• Funmilola Asa

Are you telling a compelling personal development story?

Updated: Jul 3, 2021


A lot of people have mastered the act of gathering skills and tools for professional development. The challenge sometimes, though, is that it doesn't all seem to be adding up much and in some cases it creates a path that is likened to a maze with multiple winded routes leading to dead ends. Hence it’s critical to ask key questions - What’s the aiming point? What do you need to be building up on? What does not fit into your personal journey? What is just great for awareness? Let's explore...

The difference between a block-making factory and the construction site of a magnificent edifice is what is done with the blocks. Whereas the blocks factory has an array of blocks sometimes loosely stacked together in preparation for the next delivery, the building project proceeds to arrange the blocks to form a unique pattern and cementing them together, combining other materials till the first indications of what would be an edifice starts to emerge. In another analogy, the difference between a museum and a thrift store, or possibly a dumpsite in an extreme case, is in the way that the artifacts are arranged and in the premium that is placed on each piece in the case of the museum. More importantly, it's in the story that is told by the connection of the pieces in a museum; providing necessary linkages, making up the gaps where they exist, to create a memorable experience that people are attracted to. The key note in both analogies is the power of connections, layering-on, building up, amongst others, to create a memorable #story, #pattern or edifice. This is very relevant to personal development and inspires thought-provoking questions such as “What connections are you making with your choice of learnings?”, “what story is being told?”, “Is it just a gathering of knowledge blocks or a building up of expertise, #competence and #credibility?”.

.....the power of connections, layering-on, building up, amongst others, to create a memorable story, pattern or edifice...

....Personal development filters....

With an overload of information, stimulation, training options and abundance of resources, most people are beginning to feel 'personal development fatigue'. The distress is amplified when there isn't a visible impact from all that learning, thus leaving a constant feeling of inadequacy which they often hope that the next motivational talk, training and event will help resolve. However, the answer to this dilemma may just well be within your reach if you pay the right attention, connect the dots, building the several collections of knowledge blocks into a unique edifice gracing the skyline of impacts and #credibility. Inherent in that effort is the need to apply the right filters to the array of options available to you. The specifications of those filters vary from one individual to another, driven by all the things that make each individual's journey unique. So what is relevant for one individual may not be required for another or yet again, be a complementary skill for another. Hence, one of the most important ingredient of an effective personal development journey is the characterization of the aiming point for you as an individual to help better qualify what fits into that plan and what does not.

...The specifications of personal development filters vary from one individual to another, driven by all the things that make each individual's journey unique......

...Defining your personal development journey...

The journey is defined by the aiming point, relative to where you are at the moment. So do you know where you are, where you need to be, and what is needed to get from the current to the future state, including your opportunities and hinderances? Are you looking to build a 'townhouse' or a 'skyscraper'? How deep do you need to go to lay the foundation of the building? Is your foundation too deep for the building that you are looking to develop? Are you doing a deep dive in a subject that you should only be getting a little of? Are you getting so much glass that suggests that you are building a career ‘glass house’ when you really are intending to build a concrete fortress? Are you cementing the knowledge? The role of the granite, cement, blocks, glass etc. in a building are different and timed for specific stages of the building. Do you know if you are in the foundation digging phase or in the building up phase?


You must categorize your knowledge and filter accordingly, balancing the depth vs breadth as appropriate for your plans. It is certainly important to balance the need to stay current/relevant vs chasing everything without a clear path. What story do all the skills you are acquiring tell? Which skills are at the front burners to be built upon and which ones are back-pocket skills that come in handy from time to time? How well are you prioritizing your personal development? Not every development aligns with your purpose and journey in life. Be intentional, be choosy, but also know when to change course while still aligned to the aiming point. As a person of faith, my understanding is that the ultimate aiming point is to bring pleasure to the Master craftsman of the universe - God, but the way in which that pleasure criteria is met is ingrained in the unique combination of attributes that have been bestowed on each one.

...Not every development aligns with your purpose and journey in life? Be intentional, be choosy, but also know when to change course while still aligned to the aiming point.....

...The competence vs credibility debate.....

Ultimately personal development is a balancing act between building #competence - the ability to do something successfully/efficiently -, and #credibility - the quality of being trusted and believed in. You may be competent but not credible because most people, and particularly the 'right' people, cannot speak to your competence. However, your credibility can only be sustained by competence, showing up always when your skills are put to the test. Think of competence as the internal fuel that feeds the external fire of credibility, but the fuel must be ignited to yield the full potential within the fuel. So before you select the next development option, you need to think about which one of these it is contributing towards.

...Think of competence as the internal fuel that feeds the external fire of credibility, but the fuel must be ignited to yield the full potential within the fuel.....

....Upskill by doing.....

In the journey towards building credibility, trainings must be balanced with experiential learning. Most of us know that 'go-to' person in our fields, organizations and associations, who always seems to have the right answer to challenging situations. After others have struggled for a while, these experts come in and turn around the situation in a very short time to the everyone's marvel. While there are a few individuals that are innately talented or geniuses, most people learnt to be that good by taking up challenges. They spend hours trying to crack a problem but beyond cracking the problems they ask ‘why?’; trying to establish patterns when solving the challenge or even learning from others. Having gone through those hurdles, they can recognize similar patterns and point out the issues straightaway in what looks like a maze to the untrained eye. Similar to auto-mechanics who can almost define the exact issue in an engine just by hearing the sound of the car or after a quick test drive.


Those kinds of skills are built on years of practice. Hence, part of the requirements for building personal development momentum is to balance the need to seek help with the option of 'learning by doing'. There may be instances where there is a valid time crunch that doesn't permit experimental exploration to solve a particular problem, in which case it makes sense to call in an expert to help. But it is important that after been helped out, you seek to understand the solution especially if such a skill is critical to your work. Often, some individuals cannot be bothered with how it was solved, as long as the back-up guy or lady is handy... but a true test of that may be that once-in-a-lifetime spotlight moment when you may be called upon by those to whom you typically provide the finished products, to show such skills and for some reason it is either impossible or infeasible to get the handy person in that 'make or mar' moment. So, learn by doing, as much as possible, to build the repertoire of knowledge that comes in handy anytime, having been developed by tackling challenges to build fluency.

.....Having gone through those hurdles, they can recognize similar patterns and point out the issues straightaway in what looks like a maze to the untrained eye.........

....Connecting the dots...fill out the gaps in your development story ......

To tell the right personal development story , it is critical to determine the 'right' next level activity to fill in the gaps on the path to the defined destination. On the personal development spectrum, there are those individuals who are at the 'class room' end of the spectrum. They are always on the attendees list of almost every training, even in advance on those trainings have not yet been conceived. On the other end of the spectrum are those who learn on the job, building competency by tackling increasing levels of challenges. However, the sweet spot is really a balance between the two extremes. Sometimes the danger with individuals who have only experience as their development strategy is that while they certainly have built the right level of competence, their credibility is likely only within a small group in their current company/industry. They often find it difficult to articulate their skills in terms that help people in other industries to understand their transferrable skills. Relatability of knowledge is key for credibility. It is recommended that such individuals get a certification to help 'formalize their learnings' and complement the experience. For example, while having a Project management Professional (PMP) certification does not mean that you are the expert in all things projects, it helps most people know the minimum skills that you have, which can then be built on with the details of your experience as a seasoned project manager.

...Relatability of knowledge is key for credibility.....

...Summing it all up....

In choosing a personal development option, it is critical that it is aligned with the stage that you are in your personal development ‘building project’. Rather than taking multiple trainings with similar content (with only little tweaks) almost to the point that you could easily be the trainer in such trainings, maybe you should be focusing on application opportunities or going with the next level of such learning options (e.g a doctorate level over an additional Masters degree, or the expert level certification instead of multiple beginner level certifications). So the next time you feel a sense of 'deja vu' in a learning experience, you need to ask yourself if you really should on that level. Be #intentional about connecting the dots of your personal development. Ask yourself: Are my learnings aligned with my journey? Am I staying current to identify key trends? Is my credible professional ‘edifice‘ emerging? Am I at the block-stacking, decking, or roofing of the knowledge edifice? Am I building competence and maintaining credibility?


In summary, Are your personal development efforts helping to tell a compelling story to drive the right credibility and ultimately advance you towards your career, professional and life goals? If the answer is in the affirmative, then congratulations, you are well on your way to achieving great impacts and exponential professional growth.


Wishing you a transformational time ahead,


Funmilola (Funmi)


#professionaldevelopment, #credibility, #competence, #knowledgeblocks, #relatableskills, #personalgrowth, #PersonalDevelopmentStory, #upskill, #systemthinking, #goals, #intentional, #KnowledgeEdifice, #PersonalDevelopmentFilters, #Inentionallearning



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