I got this really, really amazing email from a reader. I get a lot of emails, but this one in particular was fantastic. Check out his recommendations in here as well -
We exchanged a bit of email last year, but I felt the urge to reach out to you again to just say "thanks". When I started reading your site last year, I was a completely different person than I am now. I was 300lbs, unhappy with my life, my work, and my achievements.
Since then, I've completely turned my life around.
Reading your blog has been (by far) the biggest influence in my life changes, and I'm extremely grateful for all of your writings. I really associate with your writing a lot--I feel like I've always had lots of ambition and purpose, but was never able to harness it to do what I wanted to. Your blog has really helped me understand a lot of critical things in personal development.
I think the biggest barrier for me to overcome was myself. For years I was obsessed with becoming a better person--but I would always do things to mess that up. I'd go out to lunch every day, and order the cheeseburgers. I remember justifying my actions to myself constantly; my argument was that I was simply too busy to worry about it now, and that I'll somehow get there in the future. It felt like I was continuously searching for a silver bullet to magically fix everything, and carry me to the goals that I wanted to accomplish.
Reading your stuff has really helped me a ton. I think the most important few lessons I've learned are:
In all honesty, your writing and personality has really been paramount in my life. I've still got an enormously long way to go, but I'm getting there one day at a time :)
Keep up the amazing work!
Sebastian: Thanks. Wow. That was really cool to read. Some thoughts:
"It felt like I was continuously searching for a silver bullet to magically fix everything, and carry me to the goals that I wanted to accomplish." -> The good news and bad news is that there's almost never a silver bullet. So, you can safely stop looking for and start picking up 1% edges, 2% edges here and there. Trend upwards and establish little good habits, a better environment around you, and so on. R covers this when he says, "Make sure that all the small steps you take are taking you in the right direction. For me, this meant to change my habits to align with my principles and goals. A little bit at a time, over a long period, and you'll always win."
"In my case, I was constantly taking the easy way out of situations (work, personal, and otherwise) to escape blame, at the cost of my integrity." -> Yes! You're in charge. Of everything. Even if it's not your fault, it's your responsibility. Take responsibility even if you didn't create the mess. Then you fix things.
"Work hard for what you want. I previously felt like doing just enough to get by was okay. I didn't realize that you really have to give everything you do 100% of your effort." -> I mostly agree here as well, consistent effort is incredibly valuable. On the flipside, don't beat yourself up for down days. It happens. (Well, beat yourself up if it's conducive to getting what you want, but it seems like it's actually not helpful)
I wrote back to R and asked him if I could repost this here, his reply:
Sure! Feel free to repost this however you want--it's the least I can do. On a somewhat related note: one of the first things I did which really helped me break out of the mode I was in before I started all these changes was to talk with my friends about what I wanted to do. Just sharing it gave me a ton of motivation to keep working towards the goals, establishing the habits, etc.
That's dawning on me more and more. External accountability outperforms internal accountability in the short run consistently. Now, that's no excuse not to build internal accountability (willpower, habits, discipline, etc) - but if you want to perform better in the short term, get yourself some external accountability. At the same time, keep developing internals, don't rely on the external solely. But lots of progress can be made with external accountability.
Thanks R. Man, that was cool email. Reading that made my day.
Jason Shen graciously contributed a new guestpost to the site -- his have always been popular here. He's running an online class on "The Science of Willpower, Habits, And Behavior Change" in January. Here's Jason --
Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is one of my favorite films and the best comic book to film translation ever done. Nolan's take on Batman is gritty, heroic, fresh, and even somewhat plausible. One of my favorite scenes from the first film, Batman Begins, is when he is being trained by Ra's al Ghul on the art of ninjutsu. The key conversation I want to point out here:
George St. Pierre pummeling your untrained face
The one thing I consistently fail to account for when planning trips, especially shorter ones, is the disruption it will cause to my routine. For over a hundred days in a row, I wrote a blog post every day, did a Chinese lesson, worked on SETT, and a few other things for which I hold myself accountable.
I went to Peru for ten days, and although I started off strong, jamming in the blog post and Chinese lessons on my flights and bus ride to the Andes, once I started hiking I stopped doing those things. No real foul there, because breathing and walking had become difficult first priorities. When I got back to civilization, still in Peru, I resumed working hard on SETT, but I stopped doing Chinese lessons. I was practicing Spanish every day, though, so that made it okay. I wrote a monster blog post about Peru and sort of let myself coast on that. After all, it was a lot longer than my average post.
I got back to San Francisco and had only a week before I was going to Mexico. That week was great. I felt bad about being off schedule, so I used that as motivation to get back on. I rated three of those days as As and four as Bs, which is a pretty solid week. Next there are ten days completely missing from my schedule. I remember them, though. I worked on SETT every day while I was in Mexico, at a reduced capacity, as expected. I did a couple Chinese lessons, but was speaking Spanish, and fell behind on blog posts. Maybe I wrote four during those ten days.
Again, I got back and got back on schedule, but this time with less consistency. One day I gave myself an F and didn't even write any notes on the day. A few others I got Ds. There are As and Bs, too, but not as many as there should be.