Summary: I didn’t like the book, and won’t go into detail here; instead I marvel at how many people read, believe and act on things that are completely unsubstantiated by any evidence. But that only shows my naivety: it seems that most of the world outside science -and some inside- works that way.
Who is Steve?
Steve Pavlina is a top-100 blogger and a personal development guru. He has done several impressive things like majoring in Math and CS in three semesters, trying polyphasic sleep for 6 months, and testing several extremely demanding changes on his habits like eating raw food only.
In my view, the field of personal development feels scam-ridden. It preys on people who may not have the strongest will. So the title "Personal development for smart people" feels tonge-in-cheek (Oxymoron?). I’m sure many readers, with an empirical bias, may be bothered by all the new-agey chat out there that passes for advice (with no solid evidence backing it up). Now, is Steve different? Is this book better? The answers are no, and ‘maybe, I don’t know what else is out there’.
Problems with his method: Who in the academia should be doing Steve’s job?
One thing that bothers me is that Steve’s book uses no references whatsoever. He claims to have read most self-help books, but does not acknowledge any specific ideas from them. If all the ideas in the book are new and his, then I’m very impressed -I wouldn’t know-, but that seems unlikely. Again, I’m sure self-help books are all like that; making reference to other people’s ideas in a way you can track them down, as sensible as it sounds, remains a signature of the academia.