How to grow

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This month Raptitude will turn four years old. Some of you were here right from the first few awkward posts, a time when all of my subscribers could fit in a school bus. But now the regulars alone could fill an NHL arena, along with enough casual readers to form a pretty scary mob in the surrounding parking area.

The numbers are big enough to be abstract to me now, and when I think of Raptitude’s readership I’m usually still thinking of the same few dozen faces (or avatars) that were on that original schoolbus. So I sometimes forget that a good proportion of you are quite new, and we’ve never been properly introduced.

My name is David. I’m a 32 year-old Canadian. I write about creating moment-to-moment quality of life, mostly by reframing how we look at the world and its people.

It has worked for me. Unbelievably well. Every year I reach a new level of confidence and ease. If the Me of 2012 could travel back in time, he would make short work of the problems suffered by the Me of 2011. This is the kind of growth I expect of myself every year now, and I want you to expect that too.

Whether they read this blog or not, everyone is interested in that: more ease, more perspective, more self-dependability – to know how to be less needy, less unstable, less worried.

For people actively interested in personal growth, the existing reading material tends to settle into two slightly overlapping camps. There are the “summon the winner within” people you find in the audience at Tony Robbins events, and the spiritual/new-age people who talk in soft voices about meditating and manifesting things.

People do get lots of mileage out of these camps, but I think the greater proportion of people don’t really want to live in either one. On Raptitude I borrow what I’ve learned from both and pass on what works, but I don’t really like the tone of either one. They just feel too forceful a lot of the time. Most of us don’t want to become practicing Buddhists, or recite affirmations into the mirror every morning, and we don’t believe that’s what happy people do.

For me it’s about cultivating personal perspectives that work internally, for you, better than what you’ve been prescribed by society (or by Tony Robbins, for that matter.) In my experience, the conventional ways of life that most of us inherit from our parents, our religions and our cultural norms make for lives that are many times harder than they have to be, and much less rewarding. I feel like I’m about twenty times better at life than I was ten years ago, but only because I made a point of it. 

People often ask me for my “general philosophy” and my usual answer is that if I had a general philosophy I wouldn’t have written half a million words about it. I think there’s a world of conversation that’s dying to happen, a still-to-be genre of quality-of-life-related writing that’s oceans apart from both traditional self-improvement and stuffy spiritual teachings. In my own self-important way I like to think I’m helping to get that going, finally.

There are readers who tell me they have read everything I have published. I don’t necessarily recommend that, but if you like you can do that here, and if you do, you’ll notice my opinions change over time. I am constantly experimenting, adapting to what works and ditching what doesn’t, and you should too. Your positions change. This is growth.

Even so, over time clear themes emerge. As a writer you find you can talk circles around a topic for hours, only to finally realize it can be mostly reduced to an aphorism or two. If I took four years of writing and distilled down it to a potent spirit, here it is: in a relatively small number of words, how to create a gigantic improvement in your moment-to-moment quality of life over the next year. Click for elaboration.

Get rid of needless possessions and needless commitments. Protect your freedom.

Learn to find the enjoyability of the “in-between” moments, because they make up 98% of your lifeDo one thing at a time and do them on purposeRegularly do things that feel out-of-character.

Cultivate a sense of solidarity with all humans. Regard typicalness as a red flag that you may be settling. Stop blaming others. Don’t limit your compassion to people who cause no harm (because there are none).

Know your addictions.  Agree to let the moment feel like whatever it feels like. Observe the play of desire and attachment in your life.

Now and then, ask yourself often what your mind is up to. Let bad moods come and go and don’t trust what they tell you about the big picture.

Think a lot about what you want and only sparingly about what you don’t want. When bad things happen, go do the next thing.

Regard your mind as an advisor — an intelligent but often frantic and short-sighted one — instead of a boss. Don’t take your thoughts so seriouslyKeep your life clean and your mind will clear up.

Don’t take anyone’s word but your own, when it comes to who you really areNever mistake your self-image for your self. Let yourself become a different person over time.  Be willing to let go of any belief, if something else starts to make more sense to you. Put your personal experience first, and the data second, generally.

Experiment with mindfulness and meditation. To find peace in any moment, let your personal interests dieLive in the first person, not the third person like most people do.

Get rich, but define wealth as the capacity to create quality of life, rather than as money specifically. Learn to focus on the concrete things, and ignore most of the abstract things. Don’t spend your life doing what you don’t love – to love yourself means to work for yourself, not to pleasure yourself.

Read.

Be fair and generous to others, but don’t be afraid to think of your own life as the Greatest Story Ever ToldLet things change when they’re ready to change. Let people go when they’re ready to go. When the universe speaks to you, listen.

Pretend this is the first moment of your life.

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What else can I read?

If any of this moves you, run with it. Inspiration doesn’t last if you don’t act on it. Dive in by reading more.

As I said, most of the self-improvement material out there veers away from my line of thinking into either self-motivational talk or spiritual pursuits. In a way that isn’t entirely selfish, I want as many people as possible to think about life like I do: be self-reliant, open-minded and observant. and make a point of getting better at being human. I wish there was more on the web I could recommend in this vein. There are only three blogs I read regularly.

Steve Pavlina writes what is probably the most successful self-development blog on the internet. He’s eccentric, nerdy, pragmatic and sometimes judgmental, and turns a lot of people off. He embraces a lot of the conventional self-improvement principles, but he’s candid about what works for him and says exactly what he thinks. No matter what you think of him, some of his stuff is absolute gold. Check out his “best of” in the sidebar.

The second one is Mr Money Mustache. You can classify it a personal finance blog, and on the level of finance alone it will make you rich. MMM’s message is brilliant and simple: getting rich amounts to living on considerably less than you earn, and most of what people deem as necessary expenditures are totally unnecessary and do not contribute to happiness. He believes typical middle-class budget is “an exploding volcano of wastefulness” and he can show you how to become happier while you spend way less, and free yourself from dependence your employer far sooner. He retired at 30. His latest post was the inspiration for this post and is the perfect access point for new readers.

The Altucher Confidential is also an exceptional blog that’s worth reading. James Altucher knows his finance too (a former Wall-Streeter) but today he writes about living life in a world out of balance. I can’t describe what you’ll find on his site. He likes extremes. You’ll see.

Read the people whose ideas and words feel magical to you. For me that’s Ralph Waldo Emerson and Douglas Harding, more than anyone. If you want to read a magazine read The New Yorker or National Geographic. Your world will grow.

I’ve said before that learning about mindfulness is pretty much indispensable if you want to enjoy most of your life’s moments, and the person to read for that is Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Share Raptitude

Except for the first two months of this blog’s life, I’ve never actively promoted it, other than tweeting or Facebooking some of my posts. All this growth has been from readers sharing it. If you like it, please share with people you think would like it. This post would make a good start for the uninitiated. Also, longtime fans, Raptitude is finally on Facebook. Go like it.

Thanks for four great years. You are my kind of people.

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 Photo by webtreats

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{ 55 Comments }

Jamie March 3, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Bookmarked. Your blog has changed me in tangible ways which I actually apply to my life, and thank you so much for that. :)

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David March 11, 2013 at 7:02 pm

That’s music to my ears — tangible change. Thank you for reading, Jamie.

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Fairy Vicky from New Zealand March 3, 2013 at 10:03 pm

And you are ‘my type of people’ too! :) Congrats on 4 years!

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David March 4, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Thanks Vicky!

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Kristan March 3, 2013 at 10:04 pm

I’m relatively new around here (as in, a couple days ago I found you) but I like what I’ve read so far — your prose and your philosophy. Lots of good food for thought. Thanks for sharing the feast. :)

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David March 4, 2013 at 7:15 am

Glad you finally made it, Kristan

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Eugenio Perea March 3, 2013 at 10:20 pm

I think you’ll enjoy the writing of Cal Newport at his blog Study Hacks. He’s working on the same direction you are, and has come up with good stuff. http://calnewport.com/blog/

I agree with you about Pavlina (especially the early stuff), Altucher, Emerson and Kabat-Zinn. I haven’t read Mr. Money Moustache or Douglas Harding, but will certainly begin now.

Thanks.

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David March 4, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Looks interesting, I’ll give it a better look later.

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Avi March 3, 2013 at 10:26 pm

4 more years!

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David March 4, 2013 at 7:11 pm

*raises fist*

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Daniel March 3, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Great article David. Would you find your passion to be in writing? I’ve been into similar interests as you and am wanting to share what I know. I have a blog and post daily but find it not the most interesting thing sometimes to write.

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Kate March 4, 2013 at 12:22 am

Hi, I’m Kate. I found you about half an hour ago, so the timing of this introductory post is truly spectacular. I salute you. I also highly respect what you are doing. Through a series of events both fortunate and unfortunate (otherwise known as “life”), I’ve learned a number of these lessons the hard way. I look forward to diving into those links you so generously collected. Lovely to meet you, David!

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David March 4, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Welcome!

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Helen White March 4, 2013 at 4:27 am

First good sign was that I immediately wished I’d written this post myself – and felt at some level that I had as there was so much cross-over with the conclusions I’ve drawn over the past two years. Am sharing all over facebook etc. Brilliant.

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Torstoise March 4, 2013 at 5:49 am

I am familiar with Pavlina’s, MMM’s and Altucher’s blog. There seems to be this tight web between those blogs, your’s, Jacob Fisker’s ERE, Get Rich Slowly and a handful of other blogs. It’s a sort of web of intelligent self-improvers with the goal of living the best life possible.

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David March 4, 2013 at 7:17 am

I keep getting recommendations for ERE, I`ll have to check it out.

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Torstoise March 4, 2013 at 5:51 am

This is a timely post, as I am about to quit my toxic job and make decisions to align more with who I am.

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David March 4, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Nice! People don’t regret those kinds of decisions.

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Maia March 4, 2013 at 6:15 am

Hi, great summary David. I’ve been here for a while, but it’s good to have a pointer to what you consider the most essential posts, that sum up your views.
What interests me is how do you see your writing which you call ‘quality-of-life-related writing’ different from ‘traditional self-improvement’ writing and ‘spiritual’ writing.
Do you think it’s important to include spirituality in writing? It seems to me that you try and avoid using too much spirituality in your posts. Is it because you think it could alienate people or because you think it’s up to everyone to make up their own mind about these things, or just because it doesn’t really come into the equation for you in your writing.
I have to say though your blog is the only blog I regularly read, and the only one that I consistently find relevant content in every month.

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David March 4, 2013 at 7:21 am

I avoid spirituality generally for two reasons. The first one is that there is a ton of material out there already. The other reason is that there are a thousand ways to do it, and any given way is not going to resonate with most people. It`s very personal, has a lot to do with beliefs, and so if I were to write about it, I think only a minority of people would benefit.

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Andy March 4, 2013 at 7:01 am

Thanks for the welcome David. I found your site a few weeks ago and have really enjoyed and learned from your writing. I agree that you offer something different from most self-improvement sources. And the quality of your writing, from a mechanical and readability standpoint, is top notch too, which I really appreciate. Keep up the good work :)
Andy

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Lisis March 4, 2013 at 7:29 am

Still a cafe in Paris. ;)

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David March 4, 2013 at 7:17 pm

<3

After all this time, still my #2 fan)

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Lisis March 5, 2013 at 6:31 am

It should be noted that #1 is Momma Cain… that position is appointed for eternity (and well deserved, btw).

PS: I had to dig up the original gravatar just to comment on this post (for old time’s sake).

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Cristina López Mayher March 4, 2013 at 8:03 am

Congratulations for your success. Knowing how to communicate what you have inside, the desire to live a simple and wholesome life, is not easy. So,being also in my early 30s, going now through a life crisis, but with no big drama (just trying to find my way after a masters degree), finding you has put a smile on my face. There is hope to find the right way, and there is no single right way, and that right way will keep changing along the way.. Thanks for sharing what you are learning about life. That is very generous from you.

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Stephen Lahey March 4, 2013 at 9:09 am

Congratulations, David! One question: is it time for you to write a book?

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David March 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Stay tuned.

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R. H. Kanakia March 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

Glad you posted this. I’ve been reading this blog for, like, two or three years, and I’ve actually wondered now and then, “Who is this guy? What exactly is he about?”

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CJ Langley March 4, 2013 at 11:00 am

Congratulations on the milestone! I have enjoyed your thoughts and look forward to many more!

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Kathy @ SMART Living 365 March 4, 2013 at 11:49 am

Congratulations David on sticking with and growing with your blog for four years now! You and your blog are an inspiration to me–and to many others it seems–and your “themes” for a happy and fulfilled life are spot on. I too write about much of the same in my blog SMART Living 365.com– but it is practical application of them that makes all the difference. And for someone who has been attempting to live those themes for a number of years–I like (and need) to hear about them over and over from a variety of perspectives until I really “get it”. So thanks for being one of those voices and I look forward to many more….

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Gustavo March 4, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Hi David. Big Congratz.I like to think myself as part of your audience, I have being around Raptitude for 2+ years (you might remember that I made a lousy cartoon of you once). I have really – honestly – three or four dozen questions I would like to make to you about life, happiness, your decision of not writing a book and so on, but I will limit myself to one; a very mundane one that would relief me so much from (presumably) needless commitments (thus, assessing one of Raptitude’s main goals).
Raptitude has very high numbers in ranks (I checked) and you wrote that you never promoted it (except for the first two months). Does that mean that you never worked on SEO or link-building, guest posting or any of that stuff? Because, believe me, that is work I really would dislike. I would rather work in improving my content and hope for some day to reach (remotely) Raptitude’s level.

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Kathy @ SMART Living 365 March 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm

P.S. I just went and looked at the other blog sites that you recommended and have to admit that I was disappointed that there wasn’t a woman among them. While they are all very successful bloggers, there are also a number of women who write about self-empowerment and all the themes you cover. My blog for example is just one of many http://smartliving365.com Perhaps next post you could offer one that includes the perspective of women and our views on the same topic? And while I’m not saying my blog is on the same level as yours, or the others you mention, as a person dedicated to growing and evolving, you might find that reading a few women writers offers you a perspective that stretches your boundaries over the next four successful years. :-) I’m just say’in….

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Bob L March 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Long-time MMM reader here. I discovered Raptitude a few weeks ago and I love it. Many of the ideas you explore are things that have been nagging at me for quite some time but which I’ve never really focused on. It’s almost like this blog was written for me personally! (Come to think of it, that’s how it seemed when I started reading MMM too.)

Thanks for writing. I’m so glad I don’t have to try figuring all of this stuff out by myself. Will definitely be reading the whole blog when I have time.

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Dragline March 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Nice list — I copied it into my journal for today.

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Nitya March 4, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I’m curious to know how many different countries you reach? I do know that you reach readers in the antipodes, also Norway and Mexico , but I have a feeling that you may attract readers even further afield.
Would you be able to list them, or are the numbers too vast.

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David March 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Hi Nitya. In the last 30 days Raptitude has been accessed from 188 countries. Notable holdouts include Somalia, North Korea, Cuba, Mali, and South Sudan.

The countries with the most readers (roughly in order) are the US, Canada, UK, India, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Germany and Brazil.

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Uzma March 4, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Congratulations. There is such honesty, confidence and simple niceness in this post. Makes me smile. Prosper away ! Thank you for re-iterating the importance of seeing for ourselves and not blaming.

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Lynn March 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Thanks so much for this David. I’ve been reading almost since the beginning but this is only my second comment.
I knew there was a reason I loved your blog so much beyond the obvious wonderfully thought-provoking writing.
I’m looking for that growth area that is on neither end of the spectrum as well. In my business, this means somewhere between goddesses and porn stars :)
I know many people like me who want to explore “new age” concepts and ideas without feeling intimidated by a whole lifestyle that seems to come with it. And then there is the more Tony Robbins approach (the porn star advice for me) that isn’t right for the women I want to work with either.

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Jo March 5, 2013 at 12:25 am

This post is perfect, I was telling a friend about how much I love reading your blog, and how much it has changed the way I look at life, and this entry highlights some of your previous work. Trying to explain all the posts that I enjoyed was difficult, so this was timed perfectly hehe

On a personal note, each previous post that you have highlighted, I am working my way through them again, but this time jotting down questions that they bring to mind.

I am always keen on becoming abetter version of myself and open to self improvement and love to learn about myself.

I just wanted to say that I think your blog is outstanding and it really has helped me get through some of my darkest times.

Thank you so much :)

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Fiona March 5, 2013 at 1:05 am

I’ve been reading your blog for 4 years and it’s still my favourite blog on the interweb. I just appreciate the general idea of getting better at being human. Thanks!

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Alejandro March 5, 2013 at 8:33 am

Great material David, thanks for sharing so much with us, and kudos on walking a great path of self discovery and fulfillment.

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Paul March 5, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Thank-you. You’ve successfully put into words allot of what goes through my mind in a way that I can share.

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Jay Schryer March 5, 2013 at 11:31 pm

I was just thinking about you earlier today, and how, even from the very beginning, you were such a staunch believer in the “post great content on a regular basis” philosophy of blog growth, and how that has worked out so well for you. It has been fun to watch you and Raptitude grow into success, and I’m so happy and proud for you. Even after four years, Raptitude is still one of my favorite blogs, and your work still amazes me.

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Lotus March 9, 2013 at 10:53 am

Congratulations on hitting the four year mark, David.

I don’t know how I came across your site, but I have been a reader since late 2009. I love your writing style and tips that I find practical to use in my life.

Wishing you well on your journey ahead!!

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Brian March 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

It’s hard not to want to read all you’ve written because you write great content. I don’t find myself agreeing with everything (that would be ridiculous, no?), but almost every post makes me think a little deeper on a personal level, and I appreciate that. Congrats on four and to four more if life leads you in that direction.

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Pamela Olson March 10, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Lucky me to find this blog right when you’re giving us the overview. I’ve bookmarked this and look forward to perusing it more thoroughly.

I was, however, looking for the follow-up to your procrastination post. Right now I’m procrastinating when I should be working on the million and a half details surrounding my upcoming book tour for Fast Times in Palestine, and I want to figure out how to stop doing that kind of thing.

Bloody hard when the internet is full of so many fascinating people and ideas. My Facebook friends alone are constantly sharing important, interesting, and/or hilarious news and articles, and it’s so easy to go through hours of, “Just one more, just one more…” when I know very well I should be working. And it’s easy to semi-justify it to myself by saying, “Well, I’m about to go on a speaking tour, I should be up on the news…”

But I could be up on the news in less time, if I focused.

Anyway, glad to know you.

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Tracy March 10, 2013 at 10:47 pm

For someone so much younger than myself (I am 48), I think you are very wise. I enjoy reading your articles…they make me think!

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Lena March 13, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Discovering your blog now is like discovering a cool TV show 4 seasons in. I look forward to many hours of catching up :)

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Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce March 25, 2013 at 7:01 am

Congrats on 4 years! I have been writing (poorly) for 4 months, and I can appreciate the incredible work you have done in such a long time. I love your perspective, and have my reading cut out for me. My musician self has taught me so much about growth, mindfulness, meditation, and the like. Seeing you put the wordless into words is so refreshing. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading!

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Andy Arenson March 30, 2013 at 7:34 am

Not sure why it never occurred to me that there would be people posting on the web with the same interest I have in understanding how to be a human. Looking forward to reading your thoughts.

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Shawn Ryan April 7, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I am one of the new readers also and I am glad I found you when I did. You are a great writer and I love your insight. I checked out the other blogs that you read and I really love Mr. Money Mustache. I am adding it to my list of must reads.
Keep it up!

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Daniel April 14, 2013 at 10:13 am

Discovered your blog yesterday, from a link to a 2 year old article you wrote after you’d been back at work for a week or two and how you slipped back into “old habits”. Made me read more of your writings, and this article resonates strongly for me.
Thanks for sharing all that.

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John January 28, 2014 at 5:41 pm

David, I was really curious to see if you had ever written about Steve Pavlina, and a google search for “raptitude steve pavlina” brought me here. Do you still read and enjoy his stuff?

I agree that some of articles are extremely valuable, especially the earlier stuff it seems. I think his post about how to train yourself to always get up right away when your alarm goes off may have changed my life for the better, and that’s what introduced me to him a few days ago. Since then I’ve read a lot of his stuff, and I’m really turned off by a lot of the newer content. I’m especially concerned about how he turned off all comments/forums and seems to mention his affiliate products constantly without even being upfront about how much money he’s earning from them (at least as far as I can see) among many other concerns.

I stumbled across this website that is very critical of Steve (in ways that seem to make sense to me) and I’m curious to know what your take on it is: http://www.fierceauthenticity.com/2011/12/09/know-thy-guru/

There’s also this article on his concept of subjective reality that is very critical: http://beyondgrowth.net/guru-criticism/how-to-take-the-plunge-into-complete-narcissism-on-steve-pavlinas-subjective-reality/

I still don’t know exactly what to make of Steve in his current form, but I’m very curious to know what your take is on this, because I think of you as an extremely authentic person in ways that I’ve come to believe Steve isn’t.

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Elaine March 19, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Totality agreed with John’s comments above about Steve Pavlina!
Followed his blog for years and is early stuff is pure gold, but over the last 18 months have been put off by his posts: namely his new obsession and personal experience with 3somes and from what I can gather, swinging.
I’m all for each to their own and am neither for or against what he does, but I find it irrelevant the depth in which he talks about his partner / sexual preferences and all widely unrelated to his earlier theme of personal development. Recently I find his overall tone of writing has changed from being direct, insightful and humurous, which sat well with me, to, self-righteous and arrogant and I read less and less. Dislike the constant affiliate marketing he pumps out too now :-(
That aside, I love your blog David…there are so many great bite size pieces of wisdom. You are openly self reflective, and your honestly and vulnerability about your challenges and your discoveries are admirable. We are all a “work in progress” and your ability to put your insights and perspective into clear thoughts on a page is a great thought provoking read and assists many of us in our self learning and breakthroughs. Keep up the great work and well done on 4 years of realising your life purpose :-)

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David Cain March 20, 2014 at 10:38 am

The tone has changed a lot, yes, and I find it really awkward when he talks about sex. I am all for open relationships and non-prudishness, but I find it really distracting. Still though, he regularly comes out with seriously useful content. He often talks about things I don’t care about, but none of his content is fluff. So I always check out his new posts.

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