Daily Habits Checklist (January 9 – 22): Swarmwise and Milton Friedman

As a result of my shifting priorities, I’ve made some tweaks to the habits checklist:

  • Brought back the “Publish” habit, which means I need to write and share something publicly every day (Quora counts)
  • Removed Singing and Guitar – this makes me sad, but I was seeing only incremental progress at best with the existing habits. If I re-commit to music in the future, I’d need to up the ante, maybe by enrolling in music school, or joining a band lol
  • Reduced writing time to 1 hour
  • Changed from “Evening Prep” to just “Evening To Do’s”
  • Will share a current book I’m reading and a current quote on my mind with each habits update

Current book: Swarmwise by Rick Falkvinge [free PDF]. It’s a concise and tactical book, almost a how-to manual, on social movements and crowd behavior. Falkvinge started the Pirate Party which took Swedish politics by storm, coming out of nowhere to receive almost 10% of the popular vote

Current quotes:

I’ve always wanted a ship. Now I want a dozen. Strange, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter what we want, once we get it, then we want something else – Little Finger in Game of Thrones

The only person who can truly persuade you is yourself. You must turn the issues over in your mind at leisure, consider the many arguments, let them simmer, and after a long time turn your preferences into convictions. – Milton Friedman

Daily Habits Checklist (December 26 – January 8)

A mediocre two weeks. And it won’t get better, because my schedule’s gotten busier. I’m moving away from a writer’s schedule to a business person’s schedule. Which means more meetings, more emails, more unpredictability, more travel. Which has been a shock to my habits system. That’s the ultimate test – how can you keep your habits up when it’s hard to do so? Easy is easy, but hard is meaningful if not always fun.

The main areas where I fall short are singing and guitar. When traveling I simply don’t have a guitar on me. So trying to think of alternatives. For example at my uncle and aunt’s home they have a piano. Maybe I can count 30 minutes of piano playing as a replacement. Or maybe just scrap these two habits, and focus on the foundational ones: Waking early. Running. Writing…

Evening prep is also not consistent. I just haven’t bought into the value of picking tomorrow’s outfit and planning tomorrow’s to-do’s. In the morning, I pick my outfit in 5 minutes. And I keep a sense of internal priorities, of what’s important and what’s urgent. At night I like to relax, not think about work, read my books, and watch Netflix lol.

The butt clench

I call it the butt clench. Tldr: a few months ago, I realized that I clench my butt pretty much all the time. Like all day, for no reason. So I’m learning, slowly and rep by rep, how to relax my butt muscles…yup.

Oh and it’s not my outer butt muscles, the glutes. It’s actually the inside, the sphincter muscles. What you use when you gotta poop. But I feel more comfortable just calling it the butt clench :)

It’s partly amusing, kinda frustrating, and mostly weird. I don’t know when I started to do this. I might not be alone in this habit but it feels that way. The behavior can’t be healthy or helpful. It’s simply a bad and stuck habit.

Singing lessons helped me spot the clench. In everyday life, when you exhale, your body likes to squeeze your breathing muscles to get that last bit of oxygen goodness. When you sing, this squeezing and contracting is bad. It wastes air. One way to fight this tendency is to push outward, slightly, as you breathe out. Fight the contracting muscles. This is known as support. Some people say when you’re doing it right, it should feel like taking a poop. Others suggest expanding your stomach like a balloon – in a full circle, and then to maintain that expansion.

The more I practiced support, the more I noticed that my inner butt muscle, my sphincters, would relax. It’s like a tight knot that would unravel when I focused on it. And when the muscles relaxed, it felt good. Like noticeable good – relaxed, less tension, a kinda looseness around my pelvis.

I began to try and spot check throughout the day. I’d think about that inner spot and invariably I’d notice it was clenched. So I’d make a conscious effort to relax and release. But only moments after doing so, if I spot checked again, I’d notice that it tightened up again, like a slinky returning to its default form.

Through practice, it got easier to unclench. Less concentration was required. Occasionally – rarely – I’d do a mental check and notice that the muscle was naturally relaxed. But 98% of the time, it’d be tight and balled up.

How did this start? Why? No clue. Certainly doesn’t feel like a healthy habit, not in the least bit. Imagine flexing your bicep and walking around all day. Your bicep would get exhausted, and you put a lot of strain on your body, and over time your arm might forget what it felt like to really relax.

In addition to the conscious unclenching practice, I should probably do more relaxing stretches and physical activities – like yoga and massage and sauna.

Why am I writing about this? Also no clue. Just wanted to. This experience made me appreciate anew the enormous cumulative effect of tiny habits. If you walk up two flights of stairs every day, 300 days a year, that’s 5-10K steps you’ll take in a year. That’s meaningful exercise. If you write a page of your novel every morning, no matter how bad, you’ll have 300 pages – a full book! – in a year.

But life has a balance to it, and whatever applies to good habits also applies to the harmful ones. Sleep one hour less than you need every night, and your body will crave hundreds of hours of rest and recovery by year’s end. Daily damage to a body that is already fighting an unbeatable battle against father time. When we sleep 10 hours a day over the holidays, it’s because we badly need it. Hibernation isn’t just for bears.

In my case this butt clench. Bit by bit, day by day, it felt better or safer to tighten up, and now I do it all day every day and can’t even feel it! I began to wonder: What other muscles do I unnecessarily tighten? What effort am I exerting that is unhelpful and stressful? How can I relax more? What are the figurative and literal butt clenches in my life?

It all sounds a bit funny and I share it in part because it’s amusing, in a smh kinda way. For years now – maybe for most of my life – I’ve walked around with a clenched butt. Such is life.

Law 28: Enter Action With Boldness

If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid. – Robert Greene

I am reading Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power [Kindle] for the second time. A selection of his 48 rules are in my personal bible. I’m a strong believer in re-reading and reviewing your favorite content. You always learn something new. Not unlike the way your experience evolves as you appreciate a favorite song or movie.

This time Law 28 really spoke to me. The power of audacity and boldness. Whatever your politics, Trump has it in spades. Softbank founder Masayoshi Son. Of course Elon Musk.

Here’s an excerpt from Law 28: Enter Action With Boldness:

Most of us are timid. We want to avoid tension and conflict and we want to be liked by all. We may contemplate a bold action but we rarely bring it to life. We are terrified of the consequences, of what others might think of us, of the hostility we will stir up if we dare go beyond our usual place.

Although we may disguise our timidity as a concern for others, a desire not to hurt or offend them, in fact it is the opposite – we are really self-absorbed, worried about ourselves and how others perceive us. Boldness, on the other hand, is outer-directed, and often makes people feel more at ease, since it is less self-conscious and less repressed.

[…]

Few are born bold. Even Napoleon had to cultivate the habit on the battlefield, where he knew it was a matter of life and death. In social settings he was awkward and timid, but he overcame this and practiced boldness in every part of his life because he saw its tremendous power, how it could literally enlarge a man (even one who, like Napoleon, was in fact conspicuously small). We also see this change in Ivan the Terrible: A harmless boy suddenly transforms himself into a powerful young man who commands authority, simply by pointing a finger and taking bold action.

You must practice and develop your boldness. You will often find uses for it. The best place to begin is often the delicate world of negotiation, particularly those discussions in which you are asked to set your own price. How often we put ourselves down by asking for too little. When Christopher Columbus proposed that the Spanish court finance his voyage to the Americas, he also made the insanely bold demand that he be called “Grand Admiral of the Ocean.” The court agreed. The price he set was the price he received – he demanded to be treated with respect, and so he was. Henry Kissinger too knew that in negotiation, bold demands work better than starting off with piecemeal concessions and trying to meet the other person halfway. Set your value high, and then, as Count Lustig did, set it higher.

Understand: If boldness is not natural, neither is timidity. It is an acquired habit, picked up out of a desire to avoid conflict. If timidity has taken hold of you, then, root it out. Your fears of the consequences of a bold action are way out of proportion to reality, and in fact the consequences of timidity are worse. Your value is lowered and you create a self-fulfilling cycle of doubt and disaster.

Remember: The problems created by an audacious move can be disguised, even remedied, by more and greater audacity.

Daily Habits Checklist (December 12 – 25)

Happy holidays everyone! I’m gaining weight for sure. Too much good food. And lots of travel. Which probably explains the subpar weeks. But tracking is even more important when my performance is poor, even though the temptation can be to skip it. Thanks to everyone who’s emailed me sharing their own checklists and habits and systems. It means a lot and I’m learning every time!

I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions for 2016 – for the first time in a decade – but it wound up being a good year. I won’t make any for 2017, either. Just increasingly skeptical about the value of setting yearly goals. Would rather emphasis habits and priorities instead – priorities being some mixture of your values and long-term (ie, 5 to 10 year) goals.

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.