The six laws of personal progress
Success — what it is and how to attain it — is a genre well-explored, with no shortage of gurus or devotees.
I wish not to speak with you of success, but rather of progress, for progress precedes success.
Success is the top of the mountain; progress is the path that gets you there. Success is the destination; progress is the journey.
Success is your ambition and objective; progress is your orientation and motion. Success is your True North; progress is your compass.
Success is the conscious cultivation and achievement of clearly-defined vision and goals. You may not have these now, but if you stay on the path of progress, these will naturally develop.
Success is the attainment of your Authentic Purpose; progress is your mindset and desire to seek such a Purpose.
If you know not what great purpose to aspire to, focus your efforts on living the Six Laws of Personal Progress and your purpose will unfold of its own accord:
Law #1: The Law of Self-Honesty
The rate of your progression is determined by the depth of your self-honesty.
All personal progress begins with self-honesty. Conversely, all digression is rooted in self-deception.
Man’s capacity for self-deceit is limitless. It is the source of all petty conflict and all major war. It is the root of pride, the cause of justification and rationalization.
The man who is dishonest with himself cannot see where he needs to improve. Self-deception inflates our self-perception and blinds us to our weaknesses. It inhibits our performance while concealing and misrepresenting our results.
There’s actually a term for this: the Dunning-Kruger effect, dubbed after researchers David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University.
In 1999 the pair tested college students on various life skills and then asked them to rate their performance. The worst-performing students were the least accurate at evaluating their own performance.
There’s a simply way to overcome the Dunning-Kruger effect and raise your level of self-honesty: keep score. Don’t rank yourself based on your perception, but rather on your tangible, measurable results.
You believe you’re a good salesman. But what are your actual numbers?
You believe you’re a leader. But where are the results to back up that belief?
You believe you’ve overcome your wounds. But how often are you triggered?
Nothing holds you captive and arrests your progress like a lack of self-honesty. It’s easy to see that in others. Do you see it in yourself?
- Recommended Reading: Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute
Law #2: The Law of Curiosity
Your desire to progress can never exceed your desire to learn.
Curiosity is the catalyst of exploration. Exploration is the seed of discovery. The fruit of discovery is progress.
Curiosity is the cure for the diseases of apathy and complacency. It tames your vain ambition and makes you seek higher, purer ends than self-aggrandizement. It jolts you out of the stagnation of comfort.
The people who progress the fastest are those who are bursting with questions. The progressing person moves through life in a constant state of wonder, pushing the boundaries of the known, poking through the veil of mysteries.
The hallmark of a man or woman of progress is the perpetual thought, “I wonder…”
- Recommended Reading: A Touch of Wonder by Arthur Gordon
Law #3: The Law of Subconsciousness
All efforts to progress are impeded by subconscious wounds and misperceptions; therefore, your progress depends on your ability to purify and harness the power of your subconscious mind.
Your subconscious mind is incomprehensibly more powerful than your conscious mind. Your most conscious efforts to change and improve are easily sabotaged by deeply-embedded subconscious baggage of which you often are completely unaware. Until you dump the baggage, you cannot progress.
Subconscious baggage cannot be discarded until it is first consciously recognized, as I have written elsewhere.
- Recommended Reading: The Ant and the Elephant by Vince Poscente
Law #4: The Law of Free Time
Your desire and ability to progress are evidenced by how you spend your free time.
How you spend your free time — when you are under no external obligation or pressure — is the most obvious manifestation of who you are and what you desire.
Show me a man who reads quality books in his free time and I’ll show you a man of progress. Show me a man who watches TV in his free time and I’ll show you a man of stagnation.
When spent learning, serving, and building relationships, your free time is the fulcrum upon which progress is leveraged. When spent loafing and indulging, it is the slide down which you plummet.
- Recommended Reading: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
Law #5: The Law of Mentoring
The most critical areas where you need to progress are always blind spots; therefore, mentors are needed to expose and deal with your blind spots.
One of the fastest, most effective ways to progress is to find and submit to the right mentor(s).
Mentors have traversed the path you seek to tread. They know every treacherous curve, every perilous cliff. They know what equipment you need for the journey and instantly recognize when you are ill-equipped.
Mentors do not coddle you with superficial affirmations; they prod you with uncomfortable truths. Mentors care less about your self-esteem than they do about your self-honesty.
When your path is blocked by obstacles, mentors show you the way around them. When doors slam in your face, mentors show you the way through them. When you feel like giving up, mentors remind you of your potential and paint a vision of who you can become.
- Recommended Reading: A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring by John Wooden and Don Yaeger
Law #6: The Law of Precession
Success unfolds as the natural byproduct of indirect commitments and actions. When you don’t know what to do, make a commitment and take an action, then follow the path that unfolds.
Buckminster Fuller coined the term “precession” and defined it as “The effect of bodies in motion on other bodies in motion.”
Precession is the unintended, fortuitous consequences that are triggered by your direct actions. The direct purpose of a honeybee is to collect nectar — the precessional effect is cross-pollination.
I spent two years in the financial services industry (direct action). The precessional effect was that, years later, I was prepared to write Killing Sacred Cows: Overcoming the Financial Myths that are Destroying Your Prosperity with Garrett Gunderson, which opened the door to my freelance writing career.
If you ever wonder what to do with your life, commit to anything positive. As I have written elsewhere, what matters isn’t what you do today, but what ensues as a result of making a firm decision and committing to a clear purpose.
- Recommended Reading: Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer
Success is the precessional effect of consistent progress.
Success is about what you want to achieve and why. Progress is about how you achieve it.
Do not worry if you haven’t yet defined success for yourself. Put one foot in front of the other on the path of progress and success will take care of itself.