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5 Unconventional Professional and Personal Growth Hacks


5 Unconventional Professional and Personal Growth Hacks

I made a big mistake. I knew it when it happened, but unfortunately, I have photographic evidence: I cut my hair.

Boo hoo. Right? We all get haircuts, and I’ve had some radical ones over the years. Hair grows.

This time was different.

My mistake was a combo of the magnitude of the so-called trim and the timing.

My whole life I’ve had variations on the same style but mostly I like it long with bangs. Less than 48 hours before a huge family celebration a few months ago, I cut my hair off. Yup, I walked in with hair cascading over my shoulders and walked out with it hardly skimming my neck and tiny little layers everywhere.

When the stylist dried it, it looked sleek, cool and edgy, yet immediately had a hard time relating to the woman who stared back at me in the mirror.

Unfortunately, when I dried it at home the next day, it didn’t look like it did at the salon, far from it. The kindest word to describe my hair after my drying attempt, other than short, was poofy – in all the wrong places. Talk about a terrible look.

Then came the family celebrations and the professional photographer who documented every moment. Looking at the proofs online, I honestly hardly recognized myself.

Today, I’m still not a fan; it’s not me but at least I’ve learned to manage the poof. But, back to the cool thing about hair, it grows – even if it’s only between a quarter and a half inch per month. (Slow, right?) So far I’m resisting the urge to shave my head and be patient as the ugly crop goes through the short and awkward phase before it’s cascading once again.

Here’s my mantra of the moment:

Some growth is not the same a no growth.

Ultimately, I did what every logical person would do who hates their haircut – I turned to Google. My search? “How to get my hair to grow faster?”

Nothing impressive:

  • Massage your scalp.
  • Get a haircut.
  • Don’t use hot water.

Awesome. Not.

The real answer was I needed to be patient. Hair growth takes time, and I am not one of those dolls where you can cut her hair and pull it long again 30 seconds later.

Growth is kinda my thing… but not when it comes to hair

I’ve worked with clients for nearly a decade to help them accelerate their professional and personal growth. I’ve invested 100’s of hours with people who want to grow NOW, be farther along their path and make a change. I’ve even used the metaphor of one of those silly dolls with the hair.

Of course, in our sessions, we always talk about the usual personal and professional development suspects – because they work:

  • Get a mentor
  • Take a class
  • Read a book
  • Go to a conference
  • Ask for a new challenge at work

Here’s the scoop

Personal growth requires you to push yourself into discomfort, pull through it, reflect and apply the learning on the other side.

Reading a book is awesome (and I still recommend many in my practice) but if you read it and put it on your shelf, so what? You need to use what you’ve learned even if it feels sloppy, awkward and new.

That conference where you attended incredible sessions that had sparks flying left and right as you made connections to your work? Why let yourself fall back into BAU (Business As Usual) the following Monday?


Truth is, most people don’t put their learning into action without some accountability.

Doing something isn’t enough. You need to hold yourself accountable for putting the learning into motion. You may even want to enlist a friend or coach to push you. Everyone can benefit from an occasional push.

Ask yourself: What did you learn? Why did it matter?

Okay, so now you’re pushing, holding yourself accountable, reflecting, implementing… but you still want to grow faster? Here you go.

5 Unconventional Professional and Personal Growth Hacks

1) Travel

Take yourself on an adventure outside of your everyday experience. Fresh experiences spark fresh ideas, perspectives, and opportunities. If your idea of travel is to head to the same beach year after year, make this the time to try somewhere new. Trust me, the first time I traveled to a country where they spoke little English I was nervous, almost chickened out, and it was an incredible time of personal growth.


2) Write

The data varies but up to 80% of Americans say they want to write a book. Most won’t even write the first sentence. If a book feels overwhelming but writing is a leap you want to take – blog. It can be scary pressing publish on words that aren’t perfect (they never are), but it gets you in the game. There are tons of resources out there to start your own blog, and there are sites like Medium and LinkedIn which you can share your writing without a moment’s wait. No excuses. Have a perspective and share it with the world.

[Here’s an invitation: I rarely accept guest posts, but in January 2017, I’m open to publishing yours on the Break the Frame blog. Dare Yourself! Start the new year with a stretch, accelerate your growth and step into the discomfort. The requirements? Let’s connect first through blog comments, Twitter, email… Make it relevant. Personal development, leadership, professional development, HR, organization development are welcome.]

3) Exercise

Exercise is a great place to challenge your status quo, push yourself and practice accountability. I was out of the exercise habit after a year of recovery from health issues, and the first time I got back on the elliptical, I hit my time goal, but my distance was unimpressive. Now, each time I get on the machine, I set a tiny new goal. Maybe last time I did 5K in 40 minutes (don’t laugh) so today I want to shave a minute. Maybe last time I kept it on 15% resistance most of the time so today I commit to 30% intervals for the duration. Push yourself, beat yourself, dare yourself.

4) Volunteer

It doesn’t matter where you volunteer but giving your time, outside of your routine will grow you in unexpected ways. You’ll be giving and getting. Over the years I’ve done pro bono coaching, tutored kids and helped repair houses among other things. Find something that speaks to you and give it a whirl. Volunteering is guaranteed to get your out of your head and your own challenges and focused on doing something meaningful for others. If you can’t learn and grow from that, I don’t know what will do the trick.

5) Purge

Often, personal growth is slowed because you’re holding onto the past with both hands. Journals, wedding presents that are still in the box, old notebooks from past jobs, textbooks from college, pictures, papers, old files. What are you holding on to and isn’t it time to let go? Make it a celebration or maybe a yard sale is in order. Thinning the things in your personal space will actually create more mental space; it’s a hack that truly works.

Turns out my hair trim was more than hacking off my excess length. Now I’m growing my patience and rediscovering that it’s not only the reflection in the mirror that makes me the woman I am… it’s what’s happening within.

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