The Rare Few Truly Life-Changing Personal Development Blogs

Golden Nuggets in the Online Cesspool

Personal development blogs have changed my life. If not for them, I very well might never have pretired, built the social skills to woo Kim, stayed open-minded, and found the fulfilling path I’m on today.

But personal development blogs don’t live up to their name for a lot of people.

Why?

Bad filters.

In the ever-expanding cesspool of online crap, it’s increasingly difficult to separate the rare few golden nuggets of inspiration from turds wrapped in foil. Anyone who dives in and swallows everything in front of them can’t help but feel shitty.

To feel like gold, you need a fine filter.

Here are:

What Separates Good Personal Development Blogs from Bad?

Maybe my filters can help you fine-tune your own:

  • Actually impactful. If the blog had never existed, would my life be any different? The answer to this filters out a lot of self-help blogs that I think are inspiring but clearly aren’t actually impactful.
  • Hard-hitting (and cliché-free). Self-help blogs full of feel-good clichés are like hugs that tell you, “Everything’s going to be ok,” but don’t actually get you off your ass. I prefer blogs that hit me over the head with startling insights that say, “Wake the f*ck up, idiot. Move! If you don’t, you’re an idiot.”
  • Originality. No regurgitated wis-dumb. I want unpopular opinions, first-person story-telling, and simple models or metaphors that get me looking at familiar ideas in a new way. Even if I disagree with these original ideas, they inspire me to think independently, too.
  • Humor. Any blogger who can’t include humor in their writing isn’t having as much fun as they should in life.
  • Personal. People who write from their own experiences inspire me the most.
  • Irregular. If bloggers push out posts with the regularity of bowel movements, the shit that comes out is just that.
  • Still producing. This filters out some of the oldie but goldie personal development blogs like Tim Ferriss, Chris Guillebeau, James Clear, and Oliver Emberton. But gold doesn’t tarnish, so their archives are absolutely worth tapping into.

Personal Development Blogs That Truly Inspire Change

Updated whenever I discover a new personal development blog that meets my criteria.

A Flaw with My Filter

Every one of my favorite personal development blogs is written by a white guy.

Is the lack of diversity hampering my development? Probably. I considered adding some non-white people to the list to hide my bias from myself and from you. But I decided to be transparent. Rather than judge me, please help me by suggesting diverse self-development blogs in the comments.

    Wait But Why personal development blog logo

    Wait But Why, by Tim Urban


    • Topics: “Almost everything.” Common themes are futuristic science and dealing with our monkey brains.
    • Brief Blogger Bio: Tim Urban’s a middle-aged New Yorker and former tutor. He started the blog in 2013.
    • Very Approximate Monthly Visitors1According to SimilarWeb‘s highly unreliable, data.: 1 million.
    • URL: http://waitbutwhy.com/

    How the Blog Has Improved My Life:

    By reigniting my child-like curiosity.

    Tim Urban’s genius is making thinking fun. His silly illustrations, simple diagrams, and memorable metaphors explain complicated ideas in unforgettable and motivational ways.

    After reading his posts, my child-like curiosity returns. I can’t help but run around life looking under stones, playing with dirt, and asking a lot more questions.

    24-Carat Inspiration: The Tail End. This inspiring blog post explains better than anything I’ve read how precious little time we have left with our loved ones.

    Logo for Paul Graham's personal blog of esssays

    PaulGraham.com, by Paul Graham


    • Topics: Startups and life.
    • Blogger Bio: The famed British founder of Silicon Valley startup incubator, Y Combinator, has been publishing timeless essays on his personal blog since 1998.
    • Very Approximate Monthly Traffic: 400,000 views per month
    • URL: paulgraham.com

    How the Blog Has Improved My Life:

    By teaching me to think in a principled way.

    Most blogs, self-help or otherwise, jostle for your attention. They yell over each other trying to tell you they have the answers.

    Paul Graham doesn’t. He sits back (his blog doesn’t even have a subscribe option), asks tough questions, and shares his thoughts with those who are willing to listen.

    His approach and essays have taught me to ignore the noise, including that in my own head, and quietly and earnestly think through my own answers to questions that matter from the ground up.

    24-Carat Inspiration: How to Do What You Love. This essay has helped my figure out the answer for myself.

    Header for Mark Manson's self help blog

    MarkManson.net, by Mark Manson


    • Topics: Life philosophy.
    • Brief Blogger Bio: Started off blogging about picking up chicks in 2008 then graduated to more important topics in 2013. Now a bestselling author.
    • Very Approximate Monthly Visitors: 1.5 million.
    • URL: http://markmanson.net/

    How the Blog has Improved My Life:

    By acting as my demotivational speaker in blog form.

    Whenever I start falling for wishy-washy self-help junk or feeling sorry for myself, Mark Manson stops me. He reminds me not to be a whiny little bitch and do shit that matters without worrying about what other people think.

    Like most personal development content, Manson’s advice isn’t new. But it hits me harder than most because he rips at the fluff of conventional self-help, packs what matters into rough and raw packages, and swings away.

    I don’t always agree with his philosophies. But the fact that he unapologetically has original opinions inspires me to act the same way.

    24-Carat Inspiration: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. One of the first blog posts I read that put what I was thinking into a package so I could use it more effectively.

    Logo for the Better Ideas personal development vlog

    Better Ideas, by Joey Schwartzer


    • Topics: Living a better life.
    • Blogger Bio: A 20-something fellow Vancouverite who started a YouTube channel in 2017.
    • Very Approximate Monthly Visitors: 1.5 million views per month.
    • URL: https://www.youtube.com/c/BetterIdeas/

    How the Blog Vlog Has Improved My Life:

    By waking me up to the wisdom of Generation Z.

    As a Millennial, I used to be the future. Now Gen Z-ers are. And Schweitzer made me realize they’re worth paying attention to if I don’t want to be left behind.

    Unlike most of the TikTok and Twitch type Gen Z-ers that hog most of the limelight, I find that Schweitzer is actually worth paying attention to. He often has “Better Ideas” than me. And the way he’s grown his audience so fast certainly proves it.

    There’s a lot I can learn from him. And a lot to gain if I do. So now I’m paying attention to not get left behind.

    24-Carat Inspiration: How I tricked my brain to like doing hard things. The first video of Schweitzer’s that I watched. And the first self-help YouTube video that I thought was not just entertaining but actually original and insightful.

    The Oatmeal's logo

    The Oatmeal, by Matthew Inman


    • Topics: Perspective and pets.
    • Blogger Bio: Matthew started The Oatmeal in 2009. His comics soon became viral successes. He published books. He got involved in movies and a Tesla museum. Now he makes very successful real life (i.e., not video) games. And he still publishes from time to time.
    • Very Approximate Monthly Traffic: 500,000 pageviews per month.
    • URL: theoatmeal.com/

    How the Blog Has Improved My Life:

    By inspiring me to never stay still.

    Just look at Matthew’s brief bio again. He’s not much older than me and already has done such a wild variety of creative things.

    The cartoons in his blog give a hint at what goes on in his extraordinary mind. Reading them inspires me to keep pushing my art, doing the unexpected, and trying to live an almost cartoonishly unreal life like he does.

    24-Carat Inspiration: You’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you. If all education was like this, we’d all be geniuses.

    Mr. Money Mustache personal finance blog logo

    Mr. Money Mustache, by Pete Adeney


    • Topics: Personal finance.
    • Blogger Bio: Fellow Canadian who worked for years in Silicon Valley, then “retired” at 30, and moved to Colorado around 2011 to live a simple but luxurious life (and, ironically, make more money than ever blogging about it).
    • Very Approximate Monthly Traffic: 1 million visits.
    • URL: mrmoneymustache.com/

    How the Blog Has Improved My Life:

    Two big ways:

    First, by inspiring me to pretire.

    I knew I didn’t want to work hard until I’m old and deemed economically inefficient, retire, then relax until I die. Adeney’s clear thinking on this and what to do instead made sure I didn’t.

    Second, by making me realize that money exists to solve problems, not buy happiness.

    When people called me “cheap,” I used to believe it. Now I don’t. I’m intentional with my money and in a great place financially because of it. I’m only kind of cheap.

    24-Carat Inspiration: Is it Convenient? Would I Enjoy it? Wrong Question. One of the articles that reframed my mindset on materialism pre-pretirement.

    Logo for Tynan's personal blog

    Tynan.com, by Tynan


    • Topics: Living the good life.
    • Blogger Bio: Tynan’s been blogging since at least 2006, when a failed attempt to house a penguin in a 3,100-gallon pool in his house earned him some notoriety. See his about page for more.
    • Very Approximate Monthly Traffic: 5,000 to 9,000 views per new post.
    • URL: tynan.com/

    How the Blog Has Improved My Life:

    By showing me you don’t need extraordinary financial success to live an extraordinary life.

    Tynan is far from rich. As far as I can tell, most of his income comes from a small site for booking cruises called CruiseSheet.

    But he co-owns homes in Hawaii, Budapest, and Tokyo and has an island in Canada. And his principal residence is in Las Vegas, where he has convinced a group of close friends to move into the same building so they can spend more time together.

    Even though he’s not rich, he manages to spend most of his time hanging out with the people he enjoys the most and pursuing his ever-evolving interests like boating around Lake Mead and Japanese tea parties.

    Tynan’s living the life. His life. And his blog inspires me to follow his lead.

    24-Carat Inspiration: Investing Time vs. Spending Time. This concept played a part in eventually getting me hooked on my life-changing habit of lifelogging.

    Header of Julian Shapiro's personal blog

    Julian.com, by Julian Shapiro


    • Topics: Doing things better.
    • Blogger Bio: From what I gather from his about page, he’s followed the typical Silicon Valley startup path. He started his blog around 2016.
    • Very Approximate Monthly Traffic: 100,000 visits.
    • URL: julian.com/

    How the Blog Has Improved My Life:

    By teaching me to deconstruct first, then build second.

    You don’t need magic, luck, or good genes to learn, build muscle, write, or market successfully. You just need a disciplined approach based on proven practices.

    “Duh,” you’re probably thinking.

    Well, I thought the same, but acted otherwise. In my writing, for example, I wrote whatever felt good and hoped it would stick. Some did, some didn’t.

    Then I came across Julian’s writing handbook on his blog. Unlike the books on writing I’d read, which are mostly about style, his handbook is all about strategy. He logically breaks down what works and why, then reassembles it into a framework to follow.

    Since reading it, I’ve built my own framework for writing and everything else I want to do better. And more of what I’m doing is sticking.

    It’s like magic.

    24-Carat Inspiration: Writing Well, the aforementioned handbook.

    Unconventional Route logo

    The Unconventional Route, by Kim and Me


    • Topics: Avoiding ruts and exploring extraordinary alternatives.
    • Blogger Bio: Canadian who pretired in 2013, stumbled into travel blogging in 2018, then morphed that into a travel blog for life.
    • Very Approximate Monthly Traffic: 150,000 visits.
    • URL: You’re here now.

    How the Blog Has Improved My Life:

    By being the job of my dreams.

    I make money exploring ways to live a more extraordinary life, connecting with like-minded people, and trying to communicate my ideas and discoveries in compelling ways to help others out of ruts and onto their own extraordinary paths.

    It’s unendingly interesting, incredibly challenging, and fulfills my personal mission.

    I friggin love it.

    Kim and my blog may not be at the level of the above golden personal development blogs yet, but, like with everything in life, we’re trying to make it better and better. And it seems to be working.

    To follow our journey and explore extraordinary ideas and “creative laxatives” with us and thousands of others every 10 days, subscribe to our newsletter.

    24-Carat Inspiration: My pretirement story.

    Popular Personal Development Blogs I Admire, but Don’t Read

    These blogs make it through the majority of my filters, but not all. Your opinion may differ, so check them out.

    • Zen Habits, by Leo Babauta. His blog exudes calm, which we could all use more of.
    • Brain Pickings, by Maria Popova. She’s prolific at mining the human library on all topics and extracting jewels of wisdom.
    • Scott Young. He’s a fellow Vancouverite. I’ve enjoyed talking to him in person about productivity and learning.
    • Science of People, by Vanessa Van Edwards. Her content on developing social skills, especially her stuff from back when she was a one-woman show, captivated me.
    • The Art of Manliness by Brett and Kate McKay. They still put out some golden nuggets. Kim and I like their podcast for occasional inspiring episodes, like this one on breathing.
    • Seth Godin. The Yoda of marketing. I’ve benefitted from his books, like Purple Cow, more than his blog.

    What About You?

    No individual can possibly explore the internet’s ocean-sized cesspool to find all the gold, so please share your favorite personal development blogs in the comments below. (But don’t share your own blog. Sorry, I’m the only one allowed to self-promote here.)

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    Chris and Kim

    Kim and Chris started The Unconventional Route in 2018 to share their adventures fighting complacency to win at life. Today, over 150,000 people a month visit the site and thousands more explore a dose of uncomplacent ideas with them every 10 days in their free newsletter, Consider This.

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