free personal development
I always find the idea of spending money in order to make you rich a little bizarre. Books, audio programs, seminars and courses can cost you a fortune. There is a whole ‘personal development industry’, and maybe it is doing a good job—I am curious about your experiences in that matter. Please comment if you wasted your money or got tenfold, hundredfold return on such investments. Detailed life examples are welcome!

No motivational program can motivate you if you won’t motivate yourself. It is your actions that will change your life, not anybody else’s actions, advice or good intentions.

According to 80/20 rule, 80% of success is depending on you, it isn’t sensible to allocate 80% of your budget to a 20% factor of training materials.

My experience was that I had attended events, read books, listened to tapes and nothing significant happened, and it made me suspicious about the results of any paid programs. It also made me close-minded. I was looking for ulterior motives first and then for some useful knowledge.

When I was learning from free personal development materials I was open minded and it drastically improved my effectiveness.

The devil’s advocate arguments

People who encourage you to spend your money on their products have two main arguments against free:

1. You don’t value free, so you won’t pay attention to the material and it won’t change your life.

What a stinky argument this is! I claim that if you need to spend a load of money on an item to value its worth, there is something wrong with your personal philosophy and no amount of money can fix it. First you need to shift your mindset before spending money on any paid program.

If you appreciate only things that can be represented in monetary value it indicates your attitude toward money is seriously flawed, probably in the range approaching worship. You don’t need to spend thousands to value the materials you work on. You just need to implement and distill the value out of them.

My personal experience is that the amount you pay for a tool makes exactly zilch difference to the actual implementation of the material.

I received a copy of Getting Things Done by David Allen on the free training at my job. It was the first personal development book I read in many years. I was captivated by the ideas and tried to implement them, without much success. But at least I started doing something and it made me come out of my dormant state.

I borrowed the book Slight Edge from my sister. The book’s message has changed my life.

I have borrowed many other books and audio programs since then and many times they were very fruitful:

  • I listened to an audio version of The Ripple Effect by Darren Hardy and started a gratitude journal about my wife.
  • I got Start Over, Get Rich for free by subscribing to David’s Bach email list; results: $7k saved in 2 years, I was able to buy my first house.
  • I was involved in a few free online communities. No paid program could bring such intimacy, encouragement and deep friendships, like The Transformational Contest did. I learned most about self-publishing in the free authors’ Facebook group.

Of course, if you are a busy executive or a successful entrepreneur, spending money on personal development materials is not a big problem and certainly beats searching such materials on the Internet in your scarce spare time. Nevertheless, an ordinary mortal needs a different strategy. Having not much money to spare, he can find an hour a week for research.

2. Free is low quality.

This argument is, in fact, an implication that paid is high quality. And it’s not. While learning about self-publishing I bought an eBook for $7. It was the first ever info product I bought. And it was lame. I found better information on setting up the account on Amazon and formatting the book in a free eBook provided by Amazon. The marketing info was of some value, but Steve Scott’s book was much better and cost half the price of this first product.

I bought a Kindle keyword and profitability research tool. It cost about $100 if I remember correctly. The help section was a joke. Basic functionality was flawed, because the tool was connecting using my proxy and presented prices as I saw them on the Amazon store, with VAT tax fee, not how my American customers saw them. All profitability calculations were thus false.

In December 2013 I tried the paid Get-Rich-Quick-on-Kindle program. It cost $50 a month. I can’t imagine how they wanted to justify the price. I learned very few things from the initial 16 videos. After self-publishing 3 books I already knew 90% of the material. The videos themselves were not high quality either.

The quality-price dependence died a long time ago. Now you don’t pay for the quality of a product, but for the quality of the marketing or brand. Shoes produced by Nike, Puma or no-name small company all are manufactured in the same production process somewhere in East Asia. Their prices vary solely based on the perceived value of the brands.

Free MAY be low quality, but the same goes for paid products. The only way to check the quality is by making an actual purchase and checking it empirically. In that case, I prefer not to spend money on the unknown.

Study for free

Nowadays knowledge is free. That’s a fact. Even the biggest self-help gurus provide a lot of free materials to attract people to their products. I’m on Brian Tracy’s email list. He bombards me with discounts of his books and audio programs, but he also often sends free samples of his work—a short PDF on setting goals, a 30-minute audio about building self-confidence and so on.

On YouTube there are lot of great videos, whole Jim Rohn seminars, Brendon Burchard’s videos used in his products launches packed with useful info, great Les Brown motivational speeches and much, much more. And with modern technology you can download these videos, convert them to your preferable format and consume in any way you want. I hate learning from videos, it’s a waste of time for me, the content is so unsearchable. But I have quite a lot of time to listen to audio—my morning workout, commuting, chores. Learning from audio isn’t my preferred way, but I’ve listened to Cultivating The Unshakable Character by Jim Rohn dozen times, I know it by heart.

Amazon is full of free books on every imaginable topic. Bookmark the free parts of a few specific categories and visit them daily. There is a lot of crap produced by Kindle Gold Rushers, but from time to time you can find a real gem. The classic self-help titles, like Think and Grow Rich are available in public domain.

Gutenberg free library holds some precious classic works like Meditation by Mark Aurelius or The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

There are free communities of like minded people ready to support and encourage you for no pay whatsoever. You can join them and lose weight, develop new habits or learn self-publishing.

There are some excellent self-help blogs out there, written by practitioners who are progressing themselves and provide nonsense-free detailed guidance. A couple that I can think of, just off the top of my head, are BasicGrowth by Simon Somlai and StartGainingMomentum by Ludvig Sunström.

There are blogs about everything, where people wiser, or just more diligent, than you research specific areas. You can learn about how the human brain works or how to maintain the hormone equilibrium of your body for the optimal fitness results, all for free.

“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” — Jim Rohn

Only your imagination restricts your use of these various sources of knowledge.

You are also solely responsible for implementing this knowledge in your life. Dry facts are not going to change your life, your action will do that.

You can achieve extraordinary things just by committing yourself to such study. Matt Stone, a blogger (, has studied health (he admittedly bought quite a lot of books, so it wasn’t exactly a free study). He decided at one point to get a Master’s degree at university to formalize his knowledge in that area. He quit after one month because he already knew more than his professors. He now earns a 5 figure income from his blog.

Free personal development is possible

The access to knowledge is not a problem. The problem is information overload. You don’t need to pay for books, seminars and programs to progress. You need to decide what your values are, what your purpose is, and focus on them. You don’t need a credit card to grow, you just need the right personal philosophy.

Free Personal Development

12 thoughts on “Free Personal Development

  • November 26, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Simon has indeed a great blog dedicated to personal development. I stumbled upon his site about two months ago. Hopefully, he gets more readers soon because he really has some great content!

    “No motivational program can motivate you if you won’t motivate yourself.”
    >> What I think is so crazy sometimes is that some people are only willing to motivate themselves when they have these programs. In other words, the contents of the program itself has nothing much to do with it. Or you know. “I paid so much for this, it had better work.” And so he/she actually just motivates himself so he won’t look like an idiot spending so much and staying stagnant. I think there’s a name for this. Can’t remember.

    • December 10, 2014 at 8:34 am

      Sorry Jeremy for taking my sweet time to answer, but you’ve brushed the topic I’m passionate about and I didn’t want to answer hastily, without thinking.
      I fully agree with you that there are “some” people, who “sometimes” motivate themselves this way.
      I hate the fact that those few individual cases are abused to justify the fact of overpricing info products and knowledge in general. See #1 of devil’s advocate arguments. It’s like saying that because there are some nuts out there we all need to behave like nuts.
      This false excuses for, simply speaking, getting more money spoil the market. People are wary approaching any new blogger, author or online marketer, because they met with this attitude all too often, wasted their time and money in the past and those memories are live and hurt.
      This argumentation indicates that you treat your audience like idiots and losers: “Hey, you poor thing, I know you can’t do anything with your life if you don’t spend one grand upfront; in fact, I’m making you a big favor pricing my products so high, now there is at least hope for you, you miserable sucker.”
      They scuttle the basic of the market: trust. (more about this in answer to Simon’s comment)
      Sorry for the rant. This is for me like a red flag to a bull.

  • November 29, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Interesting insight Michal. Free personal development are indeed possible, you just need the right mindset and attitude. And yes, definitely don’t need a credit card to grow wiser.

    • December 4, 2014 at 10:41 am

      You need the right mindset for both free and paid methods, so why not develop it first instead of dipping into your wallet?

  • December 1, 2014 at 12:09 am

    I have always been a stingy guy and wary of spending for training. Though I have my share of blunders. But because I exercise caution and diligence to check before hitting “pay” button, I have minimized this. I have to say that the trainings that I have attended that seemed gone to waste are those where i did not use because i could not or I did not make the effort to do so.

    In the online marketing space, I have spend over a thousand dollars attending a couple of webinars. I would not say they were crap but that only 50-60% were useful. But I guess that’s the price you have to pay when there is an overlap of what you already know when attending such training. I just feel that the price is overvalued.

    Having invested enough in so called online marketing webinars, I take precaution attending another one or else I become a perennial attendee but never a doer. At the moment, I take advantage of free stuff (with exception of cheaper investments like ebooks) and focus on ACTION!

    • December 5, 2014 at 8:04 am

      I’ll articulate it for you: these webinars were crap, if you didn’t make your thousands back and then some more.
      Online marketing is really getting under my skin and do the same for many people. They are suppose to teach you how to make money, not rob you from your money!

      They are so easily verifiable. You consume the content, implement it and you must get the results bigger than price! Otherwise the seller is the scammer.

  • December 7, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Great topic man.

    It’s true that all information is free on the internet, we live in the most opportunistic/abundant times EVER in history but like you said we now suffer from information overload.

    Paperback/secondhand books are no-brainers. I wouldn’t really recommend saving on this. Although you should remain critical and do an inspection of your “to read” list fairly regular to see if they’re still in line with your goals or merely cool trivia.

    When I’m spending big on education I usually look for three things;
    Someone who has
    > Achieved exponentially more in his life than what I want.
    > Character (meaning I can trust this person – which is increasingly important in information overload)
    > Structure & Clarity

    And maybe a money-back guarantee 😉

    I’m all for free education but I does save a lot of time and effort when/if you find the right person who has all the concentrated knowledge you need.

    Thanks for the shout-out!

    • December 10, 2014 at 8:34 am

      Hi Simon,
      I’m not saying you should be fanatical about this free learning. I’m just pointing out the obvious so many marketers are trying to blur: paying for knowledge is not a prerequisite for results; implementing the knowledge is.

      Yes, reading “wrong” materials you lose the most precious resource: time.

      As to your method for picking the right prime products:
      > Achieved exponentially more: I disagree with you on that point. What is important is that the person should have achieved more than me. Period. I think that millionaires advice is best applicable for millionaires. They are too detached from the real life, “negativity” and other mundane factors (like 9 to 5 job for someone) to be able to provide really relatable info and methods for ordinary folks. So, the closer the person is to your level, the more applicable advice she has for you.
      > Character (meaning I can trust this person): here you are onto something. Character per se is not the guarantee. I value very highly the character of Craig Ballantyne, the millionaire who organized the Transformational Contest which strongly influenced my progress. But his methods are not my methods. His beliefs, are not my beliefs (eg. sell as much as possible, that means you are serving as much as possible). He is a great guy, but a poor mentor -for me.
      But trust itself is absolutely crucial. It’s trust which stems results. This is a fabric of the business life. And you don’t have to pay to trust. Quite the opposite: the more pitchy and insisting on the high price the seller is, the more distrustful you become. And it hinders the learning process and implementation. I look more for a fine print, the details of moneyback guarantee than for how I can apply the data I get.
      Free is the way to build up trust to the levels where paying for the service is no-brainer.
      Structure and clarity are desirable, but not so important. As long as you are determined to explore the material and trust deposit is high enough you are able to go through some fluff 😉

      I also fully agree with your last sentence. The only problem is that everyone poses to be such a person. Lip service however is not enough. It’s trial and error. You must really check out some stuff, before you can judge if this person is the real deal and you can learn from her.

      • December 21, 2014 at 7:19 pm

        Something went wrong apparently,

        I’ve once read that we’re only able to copy about 10% of the success of the person we listen to (I think this is because we can only connect 10% of their associations to our own neural “blueprint”. Everyone is wired differently and most is incompatible although it might work for someone else)

        So I’d rather shoot straight to the top and copy their 10% (which is exponentially more)

        I don’t really know if they’re more detached from reality. I think relatability doesn’t really fade away but that’s just an assumption.

        But hey, why not let their reality rub off on you? Our surroundings set the standard for what’s acceptable right? Better to be in big company when it comes to making money in my opinion.

        totally agree. I define character as; “being in the possession of morally correct traits”- semantics.

        “Structure and clarity are desirable, but not so important. ” – true, it’s more a convenience than a necessity. But especially in this age of “information overload” it’s more than welcome. And since there’s so much ; we have choice!

        Take care,

        • December 22, 2014 at 4:32 pm

          Interesting tidbit about assimilating juust 10%. Thanks for the input Simon.

  • December 10, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    I feel like the whole idea between paid and free material has been changing. So much good stuff online is free, but there still are a few people who might see this as low quality even when it isn’t. It reminds me of a consultant I knew once. He had a hard time getting work, but changed the price he was asking for – that’s it. He asked for more and suddenly he got a lot more because people thought it was more valuable. So weird at times. But that seems to be changing as people are getting accustomed to more free things online that are of good quality.

  • December 11, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Modern marketing has broken the price-quality relation. So much junk has now the prime prices – and I’m talking here about offline world – that even the most dormant individuals noticed it.

    Thanks for an interesting story Steve.


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