Daily Habits Checklist (November 28 – December 11)

One good week (80%) and one ok week (70%).

Right now I’m naturally waking up around 7:30am. My eventual goal is 6am. In an attempt to push myself to get there, I’ll sometimes schedule calls at 7am or 6:30am. But I’ve found that this has consequences, a drop in energy and focus after a day or two of these early morning calls. It’s taken years of steady effort to shift my waking time to 7:30am, and it’s probably best to allow it to slowly reduce further…

Singing is hard for me. Sometimes it’s as if I take two steps back for every step forward, feeling like I sound worse with each lesson or recording session. When I first began to sing, I was more willing to share and publish. Ignorance really is bliss. The more I learn about what makes a good voice and how to sing well, the more hesitant I am to share. But hopefully I can return to releasing songs soon. I guess it works this way with most skills…you have to keep practicing and improving and grit your way through the sometimes long trough.

Thanks for reading. Here’s an explanation of how and why I track my daily habits. And here’s a starter template if you’d like to create your own. You can download it in Excel, PDF, etc.

What habits do you monitor? Which habits would you like to develop? Email me anytime.

The superhuman habits of John D. Rockefeller, the wealthiest man in American history

Do you know of John D. Rockefeller? The richest guy in American history. Founder of the University of Chicago and Rockefeller University. Adjusted for inflation, his net worth today would surpass $300B. That’s equal to the combined net worth of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett…times two.

Rockefeller led a remarkable habit driven life. The below excerpt describes Rockefeller’s daily schedule. Keep in mind – this is the schedule Rockefeller followed after he retired!

Rising at 6AM, he read the newspaper for an hour, then strolled through house and garden from 7 to 8, giving a dime to each new employee and a nickel to each veteran. He then breakfasted at 8, followed at 8:45 by a game of numerica (a puzzle game), which gave him time to digest his food properly (he was strict about relaxing after eating to let his food digest). From 9:15 to 10:15 he worked on his correspondence, mostly devoted to his philanthropy and investments. (As many as 2,000 letters arrived daily at his home, most of them solicitations for money.) From 10:15 to 12 he golfed, from 12:15 to 1PM he bathed and then rested. Then came lunch and another round of numerica from 1 to 2:30. From 2:30 to 3 he reclined on the sofa and had mail read to him; from 3:15 to 5:15 he motored, from 5:30 to 6:30 he again rested, while 7 to 9 was given over to a formal dinner, followed by more rounds of numerica. From 9 to 10 he listened to music and chatted with guests, then slept from 10:30 PM to 6 AM -and then the whole merry-go-round started up again. He did not deviate from this routine by one iota, regardless of the weather. One friend who observed this rhythm at close range found “something bordering on the superhuman, perhaps the inhuman – in this unbroken, mathematically perfect schedule. It was uncanny.” – Dane Maxwell

Stalactites and Stalagmites

I visited New Zealand earlier this year and one of the highlights was a glowworm cave outside Auckland. Imagine a series of pitch-black and low-slung caverns whose walls are covered in large stationary fireflies. Your own starry night, cold and up close.

On this particular tour, our guide said something about the cave’s stalactites and stalagmites that struck me as a good metaphor for relationships.

By the way, stalactites point down. The word includes the letter C. Think C for ceiling. And stalagmites point up. The letter G, for ground.

“Any time you find a stalactite, you’ll usually find a stalagmite,” he said. They form in pairs, fed by the same source of mineral deposits.

He went on, “They grow at the rate of one centimeter every 100 years. And sometimes, when enough time has passed, they will connect. These two, for example,” he pointed at a slender pair, separated by the width of a baby’s toe, “have been growing for 15,000 years. Soon they’ll touch.”

Fifteen thousand years. Certainly puts my relationship problems in perspective :)

It’s not about willpower. It’s about habit

Forget about willpower. Stop worrying and wishing you had more of it.

Focus on habit instead.

We think willpower is a kind of mental money, a powerful yet limited resource that can be spent to aide us in starting and finishing difficult tasks. Tasks like a high intensity workout, an uncharted research project, a tough conversation with a work colleague.

I believe anything that can be done through sheer willpower, can be done more consistently and reliably through the formation of the right habits.

If willpower is like building a new house through sweat and tears and aches, then habit is like hiring and overseeing a contractor who specializes in home construction.

Habit, in other words, takes our same machinery – mental and physical – and applies it with less energy and more efficiency to achieve the same outcome. Or better.

But that’s not to say habit is a panacea. It doesn’t cure-all. To build the right routines, you need time and patience.

Willpower, on the other hand, offers immediate gratification. Spend some willpower and you can – right now – finish reading that tough academic paper. But what about tomorrow? And the next day?

That’s why habit beats willpower. Develop the right habit, and you can digest academic papers day after day, week after week. Over time, you might even come to enjoy them :)

Habit simplifies the movements required to achieve a given result, makes them more accurate and diminishes fatigue. – William James

Let’s look at former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink [Wikipedia]. He’s the current rage in early adopter circles.

We think Jocko is gritty as hell. We believe he has a giant vault of willpower. That he can accomplish whatever he sets his mind to, never wimps on any challenge.

I totally agree.

But instead of wishing you had Jocko’s willpower and grit and discipline, you should want his HABITS.

Put simply, Jocko has incredible habits. For decades, he built habits of hard work, consistency, and order. Each repetition and routine. Every trial. They were small rocks that steadily accumulated into a mountain of self-control. That’s the willpower we think we see today. What it really is, however, is a habit driven life.

Young Jocko probably didn’t start like this. But day by day, experience by experience, he forged those habits. And they are what makes him capable of the accomplishments we find so awesomely gritty: his decades of elite US military service, the black-belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, his leadership qualities and communication style.

When you’re faced with a challenge, stop wanting more willpower. Instead, focus on the task before you. Ask yourself, What’s the action that’s required of me? How do I break that action into small chunks? Then how can I turn those chunks into habit that can be repeated over and over?

We’ll cover how to build habits in future chapters. For now, just remember:

Willpower is vague. Habit is specific.

Willpower is art, and habit is a science.

Habit beats willpower, every time.

*This is a selection from a book I’m writing on how to build habits and lead a habit driven life.

“The keys to life are running and reading”

will-smith-running“The keys to life are running and reading. Why running? When your running there’s a little person that talks to you and that little person says, oh I’m tired, my lungs are about to pop off, I’m so hurt, I’m so tired, there’s no way i could possibly continue, and you want to quit, right? That person, if you learn how to defeat that person, when you’re running, you will learn how to not quit when times get hard in your life. […] The reason that reading is so important, there have mean millions and billions and billions and gazillions of people that have lived before all of us, there’s no new problem you can have, with your parents, with school, with a bully, with anything. There’s no problem you can have that someone hasn’t already solved and wrote about it in a book.” – Will Smith

If you’d like to kill two birds with one stone, read the book Spark, about the power of – and science behind – running.