They preach that we need constant growth or our lives might collapse. The question I’ve faced over the last few years as a member of this personal growth cult is, where does it end?
When is enough growth enough? How big do you need to grow?
There’s something alarmingly wrong with the idea of chasing constant personal growth.
My personal rebellion against personal growth
Don’t worry, I used to fall for the lie of constant growth too.
I was the poster boy for it. “Grow, man, grow … otherwise die.” “If you’re not growing your dying.”
This mindset led me to build a large startup with 100+ employees. Then in later years I built a sizeable online following.
But in the last year or so I completely lost interest in growing a big business or trying to acquire another 200,000 followers on whatever the latest and greatest social media app is.
Yesterday a friend said to me “You must be mad that some of the places you publish give you less followers and money now.”
I replied, “I’ve had a good run and made enough money and followers for a lifetime. It’s time for others to have their shot. If I keep going at this rate, greed will take over — and I don’t want to become entitled.”
They were somewhat shocked by my answer. They assumed I’d want excess growth for eternity.
My interest in money has gone right down too
Constantly stacking dollars when there’s nothing else you need in life seems pointless.
I’ve been on a quest, instead, to own more of my time so that money-making takes a backseat.
It’s not as easy as before because now I have a baby girl, wife, and in-laws living with me. I have to provide for all of them, so I can’t just make $0 and smile at my neighbors and say “howdy.” I have to earn.
But my aim is to earn a lot less. And my goal is to experience much less online growth.
When I tell people they think I’m an alien. They don’t get it.
“You’re in your prime dude. Keep going. You could be the next Mark Manson.” I don’t want to be Mark Manson. I don’t want a big team of people kissing my feet and calling me boss.
Frankly, I just want to read more unpopular books from decades ago and drink el cheapo teabags in hot water.
The danger of too much online growth or money is you can become famous. And that’s a nightmare. I like privacy. I like to live like an NPC (a non-player character from video games) and form random conversations with people.
Yesterday I traveled around my new neighborhood and door-knocked on strangers’ doors. Making friends with average people like me who drive Toyota Camrys is my idea of the good life.
None of them knew who I was. I told them I worked in IT so as I wouldn’t have to bother trying to explain the online game I’ve spent 9 years playing.
This is only the start of my personal rebellion.
The hidden problem of too much growth
Here’s what it boils down to:
Too much growth forces you to focus on the wrong thing.
You start chasing numbers for the sake of numbers. You lose all meaning and purpose and begin to walk down the mindless path to nowhere. You become unrecognizable … but in the wrong way.
What we need are plateaus and slow periods.
I’m going through one right now. My daily inbound emails used to be more than the complaints Elon Musk gets on his tweets.
Recently I stopped sending so many emails so I stopped getting as many emails (massive life hack).
I wake up now to a handful of emails that I can answer in minutes and get on with my day.
I’ve cleaned the crap out of my gmail too. Any newsletters of people who don’t add value are auto-unsubscribed. Soon, once my virtual assistant starts replying to emails for me, my whole productivity will transform.
I’ve experimented with posting less online too. That has been great so far.
Thanks to fewer emails, posts, and less need for personal growth, I’ve spent the last few weeks working 5 days instead of 7.
I get the weekend off and basically don’t look at my phone. I live a lot more in aeroplane mode. It’s given me more time with my 5 month old daughter.
Instead of focusing on someone else’s goal or making some tech giant richer, I’m focused more on what matters to me.
The danger of too much growth is transcendence
I’ll admit I don’t know much about spirituality or transcendence.
Although they’re topics I’m exploring more. My friend Lawrence Yeo, who writes the blog “More to That” wrote a great piece on transcendence. It ties perfectly to the need for constant growth.
He writes about philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He started out as a man on the search for truth. Eventually he reached a level of personal growth that caused him to enter transcendence.
All the truth he knew went from being helpful to becoming a prison for his mind. He could no longer relate to the shared human experience.
Transcendence means you’re better than another person. It’s a fancy word for a class system — or my pet hate, elitism.
When you experience unhealthy levels of personal growth no normal person can relate to you. So you vanish more and more into the darkness and stay stuck at home locked in your bedroom office.
This leads to isolation and eventual loneliness. Loneliness then leads to frustration and even deep levels of anger. It’s a dangerous spiral downward.
This reality scares the crap out of me.
It’s why I want to slow down my personal growth to dial up connection with the shared human struggle.
I don’t want to become some douchebag self-improvement growth idiot who lacks self-awareness and thinks they’re a superior being.
How much growth is too much growth? That’s the big philosophical question I’ll leave you with.