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.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

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

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

Daily Habits Checklist (November 7 – 27): Travel is the opposite of habit

daily-habits-checklist-nov-7-27

Writing of the Habit Driven Life continues. I have no idea what I’ll do with the finished draft. Just want to prove (to myself) that I can write 200 more-or-less related pages. It’s almost entirely a mental battle.

Writing at Ueshima Coffee

Didn’t reach my personal goal of 80% in any week. Traveled a lot. But travel is almost the exact opposite of habit. Maybe that’s the point?

Oh, and if I want to do something hard, I must do it in the morning. Meditation and running are two prominent examples. If I don’t meditate or run before noon, the chance of them being done drops by 50% or more. The afternoon and evening can be productive, but I don’t have the same discipline / grit / willpower. Which makes waking up early even more important. Am I just getting tired as the day unfolds? Or is something else going on?

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.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

Passion is a reboot of the happiness myth

Our generation-spanning experiment with passion-centric career planning can be deemed a failure: The more we focused on loving what we do, the less we ended up loving it. […] There’s little evidence that most people have pre-existing passions waiting to be discovered, and believing that there’s a magical right job lurking out there can often lead to chronic unhappiness and confusion.. – Cal Newport

Are you obsessed with identifying your passion? Are you worried you might not have one? Are you frustrated because each time you find a passion, it seems to slip away?

Passion is to your career as happiness is to your personal life. Chasing happiness feels good in the short term, but it can derail your life plans. Pursuing a passion in your career can do the same to your professional development.

Passion is like a reboot of the happiness myth. If happiness is original Coke, then passion is New Coke. And like New Coke, it tastes kinda crappy and will end in failure.

Like happiness, passion is an emotion. And an emotion works a lot like a drug.

Like happiness, passion is capricious. It comes and goes as IT pleases, not as YOU please.

Like happiness, passion is never fulfilled. The more you indulge in it, the stronger your craving, the higher your expectation.

Have you watched the Fast and Furious movies? In particular the first one (the best one).

Remember nos? Pronounced like the first syllable in “nozzle”. Nos is like a turbo button for a race car. It is a chemical that gives a quick surge of acceleration. But you have only a limited amount for use in each race. Use it at the right moment, and you’ll zoom past your opponent and win. Use nos at the wrong moment, or use too much of it at one time, and you’ll not only lose the race, but you might lose control of your car and crash. At least, this is what I learned watching Fast and Furious :)

Well, happiness and passion are like nos. They’re powerful, sexy, and tempting. They give you a brief but exhilarating boost.

But they’re temporary. You wish you could use them all the time, but they only come in limited supply. They’re hard to control. And costly. Like nos, you can’t rely on them to drive you to your destination, your dream.

You must rely on fuel instead. Fuel is stable, reliable, and consistent. Fuel gets you where you want to go.

And – here’s the punchline – if happiness and passion are nos, then HABITS are fuel.

A habit driven person employs emotion like Dom Toretto uses nos: only when absolutely necessary, and only to win.

You can still use nos. Passion and happiness are powerful. Passion can get you so excited to write a song that you’ll literally race to your desk and begin composing a melody on staff paper. But tomorrow you’ll wake up, groggy and irritable, and you’ll ignore that staff paper. You’ll think, I was so passionate about writing yesterday, I’ll wait for the feeling to come back. But she won’t return. Those notes will collect dust.

Rely on habit instead. Habit is emotion’s nemesis. Habit beats emotion nine times out of ten because he always shows up. He chugs along. He makes progress day after day, rep after rep.

Habit is the unsexy turtle. It will always outrun the fickle hare.

The person chasing happiness and passion will WANT to make yoga class in the evening. Really. But if her daily habit is to return home after work, plop down on the oversized leather couch, and eat fig newtons while watching reality TV…it’s just not gonna happen. Doesn’t matter how passionate she is about yoga. Her habit will take over. There’s another class tomorrow…work will be lighter tomorrow, she’ll tell herself.

The habit driven person also returns home after a long day, tired and stressed. But she’s gone to the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a month. She knows the regulars. The trainers nod and wink. With the pain and sweat and hours she’s invested, she’s lost ten pounds. You can see definition in her arms. Her gym shoes and workout bag are by the door, ready to go.

Guess what she’s gonna do?

PS. I’m writing on the habit driven life. Thanks for reading!

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

A habit only becomes a habit if you do it every day

When trying to form a new habit, if you don’t do it every day, then it won’t become a habit.

Something you do once a week, or once a month, never becomes a habit. It remains a job. A responsibility. A chore. But not a habit.

The important behaviors are ones that we perform every day.

We wake up groggy and grumpy at 7am. We eat a rushed breakfast. We kiss our spouse goodbye. We head to work and do a business (thanks Bojack). We text our friends, we send emails, we attend meetings. We exercise, we drive home. We eat dinner with our family. We read a book or watch TV. We brush & floss. Eventually we go to bed.

And we do it all over again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after.

Sure, we take breaks. Sundays for church. Saturdays for naps and hikes. We visit Europe in April. We catch the flu and take two days off.

But these are breaks – small islands – in the vast and surging river of daily routine.

The cornerstones of life are everyday cornerstones. In the same way that a deeply religious person practices her religion every day, sometimes multiple times a day, the deeply successful and fulfilled person should forge habits that he does every day.

If you want to exercise, exercise every day.

If you want to read novels, read every day.

If you want to play the guitar, practice every day.

If you want to stay in touch with distant friends, message them every day.

That’s not to say that weekly or monthly or yearly actions are unimportant. We should attend bikram yoga class on Thursday nights if we’re not tired. We can grab drinks with old friends once a month when we find the time. We manage an annual spring cleaning if we have the willpower.

These actions are all important and valuable and good, IF we can keep them.

But that’s a big IF.

That IF is why there exists a gap between who we want to be and who we are. The Greeks called it akrasia.

But once you do something every day, the IF becomes easier to defeat. The focus shifts from IF to WHEN.

Let’s take a simple habit like eating more fruit.

If the goal is to eat tidy your room once a week, then every day, you’ll wonder IF you should clean that day.

But if the goal is to tidy your room every day, then instead of wondering IF you’ll clean your room, you’re now figuring out WHEN.

With enough repetition and time and patience, the IF will disappear. The WHEN will become consistent and fixed, and the habit becomes expected, even automatic.

Habit driven people don’t rely on IF. They understand they have no more willpower than the next person. They know they’re just as weak, just as busy, just as lazy.

They know that if they don’t do something once a day, they probably won’t do it once a week either.

Daily habits don’t need to be long and overwrought and serious. You can tidy your room for 5 minutes, the length of your favorite song. You can exercise by doing 10 jumping jacks in the morning. You can relax and connect by taking a walk around the block with your wife after dinner. You can pray or meditate before you slip into bed.

Daily habits are faster to form. They build deep, strong, solid roots into our lives. When thinking about what habits to forge, ask yourself first: Can you do it every day?

Because true habits are daily habits. Or they’re not habits at all.

PS. I’m writing on the habit driven life. Thanks for reading!

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.