Jim Rohn said, “Formal education can make you a living, but self-education will make you fortune”.

Personal Development is one of my core values. These values are non-negotiable in my life and Self Development is right up there, high on the list.

My personal mission statement is, “Be the Best I can Be”, and to do that I know that I have to constantly work to be better, and I do that in many ways. The books I read, the things I listen to, the events I attend and the people I associate with are a few.

The thing about self-development is, it’s not a destination, there is no end. I think that may put people off, but for me it’s a mindset and a mission that I enjoy. I love learning new things and picking up ideas from others.

I think we all have that in us.

How many times have you attended an off-site training course, seminar or a workshop and literally hated the thought of going, but once it was over you thought it was the best thing you ever did and made you determined to start a new life the following Monday!!

We all secretly love learning new things, but the trick is to find a medium that drives and inspires is. For many its reading but that can also turn many people off the subject.

I overheard a conversation between my children recently on holiday. Martha was reading and Dan, the young upstart said, “Why are you reading you sado!!!” It was only in jest and he was only pulling her leg, but I explained to him that reading is a huge privilege and a gift that is wasted on many.

I blame schools and the boring books they make you do for GCSE English exams. I can only comment on when I was there, but they just didn’t inspire in the early years. They were old dated texts that were like pulling teeth for a young boy. It made me fall out of love with reading before I even gave it a chance.

Formal education can make you a living, but self-education will make you fortune

Also, these days, and then for that matter, there were so many more interesting things to do than to spend hours reading. I can see that in my son.

I explained to him that the power of self-education is a gift of the free world. There are many cultures that stop people reading so they can’t educate themselves. Places like North Korea for example. Then there are cultures and countries that ban women from reading. Why? Because the knowledge they would gain would allow them to realise that the suppression they are experiencing is wrong and there is another way.

I fell in love with reading when I was serving on warships in the Royal Navy. Spending weeks, sometimes months at sea, with no TV led you to find respite in a good book. At that time, it was fiction and things like Clive Cussler books.

As I left the armed forces and joined civvy street I was conscious that, without a University degree, I could be seen as somewhat behind the curve. Initially I studied hard for professional qualifications and accreditations based around my new role in the technology sector, like Microsoft’s Certified Engineer courses. As I developed and grew into management and then leadership positions, I knew that I needed to up skill myself.

There are so many great books out there on so many different subjects and I’m happy to list of a load of recommendations. The first book I bought was recommended by a Director I was working for. He asked if I’d ever read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I hadn’t even heard of it, or even knew that a self-development genre existed. I’m not sure if Amazon was around at the time, so it was a trip to the local WH Smiths to order it!

Funnily enough I still have a copy on my desk in the home office. If you see it, it’s a well-used, yellow, messy thing that spoils my book collection at first glance. In this day and age of E-Readers and Kindles I digest most of my self-development electronically, but I still buy books if I think they warrant a place in the collection.

The reason my copy of 7 Habits is looking so shabby is that it has been on every holiday I’ve been on for the last 10 years!! For a long time, it was the only physical book I owned, the rest were on my Kindle App on the iPad as I found that while sitting on the beach or at the pool, the iPad was too heavy or too hot to use. Now, on every holiday, there’s always a new physical book in tow as well as the Kindle, quite frankly I love reading.

My issue with self-development is that many associate it solely with reading and that puts people off. Many people hate reading for whatever reason and that’s fine because there are so many other ways to digest material. Audiobooks in the car or in the gym (or lying on a sun bed!) is another favourite of mine.

Then there are courses, online and physical you can attend. Some of the world’s foremost practitioners of self-development can come straight into your office on your PC. They all have YouTube channels and Social Media profiles to follow. Much of the content is now free. This is unbelievable when you think my first book cost me around £25. Now all these experts give away 90% of their content for free, across every thinkable medium to ensure they reach as big an audience as possible.

Yes, I know you are going to say, they’re all looking for you to sign up to their mailing list and sell you paid for courses and content. Yes, of course they are, these people have to make a living also!! However, you have to be willing to invest in yourself and your personal growth if you are to take this seriously.

I appreciate that you may not be in a position to afford that. No problem, when you can, do it. Until then read, learn and open your mind to new ideas. The world’s leading experts are at your fingertips, so exploit them.

An old friend of mine, who has himself had significant success in business always asks me and ribs me for quoting books and reading “rubbish” as he calls it. . . And I always tell him that the £2Million he made selling his business could have been turned into £20Million reading the rubbish that I read!!