Personal Deveopment String Theory: PD for smart people book review

About a month ago Personal Development for Smart People (PDSP) by Steve Pavlina launched.
PDSP had been one of the books I was most looking forward to coming out this year after I heard about its launch, so I had very high expectations for it.
The point of this review is not to rehash the book, there has already been plenty of that.  If you are interested in reading what the book is about and I suggest you have a basic understanding before you continue, check out Steve’s summary.
This post I cover, my experience reading the book and how I started to put it to use.

Steve Pavlina

Steve is one of my all time favorite bloggers, so my expectations for his book are that much higher.  I talk about Steve often enough in daily conversation that many people assume Steve is one of my best friends who I spend a lot of time with.  In truth, I have never met him, but I do consider us friends.
Steve set high expectations for his book.  After I finished reading PDSP, I headed back to the description he gave of the book and reread it.
I find it dishonest when people talk so much about what they will cover, I read the book all excited, then when I finish it, I look back at the author’s summary, and I very little of what the summary says holds true to the book (this is typically when they pose questions they will answer and when I finish the book, I still don’t have the answer).  I am very happy to say that Steve’s summary of his book is actually what is covered in his book.
And yes, this is the Steve of the recent article 10 things I love about Steve Pavlina’s blog.

String Theory and PDSP

PDSP reminds me of  String Theory.  String theory is the idea that the biggest of the big (stars and planets and black holes and quasars and such) follow the same rules as the littlest of the little (electrons, quarks and all that stuff in quantum mechanics). Where string theory attempts to find underlying laws that apply to the entire universe both great and small, PDSP brings to light universal truths that relate to all aspects of life.  The idea is that the same rules apply to heath, growth, habits, money, and all aspects of your life.  If you understand these fundamental principles, you can devise better plans of action.  The fundamental principles are truth, love, power, oneness, authority, courage, and intelligence.
For me, this is very powerful because if I understand why and how something works, I can extrapolate other applications.  I am a big why and how person.  I have been teased that I never got out of the why and how stage.  :)

Getting PDSP

I got a signed copy from Steve.  That week, I was expecting quite a few packages and I had no idea when it would come.  The moment I saw it, before I could see the label to know it was for me, or who it was from (it was in a bin with all the smaller packages), I knew it was Steve’s book.  I could feel the love pouring off of it.
I took it home that night and started it right away doing all the exercises as I came to them (except one).  I purposely read it slow over the course of a couple weeks.  I definitely got some new favorite quotes from it.

Finishing PDSP

I finished the book faster then I wanted to have enough time to try out some of ideas before I wrote this.  The book finished on a note just as strong as how it started.  There were no parts were I felt I could have just skipped or cut out.
I am going to let the ideas percolate for a couple weeks and then reread it again.

Putting PDSP to use

Steve listed many exercises through out the book to reinforce the ideas he was passing on. While I unconsciously do many of the ideas he proposed in this book such as writing goals, reading a bunch on subjects I know nothing about, and teaching people what I know, I saw them in a different light when I focused on them.  I learned how I can use those skills to further other goals.

Trying Growth Blitzing

Growth Blitzing is an exercise in PDSP to apply all 7 principles within a time frame.
Steve recommends trying to do this in a week.  Basically 1 per day and if you want to be bold, trying doing them all in 1 day.  Well I decided to be extra bold – do them all in 1 day for 2 days consecutive days and see what happens.

I decided to do this over a weekend.  I was coming off a very busy week where I was lucky to get home before midnight if I got home at all.  I was exhausted, sleep deprived, and looking at a full weekend feeling very overwhelmed.  Saturday and Sunday I was in ems classes from 8am until 530pm.  Saturday night I was watching my youngest cousin from 6pm until after midnight, and Sunday night I was on call at the firehouse from 6pm until 6am Monday morning when I went straight to work then to a volleyball tournament Monday night (my team won but more importantly, we had a great time!).
The idea of adding even more to this weekend was daunting, but I am nothing if not adventurous so I said, bring it on. :)
For those of you who don’t know.  I moved a few years ago to a much smaller town who uses volunteers for the fire department.  So when someone calls 911 with a fire or needing medical help, it is volunteers who respond.  I run on the ambulance anywhere from 12 to 36 hours a week depending on how many people are around to cover it.  This means, I am always lusting after sleep and often 1 -3 times a week, I am up all night on call then I turn around and go to work the next day.
As part of staying up on skills and new information, EMTs are required to take a lot of continuing education.  Last weekend (the weekend I applied the PDSP ideas), I was in continuing education classes all day.  This is an annual event that I have been going to now for 4 years.  I thought this was a good weekend to try growth blitzing, since I could compare the weekend with past weekends where the circumstances are very similar, and I could compare who I am through the weekend compared to pervious years.

While I did do all 7 each day, I picked the best one of the two days per principle to report here.


This is not normally a trouble area for me, but I found a way to make this very difficult.  One of the classes early Saturday was a woman, Donna, who talked about not only mental and emotional issues that effect the world at large that we come into contact with everyday on runs (a run in ems/fire speak means anytime we are dispatched out), but the ones that hit ems close to home such as PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), depression, suicidal thoughts among other things when our coping mechanisms eventually fail.
How does ems typically respond to people telling them according to most research 100 percent of ems and Fire personnel suffers from PTSD?  We laugh, we joke, we brush it off, and then we don’t think about it anymore.

We have a saying in ems.  When you see/experience something bad, what should you do?  The answer to this we are supposed to give on tests is a talk about it or hold a CISD (critical incident stress debriefing).  What do you do? Go drinking, eat cake, wash down the cake with  alcohol and repeat as needed.  I am a vegan, and I don’t drink outside 1 or 2 drinks a year.  But I definitely feel more of the urge to drink at 6am after a rough night then I do to go talk about it.

Instead of just brushing off what Donna had to say, I tried to really think about how this applies to me.  Does it even apply to me?  I tried to be honest with myself.  I have seen a lot of death, abuse, accidents, and an array of other incidences on and off call.  I have  watched my friends go into dangerous situations, been in dangerous situations, and had friends die.  After long nights on call, I go to work and bury myself into it without really dealing with it.  A couple weeks later maybe someone makes a joke about it, but for the most part everything that goes on, gets put in a nice little bottle and shelved away.  Its an excellent coping mechanism, but being as this is truth and all, this is probably not a good idea long term.
I think a lot of my friends get some relief by drinking, by letting out anger in violent spurts, crying, even talking about it.  Seldom does a week go by that I don’t have a phone call from someone wanting to talk about an overwhelming run.  I don’t do anything of these things.  Thinking about this, I can see how this has started to take a toll on me.
I am not sure what I am going to do with this information yet, but at least I know about it to deal with it.  It is something I have suspected but shoved out of my head for a while now steadfastly refusing to think about it.


Every year during this event, I go out to lunch with my the people from my station.  Every year we go to a steak house and every year I order a dry salad or don’t eat because they have nothing that is vegan.  I enjoy spending the time with my crew, but I hated smelling all the cooked death (everyone always got steaks).
This year I chose to do something different.
I drove to eat lunch my youngest cousin.  He is 11, and still is so happy to see me (tho he sees me almost everyday), he jumps in my arms when I walk through the door.  I made a nice vegan lunch for us and snuggled with him for the rest of lunch hour. This did my little heart all sorts of good.


I worked on self discipline to improve my power.  This was one of the hardest parts because to do this I chose to try and actively listen to 16 hours of ems topics where the speakers are not professional quality and the topics are mostly topics a typical ems person knows in an out.  Most of what is covered is akin to telling someone, gee did you know it is the women in the human race that have the babies?
While 99 percent of what was covered, I had heard before and already knew I did learn some new stuff.  I try to always be an active listener but 16 hours of which 99 percent is regurgitated from reading off of power points slides taxes my attention span.
Every time I noticed my attention falter I brought it back to the speaker.  Instead of being happy that I was able to escape to my own little world for a while, I focused on keeping my attention with a speaker.  Yes, I knew most of this, but was there a way I could apply it differently?
How did this turn out?  It was quite frustrating for awhile. During breaks, I would wonder, why am I doing this?  The answer turned out not to be rooted in what I could learn, but exercising the self discipline muscle for the sake of strengthening it and a lesson in oneness.


When a particular boring speaker began his 2 hour presentation, I focused on all the positives.  I wrote lines from my favorite poems on his handouts to try and make a positive experience out of it.  For the first time ever (I have seen him present many times), he actually had 2 things that required the class to be actively engaged.
I found that by attempting to connect with him and putting things I liked into the presentation, I could interact with him on another level.  It did not suddenly make the class fun or interesting, but it did give me a new sense of appreciation for him.  He is obviously nervous and trying to work on his speaking skills.  He gave up part of his free time on a Sunday to come talk to us.  He went out to his way to create class participation.  He even created his own powerpoint so we would not have to review the same powerpoint we go over ever few months.  He worked really hard.
I clapped for him at the end.  I was the only one.  But I wanted him to know that someone appreciated his time.


Sitting in class to learn more about many aspects of emergency health care to better treat people does add to my authority.  Later that night I successfully lead command on a few scenes (this is not out of the ordinary), reviewed the run with our newbie (again not unusual, I do this with every run esp with new people), but this time I focused more on my authority in the situation.  I never really thought about what my authority means to the person I am treating or teaching.
We are always told, be calm.  Keep parents calm. Keep the patient calm.  If ems is frenzied, this shows up loud and clear in patients.  Worried parents create squirming, crying, agitated kids.
In the past,  I have put myself in a patient’s shoes.  Ridding backwards when they are not used to it, strange people buzzing around them using unfamiliar terms, strange equipment, lots of bumps, not to mention the tools we use on patients.  During the run, I paid closer attention to how my authority affects the patient and my crew.
On my crew, I am the leader.  I set the tone for the run, and I am ultimately responsible for how the run shakes down.  I noticed then when I am in a hurry or annoyed I see that reflected in my crew which the patient picks up on.  I already knew patients watch us carefully (if they are conscious enough).  The surprise here is how carefully my crew watches me.  They watch me for any sign of what I want them to do, if they are doing something right or wrong, how fast we should be moving, how concerned we are, and I am sure now a bunch of other things.
We had a early morning run around 230 in the morning.  I woke up after having been asleep for entire hour.  Heard over the PA system the time and the run and the address.  Bright red lights went off as well as the monster in the dark roared to life (we have a system in the firehouse that lets off an a loud deep growl sound that wakes me up into flight or fight every time it goes off and I quickly cover my ears so I call it the monster in the dark :) .)  I was exhausted, and I knew I would not have any time to sleep before I had to go to work Monday morning.  I quickly threw on my gear and fell/tripped/ran down the stairs with the rest of my crew.    Wiping sleep out of my eyes, I started the ambulance, took a deep breath, turned on the lights and sirens.
While my crew focused on patient care, I focused on leading my crew.  I found this very effective.  If I was leading well, I could stay in touch with patient care but also lead my crew.  It was hard, but by the time we got to the home with the run, I had stopped being annoyed at being woken up, talked my crew through what they needed to do, and the run went smoothly.  I am not sure if there was a physical manifestation of the difference in my command, but I felt a little different.  I consciously choose to focus my attention on leading my crew and the rest of the pieces I worry about (protocol, patient care, etc) fell into place.  I felt calmer, and my crew appeared to be calmer.  It was a nice feeling.


During one of our breaks in class, I told my ems chief (a women who I am good friends with) where there was a misunderstanding between her and one of my crew members.  Normally, I would have just talked it out with my crew member.  But I told my chief.  I wanted her to know that what she meant is not what came across.  This was hard because I know she was just trying to be nice and kind and keep peace, but that is not how it came across.
This turned out to be a very positive thing.  She told me how much she has loved sitting in my classes or presentations and what I thought she could do to communicate better with my crew.


According to Steve, one of the aspects of intelligence is growth (and not in that yuck, can you look at this and tell me if I should have the growth removed kind of way :) ) I grew a lot this weekend.  I grew as an EMT.  I grew as a student.  I grew as a teacher.  I grew as a person.  Was it big steps? no.  I merely continued to build upon a foundation I already had in place.
So what if anything was so great about it?  I was aware of it.  I had some clarity I did not have before.  Best of all tho, was I see how I can apply these steps in a more focused way to bring about greater change in my life and the lives of those around me.

Overall PDSP review

I enjoyed it.  I even got some copies for friends.  I cant wait to put this together in a more focused approach. Did I already know some of this stuff?  Yes.  Was it all new information? No.  Was it put together in such a way it gave me a new way to view things? Yes.
I can see someone might criticize PDSP saying it does not have practical information.  If you are looking for a step by step guide to how to become a millionaire, you would probably be disappointed in picking up this book.  However, if your goal is to understand the underlying way of a millionaire, this book’s principles can be put to use towards that goal.  It however does not give advice like what kind of company to form, how to file taxes etc.  It gives you the tools to create your own plan and carry it out to be a millionaire (or lose weight, or quit your job, or any number of other things.)

What was missing?

The one thing I thought was missing in this book was Steve’s humor.  I adore Steve’s humor.  There were no smiley faces.  There was a couple parts where I felt he was making a joke and I smiled, but for the most part, Steve humor was mysteriously absent.

Steve finished his book by saying live consciously, so I will end the same here..
Live consciously!
Adrienne :)

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