Learn, Share, Grow - Aim at Something Noble

learn share grow

January 29, 2024

Below is a lesson from The Common Reader on self development, as well as our key learnings.

The Blue Courage team is dedicated to continual learning and growth.  We have adopted a concept from Simon Sinek’s Start With Why team called “Learn, Share, Grow”.  We are constantly finding great articles, videos, and readings that have so much learning.  As we learn new and great things, this new knowledge should be shared for everyone to then grow from.


Aiming at something noble. Resolutions for human flourishing.

The Art of Life and John Stuart Mill.


Every year at this time, people making resolutions look to self-help books to guide them in their new goals and ambitions. But our self-help is over-simplified easy optimism, a hangover from the days when How to Win Friends and Influence People defined the genre. It’s a mass of stoicism, wellbeing, minimalism, misunderstood Taoism, and productivity and habit advice. This sort of self-help can often be useful, but it is not a whole way of living. Rules for life and aphorisms are a starting point. The Ten Commandments are the original ten rules for life, but they came with the Bible, one of the largest, most challenging books ever written. The more accessible self-help becomes, the less useful it really is.

In so much modern self-help, Seneca and Marie Kondo are co-opted into the same cause of making space in our lives, getting back to ourselves, removing anxiety. This is all a means to an end, not an end in itself. These systems aim at an inner silence you can’t maintain. Self-help so often tells us how to improve our habits for the sake of productivity when it ought to be about the improvement of our mind and the expansion of our consciousness. We need a self-help that shows us how to flourish as a whole person, not one that merely offers advice on improving your work habits and anxiously avoiding anxiety.

The question self-help has to answer is: what should I do with my life? Once you have improved your productivity habits and changed your routines, you still need to know what it is you want to do with your life, how to spend your short and precious time.

Continue reading here.

Key Learnings:

  • Self-help ought to be about the improvement of our mind and the expansion of our consciousness.
  • We need a self-help that shows us how to flourish as a whole person, not one that merely offers advice on improving your work habits and anxiously avoiding anxiety.
  • The question self-help has to answer is: what should I do with my life? It should be about how to flourish as an individual.
  • To know how to live a better life, we must accept that this question is hard, will require more of us than we might be prepared to give, and will not entirely yield to rules, formulas, and systems.
  • Self-help at its best offers a way of living that fulfils your potential as a rounded individual. It enables you to flourish—spiritually, morally, practically, aesthetically.
  • "Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing." English philosopher on human flourishing, John Stuart Mill
  • We all have internal potential, and a need to grow. Developing that potential and enabling that growth is what Mill called The Art of Life. This development happens across what Mill called three “departments of life”: moral, practical, and aesthetic.
  •  Mill’s five principles for flourishingshows us how to achieve the flourishing he thought was so central to public and private development. The purpose of life is to develop ourselves as fully as possible, morally, practically, and aesthetically. The way we do this is through discovery. This requires many-sidedness. We do this not just to improve our own lives, but because we have a moral responsibility to each other: the better we live, the more encouraging we are to others that they live better lives too (one of the core aspects of democracy). We can only make that work with a noble character.
    • Character development. Bildungthe concept of bildung, the idea that a person matures and develops by constantly reconciling their personality to their environment. The purpose of life is to develop ourselves morally, practically, and aesthetically, to constantly educate ourselves, in order to be better reconciled to our environment, and to become more capable of making good decisions. This requires continuous discovery.
    • Continuous discoveryMill thought of a genius as someone who takes pains to understand the world for themselves, who relies on their own faculties, rather than taking someone else’s word for something. This is discovery as opposed to rote learning. Discovery relies on character development. We must get at our convictions by our own faculties. Such lifelong discovery will involve us in many-sidedness.

    • Many sidedness. VielseitigkeitMany people attempt character development and discovery, but fail to make progress because they are only open to a narrow set of ideas. Anyone can enrich you, even, or especially, if they are wrong.

    • Moral responsibilityThe Art of Life is not just an individual project. The obligation we have to improve ourselves as an obligation we have to each other. The point of democracy is not just to vote for what we want, but to improve each other as citizens. You cannot change institutions without changing people. We owe it to each other to be the best people we can be - the cultivation of nobleness.

    • Noble utility - Education should teach logic, reasoning, and the classics. In this way you can train the mind to think, rather than clutter it with facts. If we have highly developed faculties, they open our eyes to new sorts of happiness. We must raise our sights to greatness. Mill’s art of life, the balancing of the moral, practical, and aesthetic, is about enabling people to raise their aspirations and improve themselves in ways they couldn’t imagine when they began their journey of bildung and discovery. 

  • If we keep a vision of greatness in mind and develop a nobleness of character, we will be best equipped to practice many-sidedness and to discover the world, rather than accept what other people tell us think.
  • Some starting points might include turning off Netflix, making a syllabus for yourself, writing down what you learn from the people you disagree with ideologically, finding people you can have conversations with that elevate your aspirations, and re-curating de-trivialise your social feeds. Your starting point might simply be a list of things you have opinionsabout but which, if you are being honest, you don’t really know a lot about.
  •  In a nutshell, Mill’s advice is that we must keep learning, not accept what we are told, take seriously those who we disagree with, and through this process elevate our vision of life.
  • Mill knew that you cannot simply go out and try to be happy. He also knew that being devoted to a public cause is not enough. We need a balance. Mill’s ideas are about how to change the world and how to be happy. You cannot change society without paying attention to how you are changing yourself. Institutional reform and individual reform go together.

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