Whether it’s by reading a book or going to a seminar, taking an active interest in your personal development could be the best thing for your career.
Personal development can be a life changing event. Talk to anyone in the personal development world and you will likely hear some version of their epiphany story of how they got started. They are also continuously sharing the books they’re reading, the seminars they’re attending, and their favorite podcasts. Those who are serious about personal development turn it into an obsession. They’re always consuming content – in the morning, in the car, on a walk, or at the gym.
Then you have those who scoff at the idea of personal development or make excuses. They say they don’t have enough time, reading is boring, blah blah blah. I should know, because that was me. Upon graduation from college, I vowed never to read a book again after the torturous 100+ credit hours of technical jargon in engineering school. But then I did, and it changed my life. It is my experience that most folks who get into personal development do so between the ages of 18-40 years old. If you don’t by age 40, you likely never will.
I’m sharing this in the hope that someone will decide to pick up a personal development book and start reading (or listening on Audible). I graduated from college and was eager to finally get out in the working world and start earning an income. At first, things were new and exciting and, at times, overwhelming. About two to five years after college, a lull happened. When you start a family or have your first kid, you start to question everything in life, including your career. This was my experience, but it was my own fault.
Engineers are awesome and do some radically cool things. Engineering can also be highly technical and mundane depending on your role. Doing what I deemed “grunt work” as an entry-level engineer made me want to check the clock 12 times a day, waiting for lunch so I could take a break and then waiting again for 5 p.m. so I could finally get the heck out of dodge. That all changed with personal development.
My problem was I did not take ownership of my life. I would blame others. Like most young engineers, I had a lot of ambition. I was ready to take on the world, climb the ladder, and reach untapped levels of success. However, once I realized that this took hard work, patience, and wasn’t just going to be handed to me, I got bored and discouraged. This struggle was the best thing that happened to me, because it finally made me do something I thought I would never do: Read a book. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to change. Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was my choice, and it consumed me. It knocked down false beliefs about my life, the world, and my environment. From there, I was hooked. In the last four years, I have read 163 books and reading/learning has now become a magnificent obsession.
Talking with various engineers in my network, I noticed something. Engineers in similar situations started to get that same itch to do something more. These are the outlets that came up most often:
- Focusing on their career and being a great employee
- Personal development
- Wellness and exercise
- Video games
- Starting their own business (woodworking, farming, etc.)
- Fantasy sports/gambling
- Real estate
- Stock trading
It was interesting to see what people choose to do outside the work hours, but usually it was at least one of the above items.
One thing I did notice was that those who used their spare time to be productive were much happier in life. Those who got lost in trivial pursuits were never quite as energetic, happy, or motivated as those improving their situation in health, wealth, or personal development.
What changed it for me? Reading a book. Although you wouldn’t think it is that simple, that single event of reading a book – not because I had to, but because I wanted to – unleashed a series of life changing habits related to personal development. Besides my decision to start a family, it may go down as one of the best decisions I have ever made and I hope it can be the same for you.
Adam Zach is a project engineer with AE2S based out of Fargo, North Dakota, and is a lifetime learner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.