Why diets don’t work

Because they typically require that you overload yourself with a bunch of new rules and habits.

Now, if you’ve read any of my stuff in the past, you know I love rules and habits. They are the path toward a healthy, fulfilling, and ultimately free life.

But they need to be learned and adapted slowly, progressively.

If the 95% of failed New Years resolutions teaches us anything, it’s that going balls to the wall with good decisions isn’t enough. Those decisions have to be engrained in your day to day…set in stone.

When something is a habit, it’s easier to simply do that thing than it is to think about doing it. It feels like it does itself.

Making extreme and immediate changes to your routines may bring you success in the short term, but there’s a reason every single winner of The Biggest Loser has gained all (usually more) of that weight back within two years.

Overloading strong habits will inevitably lead to burnout and a sense of failure. Surprisingly, this doesn’t lead to lasting change.

I’ve had many clients feel pumped up after a coaching session and do this. At the end, when we come up with their Next Actions, they get antsy.

• “I’m gonna go to bed before 11am each night.”
• “I’m gonna exercise every morning.”
• “I’m gonna read at least 20 pages every day.”
• “I’m gonna meditate every morning for 30 minutes.”

Every single one of these actions is beautiful and would certainly be powerful if applied to one’s life. But going from zero to all of these is impossible to maintain.

Naturally, they come back and tell me in the following session that they fell off with their Next Actions, usually with a tone of failure.

But that’s not a failure in execution; it’s a failure in planning.

It sounds boring as hell, but the only true way to build strong habits is to ever so slowly integrate them into your life.

I have strong exercise habits; it took me three years.

I have strong productivity habits; it took me nine years.

I have strong relationship habits; it took me 27 years.

The things that will sustainably change your life will take time. That sucks to hear, but it’s the only way.

Why I don’t write on Sundays

It’s not because it’s Lorde’s day.

It’s simply to give myself a rest.

Not that sitting down to write for 30 minutes is a taxing task, but giving yourself breaks with everything you do is vital.

I used to go to the gym six days a week. I love exercise, but this was actually hurting my muscles and my overall progress.

There needs to be space between everything you do to give yourself time to breathe and build up clarity.

Examples:

• Working out every other day
• Taking five-minute breaks for every 30 minutes of work
• Going for walks
• Spending intentional hours in a hobby or passion (preferably something that has nothing to do with how you make money)

Especially for the ambitious folk, rest can be difficult to prioritize. But recovery time counterintuitively produces higher quality results in the long run.

Rules are good

Not too many, of course, but we all need structure.

Principles. Boundaries. Limits.

Play around with them.

I did the keto diet for two years. Quite restrictive. In the end, it wasn’t what I wanted. But I still need rules. I can’t just eat whatever the fuck I want whenever I want.

You don’t have to shame yourself if you break the rules you set. Just readjust them until you find a harmony between healthy and doable.

Two cheat meals in a week? Sure.

Seven cheat meals? No.

You have to know where the line is by trying to draw it.

Whatever pulls you away from the life you want to live: porn, procrastination, social media…

Set some rules, stick to them, and see how you respond to following them.

It sounds restricting (and it is, by definition), but just like a budget is a rule for your money, rules for anything else are designed to give you the freedom to live healthily.

And freedom rules (get it?).

Why self-help (usually) doesn’t work

A woman practicing self help by running

After hitting rock bottom at 23, I converted to a religion practiced by millions of ambitious individuals around the globe: Self improvement.

Classic books. YouTube videos. Podcasts.

I was consuming hours of content a day in the hopes it would inspire me to build a better life…and it did.

Kind of. Let me explain.

Studies show that when you imagine yourself doing something in the future—exercising, being super productive, writing for hours—the same parts of your brain light up as when you’re imagining someone else entirely.

This is why we’re so confident that we can make a change or build a habit before we actually start (i.e. New Years resolutions). Then we sit down to write that first paragraph or run that first mile and our brain goes, Wait, what the fuck? You mean I actually have to do this?

And thus is the problem with self-help content.

It’s not that it’s all woo-woo BS (though much of it is). The issue is that it’s really good at making you feel energized and motivated. But energy and motivation don’t get things done; taking action does…Typically, it’s consistent, difficult, boring action.

You can read How to Win Friends and Influence People as many times as you want. You can internalize Dale’s lessons, laugh at the sexist 1930s language, and picture yourself at a bar striking up conversations with everyone you meet. That’s all great.

But nothing actually happens until you put yourself out there in social settings and apply what you’ve learned.

In other words: Anything you get out of self-help content is just wasted time or money if you don’t put it into action to make a change.

For two years, I read about 10 books on entrepreneurship. They inspired me to start my own business. They helped me think about how to be productive. Gary Vee yelled at me until I could imagine myself grinding away.

You can probably see what’s coming here.

“…inspired me…”

“…helped me think…”

“…I could imagine myself…”

Nothing got done. No businesses were started.

Every time I sat down to try, I was overwhelmed by how intimidating and uncertain the tasks were. In my mind I was thinking, This isn’t nearly as glamorous as my imagination made it seem, Gary.

Of course, it’s important to get inspired. We all need to think. You have to be able to imagine yourself doing the things you want to do.

I’m not telling you to avoid personal development content. I just want you to avoid the mistake that millions of consumers—myself included—have made, and recognize that none of that content will do the job for you.

If you want to make a change, getting pumped up is 5% of the battle. The other 95 is you stepping out of your comfort zone and putting in the often uncomfortable work.

Eventually, I started my own freelancing business. But it wasn’t because I read the perfect book. It was because I stopped dipping my toes in the freezing cold water and just dove in. It was absolutely terrifying, but something was actually happening.

Action → Motivation → Results → Repeat

TL;DR

Whenever you feel inspired by something—a blog, a conversation, a book…don’t just stop there. Write down specifically how you’re going to use that inspiration or lesson in your life going forward.

That’s where real results and changes occur.

Knowledge isn’t power until you do something with it.

So do something with it.

What do you do when you feel empty?

When the cursor blinks on your blank screen?

When you feel bored with your routine?

When you don’t have the energy to practice…

Simple.

You show up anyway, make adjustments, and do the work.

Working through the fog

A field full of fog in the morning

I found out this weekend that I have Covid.
(Ever heard of it?)

To start, my symptoms are mild(ish) and I’m fine. By no means am I suffering at the level of others I have known. I’m lucky and grateful.

Having said that, everything is harder.

It is taking significantly more effort and to do the things I want to do: read, play chess, have conversations, get work done…

Naturally, I’m going easy on myself. I’m not holding myself to the same productivity standards as usual. I’m taking breaks and resting.

BUT…it still comes back to one simple mindset:

I am a professional.

According to Steven Pressfield, an amateur is someone who does the work when they feel like it; a professional is someone who puts in the time no matter what.

Working out when you don’t feel like it. Getting things done when you’re sick. Practicing your passion/hobby when you don’t feel motivated.

This is all very familiar to the professional.

An amateur would hear this and go, It’s okay to take days off.

Yes and no.

Yes in the fact that rest is necessary to refresh your mind and body.

No in the fact that most amateurs say this and really mean, It’s okay to take a lot of days off.

The people who tell me it’s okay to skip the gym are usually people who aren’t in great shape.

The people who tell me I don’t have to worry about being productive are typically people who don’t run their own businesses.

The people who tell me I don’t need to spend so much time on the things that interest me tend to have no real passions of their own.

I’m aware that this is sounding a little mean. I don’t mean to insult anyone. I’m just pointing out the patterns I’ve noticed over the years.

My point is: Being a professional is not about killing yourself to optimize every second of every day. It’s about working on the things that are important to you even when you don’t feel like it.

I’m sick. Everything is foggy, but I can still see.

I’m grateful to not be in a hospital. I’m grateful to have access to food and internet. I’m grateful to have a bed to take naps in.

I’ll take advantage of all of that when I need to. But until then…

It’s back to work.

Rest up

For the last two years, I have scheduled nearly every hour of every day.

To some, this might sound robotic and insane. To me, it has provided a structure that allows me to get everything done that’s important to me.

I’ve been pretty sick the past few days, so I’ve said fuck it to my usual scheduling routine.

At first, this made me feel insecure and uneasy. The uncertainty of how I would spend my time was not fun.

Then, when I didn’t die, I realized everything would be okay.

When I recover, I’ll continue with my normal system. But this is teaching me the value of unstructured days off. It’s actually more fun to get things done on free days—because I don’t have to do anything. Everything I do is simply because I want to.

Rest up.

5 Steps to solving any problem

From Ray Dalio’s Principles.

An unsolved Rubik's Cube

1) Define the goal.

Whether it’s in your work, a relationship, or your health…you have to know what you’re working toward and what you want.

e.g. Get more work done, improve sex life, build an exercise habit

2) Define the problem(s).

What is getting in your way of reaching the goal?

For this step, don’t start thinking about solutions yet. The point is to dump all possible obstacles standing in your way.

e.g. Distractions, lack of romantic passion, hate the gym

3) Diagnose the problem(s).

Now that you have defined the challenges keeping you from your goal, go a level deeper and identify where those problems are coming from or why they exist.

e.g. Distractions—I keep my phone on my desk and my email open during work; Lack of romantic passion—I’ve been having sex with the same person for years and want things to be more interesting; Hate the gym—I’m insecure because I’m out of shape and don’t know what I’m doing when I work out

4) Create a plan.

Armed with your specific problems, design a specific set of actions to resolve them.

This is arguably the most important step. It’s why you’re doing this in the first place; otherwise, you’re right back to where you were before.

e.g. Distractions—Put my phone on airplane mode and keep it in another room while I’m working, only check email twice each day; Lack of romantic passion—Sit down and have an open and honest conversation with my partner about how I feel and what I want, brainstorm ideas with them; Hate the gym—Find a workout buddy who knows what they’re doing and join them at the gym, slowly getting fitter and more knowledgable on how to exercise well

5) Execute the plan.

Do the damn thing.

A plan can be perfectly crafted, but that doesn’t mean anything unless you put it into action.

This will be the difference between you actually making things happen and you simply wishing you could make things happen.

A solved Rubik's Cube

Put your phone down and look at me: How to focus.

Couple not focusing on each other.

Many of us think we can focus on several things at once.

That’s bullshit.

Unless you’re combining a focusing task with a mundane task (like listening to a podcast while doing the dishes), multitasking–or multi-focusing–is impossible.

The human brain is designed to focus on one thing at a time. This is why we can’t listen to two conversations at the same time and take in all the information. It’s why we crash our cars when we’re texting. It’s why we have to ask our friends to repeat themselves when we’re thinking about something else.

We can’t focus on one thing when something else has our attention. It’s a zero-sum game.

This has consequences for our work, our relationships and our minds.

Work:

Man not focusing on his work.

Most of my coaching clients and friends admit to having ten tabs open on their screens while trying to get shit done. Email. FaceBook. Articles. News.

It is natural to feel like we’re taking care of ten different things at once. But the result is that we get absolutely nothing done.

Dissecting our attention like this blocks any chance of getting into a flow state (getting in the zone). This is where the magic happens. No matter the type of work–creative, business, learning, planning–long periods of focus on a single task is the key to absolute productivity.

Even if it’s something as simple as answering emails. Sitting down for an hour to craft well-written, personable responses…those would be some of the best damn emails ever sent.

People are distracting too. Someone is working on their computer, trying to get in the zone. Then, a coworker casually pops in their office to say hi. Harmless right?

On average, it takes the brain 17 minutes to return to the level of focus it had prior to distraction. This is why highly productive people lock themselves away, close their doors, and shut off their phones.

Relationships:

Guy not focusing on his friend working out.

When I’m talking to someone, and they’re looking down at their phone, I wait.

Not passive-aggressive. Not spiteful. Just patient.

The typical response: “I’m listening.”

No you’re not.

Listening means you’re looking at someone, taking in what they’re saying, and responding with a thought-out idea of your own.

When someone isn’t completely listening to us, we notice it. It feels like they’re not really there. Like they’re somewhere else.

When we’re showing our friends a movie we love, this is why it hurts when we see them on their phones.

How crazy is that? Even when we’re sitting down watching a screen, we want to feel that shared connection with others. What the fuck, stop staring at that tiny screen–stare at this bigger screen with me.

Focus our minds:

Girl not focusing on her surroundings in a pool.

Attention is like a muscle. It’s a skill, which means it can be trained and it can be weakened.

People who take breaks from smart phones and social media, for example, admit heightened levels of focus on their task at hand.

It’s amazing what can happen when there’s literally nothing to focus on besides whatever is in front of you. In that moment, it’s all that exists. It’s your entire world.

A conversation. A project. A problem.

I have several friends who are unable to concentrate on any one thing for 15 minutes. It’s scary.

The scariest part? They’re totally unaware of it.

How do we pull people out of the Matrix when they don’t know they’re in the Matrix?

Tristan Harris

Conclusion:

Couple focusing and laughing with each other.

When you’re working, when you’re having a conversation, when you’re focusing on something…leave everything else alone.

Ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing I should be doing right now?” Then do that thing. Do it 100%.

Watching Netflix with a buddy? Watch the shit out of it.

Hearing your partner vent about their day? Listen, absorb, and respond.

Working on your computer? Close your email, close your tabs, and dive into deep work.

Rather than doing ten things to the first degree, try doing one thing to the tenth degree.

You’ll be amazed at the results.

Asleep at This Keyboard

This morning, I feel utterly exhausted.

It’s days like this where I have to fall back on my habits.

Dragging myself through my morning routine–planning, reading, writing, stretching, meditating…It feels as though I’m on autopilot.

Thank God for habits. This process is so engrained in my being that it’s easier to just do the thing than it is to think about doing it.

Why build strong habits?

Because they will keep you afloat when you feel like a lazy piece of shit.

Nice Guys Finish…First?

“Nice guys finish last” is bullshit.

There are annoying limits to someone being too nice or not assertive enough…but for the vast majority of people, if you are kind to me then I’m MUCH more likely to help you out.

Do girls like bad boys? Assholes?

With the girls I’ve known and have been with, most say yes…for a short while.

The general consensus is that being with a douche-bro is exciting and spontaneous for a bit. But then, after a week or even a few years, they realize it’s not sustainable.

How many shows or movies have you seen where the mom dates a sweater-wearing dud after divorcing her leather jacket-wearing wildcard?

I’m getting off track here. My goal is to champion the nice guys.

The trick: How can you be a respectful and loving human being without letting others walk all over you?

The solution: set boundaries.

Be it with your boss, strangers, even your best friends…you must project to others that YOU are in control of your time and energy.

Yesterday, I was catching up with a fellow entrepreneur friend. We talked about the prospect of me helping him rewrite content on his website.

When he offered to exchange yoga lessons for my writing, I had to set a “boundary” at the risk of hurting his feelings.

I said: “Thanks man. But at this point in time, yoga isn’t something I value enough to pay for, so I don’t think I’d be willing to exchange hard working hours. But the next time you do a free group session, I’d love to hop in.”

You know what he said?

“Word. I totally feel that man.”

And then we moved on…

Notice: I 1) thanked him for his offer, 2) explained my honest feeling toward his offer, 3) said no clearly (without actually saying the word no), and 4) offered something new moving forward.

This may seem like a benign example. But when I spoke those words, I could feel the adrenaline. Saying no. Setting boundaries. These are tough to do and they can create a strange amount of anxiety.

The sacrifice: Short term discomfort for long term wellbeing.

I risked hurting his feelings by telling him I didn’t value something he’s passionate about. But even if he was hurt (which he wasn’t at all), setting this boundary would prevent even greater damage to both our futures.

If I reluctantly said yes to his offer, I’d be doing work I normally love with a sense of resentment. I’d also probably see his yoga sessions as a chore more than something new and cool to learn.

None of this is fair to either of us. It’s dishonest.

People pleasing might seem like the respectful thing to do in the moment. But in the long run, it’s actually the least respectful thing you could do to someone.

Don’t be a nice guy or gal just to appear as one.

Be a nice guy or gal because it will bring you and others lasting happiness.

The One Thing

Here’s a great exercise for planning how you will accomplish your humungous, far out, lifetime goal:

1. What’s the one thing you want to do SOMEDAY?

ex. “I want to make a full-time income by life-coaching.”

2. What is the one thing you can do in the next 5 YEARS to make that happen?

ex. “Establish a profitable individual and business coaching business.”

3. What’s the one thing you can do THIS YEAR to make that happen?

ex. “Develop my coaching and marketing skills–to bring the highest possible value to clients and to make myself seen.”

4. What’s the one thing you can do THIS MONTH to make that happen?

ex. “Continue learning new coaching skills and have a clearer online presence.

5. What’s the one thing you can do THIS WEEK to make that happen?

ex. “Revamp my coaching page.”

6. What’s the one thing you can do TODAY to make this happen?

ex. “Add my testimonials to the coaching page.”

7. What’s the one thing you can do RIGHT NOW to make this happen?

ex. “Copy and paste my emailed testimonials and put them in their own folder in my Notes.”

This lovely exercise answers the question:

What should I do right now to take a step toward accomplishing this enormous thing I want in the future?

Where Do Your Habits Live?

A week ago, I wrote about my new lair.

Having specific jobs for specific spaces is life-changing.

Working at your dining table can feel cool and freeing, but it can also make things foggy.

Is this where I work…or where I eat? When do I stop one thing and start the other?

Once I moved into this new apartment and began working in a separate studio, two things became wildly easier: work and sleep.

I have zero distractions while I’m working because I’m in a space where productivity is all that exists.

I fall asleep almost immediately in my room because my bed is all that exists.

Every habit should have a home.

Studio = Productivity
Room = Sleep

This is where I cook. This is where I read. This is where I exercise. Combining spaces can do damage to one or all of the habits you’re trying to entertain there.

I read about this crazy study from James Clear’s Atomic Habits:

“In one study, scientists instructed insomniacs to get into bed only when they were tired. If they couldn’t fall asleep, they were told to sit in a different room until they became sleepy. Over time, subjects began to associate the context of their bed with the action of sleeping, and it became easier to quickly fall asleep when they climbed in bed. Their brains learned that sleeping—not browsing on their phones, not watching television, not staring at the clock—was the only action that happened in that room.”

Where do your habits live?

Good Investments, Bad Investments

“The best investment: investing in yourself.”

Cheesy. Self-helpy. But true.

Outside of the stock market, I have made–and continue to make–a number of investments which make my life easier, more enjoyable, and more fulfilling.

I have also made investments which have proved to have terrible ROI.

Here they are:

1. Good Investments

• My new apartment–$1100/mo

My mom let me live with her for free while I got my shit together. For that, I am eternally grateful; but having this new place to pay for has given me two things: the freedom to live an adult life, and the hunger to work well and increase my income.

• Supplements (Athletic Greens and LMNT Electrolytes)–$122/mo

Supplements are tricky. It’s hard to accurately pinpoint their benefits. It’s not as if I feel awful when I don’t take my nutrient shake. But even if it’s just a placebo, I feel mentally and physically strong knowing that I have all the essential nutrients and vitamins in my system at all times.

• My own studio–$140/mo

Moving into this new apartment, my roommate and I arranged that I would take the den and turn it into my own space for work and productivity. Separating this from my room has done wonders for my ability to focus and pursue deep work.

• Gym memberships–$110/mo

With the combination of my weightlifting gym and martial arts gym, I make sure to get consistent and well-rounded exercise. Aside from the physical benefits, practicing Brazilian jiujitsu has thoroughly changed my life. Increased confidence, a sense of family, an ability to defend myself…these are all priceless.

2. Bad Investments

• College–$60,000

Although I have a massive amount of debt for a degree I do not have, I do not regret going to college. What I regret–and lament–is making $20,000 decisions at the age of 18. I was a child, and I went to college because that’s what you do. Not because I had a goal or a plan. Just go and see what happens. Well, what happened was it didn’t work (for me). And now I am indebted to the young fool that I was.

• Friends who don’t share my values–Mental and emotional exhaustion

This has been one of the toughest realizations for me. Not all of our friends are helping us cultivate a happy and healthy life. This is incredibly sad, but totally natural. Identifying those who don’t make your forcefield stronger is one of the best things you can do for your wellbeing. I’ve spent an unfortunate amount of hours caring for and mending relationships with people when I should’ve just cut the cord.

What investments are you making that give you a great ROI?

What investments are you making that give you diminishing returns?

Where’s Your Solitude?

This past weekend, I moved into my new fancy-shmancy apartment.

Aside from finally moving out of my mom’s house, the biggest perk has been my new studio. I used to work, read, sleep, chill, meditate, masterbate, cry…all in one room (in that order?).

After mixing work and play for almost a year, my perceptions of my room became progressively warped. When I would work, I would look over and see my warm and inviting bed, tempting me to come hang out. When I would take time to relax, I would see my desk and feel guilty because I felt I should be getting things done.

Now, I pay an extra $140 in rent to have a completely separate space for all work and productivity-related practices. Two days in, and I see that this is a priceless investment.

The cognitive dissonance I felt in the past has entirely vanished. When I’m in my studio, all I want to do is work. That’s all I can do. When I’m in my room, all I want to do is read (for pleasure) and sleep.

There’s utility in setting up intentional spaces for yourself. This is why I prefer going to the gym over working out at home. I have plenty of equipment and resources to get a great workout in in my living room; but the gym gives me accountability. If I fuck around and half-ass my workout at home, there are no repercussions; if I do so at the gym, I rightfully feel like I’m insulting a sacred place.

Intentional spaces for solitude are vital for productivity and fulfillment. Where are your spaces? Reach out any time and let me know.

Social Media Pro

This morning, in a “Practices/Advice” chapter of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism, I read a tip which I absolutely loved:

Use social media as if you were the social media director for a company.

In other words, only log on if you have a clear, specific intention or goal.

Using FaceBook, Instagram, or Tik Tok for aimless entertainment is what these apps are designed for. It’s how they get you to spend more time on screen and how they make the most money possible.

How many of your friends or “followers” are your actual friends or people in your circle?

If you use social media to stay in touch with relatives of acquaintances, how much time per week would that actually take? Probably less than 30 minutes. The average FaceBook user spends 16 hours on site each week.

The next time you use social media or open your phone, ask yourself:

What is my specific intention for using this right now?

Should I Be Using This?

After several years of suggestion, I finally started reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.

In the opening chapter, he addresses questions I’ve been asking myself recently when it comes to social media use:

• How does this service align with my values?

• Is this the absolute best way to accomplish what I want to accomplish? What are the alternatives?

• What are the benefits and what are the costs of using this? Does one outweigh the other?

The book is lovely so far. In short, digital minimalism does not mean deleting every app and service or switching to a flip phone.

The lifestyle of a digital minimalist is that of using the absolute minimum amount of technology needed to fulfill one’s values.

Three weeks ago, after watching The Social Dilemma, I set out on a 10-day challenge.

The rule was that I couldn’t check any social media except for once in the morning, right after my morning routine. I could use the messages features. I could post if I wanted. But after my morning run-through, I could not check any type of notification.

What began as a difficult and cracked out 10 days has transitioned into a new philosophy on the value of social media. Like quitting soda, I had the shakes at first–reaching for my phone to check it and immediately putting it down as I remembered the rule. But eventually, the cravings and compulsions came to an end.

This severe reduction of phone and social media use has led to cosmic changes in my wellbeing:

I feel more present. When people talk to me, it’s noticeably easier for me to maintain eye-contact, listen deeply to what they’re saying, and piece portions of conversation together.

I’m less insecure. Since I’m not constantly looking at other people’s advertised lives, I don’t spend time comparing my “inside” to their “outside.” I also spend zero time thinking about who’s liked my post or how many likes I’ve received.

I’m forced to do the things I love. I’ve read more in these past 3 weeks than the previous 3 months combined. I’ve spent significantly more time working on freelance projects, building a business, and writing. When I’m in the presence of others, I talk to them…I mean I really talk to them.

I mentioned the balance between benefits and costs earlier. The most popular argument in the case for technology is that it’s possible to provide immense value. Of course this is true, and when it happens, it’s a wonderful thing.

Radical religious fundamentalists and white supremacists have been converted out of their bigoted ways through conversations on Twitter.

Aspiring artists, musicians, and creators (myself included) have been able to quickly share their content to large numbers of people.

The list of possible benefits goes on and on. But this argument contains faulty logic and misses the point for most people.

Is it completely justified to take part in something just because it is possible that you could derive value from it?

Do we do this with anything else? Should you stay in a toxic relationship because sometimes he/she might treat you with respect? Should you keep working this job that makes you miserable because it’s possible to find opportunity there? Should you keep using highly-addictive technology because you can occasionally connect with people you don’t normally keep in contact with?

I’m NOT posing these as rhetorical questions. These are questions you have to be able to answer yourself.

For me, the benefits of daily social media usage were: a way to chat with acquaintances from afar, posting fun videos, and enjoying memes.

The costs: insecurity by comparison, the massive loss of productivity, and the consistent seeking of approval.

An easy decision.

As always, every person is different. What works for me will not work for the next person, and so on. But I highly encourage you to at least ask yourself (write down if you have to) what are the specific benefits and costs to using technology the way you’re using it right now.

Once you have clear answers, compare them. It’ll be easier to make adjustments once you have weighed the effects.

“Does using this bring me consistent value, or am I just addicted to this thing that will possibly bring me value?”

Optimal Dosage

The concept of optimal dosage can be applied to almost anything.

You need enough food to ensure you are nourished and satiated, but not so much that you become overweight and unhealthy.

You need to work hard and intelligently so that you can accomplish your goals and pay your bills, but not so hard that you deflate into burnout.

Even something like stress…You need enough stress to care about your own performance and results, but not so much that it debilitates or paralyzes you.

To enter a flow state, for example, you must be engaged in an activity which is challenging enough to keep you focused and not bored, but not too challenging to the point where you are overwhelmed or irritated.

It takes a while, and the levels are constantly changing, but figuring out your optimal dosage for activities you care about is an absolute game-changer.

My Social Dilemma

In the past 10 days, since watching The Social Dilemma, I have limited myself to only checking social media in the morning–right after completing my morning routine.

It’s been magical.

In just a short time, I can literally feel myself becoming happier. I am not comparing myself to others or contemplating what others are thinking about me (as much).

What’s crazy: during the day, I’ll still pick up my phone as if to check something. When I’m immediately reminded of my rule, I put it down. More than 5 times in a day, I’ll just pick my phone up and then just as quickly, plop it right back down where it was. An addict’s brain is trying to unlearn the addiction.

I’ve replaced these newfound hours with reading; something which raises my happiness levels immensely.

Honestly, they say the first few days of kicking an addiction (meaning a more minor one, like soda or sugar) are the hardest. But in my experience, those first few days for me were effortless. I had the motivation and inspiration from that life-changing documentary behind my sails.

It’s as these days go on which makes the stretching feel more burdensome than helpful. I think to myself after a long day’s work:

“You’ve been doing so well. You deserve a reward. Treat yo self.”

“Everything’s done for the day. Who are you hurting by checking social media?”

But I have to vigilantly remind myself that this is like the Devil trying to slowly weasel his way back into my life. These apps are meant to be addictive. They want you on them as much as possible. Once I give myself 10 minutes of Instagram dopamine today, it’ll be twice as easy to demand 20 minutes tomorrow. And so on…

I don’t know your struggles with your phone or social media, but if you’re alive in 2020, you are probably experiencing something of the sort.

If you feel like it’s distracting you or limiting your presentness, I’d recommend coming up with a rule. Something small to start. Remember, you’re trying to break an addiction. Starting out with crazy limitations (as helpful as they would be in practice) will surely leave you breaking said rules and feeling like a failed junkie.

Mine was simple: For 10 days, I will only check social media once a day, right after my morning routine. I can post things; but when I do, I post, then I’m out.

Others could be:

• Limit my screen time to only 2 hours a day
• Use the Freedom app to set up specific hours where I can’t physically use internet
• Delete social apps from my phone
• Every time I want to use a social app, I have to turn my phone off and back on again

Whatever it is, I wish you luck. This is not easy.

I’m always here for help, if you’d like to talk, or if you have any suggestions.

Tricks

To live a healthy, creative, and productive life, you don’t need talent or skill. Those may be helpful, but all you really need is the ability to play tricks on yourself.

A habit is just a trick you play on your mind–usually taking around 66 days–to get it to believe doing a thing is easier and quicker than thinking about doing it. I spent zero seconds contemplating whether or not I should write this blog; because each and every morning (except Sundays), I’ve been tricking myself into sitting down, and typing simple and short posts.

Disgustingly productive people who seem to accomplish more than the next three people you know…It isn’t because they are secretly Gods or savants. They have merely implemented productivity tricks which allow them to efficiently utilize their 24 hours–the same amount of time you have in a day.

You don’t need discipline to live a great life. You just need enough discipline to create evergreen tricks on which you can surf to live a great life.

The smart part of us sets up things for us to do that the not-so-smart part responds to almost automatically, creating behavior that produces high-performance results. We trick ourselves into doing what we ought to be doing.

David Allen

The Bible of Productivity

You know those books you seem to pick up at the absolute perfect time in your life? That’s how I feel currently about Getting Things Done by David Allen.

This is more of a way of life–a proper system–than it is a book. I’m only three chapters in, and it has changed my life.

The idea of genuinely getting things done is not to get more things done per se; it is to have a stress-free relationship with the things you need or want to accomplish.

I will certainly be regurgitating concepts from this lovely little book in future blogs and videos; but the main idea is this:

“THE KEY INGREDIENTS of relaxed control are (1) clearly defined outcomes (projects) and the next actions required to move them toward closure, and (2) reminders placed in a trusted system that is reviewed regularly.”

Back to Work

I got back home from Arizona last night. Jesus Christ…I’ve never been so happy to be back in my own bed.

The jet-lag has done a number on me; but it feels so God damn good to wake up, sip my coffee, and sit down here and write these words in peace.

My body feels like it’s been thrown off its equilibrium. My brain feels foggy. But I’m back.

Once I get the results of my Covid test today, I’ll be back to my regular programming of working out, getting shit done, and pursuing the things that matter most.

Back to work…

What is Personal Development?

In the past 3 years, I’ve read numerous books, listened to endless podcasts and audiobooks, and had countless conversations on the subject of self-improvement.

Most of these mediums provide mindsets and solutions in their own words, but I think I’ve figured out the core of every page, paragraph, and idea on personal development. In incredibly simplistic terms, here’s how I see it:

To achieve a desired level of fulfillment or meaning, requires some level of work or effort. The problem is, most of us either don’t feel like doing this work, or we are confused as to what work exactly needs to be done.

The purpose of personal development is to work around these two issues: to develop habits and tricks which make us get the work done despite not wanting to; and to figure out the proper steps of action needed to get to where we want to be.

This is all much easier said than done. Work is hard, but we can make it easier. All we have to do is show up every day.

Day 8: Working Backwards

8/30 – Work backwards from your someday goal to what you can do today:

Someday: Support myself with my content.

3 years: Cultivate an audience.

1 year: Develop my skills as a filmmaker, editor, and storyteller. Get really good.

6 months: Create consistent videos and be active in the community.

1 month: Stick to the daily vlog and explore the possibilities.

1 week: Create a film I don’t think I can make.

Today: Write out the outline for it.

Right now: Set up the camera and lighting and start recording.

Willpower is B.S.

Exercise willpower…Be disciplined…

These statements are often misunderstood.

A few months ago, I began giving life coaching sessions. One of the most common errors I see people make is when it comes time to create action steps. I used to do this same thing…

When I ask, “Now, what are some specific steps of action you can take to get closer to what you want?” I often get answers like these:

“I have to be better about x.”

“I need to focus more on y.”

“I gotta be more disciplined about z.”

It’s so understandable to think like this, but what the hell to any of these mean?

How will you be better? How will you focus more? How will you be more disciplined?

People think they have to be better doing exactly what they’re doing, when really all they need is a better system. It’s like Daniel Tosh’s bit, “How does Superman fly faster? I understand he can fly…But how does he fly faster?” You can’t magically summon more willpower than you had a minute ago. Humans–for the most part–are naturally lazy and undisciplined.

That is why we build habits and systems. I’m not disciplined because I exercise regularly; I was just disciplined enough to build the habits of going to the gym and doing jiujitsu. I’m not disciplined because I eat well most of the time; I just avoid buying junk, and since it’s not in my house, I don’t have the option to consume it. I don’t have an enormous amount of willpower because I write a blog every day; I started a daily blog so I have to write something each morning.

Don’t wish for more willpower or discipline; take them out of the equation.

Talking is Fun

Talking is fun. It’s easy. What you would do. What you’ve been thinking about doing. What you should do. That would be awesome.

In the past, I have blabbered on about my incredible ideas to friends in the hopes that they would praise my potential and affirm my ambition.

A year later, I’d have totally new ideas; which were just as transformative.

You continue this process for several years and you end up in an unfortunate place to be: exactly where you were before.

Talking is fun. Talking is easy. Action…Doing is tough. You’ll fail. You’ll look stupid. But you’ll do shit. You’ll create opportunities. You’ll learn. You’ll improve. You’ll become more confident.

“People who want milk shouldn’t sit on a stool in the middle of a field in hopes that a cow will back up to them.”

I’m Stupid and Lazy

There’s a misconception about disciplined and driven individuals. While I’ve worked hard to create strong systems and habits in my personal and professional life, I’ve heard people perceive it incorrectly.

People have said to me things like:

“I wish I were that disciplined.”

“I wish I were as motivated as you.”

This is nonsense; and I say that to be uplifting, not to be mean.

The only reason I have developed good habits is because I’m a lazy and confused person.

I don’t exercise five times a week or wake up at 6 am because I’m some disciplined God. I molded these habits into my life to counteract my lazy and unproductive tendencies.

In the past month, I slowly reverted back to my addiction of “taking a break” from work, laying in bed, and hypnotizing myself face-in-phone. What I thought would be 10 minutes would inevitably lead to 2 hours. So, I had to create (write down) clear rules to ensure this did not happen. Again: creating discipline to counteract normal human lack of discipline.

You don’t need to be a disciplined person to live a happy and healthy lifestyle. You just need enough discipline to create a good habit, then ride on its back and let it do all the work for you.

Bag of Resistance Bands

One of the most difficult things about traveling–or even waking up in a bed other than your own–is the disruption of your routine.

Here in Asheville, while I have my computer, book, journal, and meditation apps…I find that completing my morning routine is much more strenuous. The atmosphere is not what I’m used to. My friends surround me and distract me in the most beautiful way. Instead of my gym, I have a bag of mediocre resistance bands.

Figuring it out and making time for the things one needs to do could detract from one’s experience; but I don’t think it has to.

Make time for these things. Understand they won’t be perfect. And understand that you’re sacrificing comfort and familiarity for a worthwhile experience.

Process > Events

“Process makes millionaires, and the events you see and hear are the results of that process.”

MJ DeMarco

It took me years to step out of my victim mentality in terms of all the things which weren’t going well for me in life. Everything changed when I realized:

• I’m not out of shape; I just have a poor fitness and eating system.

• I’m not lazy; I just have a poor productivity and management system.

• I’m not poor; I just have a poor money system.

There are certainly people with deeply-rooted issues which better habits won’t fix, but for the vast majority of us, our lives are a result of the strength of our processes.

From James Clear:

You don’t need to clean your room. You need good cleanliness habits so your room will always be clean.

You don’t need more money. You need better money habits so you’ll always have plenty in your bank account.

You don’t need to ‘get in shape.’ You need better health habits so you are constantly fit.

Your bank account, your body, your life…how it looks right now is simply the result of each and every decision you’ve ever made.

Willpower is finite

In the past few weeks, I have been doing client work and web design in the first half of the day, then podcast and video editing in the evening.

Each time I switch over to my evening tasks, I become incredibly Resistant to work.

Thinking discipline was the problem, I forced myself to sit and suffer through. This made me nervous because I slowly began enjoying the work less and less–work I truly love.

We’ve heard it before (but humans are so good at progressively forgetting even the deepest truths); we only have a certain amount of willpower in the day.

Gary Keller in The One Thing reminds us that willpower is “depleted when we make decisions to focus our attention, suppress our feelings and impulses, or modify our behavior in pursuit of goals.”

It’s not a discipline issue; it’s a timing issue. Stretching your willpower thin throughout the day will almost certainly result in mediocre work on several tasks.

Gary argues that we must focus on a select few things and do them very well, as opposed to the alternative; what I was doing. He also urges (as one can surmise from his book’s title) people to do the most important thing as early as possible; when the battery of willpower is fully charged and before it gets drained.

I began theming (hyper-focusing) my days: “Today is client work. Tomorrow is podcasting. Thursday is web design and newsletter. Et cetera.” (Is it pretentious to write out the whole thing instead of just etc?)

My productivity has skyrocketed and my love for what I do feels recharged.

Time your willpower. Most important thing early. Et cetera.