When I was a kid, Saturday mornings ran like a well-oiled machine. I was always up early enough to beat my siblings to the remote and ensure I didn't miss the first adventure of the day; cartoons! Exciting commercials, optimized for my 7-year-old brain, featured toys in overly amazing play spaces and sugary breakfast cereals... "part of this complete breakfast"... as if the cereal added anything to the egg, toast, fruit, and juice shown. It worked though. In between cartoons, I would hurry to arrange cereal, toast with butter, and fruit to make sure I was breakfast-ing correctly.
Fast-forward twenty-something years and I’m still assembling components with as much care as ever as an engineer in I.T. and as a person devoted to personal growth. I'll leave the technology out of this post and discuss the unique strengths and potential drawbacks I've discovered after two decades of combining things like -
- finding a mentor,
- joining a mastermind,
- reading books,
- consuming online resources,
- or taking initiative and doing something new.
All of these are powerful activities on their own but they can be combined to form the “complete breakfast” of personal development to create an upward spiral of growth and learning.
Mentor and Mastermind - Feedback
Feedback is “the process in which part of the output of a system is returned to its input in order to regulate its further output." Whether it's one-to-one with a mentor or many-to-many with a mastermind group, feedback from others is definitely required to maximize growth.
"No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force…" - Napoleon Hill
Unique Strengths - A mentor will provide depth and focus of a one-on-one personal relationship that is hard to find elsewhere. A good mentor is a safe confidant with whom you can discuss relationship issues without it turning into gossip.
Potential Drawbacks - Your struggles may extend outside of your mentor's direct knowledge or experience. Guidance and wisdom are unidirectional and might lead to dependence or complacency in the mentee. A good mentor is hard to find.
Unique Strengths - In a mastermind group you'll be able to crowdsource solutions, validate expectations, and be cheered on. This is one of the only growth tools that asks us to solve other people's problems as part of our own growth. Analyzing and giving feedback on someone else's problem has often caused a revelation in my own life. This dynamic is incredibly powerful; it engages the brain in a completely different way, spurs creativity, and is deeply rewarding.
Potential Drawbacks - Finding a group of people with your goals and ambition but outside your normal circle can be very difficult. Facilitating one yourself is possible but challenging.
Online Resources and Books
A few years ago I was struggling with a work relationship. I was convinced I had the most unique and complex interpersonal struggle in the world… that is, until my LinkedIn feed led me to an old and widely-read research report that perfectly articulated my day-to-day struggles and referenced a book that held the solution. Technology and the internet have given us easy access to a nearly infinite pool of resources.
"That which is most personal is most universal." - Carl R. Rogers
Unique Strengths - The variety in format, length, and type of online resources means that you can be learning and growing anywhere, anytime, on any subject. Podcasts, articles, blogs, posts, tweets, videos, etc. can give you insight into almost any topic.
Potential Drawbacks - The depth of online content is usually shallow. It's easy to get lost or spend all of your time without gaining mastery. Maintaining scope and direction is challenging.
Books Unique Strengths - The printing press and books may have ushered in the modern age a few hundred years ago but the digital age has not left books behind. Audiobooks, e-books, and even paper books provide depth that is hard to get from any other source.
Potential Drawbacks - I cannot bring myself to list any drawback for reading books. Read!
Initiative and Introspection
There is a fine line between missing an opportunity because we didn't feel ready and blowing an opportunity because we weren't prepared. Initiative and Introspection are akin to the wild frontier of space and the unexplored depths of the oceans. One is looking outward and taking a risk to see where we can go and the other is looking inward to find what is already here but we haven't discovered.
Unique Strengths - There is no replacement for experience. There is no way to gain experience other than doing things. The more initiative you take, the more experience you will get. This is the only formulaic aspect of growth with a guaranteed outcome.
Potential Drawbacks - Ideologically "success is built on a mountain of failures". Experientially those failures don't happen on a desert island. Calculated risks that don't pan out can cost us a promotion or, at worst, necessitate changing companies to restart. It takes years to build trust but only seconds to destroy it.
Unique Strengths - I believe the most powerful force we can leverage for growth is within each of us. Introspection leads to self-awareness which allows us to tap into an almost unquenchable source of energy and passion. I believe we are each uniquely and wonderfully designed and have a purpose. If we operate from a place of internal alignment, it will be evident in everything we do.
Potential Drawbacks - Ironically, the danger of introspection is doing it alone. Science has proven that humans are relational creatures. To safely tap into that core energy source, we need to be well connected and anchored in compassion for and from others and for ourselves. Introspection that turns negative is called rumination. This unhealthy practice can lead to depression, or worse, if we become trapped in a negative cycle of circular thinking.
"The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize." - Robert Hughes
Part of this complete breakfast… Discovering your potential through intentional growth is an incredible and rewarding undertaking. These interdependent activities can form a comprehensive strategy for growth.
I hope these insights are encouraging for you on your journey, that you never forget the raw joy and adventure of childhood, and that you never run out of cereal before you run out milk.
About The Author
Philip Townsend, Sr. Network Engineer
Pursuing excellence with integrity - in relationships, leadership, and execution. Leveraging an abundance mindset to enable big wins for individuals and companies.
My personal mission, simply put, is to do excellent work for a good company in order to impact my future, my family, my community, my country, and my world in a positive way. Those who interact with me should feel supported, encouraged, and respected. The work I do should stand without me and the quality of my work is my legacy. The organization I work for should be stronger and more agile because of my energy and integrity. My passion, skill, and ability should be used to honor my Creator and serve others.