Beyond Personal Development

by Belinda Munoz on July 28, 2010


Last week, a man planned a massacre in the building where I work.  His attempt was foiled.


He is an unemployed carpenter.  In 2002, he was arrested for robbing a bank.  He had on a body-armor and “was carrying a high-powered hunting rifle, a pistol and a shotgun in his mother’s 2006 white Toyota Tundra pickup…”, according to news reports.  He allegedly wanted to “start a revolution” and planned to attack a couple of organizations that held opposing political views from his.


Apparently, this was big news while I was out of town and unplugged.  He was primed for attack on a Saturday; not a typical work day in the building.  Two CHP (California Highway Patrol) officers stopped him for speeding.  Shots were fired.  Injuries were sustained, though nowhere near fatal.  One could say nothing serious happened.  Certainly, nothing happened to me.


Without any help from this man, on my own, I can come up with a list of unlikely what-ifs and fear-induced could’ve-beens.  Some of us probably could’ve written Barry Glassner’s book called The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong ThingsWhat if I was in town (and swung by the office on a Saturday with my son, something I do once in a while)? What if the CHP officers didn’t see him? What if another big earthquake hits San Francisco today? The mind wanders through faux-disastrous terrain (whose doesn’t?) with little effort.  Really.  I can manage on my own, no thanks to this rifle-toting, armor-wearing, open-firing, erratic-driving convicted felon.


There is circumstantial evidence that this man has been listening to a popular radio and TV political commentator whose message appears to be hate-based.  Reports indicate that this talk show influenced this man’s desperate attempt to express his political views through vigilante action.  To call him a nut would be too easy.  What has gone so terribly wrong in his life that made him resort to violence?  Why did he choose to risk life in prison with no possibility of parole when there are so many alternatives?


He may have run into a string of bad luck.  He must have felt that there were no other options.  Clearly, he felt wronged.  What happened? Did he snap? How long did it take?  Was it gradual?

Everyday, ordinary citizens are driven to the margins for a whole host of reasons: economic, health, psychological, who knows what else.  Many of them never resort to violence.  Surely, many more are worse off than this man.  Many never make the news.

So, I sit here and reflect on this could’ve-been-bloodbath, sending up a quiet whisper of gratitude to the cosmos that no one was killed.

But this can’t be the end of the story.  This is merely a snapshot of a bigger story.

There’s a nagging thought that needs to be addressed.

I’ve been reading and writing blog posts for almost a year and it’s nice and safe and feels great.  But all this business of personal development (as many classify my blog) will keep coming up short if we don’t branch out.  If we don’t break down a few walls.  If we don’t extend our reach.  If we don’t expand our thinking and feeling and doing…
beyond ourselves.
beyond the bubble of our immediate concerns.
beyond our irrational what-ifs and fear-based could-bes.
beyond our productivity levels.
beyond hitting our financial goals and business targets.


Because we’re not alone.
Because we need each other.
Because we’re all connected, like it or not.
Because with freedom comes responsibility (thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt).
Because our personal agenda affect others.
Because not everyone has the luxury of investing resources in personal development.
Because many have little resources.
Because too many hardly get a chance to live their potential.
Because there are many with us here, now, who are just like us…

Needing a little visibility.  A little validation.  A little helping hand.

Personal development is great.  (Loving life is awesome.  Reaping the benefits of our hard work is fantastic.)

But, is there room for humanity development?

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. ~ Dalai Lama


  • Do you think there’s room beyond ourselves and our immediate concerns?
  • Are we capable of going from numb to nimble with regard to offering help to those who need it?
  • What if someone you know and love gets left behind?  What if it’s us?
  • How can we strengthen the fabric of humanity so that those who are marginalized get the help they need?


Image by Bee Skutch

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July 28, 2010 at 11:07 am

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tony Single July 28, 2010 at 4:23 am

Belinda, first of all I have to say that I’m relieved that neither you or anyone you know (heck, just anyone period) got hurt by that man. I’m relieved that he never even got that far. Hopefully he’ll get some kind of help, some kind of clarity, some kind of peace in his life. I fear that he won’t in a prison environment, but he’s clearly too much of a danger to himself and others as it is. It’s a terrible, conflicting thing.

Do you think there’s room beyond ourselves and our immediate concerns?
There has to be. If I only ever consider myself and my wants, that I’m the most important person in the world (and I unfortunately do this), then the world suffers indirectly. I’ve much to learn about reaching beyond myself.

Are we capable of going from numb to nimble with regard to offering help to those who need it?
I find that this is something I can’t plan for because my thoughts always turn selfish. It’s usually more productive for me if I just try to be open to anything that might happen, including situations where someone might need assistance of some kind… that’s when I try to be in the moment so that I can be focused on the other person or persons.

What if someone you know and love gets left behind? What if it’s us?
Because that has often been my experience growing up, I am often acutely aware of when it might be happening to others around me. A look as if to say “I’m nothing” often gets me outside of myself and coming up alongside that person to either start a conversation or offer help. No one should ever be left behind.

How can we strengthen the fabric of humanity so that those who are marginalized get the help they need?
I wish I knew the answer to this. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any clear cut solution. It will instead rely on all of us putting in the hard yards of actually getting to know and love other people, even when we don’t want to. My track record hasn’t always been great on this!


2 Stephen July 28, 2010 at 5:45 am

Not sure of the answer, but I have to heartily endorse the question and well done for posing it so succinctly.


3 Linda Wolf (Insanely Serene) July 28, 2010 at 10:28 am


Intriguing post, thanks for sharing this interesting and strange development in your life. I think your questions are good ones, some of which I’ve been asking myself for years. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best (and perhaps only) way I can help others is if I help myself first. When I know how to take care of my needs, then I start building up extra love and energy. That’s what I have as a reserve to give to others. When I help others around me, I share that with them, and serve as a positive role model. I help those in my immediate circle and then a little farther out, and I hope eventually, even farther out to the world. It may be a cliche, but I believe in the ripple effect. It starts with the personal and as long as we keep going, we’ll affect those around us. Keep it going.



4 Giulietta July 28, 2010 at 11:06 am

Hi Belinda,

Glad you are safe!

I absolutely agree with what you are saying about human development, stringing all the personal developments together. We’re all in this Earth thing, whatever it is, together and with more and more of us on the planet perhaps it’s time to take a broader approach. It requires changing the model up and that makes folks nervous because some of us may have to give up some of our stuff so others can have some stuff or changing the definition of a “rich” life.

There’s lots of alienation and depression and suffering out there. Folks feel disconnected to their humanness and by association other people’s humanness. It affects all of us, directly or indirectly.

If you read Planet of Slums, you’ll discover that 1 out of 6 people on the planet seems to live in a slum and that number is expected to reach 1 out of 4 in the near future. Then will it be 1 out of 3? When will we take action to stop it?

What goes around comes around. Perhaps we start sending compassion around and see what comes back?

Thx for the timely topic. Giulietta


5 jane woodman July 28, 2010 at 11:28 am

with freedom comes responsibility. that kind of says it all. do the media commentators (the usual suspects) that are provoking these people even know what this means, or consider using it? they fly the flags and wear their pins, and proudly fill the air with poison. it always shocks me when i accidentally catch their words, or see the results of their nurturing a contrarian culture almost entirely based on fear & political ruthlessness…and bigotry. crowds being interviewed as to why they’re protesting (usually against something positive for them) and not having the slightest clue as to why they are there (stock answer: ‘because we oppose it’. read: ‘because my political party told us to oppose it’). this commentary may sound judgmental, but the media are well aware of their power, especially over the downtrodden, indecisive, and uneducated, and are making a killing (in more ways than one) off of their listeners.

freedom of speech rules. but so does responsibility. and accountability. who’s responsibility is it to hold these usual suspects accountable for their abuse of freedom?


6 Aging Mommy July 28, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Hi Belinda

I have been thinking along these lines coincidentally in several ways. First of all about my blog as I feel I am in danger of getting into a rut with subject matter, style, focus and more. Hence my latest post about different perspectives. I am also thinking ahead as you know because I also wrote about that, as to who I am and what I am going to do once my daughter is in school and I want to do something totally different to my old corporate life, something to give back to/help others.

So a timely topic for me that you are covering here.


7 BigLittleWolf July 28, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Powerful post. I have no answers. Only more questions, and the sense that awareness is a first step, and one hand at a time is a manageable one. A sort of positive, collective Butterfly Effect. Whatever that may mean, in more tangible ways.


8 ayo July 28, 2010 at 4:06 pm

hi belinda,
how are you?
it’s great to know you are okay.
it’s also important we watch what we listen to or read……
with regards to the questions raised i am going to tow the same line as some of the commentators here. i’m unsure of the answers but would definitely think further.
take care and enjoy the rest of the day


9 Tess The Bold Life July 28, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Hi Belinda,
I’m shouting a big gratitude that you and all are well and here!
Yes I think there is room beyond me, me, me. There are many hungry families out there and someone is sponsoring a collection for PB & J for hungry kids. We went to Sam’s and bought several large jars of each. They’re in my car waiting to be dropped off. It’s small. Yet I feel for me small steps are ones I can repeatedly take. We never know what someone else is going through. I believe one thing that will come from our crisis is the focus is back on needing and helping each other. There is no act too big or too small as long as we each take some kind of action…repeatedly!


10 Eva @ EvaEvolving July 29, 2010 at 8:37 am

Yes. “Humanity development” – so appropriate. It seems much of this relies on a shift in our society from being self-centered to other-centered. And this is especially hard in the US, where we are by nature an individualistic society. We don’t think in terms of teams and shared achievement. But developing our humanity – our compassion, our generosity, our empathy – would really change our world, wouldn’t it?


11 jane woodman July 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm

this entire post & your last sentence is very profound; and that’s where my thoughts are, as well. i can feel a change coming; here’s hoping it’s all beyond money & power someday soon….


12 Aileen July 29, 2010 at 2:21 pm

WOW! What a thing to come back from vacation and hear. I’m very happy to hear that his attempt didn’t succeed.
Living in a state of desperation can drive people to horrendous actions and unfortunately it’s not uncommon enough.

You ask very important questions – it may be optimistic of me but I feel the work we do on ourselves (our self development) does go beyond ourselves & our immediate concerns. The more mentally healthy and loving we become the more we can give that to our communities and to others. Just like an unhealed person can attempt a massacre, a healed person can work to prevent another from falling so low.

Yes, I feel we can go from “numb to nimble with regard to offering help to those who need it” and that is one of the benefits of “personal development” – it goes beyond the individual and into communities and all humanity.

I believe our world is taking action to “strengthen the fabric of humanity so that those who are marginalized get the help they need” – I feel we are in progress. Yes we have much more to do and more people to get on board – but it is happening. I really believe it is happening

Very important post you wrote. It shakes us, the reader – and moves us


13 Wilma Ham July 29, 2010 at 8:06 pm

It start with ME though change starts with ME, always. There is nowhere else where I CAN start. Because I have been indifferent for too long, I have left responsibility for change too long. Look at the oil spill, we can all get heated up and nothing happens until next time.
THERE IS something we can do, do Ho’Oponopono, you can do something by looking this up if you do not know what it is here
Be loving to your neighbor, your colleagues so they will NOT turn into a desperate human being. I cannot help that man, I cannot help everybody and I do not have to. If I do my bit with my immediate people who are in front of me and you do your bit, we are touching already a huge part of humanity.
I can do something and that is being love in action towards everybody always. That man needs Ho’Oponopono and when we give it to him, that will help all of us. Belinda, thank you for sharing your story, there is a lot ‘wrong’ in the world and we all struggle with how to make it a better place. However there are more and more ways that we can make changes. xox Wilma
xox Wilma


14 Jenny July 30, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Hi Belinda,
I’m a little late to this party but I couldn’t not comment.
Thank God this man was unsuccessful at hurting anyone!
I think that we have collectively built a society that creates these problems for some people… I won’t go into it. I’d be writing all night!
That said, I think that the one and only solution to all of our problems is developing and extending our own compassion. If we were to understand that we are all connected, and that everything that happens affects many, many lives and the life of the planet, we would find that we have greater and greater ability to create lasting change that would make the world better for everyone.


15 Capital Mom July 31, 2010 at 2:40 am

I’m glad you were okay. Even though you weren’t there it doesn’t make the possibilty of it less scary.

I am working to be less fearful, especially when it comes to the kids. I can’t protect them and I want them to go out in the world. It feels like a double edged sword somethimes.


16 Madeleine Kolb August 2, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Hi Beinda, You do raise the hard questions which is probably why I keep coming by.

I think there is room beyond ourselves and that many people contribute time, energy, and/or money for worthy causes and also help others in more direct, personal ways. Sometimes, though, the problem is knowing that someone needs help and knowing what to do to get help. Did Timothy McVey need help before he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City? Did anyone know that? Could anyone have helped him or stopped him?

In terms of strengthening the fabric of humanity so that those who are marginalized get the help they need, one thing I’ve thought of is to provide support to people going through a hard transition, such as getting divorced, losing custody of children, losing a job, getting out of the military with PTSD, or even getting out of prison. Sometimes when people “go postal,” it seems as if someone could have (or should have) been able to predict it.


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