Personal Development Demystified: Apps vs OS

By Jonathan Roseland

I'm not a doctor, medical professional, or trained therapist. I'm a researcher and pragmatic biohacking practitioner exercising free speech to share evidence as I find it. I make no claims. Please practice skepticism and rational critical thinkingYou should consult a professional about any serious decisions that you might make about your health. Affiliate links in this article support Limitless Mindset - spend over $150 and you'll be eligible to join the Limitless Mindset Secret Society.

Your smartphone is a surprisingly accurate metaphor for your personal development...

You can do personal development either by installing apps or upgrading the operating system.

Let's say your smartphone doesn't have many apps, well you won't be able to do much other than make calls and look at the clock right?
Let's say your smartphone has all the apps you desire but it's running an operating system from five years ago. Its apps are constantly crashing. It does everything very slowly. You can't multitask or easily switch between functions - you will frustratingly be able to see all these apps but not be able to fully utilize them.

How does this correspond to personal development?

Installing Apps


Is like...

  • Learning a second language
  • Acquiring career skill sets
  • Reading books
  • Studying philosophy
  • Writing daily
  • Getting coaching
  • Getting into entrepreneurship, pickup, or social dynamics

Similar to your smartphone the more apps you have the more you can do.

Upgrading the Operating System (OS)

Upgrading the OS

  • A meditation practice.
  • Optimizing your diet.
  • Brain training with Dual N-back - which fits very precisely with our metaphor because it is literally like upgrading the RAM of your mind.
  • Practicing memory systems.
  • Heart rate variability training.
  • Doing aerobic exercise 90 minutes a week to stimulate neuroplasticity.
  • Getting outside of your comfort zone.
  • Habituating your heuristic reactions.
  • Practicing arbitrary discipline.
  • Sleep hacking.
  • Taking Nootropics that feed your brain the nutrients it needs.
  • Going to therapy to figure out your own blind spots and where you are sabotaging yourself.
  • Quieting your addictions or managing your vices.

While there is obviously some overlap between some of these apps and improving the overall operating system, we've all met people who were really into personal development but they were overly biased towards just installing apps. While they were always studying things or starting new projects they just didn't have the discipline to accomplish much. They occasionally go through a spout of depression and then announce to the world (on social media, predictably) that they are starting yet another project.

We've also known people who only worked on the OS

They were very positive people to be around but they just didn't have any real skillsets. They are always "networking" but they just don't have any value to offer because they don't have any real skillsets. I'm thinking about people who are into MLM, networking marketing, and life coaching - let's not be like them.

So you are, I'm sure, expecting a little more nuanced point than simply stating the obvious given the metaphor: work on both sides in a balanced way. I would suggest that you immerse yourself either in apps or the OS depending upon where you are at in life and how your motivational mechanisms work.

Where your deficit lies

Up growth profit progress 750

If you are a younger person who is at the beginning of your career or lacking in formal or vocational education, you are probably a little short in the apps department. If you are financially struggling focus on apps. There's this myth in self-help that if you just focus on OS - becoming zen and enlightened  - money will just come to you easily. This, as you've probably suspected before, is bullshit.

Whereas, if you are an older person, who's been working a while on your career, yet you feel like you are just spinning your wheels and not getting ahead despite having a lot of good skills and working hard, then it's probably your OS that needs some work.

What's interesting is that the apps side of personal development, with a few exceptions, is mostly free to work on.

  • Nowadays you can learn a lot of good career skill sets, almost for free on the Internet (I taught myself, in several years, the career skill set that now makes me $125/hourly just watching YouTube videos.)
  • You can learn languages basically for free using free software and going to free language exchange events in your city.
  • Honing entrepreneurship, persuasion, and social dynamics skillsets, at least in the beginning, costs only your time.
  • Getting coaching can be expensive, but some surprisingly effective coaching tools are cheap or completely free, like
  • Books are almost free.

Contrast this to the OS side

  • Eating healthy, while there are some lifehacks (like coconuts), is usually more expensive.
  • Potent pharmaceutical-grade Nootropics and smart drugs are certainly expensive.
  • Getting regular exercise can be free, but it's more likely that you will need to join a gym. Take some classes and maybe even get some personal training.
  • Going to therapy is expensive.
  • The heart rate variability training options start at $100 and go up from there.
  • You could find free ways to get out of your comfort zone regularly, or it could cost thousands of dollars if you (like me) travel internationally and live as a foreigner in foreign lands to get out of your geographic comfort zone.
  • Quitting or managing your vices could be free if you have enough willpower to go cold turkey, but chances are you are going to get what you pay for.
  • Meditation and brain training are next to free, and they are some of the best ways to upgrade the OS. If you aren't doing them daily, start now - seriously.
  • If you are looking for a canary in the coal mine type of sign as to what you should be focusing on, consider your comfort level. If you are very comfortable in life, it's a pretty good sign that you should focus on the OS. Whereas if you aren't very comfortable, that's probably reflective of your financial situation and you want to install some more apps so that you can become more economically productive.

The good news

Is that apps are going to improve your financial situation, sometimes quite quickly. I hear stories all the time about people who learn some useful social dynamics skills and a few weeks later they double the amount of money they have been making. See my video here about the time I made $4100 in 50 minutes for a pretty simple communication protocol that has significantly increased my income.

During my 20's I was very focused on apps

Like learning to be a good salesperson and the web development craft, but I hit a speed bump in my personal and professional life in my mid-late 20s. Then I got more focused on the operating system...

  • I really cleaned up my diet.
  • I started taking quality Nootropics regularly.
  • I got into brain training.
  • I began my nearly 4-year adventure of living in Latin America...

As a result, I'm really happy about the career and lifestyle momentum I'm experiencing now. I wish I had gotten into the OS stuff earlier, as opposed to just being a work-hard, play-hard kind of guy, it would have minimized the speed bump I hit back when I was around 27 years old. If I didn't have the career momentum from the apps I had installed in my mid 20's this speed bump would have been a real quarter-life crisis.
What's sad is that a lot of people (especially men) when they hit the point of diminishing returns from working hard and playing hard, just get bitter and despondent - they have a real mid or quarter-life crisis.

I hope this simple metaphor clarifies the often misunderstood topic of personal development for you.

In the comments below...

Let us know if you are working more on apps or the OS right now? And what specifically are you doing?


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