Personal Development—Direct Selling’s Not-So-Secret Weapon
Living so much of our lives online as we do today—videos, memes, influencers and friends supply no shortage of inspirational messages aimed at lifting people up and moving them forward—it can be hard to imagine a time before personal development, a time before the introspective work of improving oneself was even considered valid, let alone mainstream.
But personal development was avant-garde in the late 1800s as a brand new way of thinking dawned—shifting mindsets to allow for and encourage regular, ordinary people to question, dig deep and usher forth their best selves, to take some modicum of control of their lives on the way to becoming extraordinary achievers.
Integral to this paradigm shift was publisher Orison Swett Marden, who set forth on a mission aimed at educating and growing the public through SUCCESS magazine. Others would follow–the likes of Napoleon Hill, W. Clement Stone, Norman Vincent Peale and Dale Carnegie, who took up the torch through the decades, sharing insights and strategies for meeting personal goals and advancing life’s ambitions.
Later, it was direct selling companies that taught people how to become something more than they ever thought possible. Legacy founders like Mary C. Crowley of Home Interiors and Gifts and Mary Kay Ash still sit in high esteem half a century later for their dedication to “growing people,” nurturing direct selling representatives into leaders through the power of personal development.
“Our job is to build people in this industry. That’s been happening since DeVos started Amway, since Mary Kay was around. What was her goal? To teach ladies how to build a business. Mary Kay didn’t sell cosmetics. She sold the concept that they could build a business and become successful. She focused on helping them to develop, and her messages were always on personal development,” DSN Legend Rudy Revak explained.
Direct selling and personal development legend Jim Rohn espoused the need for people to work harder on themselves than they do their jobs, and to replace the typical worker satisfaction question, “What am I getting?” with a truly more meaningful one, “What am I becoming?”
On the corporate side, John C. Maxwell believed leaders needed to get to know the people they were tasked with moving. “You can’t lead people anywhere until you know where they are. And a person can’t go anywhere until they know where they are,” he wrote.
In some ways, the direct selling industry became the embodiment of Maxwell’s Number One Law of Teamwork, “One is Too Small of a Number to Achieve Greatness.” He wrote, “I think in the history of mankind, no one has ever achieved greatness by themselves. They’ve always had someone help them.” Personal development was a win-win, leg-up to success that direct selling companies were willing to provide.
Author Stephen Covey believed direct selling affirmed people’s worth and potential, opening for them alternative income streams that could make a huge difference in their lives. While author Robert Kiyosaki recommended network marketing businesses for their education systems. “Many companies in the industry are really business schools for people. The direct selling industry teaches real-life training you can use—not the theoretical business stuff you learn in school,” he wrote.
“We all have a greatness inside us,” Jeff Olson, author of The Slight Edge, said. “Sometimes, all we need is someone to help us find it, develop it and multiply it. The secret to a successful life, the secret ingredient to accomplishing all the things you want in life, is personal development.”
In fact, the direct selling industry owes its success and resilience over the past century to lifting the mantel of personal development; adopting best practices for individuals, corporate and the field; highlighting its necessity in fostering successful leaders; and recognizing its ever-evolving and perpetual nature.
For the direct selling industry, personal development is and always has been the “X Factor.”
“Effective personal development today is about embracing a holistic approach and intertwining professional and personal growth on the day-to-day. It’s not just about career milestones but fostering resilience, emotional intelligence and a growth mindset,” Amy Somerville, CEO of SUCCESS Enterprises, said.
Growth is not automatic. Just because we’re getting older, doesn’t mean we’re getting better. Forces of nature and life usher change that can cloud decision-making and actions. Too often, change is simply absorbed for better or worse.
Revak remembers decades ago spouting a litany of excuses for sub-par performance to his upline manager, who eventually replied, “You know what’s wrong with your list of excuses? Your name isn’t at the top of it. The main reason you’re not doing well is because you need to look at yourself.”
“That day, he changed my whole life in this business,” Revak shared.
“I think one of the highest-value, under-promoted parts of what we do in this channel is give people access to mentors, to a peer group of positivity. It taught me the value and the impact of a mind shift, and how a single shift at the right time from the right person, in the right moment can radically change everything,” Blake Mallen, Host of the Direct Selling Shift podcast, said.
A Whole New Path to Growth
But mentorship is only one part of the ever-growing multi-faceted world of personal development, and options for creating an intentional growth plan are seemingly endless today. Personal branding awareness and social media have transformed the way people receive personal development instruction, as well as the way they learn. Once a niche education segment heavily weighted toward printed books, now personal development touts resources of all kinds.
“Social media platforms offer bite-sized, interactive content, allowing for continuous, on-the-go learning. The democratization of information has made education more inclusive and dynamic,” Somerville said.
Mallen added, “I don’t just go and let Instagram or TikTok decide what it’s going to feed me. I go intentionally, look for a category or a topic or a lesson, and I’ll go down that wormhole. But it’s one of the most rapid ways to get digestible insights.”
Influencer and industry expert podcasts, coaching seminars and master classes, blogs and vlogs, micro-form social media and memes, plus direct selling industry and corporate-produced content are all out there for the taking.
The number one job website in the world, Indeed, connects its 350M+ unique monthly visitors to personal development content to make job searches more effective and careers more productive. While the project management platform Hive is designed by users to help teams move faster to work where and how they want, it also provides easy access to personal development content. Coaching platforms like Better Up bring the power of transformation to the masses. Some 3,000 coaches and specialists operate in 60 languages in over 70 countries to offer localized coaching in 800 cities.
But Somerville does caution, “Not all sources are reliable, and navigating through a sea of content requires discernment. It’s crucial for individuals to curate their learning journey responsibly.”
“If it’s adding to you and making you better design a system, and fitting into your life and into your team consistently, that’s what matters,” Mallen said.
Whether visual, audio, short-form, long-form, book or casual podcast, a personal development journey is more than the sum of its individual parts. For lasting impact, people must not only partake in the actions but connect on a deeper level to the personal lessons they impart.
“We’ve got to shift beliefs. We’ve got to go to the core of why we do what we do. Personal growth and development really are the things that rewire us with a belief system in order to overcome and become what we’re capable of,” Mallen said.
Whether just starting out; deep in the grind; stuck in a plateau; enjoying a successful run; at the peak of the mountain; or dipping into a fall, personal development is a valuable tool and resource. “If you’re in this style of business or any business long enough, you go through all those seasons. You need a different perspective, or a set of mind shifts to move to whatever the next chapter will be,” Mallen explained.
At its heart direct selling has always moved people. This community approach sets the industry apart from any other business channel, and it is personal development that determines the type of direct selling leader, entrepreneur, coach or mentor someone becomes. It also determines their ability to move others through their own personal development journeys, so they can become the future leaders needed to propel corporate missions forward and move more people.
“Personal development is vital because that’s how you bring up new people. You can’t rely on the ‘old’ leaders…you’ve got to keep replacing those people. You’ve got to have new blood coming up all the time. The way you develop new is to help them to grow,” Revak said.
Field leader Onyx Coale said, “When all of us get started in this industry, each one has something different when we arrive at the table. That’s what helps some of us go fast in the beginning.” For Coale, it was a personal development journey taken two decades prior that allowed her to build her business faster when she finally said “yes” to direct selling.
Confident as a pilot flying aircraft for Delta, social media influencer and field leader Nick Martinez was less so about follow-up calls when he joined the industry in 2009. In fact, he avoided them at all costs. “I realized within the first couple months that I was full of fear. Thankfully, my mentors in the business knew that the path to success was personal development. They encouraged me to read books and attend events.”
Darnell Self, who emerged from a successful field career to become an executive, remains thankful for Jim Rohn’s program on building an unshakable character. “We built a fairly large organization because character means a lot. People would say, if they looked at the decisions I made early on in my business, ‘Why would you invest in others before you even made money yourself or for your own household?’ And it was because I learned about putting others first.”
Winning with Authenticity
In a world that makes demands on who we ought to be, it can be tough to know who we want to be. People change themselves incrementally due to the sway of others—whether it’s for love, social acceptance or as a survival instinct. But being a chameleon to fit in, isn’t authentic. And today’s world demands authenticity, especially in an industry centered on attracting and moving people toward products.
While personal development gives people a pathway toward authenticity, it cannot replace the productive time/actions necessary to build a direct selling business. “The reason you’re growing yourself is to make you better when you’re doing the things to grow your business,” Mallen said.
Field leader Mary Kay Kemper summed it up nicely, “Once you really start to learn who you are; what you are made of; and go on the personal development journey of really freeing yourself from life circumstances and the stories that you might have been told; the expectations that your family may have put on you; or even something like the religious and political beliefs conditioned into you as a young child…you really find who you are, you really find your people.”
And in direct selling, your people will—in turn—find you.
Personal Development Essentials
Executive Angela Loehr Chrysler always enjoyed reading the classics like Napoleon Hill, John Maxwell and Jim Rohn, along with Jon Gordon, Andy Andrews, Mel Robbins, Brendan Burchard and Mark Batterson. “For me the list goes on and on. Different people speak to me at different times in my own personal growth process.” Chrysler says personal development “helped shape my mindset, my decision making, my outlook, along with helping me overcome fear and negativity especially during the uncertain times of the pandemic.”
Blake Mallen fell into the direct selling channel at 19 years old, and it opened a whole new genre of education that he loved. He keeps a huge binder filled with personal development CDs—admittedly some bootlegged—that rode shotgun in his car throughout his 20s. If his car was moving, the Discman was plugged in playing one of them. “I can probably pop these in 20 years later and still finish the lines. It created the ultimate foundation as an entrepreneur. It set me on that path and helped me through all the things that we go through as entrepreneurs.”
John Tsai remembers a retiree, aged 42, who recommended Rich Dad Poor Dad. He read it and the sequel then signed up for a course. “Now, it’s just all about abundance. I love the mindset of abundance. The more people you can help, the more money you’ll make. The secret to living is actually giving. ‘If you help enough people get what they want, you’ll eventually get what you want.’ Just pay it forward.”
Nick Martinez’s early favorites were Jordan Adler’s Beach Money, Richard Bliss Brooke’s Mach 2 with Your Hair on Fire and Jeff Olson’s The Slight Edge. But it’s audio from Jim Rohn’s Building Your Network Marketing Business that’s looped through his entire career. “I have listened to it no less than 100 times and can probably recite it verbatim.” Books by Simon Sinek, Ryan Holiday and Dr. Joe Dispenza and their messages about individual happiness, well-being and success also resonate strongly with Martinez. “I put all my focus from a personal development standpoint in learning to be aware of my thoughts and feelings, spending the majority of my time thinking about what I want to create in life and how it feels.”
Field leader Patrick Maser loves Think and Grow Rich. “I have 100 copies at all times for people that I bump into and say, ‘Hey, listen, you got a little—you know—glimmer in your eye.’”
Rudy Revak considers himself “very, very, very fortunate” to come up under Jim Rohn. “I’m here today because I went to his seminars. He took me from being a farm boy and helped me understand that ‘For things to change, you have to change. For things to get better, you have to get better.’”
From classics to cutting edge, here’s what’s currently on the nightstands and playlists of channel insiders.
Stellar Resource, Stellar SUCCESS
When eXp Realty CEO Glenn Sanford acquired SUCCESS Enterprises, it ensured the 127-year-old brand would continue to be a trusted, curated space for personal development with high-quality, impactful content that breaks through today’s digital noise.
Always adapting to the evolving digital landscape, SUCCESS is integrating innovative coaching techniques to help businesspeople act purposefully in their own lives. Their brand expansion strategy leverages multimedia platforms to reach wider audiences globally with the aim of maintaining relevance and staying true to their core values.
“SUCCESS stands out through its timeless philosophy of holistic success—nurturing mind, body and spirit. Our brand’s authenticity, coupled with a unique blend of inspirational stories and practical advice, creates a distinctive content delivery style that resonates with diverse audiences from the new entrepreneur to the experienced business executive,” Amy Somerville, CEO, said.
From the January/February 2024 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.