Personal Growth isn’t Anyone’s Birthright. Here’s How to Earn it

- What is most important for me, really?

I ask myself this question almost everyday. The answer is never money, or fame, or power. Not even respect, belonging, or security. The most important thing for me is to raise myself to my highest potentials and help others do the same. That is my way to make this world a better place.

We were born with great potentials. We can all be insanely great at something. However, personal growth isn’t anyone’s birthright. The moment we stop learning, stop growing, we are as good as dead. There is no greater satisfaction than the elevation of understanding, and the discovery of wisdom. To have the sun shines through your brain and your heart, cleansing away confusion and ignorance, making you a better you.


It is great to be a young person. It is great to be a young person. For me, it feels like standing in front of the ocean at dusk, or under a starry summer sky in a mountain. Looking out and gazing up at the immensity and mystery of the world around us. Benevolence of life is staring at us in the face. Look at this! We are so young, so bright, so healthy; yet so tiny, so unwise, so inexperienced. I admire Michael A. Singer for brilliantly putting this into perspective:

You are living on a planet spinning around the middle of outer space, and you’re either worrying about your blemishes, the scratch on your new car, or the fact that you burped in public.

Instead of investing effort and time to grow, young people care about things that don’t worth caring about at all. I wonder why?

Firstly, we are so used of having knowledge crammed in our head like a stuffed turkey on Christmas table that we lose our appetite with knowledge. That’s how formal education has ruined our lives behind our backs. But we can turn around and stop this crime now.

As yourself the question no teacher has bother to ask you in your life:

- What do I want to learn?

I was so inspired by Alan Watts’ answer to this question in his fascinating autobiography In My Own Way, that I want to share it with you in full:

Looking back, then, I would have arranged for myself to be taught survival techniques for both natural and urban wilderness. I would want to have been instructed in self-hypnosis, in aikido (the esoteric and purely self-defensive style of judo), in elementary medicine, in sexual hygiene, in vegetable gardening, in astronomy, navigation, and sailing; in cookery and clothesmaking, in metalwork and carpentry, in drawing and painting, in printing and typography, in botany and biology, in optics and acoustics, in semantics and psychology, in mysticism and yoga, in electronics and mathematical fantasy, in drama and dancing, in singing and in playing an instrument by ear; in wandering, in advanced daydreaming, in prestidigitation, in techniques of escape from bondage, in disguise, in conversation with birds and beasts, in ventriloquism, in French and German conversation, in planetary history, in morphology, and in classical Chinese.

Knowledge isn’t just Advanced Statistics, Corporate Finance, Accounting, or International Law - if these subjects happen to enchant you, by all means dive into them! You have my respect. There are a universe outside the confined cell of academics.

These are what I’ve learned by myself though books and experiences how to sell an idea, how to lead myself and others, spirituality, meditation, yoga philosophy and physical practices, psychology, dieting, how to write, how to blog, how to read, how to cultivate self-love, and many more. It’s liberating to know that we are perfectly able to claim our own education. Yet very few of us is actively learning because we are very distracted and disoriented.


Secondly, whenever we are not hustling around with busyness, we are occupied watching TV or strolling around the internet. Our mind flaps back and forth between chaos and idleness. Being disoriented, we feel so hollow and so bored with our lives that we seek entertainment whenever we can to distract our souls from this predicament; just to find ourselves in boredom again. Then we thought we need more and better entertainment. We reach for another TV episode.

This is a waste. Researches have shown that our brains work at premium capacity when we are in our 20s.  But once we are aware of these insane patterns, we can break them.

Learning has become my new “entertainment”. When I feel drained, I tell myself to write, read a book or watch some TED talks. If I’m smart and listen to myself, I will get energized. If I’m stupid and watch a movie instead, I always end up feeling phenomenally dull. 

Some tools that come in handy to design your own higher education:

  • Google - Make it your second nature to Google your question before you bring it to someone. Being the generation of the information age, it’s vital to know how to navigate search tools like Google to find certain information or do research.
  • TED talks – Great place to expand your knowledge horizontally. However continuously hopping from one talk to another is shallow, no real personal growth comes from there. I use TED as an “interestingness discovery machine”. When I find a talk that truly fascinate me, I search for book written the speaker or ways to get deeper in the subject.
  • Blogs – This is where you will probably end up in when you search on Google. Though there is a lot of garbage online, there are still some great blogs. With time you will understand which blog is written with care, and which blog is mere click-bait for its owner to sell ads. My personal favorite is “Brainpicker” Maria Popova is a skilled curator, superb writer, and above all, very good human being. I also follow blogs of my favorite authors and thinkers. Almost all of them have their own blog. If Purple Cow  fascinates you, why not follow the blog of Seth Godin?


  • Books / E-books – I’m a non-fiction reader. I prefer e-books to paper books. With e-books, searching and noting become easy. It helps me to reduce material possessions, and able to access my library anywhere, anytime. Instead of wasting my time scavenging bookstores; I can access the infinite warehouse of and purchase a book with a click. If you want to invest, invest on your education, invest on an e-book reading device. Buy less clothes or cinema tickets or restaurant foods. But save up or a e-book reader. Having a tablet with Kindle installed has helped me enormously to own my education. Books are indispensable, and will always be indispensable.
  • People – Are you surrounding yourself with couch-potatoes and busyness maniacs? Or are you surrounding yourself with insatiable learners? Do your friends call you to the cinemas? Or do they call you to talk about the books they are reading or ideas they are hatching? Are the only senior persons you communicate with your parents or professors who are irritated by your questions and explosive when you dare to challenge their knowledge? Or are you having a mentor who, despite her wisdom and experience, are innocent and open to discuss your confusions and aspirations as equals? Do you know how to find the right teachers?


The very fact that you are reading these words now proves you to be a learner.  So learn more. The short time we have on this earth isn’t enough to learn everything we want. Choose what you want to learn like how you pick seashells on the beach: take up the ones that sparkle to you. Your intuition knows what interests you. Give it your devotion, like how Jiro Ono devoted his life to master the craft of sushi making.

Raising yourself to your highest potentials is the right way to thank your parents’ for the hardship in bringing you up; to thank this earth for embracing you in her body despite what our kind has done to her; to thank and contribute to the flow of human consciousness – hundreds of generations in the past, and hundreds of generations yet to come.