Thinking more on my views on Brad Stulberg, I’ve noticed a semi-useful distinction that you can use to classify what I’ll call ‘Personal Development Pundits’, or maybe ‘Personal Performance Coaches’.
One category is authors who have, perhaps extensively, researched (as Stulberg puts it) “the philosophical and psychological foundations of excellence, and the habits and practices necessary to attain it’, and are sharing the insights they’ve gleaned from their research. And the other category is authors who have done something so difficult it beggars the imagination, and are sharing the insights gleaned from their personal experience.
The first category tends to write passages that start “A study done in
The second category tends to write passages that are generally along the lines of “Here’s what I did. It might work for you, but you won’t know until you try it. Remember, we are all different. This might not work for you.”
And part of what Stulberg is implying in the instagram posting I described in the linked blog entry is that a lot of internet pundits who are positioning themselves as part of the second category are just making stuff up.
What makes the second category of writers have a sort of utility that the first category doesn’t have is that they tend to have acquired an insight into personal hardness that the first category haven’t got and don’t understand.
If I can perhaps paint this in very broad strokes, the first category are writing about practices and habits that will help you lead yourself on an ever improving trajectory of personal excellence. That’s all very honest and all very useful stuff to know.
The second category are writing about how to turn yourself into someone who when it is clear that you can’t possibly continue, you continue anyway. For a lot of people (including a lot of people in the first category) this is mostly useless, because most people will never find themselves wanting to go on but thinking it’s impossible to do so.