To Reach Success, Create Your Own System for Self-Development
I’ve spent more than sixty years at investigating the most effective systems of self-development, mostly by trying them out myself. These challenges have included physical means including aerobic exercise, bodybuilding, martial arts and yoga, as well as spiritual and mental tests in memorization and rote steps.
I’ve even taken on feats of courage such as a parachute jump and everything else imaginable. I even walked on burning coals and did a “fire walk.”
This quest all started during my teens, when I was simply researching how people reached success in life. I started my investigation with ancient times and reviewed methods from several geographies and past millennia.
For example, I went more than 2000 years in the past and looked at the Chinese sage, Confucius. In those days, it was considered witty and smart to quote Confucius to reinforce your point during discussion. So you frequently heard Confucius being quoted in everyday conversations.
For example, you would often hear in everyday exchanges: “Confucius says ‘I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Or “Confucius says, ‘Study the past if you would define the future.”
I’m not talking about college students studying philosophy. I’m talking about the man in the street, including high school students. So I followed Confucius’ advice and studied many other past figures of history as well as modern men and women.
A Strong Start
In almost all cases, even when I studied famous individuals who were born into privilege, considerable self-development was still necessary. Peter Drucker said that his father encouraged him to participate in his conversations with adults, among them Sigmund Freud who his father described as “the most important man in Europe.”
Now many parents do not encourage, or even allow, their sons or daughters to participate in adult conversations. At the time, especially, many followed the dictum: “Children should be seen and not heard.”
Not all children have access to conversations with theorists, leaders, or psychoanalysts of Freud’s stature. But the one thing all the individuals whom I studied seemed have in common was a system of self-development.
Developing Your Own Path to Greatness
In Russian history, only one czar is called “Peter the Great.” He expanded his domain into a major European power, which in those days was mainly achieved through military expertise.
But the “czar” title was hereditary. So, most czars had the advantage of being directly related to the top dog.
How did Peter the Great differ from all the other czars? He seemed to create his own system of self-development. While most czars chose a particular army regiment and though sometimes still not even a teen, were named colonel.
Peter the Great picked his regiment, but insisted on joining it as a private soldier. He would not allow himself to be given special treatment, and would not allow himself to be promoted to higher rank until he believed he was deserving of it.
Peter the first was “enlightened” and caused many reforms in Russia during his reign. His system of self-development was simply based on the merit that he demonstrated, not on what he was entitled to at birth.
Peter Drucker was another good example of someone (in this case, another Peter) who built a self-development system to reach the top. Drucker believed strongly in self-development, and used various means to develop himself and to eventually become “the father of modern management.”
As Peter’s student while I was pursuing my doctorate degree, I learned, applied, and used some of his methods in my own career. His method had a great deal to do with reading and with simultaneously engagement in widely differing activities. For example he read profusely in history, business, and even romance novels while he served as an apprentice in a company and earned a law degree.
There are many methods of self-development and some are even quicker and more powerful than those Drucker used. And some are altogether unnecessary if you don’t want to become a 17th century Czar of Russia.
So, after studying so many systems, which would I recommend most to those trying to achieve success? It all depends. Each of us is an individual with different strengths, and weaknesses. The first step is to identify what skills we need to develop to get where we want to go.
For example, many systems depend on having self-confidence. If we lack self-confidence, we have to develop it, which is what Peter the Great did.
Many military organizations incorporate something called a “confidence course,” which is usually a series of obstacles that must be completed within a strict timeframe. These could be grueling, even if you already have physical stamina. I know from personal experience! Once I ran such a course without practice, and though I passed successfully within a set time limit, I pulled a muscle which didn’t heal for almost a year.
Nothing Beats Experience
Of course, the best way to build confidence is to actually accomplish something. That creates a bit of a challenge. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Fortunately, human ingenuity and the human brain can overcome this seemingly impossible contradiction.
There are mental techniques that can fool the brain into thinking that you have already done something successfully. Basically, these methods merely require you to imagine doing this thing while in a meditative or completely relaxed state.
I once had an opportunity to try this out myself. I was competing in an athletic competition and had several months to prepare. I planned my training and was on track to achieve my physical goals, which would lead to my victory when a severe pain in my back suddenly appeared. The pain was such that I needed to cease all physical activity.
I once read in the Wall Street Journal about a psychologist who had developed a system of mental rehearsal that executives used to prepare themselves to make public speeches successfully. Remembering this system of mental review of a fictitious accomplishment, I exercised every day but only in my mind. I did every repetition and in my mind, I felt every resistance and strain against my muscles. I could even smell the scent of sweat as I exercised.
A month later, and only weeks before the competition, I was finally able to exercise again. I found that I had not lost the momentum and returned to my workout plan with my strength and endurance still intact, simply by exercising my mind while letting my body heal. And I went on to win the competition.
You can accomplish anything that you want. The systems leading to success are endless. Study history and really break down how others went about it. Or, you can train your brain into thinking you have already succeeded in doing something in order to build confidence. You need to find the system that works best for you and apply it.
Like Peter the Great or Peter Drucker, you will be amazed at the progress and results you can achieve by consistently and systematically applying even just a little effort, every day.