parenthood, dabbling with some art projects, getting my hands dirty with ZK and ML. One of my more “product-y” projects is a communication tool for community groups and unconferences. It focuses on autonomising teams rather than “coordinating”. Another is a set of primitives for “hyperstructuring” Free Software to help contributors get paid fairly.
I’m also part of Discover Mode - where I’m a solver-for-hire helping a Web3 projects with product design and strategy.
In the past, I've designed peer-learning programs for Oxford, UCL, Techstars, Microsoft Ventures, The Royal Academy Of Engineering, and Kernel, careering from startups to humanitech and engineering. I also played a role in the Lean Startup methodology, and the European startup ecosystem. You can read about this here.
Menus and kitchens (2023)
Retreats for remote teams (2023)
What do you need right now? (2023)
Choose happiness (2021)
Emotional Vocabulary (2020)
Project portfolios (2020)
The history Of Lean Startup (2016)
Entrepreneurship is craft (2014)