How to Develop Yourself

OHE Character Graphic

We all have the ability to become more than we were yesterday. It doesn’t always start with a massive change, in fact, that might hinder your development if you can’t maintain your self-discipline. Instead, consider small things at first before moving to larger goals.

In my personal life I hit an all-time high weight of 250 pounds. When I finally decided to change my life, I told myself I’d go to the gym every day until I got down to a healthier weight. The first week I started working out, I went to the gym one time. I ran for five minutes and walked for another twenty minutes. The next day, feeling sore and out of it, I decided to give myself a break. Then I did the same thing the next day- because work made me tired. By the end of the first week, I felt like a failure. I set a goal to get healthy by going to the gym every day…but I didn’t even go after that first time. I sat at home.


The issue was I had set too high of a goal. How can you expect someone to go to the gym every day out of the blue if they’ve been sedentary for most of their lives? In fact, pressuring myself to go every day had a negative effect on my self-esteem. I couldn’t hold myself to my goal, I’m weak, I’m terrible. But I realized that the goal was too much for me, considering where I was starting. Instead I went twice a week. I got myself to run for ten minutes each time. Then fifteen. Then twenty. I started to use some machines to change things up. Then I added another day. And another, until I was going four to five times a week. By the end of the year I had lost 70 pounds and weighed as much as I did in high school.


What I gained from this physical development was more than the ability to run further and faster, or pick heavier things up. I had practiced something I preached most of my life – that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve it (within reason). That part of my journey did something more than get me healthier. I strengthened my self-discipline, which motivated me to go to the gym even when tired and I wanted to sit down. I overcame doubt, because holy cow- I lost all that weight and reached a goal.


Above all: it strengthened my character. I knew I could fail each time I went to the gym, but in the end I was able to do what I set out to do. My journey started with failure, and ended with success. Remember, oftentimes what you do is actually a component of the real development. You might set a goal to read one book a month. But what do you learn from doing that? Self-discipline, time management, and, as a benefit, you’ve learned something from the book.


So what are some ways to develop yourself?


1) Learn a Language


Most of us dream about learning fifty languages and talking to people all over the world. Nowadays we have these devices that let us reach out to people through the Internet across the world. You don’t need the latest copy of Rosetta Stone- you can download a free app called Duolingo.


What I like about it, besides being free, is the broad spectrum of languages you can learn. Spanish, German, French, Polish, and plenty more are on the menu for native English speakers. Beyond that, you don’t have to be “serious” about learning the language. You can spend five minutes a day picking up small, usable phrases and words. Like I said above- what you do to develop yourself is often a component of the real development. With this app, you can pick up parts of a language- but it keeps you doing something different. You become disciplined because you want to spend that five minutes learning something. In the end, you’ll likely take more time to learn the language, and that can open up more personal and professional opportunities.


2) Read a Book


I mentioned this above, but I’d like to narrow the focus some more. I don’t suggest you read every book you come across that sounds interesting. You might wind up in a spiral of reading more and more low-quality, self-published books. They repeat the same story and characters using different names.


Read books that challenge your comprehension or develop your understanding of different topics. You can sit down with a book you’ve been wanting to read for ages. If you set a goal to read a book a month, you might want to select that book based on how it can develop you. Some suggestions for books include the following:


  • 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
  • The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason
  • Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
  • Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
  • Focus by Daniel Goleman
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track by Richard P. Feynman
  • Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhorter
  • Play by Stuart Brown with Christopher Vaughan
  • Tribes by Seth Godin
  • Grit by Angela Duckworth
  • Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert


Just remember to take handwritten notes on important things in the book you’re reading. This helps you recall things you’ve read better. Happy reading!


3) Hire a Coach


There’s a difference between a trainer and a coach. A trainer will give you answers, and tell you what to do. They’re Moses coming from the mountain with laws to follow. A coach will ask you questions, and help you find the answers yourself. This will lead to a point where you can take charge of your own development and no longer need a coach. It seems counter-intuitive to develop your clients to a point they don’t need your services, but a real coach cares about helping you become self-sufficient.
If you’re in need of a leadership coach, Optimal Human Experience can help you. Contact us today for more information on our coaching practice!


Written by Connor Dillon, Graphic by Ora Cevallos

What are your constraints?

The purpose of the Dillon Group, Inc. is to develop leaders within our companies and brands and develop leadership within our clients and their organizations.
Whether we help our clients develop leaders through training, mentoring, or coaching, or we help their organization develop market leadership, there are fundamental laws that govern leadership. As a long-time student of John Maxwell and others (and a member of The John Maxwell Team), I have studied leadership development for more than 20 years.
The laws of leadership proposed by John Maxwell have held true in my experience and in the experience of millions of people around the world who have directly and indirectly benefited from his insights.
The first law, the Law of the Lid, states that your leadership ability determines your level of effectiveness and whatever you accomplish will be propelled or restricted by your ability to lead others. Your leadership ability is a constraint on your success.
I’ve learned this the hard way, as I have with most of the lessons I’ve learned over the years. Apparently, I don’t learn very well from the experiences of other—I have to experience the lesson myself.
I began by questioning my own leadership abilities. However, I decided I couldn’t rely on my own perception since I am biased—as you likely are biased about your own skill as a leader. I started asking people to give me feedback on my abilities across specific dimensions of leadership. And I didn’t ask just anyone— I asked my boss, the team I led, my colleagues, and my critics. I learned a lot— mostly that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. I also learned that feedback can be really harsh and I had to develop thick skin to survive and thrive if I was serious about my own development as a leader.
Since those first painful steps to self-awareness, I have improved. I’m not perfect, but I’m becoming better in those leadership dimensions.
I found that I couldn’t do it alone— I didn’t have the tools to transform. I have used teachers, mentors, and coaches to grow, reducing those constraints imposed by my leadership abilities. I deliberately practiced (and continue to practice) my leadership at every opportunity.
I discovered a curious thing—there appears to be a direct correlation between my leadership ability and the success of the companies I’ve founded and lead. As I became better, we became better!
This illustrates the Law of the Lid: as I grew as a leader, my effectiveness increased and the companies performed better. I’m still growing— every day I learn that I still have a lot more to learn—and I can see the impact that I have on our team and we have on our clients.
So what are the leadership dimensions that are constraints to your effectiveness and success? Character? Charisma? Commitment? Competence? Courage? Discernment? Focus? Generosity? Initiative? Listening? Passion? Positive attitude? Problem solving? Relationships? Responsibility? Security? Self-discipline? Servanthood? Teachability? Vision?
On a scale of 1-10, how good are you?
Now, take a dose of courage and ask your critics.

You Are Capable

Think of all the complex tasks you do everyday. Driving cars, playing musical instruments, the very act of handwriting- these are very complex activities.

Take teeth brushing, for instance. Somehow you have to maneuver your meat-covered skeleton made from stardust into a space where you have access to water, a teeth brush, and teeth paste to scrub your teeth. You have to manipulate the cap off the tube of teeth paste and squeeze the right amount out – not too much nor too little- onto the bristles of your teeth brush. If you are a civilized person, you’ll put the cap back on and then insert the teeth paste-covered bristles into your open mouth between your lips and cheeks and your teeth, scrubbing vigorously up and down. Then the tops of your teeth and finally the inside surfaces of your teeth.

After a rinse if mouth and brush, you’re done! But how many steps did it take you?

If you’re like most people, you don’t even think about it. One person I know even cleans his ears while engaged in teeth brushing! It has become automatic behavior, a habit, that doesn’t require conscious thought anymore- but once, it did.

Reflecting on your thinking is no more complex that brushing your teeth, yet it seems so difficult for most people. Why?

To begin with, we have our curiosity trained out of us by the educational institutions we were processed through as children. Then, we are taught at institutions of higher learning to memorize everything we can about specific subjects so we can regurgitate information on demand. Then we go to work for businesses that prescribe what we do during the time they rent from us, often in infuriating detail. At no time are we taught how to think and how to reflect on our thinking- those skills are now deemed unnecessary as the manager or leader does that as part of their job.

The result? At least three generations, probably more, of people who cannot think for themselves, figure things out, who think that everything on the internet is true (“Bon jour!”). If you were bothered by my use of the phrase “teeth brush” instead of the more conventional “toothbrush”, you might be part of that group to some degree.

To gain experience and confidence in your capability to deal with complexity, you will need self-discipline to turn the following exercise into a habit.

Start with an outcome or result of a decision you’ve made. Write it down. Next, think of all the actions you and others involved in that outcome took. Write them down. Now reflect on the thinking that led you to choose that action over other options. Write your description of the thought process down.

What you’ll likely find is that we rarely make decisions that only involve us, and we give very little thought to the actions we take. We are simply drifting through life on automatic mode, reacting to external forces based on our values and experiences (which are shaped by those very forces) in a self-perpetuating cycle of mediocrity.

But you are capable of far greater things than that! You can take control of your life and shape it into a life of meaning and purpose- if you’ll stop to reflect on the fact that your view of the world is imperfect, that differing views hold the potential for insight, that a more complete view exists, that you are capable of finding more complete views by practicing critical thinking, and that you are capable of dealing with complexity by thinking backwards from outcome to action to thought.

What is a High Performance Home?

What is a high performance home? It is a home built in a way that integrates building science into the construction process, leading to improved energy efficiency and increased durability. In turn, the homeowner has lower utility bills and maintenance costs, improved comfort levels and higher resale value.

Building a high performance home requires that a systems approach is used. The home is made up of many smaller, interdependent systems. Changes to one system may have an affect on another system, leading to cost changes (for better or worse) or improved energy efficiency (or lowered). It is important to get an accredited professional involved in the process in order to ensure that you end up with the home you intended to build.

Why should a builder build a high performance home? Perhaps they want to separate themselves from the competition, improve customer satisfaction, increase profitability or save the planet.

However, I think that the best reason is because it is the right way to build a home that will stand the test of time. Leaving that legacy for those who follow us on this planet is incredibly important. As homebuilders, we are creating works of public and private art, sculptures for people to live in and marvel at. It goes beyond providing simple shelter to creating something of value that has an impact for generations.

The Building Envelope

The building envelope is an air barrier and thermal boundary that are continuous and touching and separate conditioned space from unconditioned space or the outside. The envelope of a simple house may be the floor, the walls (including exterior doors and windows) and the flat ceiling. There are many ways for a builder to define the building envelope (it can contain a conditioned basement, a sealed, insulated and conditioned crawlspace, a conditioned attic with insulation along the roofline) and even more ways for them to fail to define it properly.

I have seen homes where the builder conditioned part of the attic without insulating the roofline or gable wall and there was a case where a code official (in ignorance) required a builder to condition the garage with a duct from the house in order to keep the water pipes from freezing. The garage IS NEVER INSIDE THE BUILDING ENVELOPE! If there is a desire to provide conditioning to the garage, it must be conditioned by a separate system than the house.

The builder gets to define the building envelope by deciding where to place the insulation and air barriers.

The building envelope’s function is to protect the occupants of the home from the elements (air, heat, cold, water).

One myth about the building envelope is that all we need to do to improve it is to add more insulation. A certain utility program recommended increasing the amount of attic insulation to R-49 to decrease the amount of heat loss and gain through the ceiling; at the same time, they recommended that extensive airsealing shouldn’t be done because “houses need to breathe” and airsealing would increase the amount of pollutants in the home.

This is another myth: airsealing the home prevents pollution from entering the home from the basement, crawlspace, carport, attached garage, attic and outside.
By the way, houses don’t need to breathe, but people do- so add intentional ventilation for the people!