How often are you working on yourself?

Today is January 2 and the Navigate the Chaos to consider is “How often are you working on yourself?” People who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living like best-selling author Jim Rohn and retired professional football player Emmit Smith understand the value of working on developing themselves. This is true no matter how much they accomplish in life. Rohn’s mentor Earl Shoaff, once said to him, “If you want to be wealthy and happy, learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” Shoaff’s statement woke Rohn up and he continuously worked hard at his personal growth describing it as “the most challenging assignment of all that lasted a lifetime.”


In a famous television commercial, Smith is filmed doing various exercises. His voiceover says “2 MVPS, 2 rings, I’ve been working hard. Maybe this year I’ll take a little time off.” The voiceover stops and there is quiet as he pauses for two seconds on an incline sit-up bench. He continues his workout, and the voiceover continues. “There that was refreshing. All men are created equal, some just work harder in the preseason.”

Rohn and Smith dedicated substantial time and effort to develop into the person they wanted to be. Even after winning championships Smith continued to push himself to work harder. Like Rohn, he dedicated himself to personal growth.


In his December 15, 2008 New York Times editorial, "Lost in the Crowd," columnist David Brooks reflected upon the strategy of self-improvement employed by successful people who learned to navigate the chaos when he wrote:


“Most successful people begin with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so. They were often showered by good fortune but relied at crucial moments upon achievements of individual will. Most successful people also have a phenomenal ability to consciously focus their attention. Control of attention is the ultimate individual power. People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them. This individual power leads to self-control, the ability to formulate strategies to resist impulses. It leads to resilience, the ability to persevere with an idea even when all the influences in the world say it cannot be done. It leads to creativity as individuals learn to hold a problem in their mind long enough to see it anew.”


Control of attention is the ultimate individual power. People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them. This individual power leads to self-control, the ability to formulate strategies to resist impulses. It leads to resilience, the ability to persevere with an idea even when all the influences in the world say it cannot be done. It leads to creativity as individuals learn to hold a problem in their mind long enough to see it anew.”

The phrase “most successful people begin with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so,” serves as a north star for anyone who needs direction. When in doubt, look up and say to yourself “I believe the future can be better and I have the power to make it so.” If identifying strategies to use to make the future better is difficult, refer to other Navigate the Chaos posts as they provide suggestions. Another option is to read any number of books on navigating the chaos to create the future you envision. One such example comes from The 50th Law authors Curtis James Jackson III, aka 50 Cent, and Robert Greene who wrote:


“What you need to do in life is return to that mind you possessed as a child, opening your mind up to experience instead of closing it off. Just imagine for a day that you do not know anything, that what you believe could be false. Let go of your preconceptions and even your most cherished beliefs. Experiment. Force yourself to hold the opposite opinion or see the world through your enemy’s eyes. Listen to the people around you with more attentiveness. See everything as a source for education-even the most banal encounters. Imagine that the world is still full of mystery.”

Both Rohn and Smith believed that they had the power to make their future better than the present. Developing who they were was a critical step in the process. If you allow your mind to remain open to new ideas, experiences, and lessons you will provide yourself with ample opportunities to work on yourself. You have the power to work on yourself at any given moment. Do you realize that? Tchiki Davis realized that and did something about it.


Dr. Tchiki Davis, author of the 2019 book Outsmart Your Smartphone: Conscious Tech Habits for Finding Happiness, Balance, and Connection IRL became obsessed with personal development. Earlier in her life she had no money, worked a minimum wage retail job, and how no career prospects. After a decade of working on herself, Davis earned her doctorate degree, created well-being workshops, and published her first book. Davis recommends that people “Keep developing in new ways. The science is clear: The more ways we develop ourselves, the broader our skill set, and the more success we tend to have. So, try learning some new emotional skills or do some activities to build new skills. You just might learn something that changes your life.”


How often do you work on yourself while maintaining the belief that the future can be better than the present and that you can make it so? Are you committed to obsessing over your own self-development like Davis? Why? Why not?