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I’ve been meaning to write a personal development guide for some time. But I’ve been busy and quite honestly, lazy.

While I’m no expert on the subject, I regularly meet talented people who struggle with entrepreneurship, career or life, unnecessarily. Many times, what stands in the way of their success are the exposure & networks that are needed to challenge their paradigms and to show them a better way. They need access to the right information, some support and the humility to embrace change.

Now, what complicates things is, access is never guaranteed. Sometimes it’s an act of God’s kindness or luck. But, one must prepare. Quite often, you only get one chance at success. So, make it count.

With this in mind, here are some tips for personal development.

First Things First. Google it!

We live in a time when access to knowledge is at unprecedented levels. Therefore, one of the most important tools in any personal development quest is Google and by extension, YouTube. Many solutions can literally be found at the click of a mouse. YouTube is also host to many explainer videos. You can find a step-by-step video guide for almost every topic. For instance, the day I jammed my door lock, I found a YouTube video showing me how to fix the problem. But to use Google well, you must be discerning enough to separate worthwhile information from junk. Be safe and try to find experts in your field of interest.

Be Aware of Popular Culture, But Study the Classics.

Be mindful of and in tune with popular culture, if you plan to sell anything to this generation. But, the classics always remain relevant. If you read history, you can better analyse trends. If you grew up on timeless music, it’s easy to tell what’s bad.

Understand today’s culture – the lingo, styles and thinking. It would be difficult to successfully market to an audience you do not understand or have contempt for. They will sense your patronizing attitude. So, meet them at their level.

To bring yourself up to speed on popular culture, I recommend spending a few minutes a day on social media platforms. It’s part of personal development. Also try to listen to the top 5 songs, watch the top 5 movies and read the top 5 books every season. This will put your finger on the pulse of what’s trending.

Subscribe to relevant blogs. That way, in minutes, you can skim through the highlights of what’s happening in the world.

Keep Learning

To enhance your personal development, try to take one or two (online) courses every year. Yes, it’s great to enhance your core qualifications, but I dare you to learn something completely outside your field. If you’re a Doctor, take an online course on music history. If you’re an Accountant, take a course on poetry. Applying principles and knowledge from outside your field makes you unique and more well-rounded.

To refine your fashion sensibilities, you may subscribe to British GQ (Not the American edition) and Vogue. It’s not really about the clothes. Instead, those magazines subconsciously imprint upon you certain standards of quality, art and design. After some years, you will instinctively develop an aversion to things that are tacky or razz.

For the business minded, Fast Company is a must-read. Few other magazines write about the business world in popular language or emphasise business innovation like they do. Reading the Economist and Fortune regularly for at least a year, will also teach you business communication and writing. They will help you to develop the structure for business correspondences. The Economist can be tedious to read, but it develops your vocabulary. You may use Grammarly to check your writing for mistakes.

I encourage you to go to the cinema. It’s about exploring the lifestyle, not just about movies.

Be Well Represented Online

Ensure you have a completed LinkedIn Page with a professional head shot. Try to use the same image and ID across all social media platforms for consistency. When people meet you, they’re likely to Google you immediately after. When they do, the first page that comes up should be your “official” web presence e.g. LinkedIn or a website, and not random chatter on Twitter! Do watch your tone online.

Travel as Much as You Can

Whenever you can afford it, travel. I heartily recommend a visit to all the geopolitical zones in Nigeria. It will greatly broaden your understanding of your fellow citizens. Specifically, a trip to the hinterland will transform your perception of what it means to be Nigerian. Traveling to international destinations is great as well. It helps you to overcome your fear of visa applications and to have a more realistic view of “abroad”.

You need to learn the basic protocols of travelling. For example, the seemingly little things like buying a sim card at the airport or changing only a small amount of Forex there, as you get better rates in town. You need to become comfortable with going through customs & immigration. Learn how to navigate a city via Google Maps and public transport. In some countries, you can also rent a car using your Nigerian or international driver’s license. Become familiar with using online hotel or apartment booking sites like Trip Advisor or Air BnB, as well as airline ticket comparison sites like Kayak. All of these contribute to your exposure and experience.

Cultural exposure matters when you travel and not just shopping. Book city tours. Almost every city has an official tour company, e.g. Arabian Adventures in Dubai. Ideally, your first 2 days in a foreign country should be dedicated to tours. On the first day, try a city bus tour or a walking tour. It’s best to go in a group, especially if you’re travelling alone. It can be a wonderful way to meet new people while minimizing the risks of exploring alone. There are even pre-packaged tours for a night out on the town.

When you return from a foreign trip, you’ll find you’ve gained a better understanding of and tolerance for human differences. Remember, personal development includes being open to new ideas.

Learn the Language of International Business

If you’re thinking of expanding your business globally, while you can retain the services of an interpreter, it is useful to learn some common phrases in foreign languages. It makes people warm up to you. There are many apps like Duolingo that can help.

General Stuff

If you are hopeless with fashion, hire a stylist to help you to define your personal style and look. Then spend a day with a personal shopper who will teach you what to buy. You don’t need a professional. You may have a colleague or sibling who loves to shop and has a great sense of style. Go shopping with them. Trust me, they know where all the bargains are.

Sometimes, it helps to identify the kind of things you like online and then to create a mood board. Finally, everybody looks good in Nigerian fabric and nowadays, you can make contemporary stuff that’s suitable for both formal and informal occasions. Simply add a dash of personal style.

If you need help determining what hair style or cut suits you, go to any highly recommended salon or barber and ask them to advise you. Don’t go on a weekend as they will be busy. You can learn how to apply make up by paying for a session with a make up artist or watching YouTube videos.

Choose perfume or cologne that’s not offensive to the people around you. Whenever someone hugs you and says, “You smell nice”, that’s a sign that the perfume suits you.

A manicure or pedicure never hurts. Doing one at least once a month keeps you well groomed.

Finally, you should learn how to knot a tie and to open a bottle of wine. Also to drive competently and to cook well enough.

Go Out

Try having drinks in a 5-star hotel bar or if you can afford it, go for a fancy dinner there. It helps you to “escape” Nigeria for a while. You’ll observe people from different countries and absorb interesting habits and norms. You’ll become familiar with formal place setting (the correct positioning of cutlery). Like we learnt from the movie, Pretty Woman, when dining formally, you use your cutlery from the outside-in; beginning with those furthest away from your plate and working your way in from course to course (Appetizer to Dessert). Sometimes, the dessert spoon may be placed above the plate and your wine/juice glass is usually different from your water glass.

Eat Right and Exercise

If you can’t go to the gym religiously, check out online sites for exercise plans you can do at home. Basic health rules are to drink at least a litre of water a day, to eat fruits/vegetables everyday and to limit starch & red meat. Stop skipping breakfast but keep it light (e.g. Cereal and fruit). Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week and oh…one more thing…everything that tastes good has significant sugar and is probably bad for you in large quantities.

Buy Gifts

If you’re terrible at picking gifts, let others do it for you. Or if you have a creative gift concept you’d like to bring to life, let others execute it for you. If you’re not sure about what to buy for someone, try talking to their sibling or friend.

Of Course, Sex Matters

If you missed your integrated science class in secondary school, you really need to begin with the book, Every Woman. (I personally find it amusing when guys mix up ovulation and menstruation). There are many professionally written books about sex like, The Magic of Sex by Mariam Stoppard. Popular fiction (novels) will provide an overview of sexual terminology – It helps to know the popular names for fellatio or cunnilingus. However, to separate fact from fiction, don’t only learn about sex from the media, consume serious material too.

Birth control or family planning options abound and speaking to a gynaecologist is advised. I also suggest you personally Google and research everything you’re told by your Doctor, as many sexual myths abound, even from supposed professionals.

Coming Home

Home should be your haven and sanctuary. You are affected by what you consistently surround yourself with. It’s difficult to truly relax in the midst of chaos.

It’s better to leave a room bare than to stock it with junk. Cleanliness also matters. You can live in the cheapest space and yet derive dignity and order by keeping it spotless.

Serenity and comfort are hallmarks of a great home. Even if you live with others, your room or personal space should reflect the quality of your mind and soul. Your living space and the inside of your car send a strong signal about the level of disorder you’re willing to tolerate. Also, stop wearing rags at home. A mentor once told me to dress in such a way that should a visitor stop by unexpectedly, you don’t have to change first before opening the door.

There are companies who do affordable interior decorating. Speak to one if you need to.

Catching up on What You’ve Missed

If you desire to catch up on popular culture, try Time Magazine’s The All Time Best 100. You may balance things out by including African counterparts.

There are many other online resources:

Top movies.

Top music.

Top travel destinations.

Top books. (If you read a new book every month or two, you’ll gradually become more knowledgeable. Your worldview will also expand.)

Finally, Who You Know Matters

In business, who you know doesn’t necessarily determine your trajectory, but it helps. People are comfortable doing business with those they know or have a reference for. Networks impact access, clout and influence. This is even more important in a business climate like Nigeria’s, where a lot of business is done informally.

You really don’t need to join a club to “belong”. There are several social, professional and business networks that will suffice. Try volunteering on the project committee of your school’s Old Boy’s/Girl’s Association. You’ll be amazed how many people will listen to your business ideas, when they’ve witnessed first-hand how committed and dedicated you are to a cause.

You can even be active on a Whatsapp Group of your choice. Be the one who shares items of value. Also check up on people and show you care. It generates genuine goodwill for the future.

I really hope my personal development guide has been useful to you. Thank you for reading.

Here's a personal development guide for everyone. I write about learning, exposure and networks. I also provide links to resources. Click To Tweet