Are You Free to Abstain? Cover

Are You Free to Abstain?

French scientist Pierre Fouquet was an early researcher of alcoholism. He broke the illness into three categories, two of which describe the circumstances of people we now describe as “alcoholics,” such as drinking in secret with the goal of blacking out.

The third, “alcoholitis,” is “the most common form of alcoholism in France, particularly among men,” Fouquet noted. The subject has a high tolerance and lacks serious psychological complications — they mainly drink beer and wine in social settings, just in too large quantities for it to be healthy.

“We drink to drink with others,” Fouquet said, but “the toxic effects of consumption are still felt.”

Our sneakiest addictions are those we don’t consider to be problems at all. If you drink with coworkers four nights a week and everyone has two beers, that seems like a perfectly normal thing to do.

The question — and this may be Fouquet’s greatest contribution to the world — is:

Do you have the freedom to abstain?

The loss of this freedom is the mark of an addict, Fouquet claimed. When we no longer feel free to abstain, when it seems as if there is no choice to be had, that’s when we should scratch our heads — because we always have a choice.

I love coffee. I usually drink two cups every day. Yesterday, I just had one, and occasionally, I’ll skip an entire day. Not because I want to, but because I must remember that I can.

It is nice to give yourself a break, even from things you love, especially if the break will prevent the thing from becoming a chain around your ankles.

It is also profoundly liberating to sit in front of a foregone conclusion, like “I will drink this beer,” and realize, “You know what? I’m free to abstain. I can just say no.”

Don’t let harmless habits become dictators. Innocuous addictions can secretly run your life. Use your freedom to abstain. It is something you’ll always have — even when you think you’ve already lost it.

No One Is Coming to Save You Cover

No One Is Coming to Save You

Your parents aren’t coming to save you. They’ve done that often enough. Or maybe never at all. Either way, they’re not coming now. You’re all grown. Maybe not grown up, but grown. They’ve got their own stuff to take care of.

Your best friend isn’t coming to save you. He’ll always love you, but he’s knee deep in the same shit you’re in. Work. Love. Health. Staying sane. You know, the usual. You should check in with him some time. But don’t expect him to save you.

Your boss is not coming to save you. Your boss is trying to cover her ass right now. She’s afraid she might get fired. She’s fighting hard to keep everyone on the team. She’s worried about you, but she has no time to save you.

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You Control Your Thoughts, Not Your Impulses Cover

You Control Your Thoughts, Not Your Impulses

When you’re hungry, are you actually hungry, or do you just think you’re hungry?

“What a dumb question,” you might think, “of course I know when I’m hungry!” But do you? There’s plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.

For one thing, 70% of Americans are either overweight or obese. Not all those cases might be the result of overeating, but a lot of them are. At some point in their lives, two out of three people in the United States have lost the connection between how much they should eat and how much they actually eat. Chances are, that initial question has something to do with it.

You may not have a weight problem yourself, but you sure know what it’s like to eat something you shouldn’t have. We all do. Who can blame us? So many tasty snacks, so many great TV shows, modern technology just makes it too easy to keep munching chips long after you’re satisfied. Clearly, we can’t always tell reality from fiction when it comes to our stomachs growling.

Why is that? Let’s do a thought exercise to understand what’s going on.

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The Four Burners Theory of Work-Life Balance Cover

The Four Burners Theory of Work-Life Balance

Imagine there’s an old stove in your house. It’s square and has four burners.

You know, the kind where you still have to light the gas with a match and pull your hand away really fast so you don’t get burned. Each of those burners represents an important area of your life:

  1. Family.
  2. Friends.
  3. Health.
  4. Work.

So far, so good. There’s only one problem. According to the original New Yorker article first mentioning the concept:

“In order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.”

Ouch. That hurts. But it makes perfect sense. It stings because it’s true.

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Be Fast When It Matters Cover

Be Fast When It Matters

If you’ve ever watched a Kung Fu movie, you’ve witnessed a fascinating relationship: the unity of fast and slow.

Be it Bruce Lee, Ip Man, Mr. Miyagi or Jackie Chan, in day-to-day life, the master is always deliberate. Quiet. Almost lethargic. He walks slowly. He talks slowly. He eats slowly. He’s never in a hurry and no matter who bursts in the front door with exciting or distressing news, he remains unfazed.

But then, suddenly, as soon as the fight begins, he is swift like the wind. Each step lands lightning-fast and with surgical precision. His eyes capture even the tiniest twitch in his opponent’s reactions. He chains together split-second movements, every one of which counts.

And then, as fast as it came, it’s gone. The storm is over. The enemy lies on the ground. And the master folds his hands like a closing flower, retreating back into his zen. Back to unity, where another cycle stands completed.

Meanwhile, we’re not even aware this unity exists. We’re just in fast mode all the time. I mean what do we wake up to? An alarm. If that’s not telling, I don’t know what is. And alarmed we are. Getting ready in the morning feels like rushing to the fire truck, ready to race off, to put out the next inferno, to salvage whatever emergency must have waited for us while we were asleep.

Ding! Wake up! Shower! Get ready! Brush teeth! Faster, faster, faster. Only so we can end up missing the bus, idling in traffic, and forgetting our keys.

That’s the thing: Most of the time, being fast doesn’t matter.

We’re optimizing the wrong things. We raise all hell to drive a little faster, leave the house a little sooner, submit the report a little quicker. And then? Nothing changes. You don’t get a medal for reaching the office parking lot first, no one clocks your front door, and, usually, you don’t get promoted for beating a deadline. These are not the moments that make or break your life.

Of course, feeding the beast is fun. It’s satisfying to fuel the rush, to give in to anxiety. It feels efficient in the moment but, often, won’t make a difference in the end. This is something the Kung Fu master is acutely aware of:

Most of life is better lived slowly.

Everyday chores work better when you’re slower. Washing dishes. Folding laundry. Brushing your teeth. You’ll have to do them just once. You won’t break so many things.

Eating is better when you’re slower. We’re supposed to chew our food, not chug and potentially choke on it. You’ll feel full faster. You’ll enjoy the taste more. You won’t mindlessly gobble up junk.

Sex is better when you’re slower. It’s not a race. Either two people win or both of you lose. It’s about caring, communicating, exploring. Not power-humping to see who can finish first and leave the other in their dust.

Talking is better when you’re slower. Pauses allow you to think and help the other process what you’ve said. What’s more, they can help you summon the courage to say what you really mean. And, of course, there’s room to listen.

Making decisions is better when you’re slower. Especially the big, life-defining ones. Like what to work on, where to live, who to marry. Our gut really screws us on these things. We jump into them too fast. We tell ourselves it’s “just for now,” and then we wake up five years later, wondering where time went.

Yes, sometimes, it really matters to be fast. But those moments are few and far between. A life-changing opportunity. A physically dangerous threat. These are not everyday situations.

That’s why Bruce Lee’s “be like water” analogy has remained so popular to this day. It perfectly captures this balance, this default slowness we need.

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.”

Water is a slow judge. It presents itself like a blank sheet of gift wrap, asking: “To what surface should I conform?” As if slowly feeling the shape of an object in the dark. One touch, one brush, one tap at a time. Then, it adapts. But if we want to do this, adapt like water, we must question each situation anew.

“Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. Like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash.”

Despite having no form and being infinitely soft, water is one of, if not the strongest element on earth. When there’s even a tiny path, water will trickle along. When there’s no path, it’ll silently, almost immovably wear away the stone. And if the terrain is wide open, it can transform into a raging torrent. Thanks to this never-ending balancing act, water always finds its way home.

“Water may seem to move in contradiction, even uphill, but it chooses any way open to it so that it may reach the sea. It may flow swiftly or it may flow slowly, but its purpose is inexorable, its destiny sure. Be water, my friend.”

Like water, the Kung Fu master is fast when it matters. And when it doesn’t, which is most of the time, his default is to stay calm. To move slowly.

The words ‘early’ and ‘late’ only affect us in extremes. Too early, too late, these can make all the difference. What falls in between barely registers. There’s always another bus coming, another task waiting, another deal to be made.

Be fast when it matters. When you are, be swift like the wind. But don’t spend life quicker than it already runs out. It passes fast for all of us. When there’s no need to rush, to fight, to struggle, to crash, be calm like a pond.

Remember that life is balance. Unity. And every spectrum has two ends.

If you practice it long enough, maybe, we’ll call you master one day.

How To Unlock Your Confident Self Cover

How To Unlock Your Confident Self

On July 16, 1926, Donald Mellett was shot in front of his home. The editor of Ohio’s Canton Daily News had picked a fight with the wrong people.

Over the past 18 months, he had exposed multiple issues of corruption among the Canton police, eventually forcing the mayor to suspend the police chief. But the underworld’s ties ran deep. So deep, that three local gangsters and a detective conspired to get rid of him. Of course, the first official investigation turned up nothing. Eventually, an outside, private investigator cleared the case and all culprits were sentenced to life in prison.

And while it barely registers as a sideshow next to one of America’s most publicized crimes in the 1920s, it’s another life that was at stake which is of interest to us today.

Shortly before his death, Mellett had struck a deal with a visiting lecturer. He’d been so impressed with the man’s ideas that they’d decided to publish them come January, when Mellett was to resign from his editor’s duties.

The morning after Mellett’s assassination, the man received an anonymous phone call, telling him he would leave Canton. He could leave on his own within the hour or wait longer and do so in a pine box — but leave he would.

Terrified, the man got into his car and drove for eight hours straight, not resting until he reached his relatives in the remote mountains of West Virginia. There, he went into hiding. Nobody would see him for months.

The name of that man was Napoleon Hill.

Seven Minutes

Joanna is in her early 30s. She’s tall, blonde, and hyper-competitive. She was a national rower, worked for the FBI, and trained Middle Eastern police forces. At the time she grabs dinner with her friend Kamal in late 2013, she’s already sold two companies, with her third about to go public. He tells the story:

She’s sitting against the wall and I’m facing her. We talk about our lives, things that have really formed us, who we are. Out of the blue, she tells me that, when she was 24, she had a heart attack and she died for seven minutes.

I was like okayyy and so I leaned forward: “I gotta ask: What happened?”

She goes: “I don’t remember.”

She was in a coma afterwards. They brought her out of it and [then] she was in this bubble. She was the Bubble Boy for, like, a month. And Joanna being Joanna she was just working away in the bubble.

But she said what changed there was after that, everything she wanted in her life — like anything — whether it’s love, how she met her husband, her career, whatever she wants to do, it just happens. It comes to her.

So I’m like: “Alright, you know, I don’t wanna have to, uh, die to get that. How do you do it?”

She leans forward and she goes: “You’re gonna think I’m crazy, but…”

“What if this is heaven?”

Ten Days of Dishes

Steven Pressfield published his first successful novel when he was 52 years old. For many decades before, he wasn’t just not writing, but actively avoiding it. In The War of Art, he tells the story of the moment everything changed:

I washed up in New York a couple of decades ago, making twenty bucks a night driving a cab and running away full-time from doing my work.

One night, alone in my $110-a-month sublet, I hit bottom in terms of having diverted myself into so many phony channels so many times that I couldn’t rationalize it for one more evening. I dragged out my ancient Smith-Corona, dreading the experience as pointless, fruitless, meaningless, not to say the most painful exercise I could think of.

For two hours I made myself sit there, torturing out some trash that I chucked immediately into the shitcan. That was enough. I put the machine away.

I went back to the kitchen. In the sink sat ten days of dishes. For some reason I had enough excess energy that I decided to wash them. The warm water felt pretty good. The soap and sponge were doing their thing. A pile of clean plates began rising in the drying rack.

To my amazement I realized I was whistling.

The Other Self

In the fall of 1927, over one year after his disappearance, Napoleon Hill finally left his relatives’ house. On a clear night, he walked up to the local public school, which sat on a hill overlooking the town. For hours, he paced around the building. There had to be a way out!

After all, he’d long done the hard work of compiling his ‘philosophy of personal achievement,’ a task for which he had interviewed hundreds of people over the past 20 years. Suddenly, he remembered something the man who sent him on this quest — none other than Andrew Carnegie himself — had told him during one of their earliest conversations in 1908:

“Along toward the end of your labor, if you carry it through successfully, you will make a discovery which may be a great surprise to you. You will discover that the cause of success is not something separate and apart from the man; that it is a force so intangible in nature that the majority of men never recognize it; a force which might be properly called the ‘other self.’ Noteworthy is the fact that this ‘other self’ seldom exerts its influence or makes itself known excepting at times of unusual emergency, when men are forced, through adversity and temporary defeat, to change their habits and to think their way out of difficulty.”

Hill’s heart leapt into his throat. This was it. His testing time. His turn to prove that his own ideas worked. He would either see it through or burn the manuscripts. This breakthrough came with a weird, but empowering gesture:

When this thought came to me, I stopped still, drew my feet closely together, saluted (I did not know what or whom), and stood rigidly at attention for several minutes. This seemed, at first, like a foolish thing to do, but while I was standing there another thought came through in the form of an “order” that was as brief and snappy as any ever given by a military commander to a subordinate. The order said, “Tomorrow get into your automobile and drive to Philadelphia, where you will receive aid in publishing your philosophy of achievement.”

For the first time in his life, Napoleon Hill had experienced his ‘other self.’

Choosing Sides

Joanna is at least 70% sure Kamal will recommend she see a therapist. But she says it anyway:

“What if this is heaven?”

Kamal’s reaction, however, is just as surprising as her question:

And then she leans back and it was like — you ever see in the movies when
the camera just spans back and things get really slow? And I was like “oh my god!” and I swear there was a homeless man behind her in the window and he kinda like winks at me and “oh my god!” And, for a few moments, I got it.

She’s like: “I died. How can I prove I’m not on the other side? So, because this is heaven, given what heaven is about, I can have, be, and do anything I want.”

And she’s living that.

On another day, in another time, Napoleon Hill would’ve said Joanna is in sync with her other self.

A Harajuku Moment

What Steven Pressfield learned from his lovely evening writing crap and washing dishes is that even if his work would remain a miserable experience for a long time, he’d turn out okay. That his becoming a writer was inevitable.

This moment, this singular incident of first unlocking your other, confident, determined, relentlessly driven if patient self, is called a Harajuku Moment.

In The 4-Hour Body, Tim Ferriss’s friend Chad Fowler, who coined the term, tells the story of having his own while fashion shopping in Tokyo. Sitting on a wall in the July heat waiting for friends to return, he complained to a buddy:

“For me, it doesn’t even matter what I wear; I’m not going to look good anyway.” I think he agreed with me. I can’t remember, but that’s not the point. The point was that, as I said those words, they hung in the air like when you say something super-embarrassing in a loud room but happen to catch the one random slice of silence that happens all night long. Everyone looks at you like you’re an idiot. But this time, it was me looking at myself critically. I heard myself say those words and I recognized them not for their content, but for their tone of helplessness.

For the first time in his life, Chad realized he was an incomplete person. A man who always saw himself as “someone with bad health.” And that one moment of piercing clarity was enough to spark a drastic change. Harajuku Moments aren’t just for our bodies, but for all walks of life, according to Tim:

It’s an epiphany that turns a nice-to-have into a must-have. There is no point in getting started until it happens. No matter how many bullet points and recipes I provide, you will need a Harajuku Moment to fuel the change itself.

In the year following his flash of insight, Fowler lost 70+ pounds. He maintains a good health regimen to this day.

Orders From a Strange Source

For the next two days after his Harajuku Moment, Hill continued to receive “orders” from his “other self,” which he followed to the letter.

As a result, he not only found a publisher for his books but also landed a big, local contract with General Motors to train 15 employees in sales. The money was more than enough to pay for all his expenses, including the expensive hotel his gut had told him to book upon arrival.

Past that point, Hill describes his life in words Joanna might have used too:

From that time right up to this very minute everything I have needed has come to me. Sometimes the arrival of the material things I needed has been a little late, but I can truthfully say that my “other self” has always met me at the crossroads when I have come to them and indicated which path I should follow. The “other self” follows no precedents, recognizes no limitations, and always finds a way to accomplish desired ends! It may meet with temporary defeat, but not with permanent failure. I am as sure of the soundness of this statement as I am of the fact of being engaged in writing these lines.

Lucky for us, Hill didn’t leave it at that.

Not a Miracle Drug

As great as it sounds, so far, all this ‘other self’ talk feels a little esoteric. Magical. Almost too good to be true. While he repeatedly admits he doesn’t quite understand it in its entirety, Hill makes an effort to capture what he knows. In Outwitting The Devil, he describes the “orders” he received:

The instructions were given through the medium of thoughts which presented themselves in my mind with such force that they were readily distinguishable from my ordinary self-created thoughts.

That’s simple. I get that. It’s a powerful gut. A feeling that one course of action is decidedly better, paired with a strong sense of faith that it will work.

We’ve all experienced this. Scientists call it flow. It may have been in sports, a video game, or a great day at work, but, somehow, we strung together a series of gut decisions that just worked and executed them with perfect confidence.

While flow isn’t something we can maintain all the time, Hill suggests our other self is a version of ourselves that can capitalize on it much longer:

You are entitled to know that two entities occupy your body, as in fact two similar entities occupy the body of each living person on earth. One of these entities is motivated by and responds to the impulse of fear. The other is motivated by and responds to the impulse of faith.

Whether you call them ‘entities’ or not, this, too, makes sense. Fear has always been our number one motivator because, for millennia, it had to be. The fear of death is what kept us alive. Nowadays, however, that doesn’t make so much sense. Most of us live in an environment where survival is, mostly, ensured.

But, since so few people do it, acting out of faith and going for what you want often works easier and faster than we’d expect it to. This doesn’t make it a miracle drug or state of enlightenment — just a much better way of doing things, according to Hill:

  • You should know that the faith entity performs no miracles, nor does it work in opposition to any of nature’s laws.
  • Your ‘other self’ will not do your work for you; it will only guide you intelligently in achieving for yourself the objects of your desires.
  • Physically you are the same as you have always been; therefore, no one will recognize that any change has taken place in you.
  • Your ‘other self’ will remain in charge and continue to direct you as long as you rely upon it. Keep doubt and fear and worry, and all thoughts of limitation, entirely out of your mind.

Again, this all sounds wonderful, but, like Kamal asked Joanna: how do you do it? How do you change a fundamental aspect of how the human brain naturally works? You don’t.

You let your mind do it for you.

The High Agency Person

The very nature of epiphanies is that they’re not controllable. This is, in part, why we have so many different stories for people who’ve gone through the same change. Joanna, Hill, Pressfield, Fowler, they’ve all made a similar shift in mindset. But because it was such an emotional experience, something so hard to label with language, they’ve all used different labels.

And while there’s no way for me to influence when and where you’ll have yours, Harajuku Moment, that is, stories like theirs are our best shot. Because they prime your subconscious to look for the same in your own life.

In our case, when looking for our confident, faith-based self, the stories we seek are those of what George Mack calls ‘high agency:’

High Agency is a sense that the story given to you by other people about what you can/cannot do is just that — a story. And that you have control over the story.

A High Agency person looks to bend reality to their will. They either find a way, or they make a way.

Mack picked up the concept from Eric Weinstein on Tim Ferriss’s podcast:

When you’re told that something is impossible, is that the end of the conversation, or does that start a second dialogue in your mind, how to get around whoever it is that’s just told you that you can’t do something?

Weinstein says that most of us pride ourselves in the fact that we’re “grounded in reality,” when, actually, that’s just a different way of saying we’ve settled for average, boring, and conventional.

Most of us who wind up using these sort of strange high agency hacks to negotiate the world have some kind of traumatic birth. We may flatter ourselves that we’re in touch with reality, but in fact, reality is a second-best strategy. If you’re lucky, your family works pretty well and you never leave social reality. It’s only when something goes wrong that you discover: “Okay, the world doesn’t work in any way the way I was told. Here’s the underlying structure.” And what you then have to realize is if you want this at scale, you’ve got to stop relying on these traumatic births. It’s like you’re waiting to get bit by a spider to become Spiderman.

Sure, you could wait for your life to back you up against the wall. Or, you could expose yourself to lots of high agency stories until one kicks in.

You could learn about Steve Jobs’s reality distortion field

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

…Arnold Schwarzenegger’s strange career path from weightlifter to movie star to governor — all in a country whose language he’s terrible at — or Peter Thiel’s unorthodox approaches to investing and business:

How can you achieve your 10-year-goal in 6 months? What great company is nobody starting? What important truth do very few people agree with you on?

Ultimately, there’s only so much you can do to unlock your confident self. To find your Harajuku Moment. But, once you’ve had it, you can never go back.

Bigger Than You Think

In 2014, Jim Carrey gave the commencement speech at Maharishi University. He shares a lot of wise aphorisms, but none quite like this one:

You will only ever have two choices: love or fear. Choose love and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart. Because life doesn’t happen to you. It happens for you.

This distinction between life happening for us and to us is the same thing Kamal has noticed in Joanna and all the folks that most inspire him:

For all of them, I’ve noticed one pattern — including her — that whatever happens, it’s never like this is happening to me. They all look at life as if it’s happening for them. They fall down, they lick their wounds, they get up, but it always makes them be better.

And then Kamal says something remarkable: It’s an attitude you can choose.

They’ve internalized this attitude and it is an attitude. All of us who try to live this, none of us are unique in that sense. We’re all humans, right? The same minds walking around with the same dramas and same fears. But that attitude that life happens for them I’ve noticed consistently in all the best people I’ve ever met in my life.

We may not be able to unlock our best parts, like confidence, faith, and flow at will, but we can choose to live with an attitude that attracts them, rather than shut ourselves off from the possibility. Of course, this is one of the first things Carnegie taught Hill too:

Let me call your attention to a great power which is under your control, said Mr. Carnegie. A power greater than poverty, greater than the lack of education, greater than all of your fears and superstitions combined. It is the power to take possession of your own mind and direct it to whatever ends you may desire.

Carnegie was a well-read man. When he was a young boy, a local colonel opened his personal library of some 400 volumes every Saturday night — an opportunity Carnegie always took. It’s not hard to imagine he read a few Stoic texts, which, over 2,000 years ago, already harnessed the same idea: the one thing we control, the only thing, really, is our mind and its perceptions.

I’m no expert on the ‘other self’ and I’ve only ever caught glimpses of it myself. But, once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it. And so I wish nothing more for you than to find your Harajuku Moment. To see this distinction between faith and fear. To learn to live your life with courage, confidence, and the relentless spirit it takes to get whatever you want. Until then, I wish you the attitude that will help you find all of these things. You’re a lot bigger than you think.

“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

— Marcus Aurelius

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Move Slower: How To Deal With the Fastness of Life

In investing, there’s this idea of a backdoor play.

For example, in 2014, Facebook announced it was going to use satellites, drones, and lasers, to bring the internet to the unconnected. Now, instead of buying Facebook stock and hoping they would succeed, you could’ve tried to figure out who they’d get the equipment from and buy their stock. Because even if Facebook failed, they’d purchase a lot of parts in the process.

In that sense, one of the best backdoor plays on cryptocurrencies must have been Twitter. The stock is up 100% year to date, partly because the platform dominates the crypto discussion.

While there is a lot of noise around this heated topic, a few clear voices stand out. Like Luke Martin, who’s amassed close to 150,000 followers in less than 8 months. One of Luke’s core ideas is to move slower with your investments.

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Best Year Header

13 Ways to Get Your Grip on Life Back

With each passing year, I find more truth in this:

“The days are long, but the years are short.”  — Gretchen Rubin

It’s that time of the year again. Tax day’s got you throwing your hands up in frustration, your New Year’s resolutions have long vaporized into thin air and you feel like your hold on 2017 is getting weaker and weaker.

I’m here to tell you: You still have time.

The year’s not even halfway over, and you’re already giving up? No. Not this time. You will make 2017 the best year of your life. Period.

The way you do that is by getting your grip back on some of the things we all need to succeed. For some, it takes longer than for others. That’s okay.

Because you will start today.

1. Get A Grip On Your Sleep

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

—  Dr. Seuss

It all starts an ends here. This is the alpha and the omega.

Sleep should neither be an annoying necessity, nor a desperate desertion of reality. It’s not a matter of how many hours you sleep, it’s about what you do in those you’re awake.

So figure out how much you need and then build a life you don’t want to escape from.

2. Get A Grip On Your Body

“Be careful about reading health books. Some fine day you’ll die of a misprint.”

—  Markus Herz

We’re obsessed with looking fit and tanned and having all the latest gadgets, yet on most days, we sit more than we sleep. Don’t overcomplicate health.

An ancient Chinese saying goes: “Walk 100 steps after every meal and you’ll live to 99 years old.” Why not start there? It doesn’t always have to be 10,000 steps. Ten more than yesterday will do.

It’s okay to be a slow walker, as long as you don’t walk back.

3. Get A Grip On Your Mind

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”

 — Mahatma Gandhi

Only a healthy body can carry a healthy mind. Walking a lot outside keeps you from pacing back and forth between worry and frustration on the inside. Most of the time, we’re the ones clouding our own thinking, by jumping from feelings to conclusions.

Step outside your stream of thought for once. Watch it pass by. Label your thoughts. Call out your emotions. Make two boxes: “useful” and “not useful.” Put them inside.

Organize your thoughts to clear away your inner clouds.

4. Get A Grip On Your Words

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

 — Rudyard Kipling

Better thoughts lead to better words. What you say shapes who you are. In fact, how you experience the world is in large part defined by how you describe that experience.

Out of 3,000 words to label emotions in the English language, 66% are negative. In Awaken The Giant Within, Tony Robbins suggests playing down bad emotions and reinforcing good ones with unusual words.

Don’t just feel “fine.” Feel content, or blissful, or delighted, or serene, or amazed.

5. Get A Grip On Your Food

“Let thy food be thy medicine.”

— Hippocrates

What comes out of your mouth can only be as good as what you put in. We are what we eat, so let’s eat less of what we don’t want to be.

Whatever grows naturally where you are, usually comes cheap. Eating locally is the ultimate form of being all there wherever you go.

Drink water, wait minutes before you have seconds, delay the dessert and when you’re 80% full, tune in. Do you really need more?

6. Get A Grip On Your Finances

“If you want to change the fruits, you will first have to change the roots.”

 — T. Harv Eker

Imagine all your dollar bills as passengers on a bus. As it drives along, some get off at the rent stop, some at the grocery stop, some at the dry cleaners.

Did you just feel like watching from the back? Because the truth is you’re in the driver’s seat. You have been all along.

Especially if you don’t earn a lot of money, it’s really important to know how to use what you have. No matter how much you make, you can always take 10% of it to save or invest.

7. Get A Grip On Your Job

“Transferring your passion to your job is far easier than finding a job that happens to match your passion.”

 — Seth Godin

In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth shares the story of the three bricklayers:

When asked, “What are you doing?” the first bricklayer replied: “I’m laying bricks.” The second bricklayer answered: “I’m putting up a wall.” The third bricklayer responded, with pride in his voice: “I’m building a cathedral.”

The biggest barriers between a job, a career and a calling are made of perspective. No matter what you do, how you choose to do it is up to you.

Choose to be generous, kind and courageous.

8. Get A Grip On Your Attention

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

—  Oscar Wilde

Part of doing a great job is giving whatever task at hand your undivided attention. A study by Microsoft found our average attention span to be just 8 seconds in 2013. A goldfish has 9. Technology is an enhancement to human performance, not a replacement.

Detached workers serve detached customers, which become detached parents to detached children.

So look up from your phone, shut down that display, take in your surroundings, make the most of today.

9. Get A Grip On Your Possessions

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

—  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Technology isn’t the only thing tugging at your attention. Do you own your stuff or does your stuff own you? When we’re possessed by our possessions, our brains are filled before we even begin our day.

Every item you own not only takes up physical, but also mental space. Pick up something you haven’t used in a year. Look at it. Be honest. Will you ever need it?

If the answer is no, deal it, donate it or ditch it.

10. Get A Grip On Your Time

“Half our time is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.”

 — Will Rogers

A smaller garden requires less tending to. Things you don’t own don’t have to be maintained. Tasks you can delegate need no doing.

Spend your time doing things that will make other things easier. Use time to make time for what matters. It’s the only resource you get to spend just once, and we all have 24 hours each day.

If it won’t matter a week, a month or a year from now, is it really worth doing?

11. Get A Grip On Your Relationships

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 

 — Eleanor Roosevelt

The best thing you can do for the world and to anger your enemies is to be nothing like them. There might indeed be toxic people in your life, but they don’t come with an obligation to engage with them.

5 friends, 4 friends, 3 friends, 2 friends, they come and go. When you’re your own best friend, it doesn’t matter how much wind is beneath your wings.

Even when you’re all alone, you can still fly.

12. Get A Grip On Your Happiness

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

 — Ralph Waldo Emerson

In The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt determines where happiness comes from: making progress towards a goal, finding love, a lifestyle and location you like, spending time in flow and collecting memories, not things.

We confuse pleasure and happiness when in reality, it’s not about glass half full vs. glass half empty, but about what you choose to see when you look at the glass.

13. Get A Grip On Your Life

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow.”

—  Dalai Lama

All of these are different variations of saying: one small step taken today is better than a large step left to be taken tomorrow.

The world truly is small. We all live in the same place and it’s called the present. All you have is today. The question that remains is:

Will you choose to make it matter?

Come To Grips

I hope this makes you get to grips with how much of your grip you can get back. You have a lot more control than you think.

“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

— Marcus Aurelius


Habit Review for 2015

Tomorrow 2015 will be over.

I remember January 1st as if it was yesterday.

Interesting theory:

The reason each year seems to fly by faster than the last is that as you age, each year represents a smaller portion of your life.

Here’s a visual example:


If you’re 1 year old, one year is your entire life. If you’re 14 years old, one year is only 7% of your life.

And so on.

That means at 42 years old, a year is only 2% of the time you’re alive, and it gets less with every year!

Seems to be true for me, and while I always ponder about the happenings of the last 12 months during those last few days of the year, I thought I’d take those ponderings public this time.

Since this is a blog about habits, why not make it a habit review?

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