How to Build a New Habit

How to Build a New Habit: This is Your Strategy Guide

According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day.  Understanding how to build new habits (and how your current ones work) is essential for making progress in your health, your happiness, and your life in general.

But there can be a lot of information out there and most of it isn’t very simple to digest. To solve this problem and break things down in a very simple manner, I have created this strategy guide for how to build new habits that actually stick.

Even more detailed information is available in my free guide, Transform Your Habits, but the basic principles mentioned in this article will be more than enough to get you going.

1. Start with an incredibly small habit.

Make it so easy you can’t say no.
—Leo Babauta

start small habits (build new habits)

When most people struggle to build new habits, they say something like, “I just need more motivation.” Or, “I wish I had as much willpower as you do.”

This is the wrong approach. Research shows that willpower is like a muscle. It gets fatigued as you use it throughout the day. Another way to think of this is that your motivation ebbs and flows. It rises and falls. Stanford professor BJ Fogg calls this the “motivation wave.”

Solve this problem by picking a new habit that is easy enough that you don’t need motivation to do it. Rather than starting with 50 pushups per day, start with 5 pushups per day. Rather than trying to meditate for 10 minutes per day, start by meditating for one minute per day. Make it easy enough that you can get it done without motivation.

Further reading: Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals

2. Increase your habit in very small ways.

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
—Jim Rohn

tiny gains with habits (build new habits)

One percent improvements add up surprisingly fast. So do one percent declines.

Rather than trying to do something amazing from the beginning, start small and gradually improve. Along the way, your willpower and motivation will increase, which will make it easier to stick to your habit for good.

Further reading: This Coach Improved Every Tiny Thing by 1 Percent and Here’s What Happened

3. As you build up, break habits into chunks.

break down your habits (build new habits)

If you continue adding one percent each day, then you’ll find yourself increasing very quickly within two or three months. It is important to keep each habit reasonable, so that you can maintain momentum and make the behavior as easy as possible to accomplish.

Building up to 20 minutes of meditation? Split it into two segments of 10 minutes at first.

Trying to do 50 pushups per day? Five sets of 10 might be much easier as you make your way there.

Further reading: I’m Using These 3 Simple Steps to Actually Stick with Good Habits

4. When you slip, get back on track quickly.

The best way to improve your self-control is to see how and why you lose control.
—Kelly McGonigal

never miss habits twice (build new habits)

Top performers make mistakes, commit errors, and get off track just like everyone else. The difference is that they get back on track as quickly as possible.

Research has shown that missing your habit once, no matter when it occurs, has no measurable impact on your long-term progress. Rather than trying to be perfect, abandon your all-or-nothing mentality.

You shouldn’t expect to fail, but you should plan for failure. Take some time to consider what will prevent your habit from happening. What are some things that are likely to get in your way? What are some daily emergencies that are likely to pull you off course? How can you plan to work around these issues? Or, at least, how you can bounce back quickly from them and get back on track?

You just need to be consistent, not perfect. Focus on building the identity of someone who never misses a habit twice.

Further reading: How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the “Seinfeld Strategy”

5. Be patient. Stick to a pace you can sustain.

sustain your habits (build new habits)

Learning to be patient is perhaps the most critical skill of all. You can make incredible progress if you are consistent and patient.

If you are adding weight in the gym, you should probably go slower than you think. If you are adding daily sales calls to your business strategy, you should probably start with fewer than you expect to handle. Patience is everything. Do things you can sustain.

New habits should feel easy, especially in the beginning. If you stay consistent and continue increasing your habit it will get hard enough, fast enough. It always does. 

If you want more practical ideas for how to build new habits (and break bad ones), check out my book Atomic Habits, which will show you how small changes in habits can lead to remarkable results.

FOOTNOTES
  1. Habits: A Repeat Performance by David T. Neal, Wendy Wood, and Jeffrey M. Quinn
  2. Special thanks to BJ Fogg, Leo Babauta, and Kelly McGonigal for their research and work on habit formation and willpower. I have learned a lot from each of you.

How I Built a Successful Brand With No Marketing Budget

Picture the scene: It’s August 2017. I’ve just left my job at TripAdvisor and arrived at my next adventure: A building site.

Backstory: I had just joined a brand new company called LABS. The vision was to build a premium co-working space. The reality, however? A building site in a saturated market, with no brand, website or identity.

Damn.

Fast forward fourteen weeks later, and we filled the building — all six floors of it — with nil marketing budget. In less than a year, we’ve hosted events with the likes of Twitter and Spotify, built a recognisable brand, and are now opening our sixth (SIXTH!) building in London.

But how did we do it? And what did I, as a marketer, learn along the way? Here, I’m sharing the six key takeaways the experience has taught me so far.


1. IDENTIFY YOUR ‘RIDE OR DIE’ MESSAGING

It’s official. Research shows that, now more than ever, consumers are looking for brands to court them with transparency, simplicity and evidence.

In short, your brand’s story matters.

Your messaging is your brand’s ethos. Your ‘ride or die’ mission. And, most importantly, your why.

“Every business knows WHAT they do. Many businesses know HOW they do it. But very few know WHY, and that’s the sweet spot. The result. The cause. The belief. The single thing that’s going to make you stand out in a sea of saturation.” — Simon Sinek.

RESOURCE: This strategic messaging map is a great place to start. And once you have your messaging in place? Remember:

  1. Consistency. Every communication — from your homepage heading to your sales brochure — should align with your messaging framework.
  2. Accountability. Make sure every single person in your business is aware of it, and every marketing decision is determined by it.

2. INVEST IN USER RESEARCH, NOT MARKET RESEARCH.

Engaging with your desired customer directly, and placing them at the forefront of everything you do is one of the smartest things you can do for your business. Fact.

My team and I became obsessed with asking our first clients their opinions (and actually listening!). The result? A roadmap that’s driven not by our preconceived ideas, but by the pain points of our users.

And it needn’t cost much, either. For the price of a few coffees, you can gather opinions that will save you serious time and money along the way.

Interview your first clients, your dream clients AND your lost clients. A few of my favourite questions include:

  • What’s your first impression of our product?
  • What’s the one thing you wish we offered?
  • What is your biggest challenges and how can we help solve it?

3. KNOW THAT IRL INTERACTION HAS NEVER BEEN SO IMPORTANT.

Want to know the biggest marketing channel we developed at LABS? Events. Yep. Old school, IRL events.

Why? Because events bring eyeballs. And people bring lessons (on lessons, on lessons, on lessons).

With research showing that 75% of Millennials and Gen Z prefer experiences over things, and event attendance on the rise, events are as an effective an acquisition channel as any.

Tap into your local entrepreneurial ecosystem and work that room. (And if your area doesn’t have one? Create one.) Reach out to people unashamedly. Host product launches or “appy hours”. Partner with aligned brands for sponsorship opportunities. Think about where your target customer is and be there. Consistently.

Show up, share and know that everyone had to start somewhere.

4. SPEND MORE TIME THAN MONEY ON SOCIAL.

“People are so infatuated with what’s next, they don’t focus on what’s actually happening. Don’t worry about voice. Don’t worry about Augmented Reality. Don’t worry about Blockchain. Don’t worry about anything. Attack Facebook!” — Gary Vaynerchuk.

How do you build social with no budget? Through community.

In practical terms, this means ditching vanity metrics and focusing on building a community of likeminded people who care and engage.

Take Instagram, for example.

Identify the best and most relevant hashtags to follow in your industry and do so (a mixture of well-known and lesser-know hashtags works best, FYI). Leave a comment on the relevant photos under those hashtags. Respond to comments. Like, engage, respond, share, repeat.

If you’re still questioning the ROI of social media, don’t. A good social media profile is an invaluable credibility play and one of the most effective ways of engaging with — and learning from — your target customers.

5. CONTENT IS KING, BUT WORD-OF-MOUTH MARKETING CONQUERS ALL.

It’s 2018 and I’m still all about that referral scheme life. Dropbox, Paypal and Harry’s were all built on referral schemes, after all.

And the best part? You don’t even need customers to get started.

At LABS, we opened our referral scheme up to anyone and everyone. If you had someone to refer, we wanted to hear about them. What’s stopping you from doing the same with your business?

The secret is to make it ridiculously easy for people to invite their friends, give clear incentives and make the messaging benefit-driven for your customers, not for you.

Get it right and your customers will do your marketing for you.

6. CUT CORNERS + EMBRACE THE MESS.

“If you’re not embarrassed by your first release, you’ve released it too late” — Mark Zuckerberg

At LABS we made mistakes fast, but learned even faster. We tested obsessively and celebrated our failures as much as our successes, because forward is forward.

It’s that Silicon Valley, Lean Startup-inspired mentality:

Every day, there are new competitors, new threats, new opportunities. Look for the lessons, face them head on and you can’t go wrong.

Life – Right Way to Restore a Relationship

The Right Way to Restore a Relationship (lessons from 15 years of burning bridges)

I’ve burned a lot of bridges.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve burned a lot of bridges.

I’ve done a lot of hurtful things, said hurtful stuff, and was a complete asshole to many people I loved, who loved me back and deserved better. I have to live with that for the rest of my life.

At times, I still marvel at how stupid I was. How conceited and profoundly self-absorbed I was. And how I didn’t even see it.

But in the process, I’ve learned how to restore those relationships (some of them, at least. Some people still won’t talk to me).

Years of a severe pornography addiction left me frozen as an immature, whiny brat who would never take responsibility for his actions. It took 5 years of gut-wrenching therapy and brutally honest sponsors in 12-step programs to learn how to truly apologize and restore relationships I broke.

That’s what this post is about: how to restore broken relationships that were broken by you.

Because whether I like it or not, I have major experience with that.

It’s Your Fault. Shut Up and Admit It.

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” -Harriet Beecher Stowe

When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us a piece of advice that would end up changing our lives:

Always make the first move.

The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you want them to).

A lot of people have shallow, even ruined relationships. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize. This is a pride thing; it’s a weakness, and it destroys relationships.

If you want to restore a broken relationship into an incredible one…make the first move.

Photo by Joshua Sazon on Unsplash

I can’t forget a certain day in 3rd grade. It was during recess.

There was this girl Sandra in my class. She was nice. Both of us were trying to grab one of the few soccer balls from the ball barrel, and I remember accidentally tripping her as I grabbed one.

She fell on the floor. Angry tears welled up in her eyes. I can still remember the look of shock and humiliation on her face.

I should’ve said I was sorry.

I should’ve helped her up. I probably should’ve given her the ball, too.

But I didn’t. I just ran off, leaving her on the floor.

After recess, Mrs. Salinas pulled me and Sandra outside.

Anthony, did you push Sandra onto the floor at recess?” she demanded in disbelief.

I denied it. It wasn’t my fault, I reasoned. It was an “accident.” I didn’t meanto! I wasn’t willing to take responsibility.

Mrs. Salinas forced me to apologize.

Sandra never talked to me again.

Here’s a lesson that took several dozen times to finally stick:

If you did something wrong, shut up and admit it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame someone else. Even if it was an accident — even if you didn’t mean to — that doesn’t matter. If you want to restore a broken relationships, be the first to own what you did.

Otherwise, your relationships will always be strained and mediocre.

The Most Important Lesson About Relationships I Learned From a 12-Step Program

The day after I quit my corporate job before I left to teach English overseas, I published an article that would eventually destroy every relationship I had with all my old colleagues.

It was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. Frankly, it still haunts me sometimes, because many people are still hurt by what I said. Some people still aren’t willing to speak to me.

Basically, I wrote an article condemning 9–5 jobs and essentially called all my old coworkers a bunch of cowards for wasting their life in corporate America. In efforts to be “gritty” and authentic, I was actually just an asshole.

I wouldn’t find out until months later that my entire department read it (what did I think would happen?). I naively emailed my old boss one day from overseas saying hello. I was shocked at her scathing response, informing me neither her nor anyone else wanted anything to do with me, and how much I had hurt them with my words.

There is only one response you can make in this situation. And this still doesn’t guarantee anything.

Make amends.

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

I’d never used that phrase until I got into recovery and counseling. Essentially, making amends is a way to take ownership for wrong you’ve done in hopes of reconciliation.

Making amends has a few parts:

1. Write down exactly what you did wrong, and to whom

2. Write down why it was wrong (be specific)

3. Take complete ownership for the hurt you caused

4. Tell the hurt person everything you wrote down in a sincere apology (if appropriate)

The only way I was ever going to hope to restore anything with my old coworkers was to make individual, direct amends with anyone still willing to listen (some still aren’t).

So that’s what I did. I told my boss how awful my article was, and why (it was demeaning, hurtful, and profoundly ungrateful). I didn’t make any excuses — I owned the entire screwup.

Miraculously, months later she ended up forgiving me.

Of course, things can never go back to the way they were. There’s still a divide of hurt that probably won’t ever go away.

When you hurt someone like this, you have to “take care of your side of the street.” Do everything you can to make things right.

Making Amends is the Single Best Way to Restore a Broken Relationship

I’ve gone through the process of making amends more times than I can remember:

  • To my childhood friends for gossiping about them
  • To my old writing hero for accidental plagiarizing their work
  • To my best friend for not giving him credit for his ideas
  • To my old girlfriend for liking another girl while I was still dating her
  • To my cousin for constantly ditching him for my friends

I could write dozens more. Goes to show all the hurt I’ve caused, even if it was unintentional.

But miraculously, I’ve restored many of these relationships, through making amends.

Making amends is the single best way to restore broken relationships. It’s one of the most mature, adult actions you can possibly take.

I know I’m going to hurt people down the road, however unintentional. I’m not perfect.

But I can always make proper amends: realize what I did, why it was wrong, and communicate how sorry I am.

In Conclusion

“We can never flee the misery that is within us.” -Arthur Golden

The simple truth is, most people won’t have great relationships.

When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us a piece of advice that would end up changing our lives:

Always make the first move.

The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you don’t want to).

Many people have several strained, even broken relationships with family and friends. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize.

If you want to restore a relationship and experience a deep, meaningful bond with that person, make the first move — even if it should be them. Be the first to:

  • Initiate the conversation
  • Send the first text
  • Say you miss them
  • Say you love them
  • Apologize and ask for forgiveness
  • Organize a hangout
  • Compliment them
  • Thank them
  • Tell them you appreciate what they did

There’s no reason to not restore a broken relationship if it’s in your power to do so.

Life – How to Avoid Divorce

Artwork by John P. Weiss

How to Avoid Divorce and Improve Your Relationship

A Cartoon Tutorial

According to the American Psychological Association, about 40–50% of married couples in the United States divorce. It’s even higher for second marriages.

Stress, financial strain, infidelity, addictions, and personal changes are all factors that can lead to divorce. Yet, despite these challenges, research shows that married couples tend to be happier, healthier and wealthier than their unhitched friends.

Companionship and love are wonderful things, but they require care and attention. Like flowers in a garden, if you ignore them, they’ll wither and die.

How are you doing with your flowers? Are you paying regular attention to your garden? If you want things to bloom and thrive in your relationship, here are a few suggestions.


Invest in the emotional bank account

Relationships are a lot like banking. If you keep taking out withdrawals, your bank account will dwindle and soon you’ll be broke. So it is with a relationship. If all you do is take, and never give, you’ll deplete your partner’s “emotional bank account.”

The solution is to make regular deposits. Random and unexpected acts of kindness and love.

Bring her flowers. Not on her birthday or Valentines day. Do it on a Tuesday, when she gets home from work. Just because you love her.

Surprise him when he gets home by taking him to his favorite sports pub. Then hit the movies, where you bought tickets to the latest super-hero movie (even though you hate super-hero movies).

I talk about this idea, and more broadly about the “bank account of human dignity” in the following blog post:

The point is, it can’t just be about you in a relationship. You need to make deposits in that emotional bank account. Because sooner or later you’ll anger or disappoint your partner, and it’s good to have investments to soften the blow.


Who holds the most power?

Healthy and strong relationships are a partnership. Each person brings positive qualities and contributions to the relationship.

Unfortunately, some relationships can become lopsided. One person ends up driving the relationship more than the other.

The late Dr. Gordon Livingston was a psychiatrist and author of several books, including the excellent, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now.

Chapter five of Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart is titled:

“Any relationship is under control of the person who cares the least.”

Who do you think controls this relationship?

I have witnessed this reality in my 26 year police career, responding to domestic violence calls.

When one person gives up on a relationship, it’s nearly impossible for the other person to turn things around. The one who cares the least has all the power.

How do couples avoid this from happening?


I need to talk with you

You know how sometimes you can tell that she’s mad at you, but you’re not sure why? She’s just a tad distant and snippy.

So what do you do? You play this game of tit for tat. You give her a bit of the silent treatment. Or perhaps you do something that will annoy her.

How stupid is that? Why not walk right up to her and say, “Hey, what’s wrong?” Communication is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship.

For some reason, our emotions get the best of us and we avoid honest and direct conversation. Maybe we’re worried that asking tough questions will invite an argument. But in reality, letting things fester is far worse.

Little, unattended resentments grow over time, like a spreading cancer. Before long, the relationship is in stage four trouble. The only solution is preventative medicine. And that means having the courage to speak up at the first sign of trouble.

Like it or not, adversity is part of all relationships. Disagreements and challenges will intrude, sooner or later, in each of our relationships.

“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”
— Epicurus

Happiness in our relationships is not a constant state of being. It comes and goes. Perhaps that’s what makes happiness so wonderful. If we felt it all the time, it wouldn’t be as special.

So, for the times when adversity strikes, have the courage to face it. Don’t be afraid or procrastinate when it comes to difficult conversations. The sooner you address the issues, the faster you can fix them.


The gift of validation

A lot of guys are terrible at this one. We tend to approach problems with logic instead of our hearts. When our partners are pouring out feelings and emotional struggles, they don’t want logical solutions.

All they want is our empathy. Our understanding. Our non-judgmental listening, hugs and, “Poor baby, I can see why you feel that way.”

Why is it so hard for us to simply acknowledge what another is feeling? Why must be always try to fix everything?

The gift of validation is that you recognize and acknowledge what your partner is feeling. Even if you think they are wrong to feel the way they do, it’s not your emotion to comment on. It belongs to them.

Give the gift of validation. Let him or her take the time to talk about how they feel, without solutions or judgement from you. By doing so, they’ll trust you more. Later on, they’ll be more open to your suggestions and solutions.


Stop trying to change your partner

Your spouse is not you, so why do you keep trying to make him/her act like you? We are all individuals, with our own tastes, likes, habits and orientations.

When we fall in love, we are enamored with the uniqueness of our partner. If we were identical, that would be boring.

But for some reason, as relationships march on and the novelty of newness wanes, we change. We stop admiring the uniqueness of our partner and demand compliance with our way of doing things.

This is crazy. By adulthood, people are largely formed. Yes, they can adopt new habits and improve themselves, but the motivation for this must come from within.

Nagging and negative pressure rarely work for the long haul. You may gain temporary compliance, but it can breed resentment.

Positive reinforcement and coming from a loving place is more desirable. Gentle encouragement and honest, open communication go much further than hectoring and nagging.

Yes, sometimes relationships confront a crisis. Maybe his drinking has gotten out of hand, and you have to lay everything on the line. “Get help,” you’ll tell him, or you’re gone.

Sometimes an ultimatum can work, if it comes from a loving and honest place. “I love you, darling, but I can’t tolerate your drug addiction anymore. Let’s get you help. Otherwise, it’s unhealthy for me to continue this way.” That’s an honest, loving statement. It’s more likely to work than endless nagging and yelling.

Of course, in the end, we must always take care of ourselves. If the relationship turns abusive, or our partner is lost in addiction, it’s unhealthy for us to endure such challenges.

Sometimes our exit can force our partner to face the truth of his/her problem. Sometimes not, but at least we protect ourselves from a dysfunctional, destructive relationship.

However, for the day to day struggles of relationships, we must stop trying to change our partners. His musical tastes are different than yours. Your favorite sport is different than his. He likes a firm bed, you like a soft one. So what? Variety is the spice of life.

Still, if something your partner does really bugs you, what do you do?


Embrace the power of compromise

So many disagreements in life can be ameliorated with compromise. Yet, for some reason, we have such a hard time doing it.

Perhaps it stems back to childhood, when we are more fragile and selfish? Some people seem to endlessly battle everything. Their bosses, the morning traffic, sales persons. Everywhere they turn, they have a complaint. They feel put upon and wronged.

Such people lack resilience, and view everyone and everything around them as wrong. They never stop to consider that maybe, the problem lies with them. They are blind to the fact that they are too demanding, unforgiving and incapable of compromise.

And so they go through life miserable. What a terrible way to live. The reality is that none of us get our way all the time. That’s just part of life. However, through open and fair negotiation, we can reach compromises.

“I simply do not think that yelling, swearing, threatening or belittling will get you to the place you want to be faster than kindness, understanding, patience and a little willingness to compromise.” — Rachel Nichols

The beauty of compromise is that we all can get a portion of what we want. That’s called a win/win, and it’s the only sane way to navigate life. And especially your relationship.

If you want to avoid divorce and keep those embers of love glowing, learn to embrace compromise.


Don’t hold on too tight

Freedom to be ourselves is an important thing. Each of us develop our own styles, interests, likes and way of being. Nothing is more stifling than to be in a relationship with someone who denies us our individuality.

Insecure people have a hard time with uncertainty. They feel the need to control everything, including their partners. They hold on too tight.

This is unfortunate, because no one likes being controlled by another. Healthy relationships must allow for one another’s individuality. Two people should complement one another, not control one another.

Possessiveness is yet another manifestation of insecurity. We can never “own” or “control” another person, nor should we try to. We should simply love and respect them.

“Relationships-of all kinds-are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.”
 — Kaleel Jamison

Forgiveness

We all have some grievances in life to which we are entitled. The question is, what do we do with them?

Some people are endless scorekeepers, always blaming people and institutions for all their woes. As Dr. Gordon Livingston wrote:

“We live in a culture in which the sense of being wronged is pervasive. If every misfortune can be blamed on someone else, we are relived of the difficult task of examining our own contributory behavior or just accepting the reality that life is and has been full of adversity.”

Once we accept that people (including ourselves) are not perfect, we can learn the power of forgiveness. The ability to let go of the hurt, anger and pain frees us. As Dr. Gordon Livingston notes:

“Widely confused with forgetting or reconciliation, forgiveness is neither. It is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves. It exists, as does all true healing, at the intersection of love and justice.”

Learn to forgive others, especially your spouse. Most importantly, learn to forgive yourself. Doing so will help insulate you against divorce, and the unhealthy effects on buried anger.

Sometimes you can do everything right, and your spouse chooses to end the relationship anyway. As with so many things in life, control is illusory. Never the less, the joys of a healthy, loving relationship are many.

Invest in that emotional bank account, share equal power, communicate, validate, stop nagging, compromise, don’t hold on too tight, and most importantly, forgive.

Do these things, and you stand a good chance of enjoying a lifelong, fulfilling and loving marriage. Best of luck!

Life – Lessons That Will Make You Successful

29 Life-Changing Lessons That Will Make You Successful And More Strategic

There is this myth that mentors are people you have to know and see. That it is some official designation to seek out. I’ve never met Tyler Cowen, the bestselling author, economist and thinker. We’ve never spoken on the phone. Our longest email conversation might have been three sentences. Yet he has been one of the most significant influences in the education and evolution of my life. By every definition, he’s been what you would call a mentor.

Lately, I’ve been trying to write about all the ways people have helped me. It’s been an exercise in gratitude but also articulation — in writing it down, I am remembering it and codifying it so I never forget the lessons. Below are just some of the things I’ve learned from this polymathic professor of economics, voracious reader and contrarian philosopher. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to meet him one day (I hope I am) but even if you don’t, he can still be your mentor.

Below are 29 lessons I learned from Tyler over the last 10 years. Hope you gain from them as much as I have.


1. See Yourself Afresh — This is one of my favorite quotes from Tyler: “Treat yourself like a piece of your writing which you set aside for a week so you could look at it fresh.”

2. Being Curious Is a Career — It was crazy to me at first that Tyler got to do what he did for a living: write blog posts, read books, have ideas. That’s what I wanted to do. I think the way you get paid to do that is by making that curiosity valuable to other people: Tyler blogs every day and his links and questions help people do their jobs, his books propose provocative big ideashis podcast is entertaining and important. You can’t just nerd out — there has to be value creation

3. Complacency Is the Enemy — Tyler’s newest book (which is awesome) is about all the ways that society has become complacent. We accept the status quo, we don’t want to disrupt it. People move less, change careers less, change their minds less, live in less diverse places, riot less than they used to. I’ve done most of those things in my life (except the last one), it’s how you keep things interesting and find opportunities. Point being: Don’t worry as much about disruption and chaos — it might simply mean interesting things are happening — fear stability and complacency because it means decay.

4. Seek Out Quake Books — When I was 19 or 20, Tyler talked to me about the concept of “quake books” — books that shake you to your core. As he wrote in his 2007 email to me: “I would more likely intensively engage with some important book totally full of new ideas. Hayek. Parfit. Plato. And so on. There just aren’t books like that left for me anymore. So I read many more, to learn bits, but haven’t in years experienced a ‘view quake.’ That is sad, to me at least, but I don’t know how to avoid how that has turned out. So enjoy your best reading years while you can!”

5. What’s the Cost of This Fight? — There is a line in one of Tyler’s books where he talks about fighting with a spouse over a couch (or something like that). He says that maybe you like your idea 20% more than her/his idea, so you fight and win. Now you’re a little bit happier. But what did that victory cost you in terms of an unhappy spouse? Is it worth more or less than how much you value your opinion over the couch? I never would have thought about it that way — I can’t tell you how many arguments this has saved me. (The answer is ‘not enough.’)

6. Expectations Are the Enemy in (Long Distance) Relationships — I was in a long distance relationship in 2006 when I read Tyler’s post on them. It was another brilliant perspective that helped me relax and made things better. I ended up marrying that girl a decade later. Thanks Tyler!

7. Know What is Scarce — “In today’s global economy here is what is scarce: 1. Quality land and natural resources 2. Intellectual property, or good ideas about what should be produced. 3. Quality labor with unique skills.” I framed the longer passage this line is from and I have it above my desk as a daily reminder. It comes from Average is Over — another absolutely amazing book.

8. To Speed Read, Read A Lot — How do you become a better and more prolific reader? I’ll let Tyler tell you: “The best way to read quickly is to read lots. And lots. And to have started a long time ago. Then maybe you know what is coming in the current book. Reading quickly is often, in a margin-relevant way, close to not reading much at all.”

9. Knowledge Compounds — I think what he’s also saying there is that the value of reading compounds over time. Reading more makes you a better and faster reader, learning about stuff makes it easier and faster for you to learn more.

10. Your Life Is Not a Story — Tyler has observed that most people describe their lives as stories and journeys. But giving in to this temptation can be dangerous. Narratives often lead to an overly simplistic understanding of events, causes, and effects — and, often, to arrogance.

11. Move to Texas — In 2013, Tyler wrote a Time cover story about why everyone was moving to Texas. That’s not quite why I moved to Austin but it didn’t hurt.

12. When Traveling, Pretend You’re A Thief — I like his trick when visiting museums: Pretend you’re a thief who is casing the joint. It changes how you perceive and remember the art. Try it.

13. Just Go — Another travel tip from Tyler: “My main tip is simply: “Go, go go!” Go. People have a status quo bias when they make decisions and they don’t take enough chances.”

14. Read However You Want — People are amazed at how much Tyler reads (it’s a lot) but they miss that he has his own set of rules for doing it. He skips around. He quits books he doesn’t like. He might read a novel from only the perspective of one of the characters. He’ll ruin the ending. He just does whatever — and so you should you. This isn’t for a test. It’s for your own enjoyment (he does the same with movies apparently).

15. Be a Good (But Quiet) Family Man — Even though Tyler talks about all sorts of parenting stuff in his books, it really never occurred to me that he had kids until I heard him mention something about it on his podcast. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about his wife. I have a lot of respect for people who have families…but don’t parade them around like some trophy. He has a family, it’s important to him, but that’s his business. It’s how I try to live my life too.

16. Really Understand Other People’s Work — What you’ll hear when you listen to Tyler’s podcast is just how deeply he has set out to understand the work of the person he’s talking to. I think in some ways he understands the arc of the person’s career better than they do. This is a special skill. It requires getting out of your own head and actually thinking about someone else (that’s not something podcasts are known for…).

17. Read Eclectically — Another reading rule: Check out a couple of these most recent “What I’m Reading” posts from Tyler. Look at how diverse the subject matter is. Books about far right politics in Europe, the diary of a Stalin ambassador, histories of the Irish border, a book on the quartet of Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, John Jay, and James Madison, one right after another.

18. Money Can Sap Motivation — In Discover Your Inner Economist, Tyler writes about how he tried to incentivize his step-daughter to do the dishes so he resorted to paying her, which got her to wash them — but it worked only for a week. “I knew this could happen. I understood that there is such a thing as intrinsic motivation and that if you pay people, you might weaken that. What I didn’t really get was the control issue. That when you start paying people to do a thing, they often see it as control.” (The story has a happy ending: She started washing the dishes for free after reading the book.)

19. Order Weird Stuff on the Menu — If the weird thing wasn’t good, goes his logic, the chef probably wouldn’t have been allowed to put it on there. Sure — I’ll buy it.

20. Don’t Be Afraid to Have a Partner — Tyler’s site, Marginal Revolution, has a co-writer named Alex Tabarrok. He’s the unsung hero of that site and many of his articles are longtime favorites of mine. You don’t have to do everything yourself. In fact, you should have intellectual and creative partners. It’s powerful.

21. Write The Opposing View — It’s not just enough to think about how other people might think. One of his more recent opinion pieces shows how far Tyler is willing to go when it comes to empathy: He suggests actually writing — as if it’s you — an article with someone else’s opinion. See if you can explain why Trump is doing this or that, or why your parents believe this or that. Feel those words coming through your fingers — do you understand them better? Are things less contentious? I love this idea.

22. How to Thoughtfully Disagree — I’ve read a lot of Tyler Cowen writing over the years. Tyler is smart, opinionated and contrarian. It occurs to me there is one thing I’ve never seen from Tyler: contemptuous dismissal of anyone else. That’s something I know I need to work on. I take things too seriously, I condescend, I speak with undeserved certainty. Meanwhile, Tyler entertains basically everything. He’s friendly even when he disagrees. He’s open-minded. It’s a great model for any aspiring thinker.

23. Think Rationally, Not Emotionally — Two interesting posts from Tyler stand out to me, both about Peter Thiel. One was after the Gawker lawsuit, where Tyler stripped the emotion out of the debate and just looked at how third party funding works and how common it is. Two, after Peter’s controversial comments in the New York Times about whether there is “too little” or “too much” corruption, Tyler actually tried to figure out what the guy was talking about (it’s actually kind of interesting). Point being: Don’t get caught up in outrage or emotions, earnestly try to figure stuff out.

24. Cultivate Young Smart People — Like I said, I don’t know Tyler, but he’s nice enough to occasionally answer my emails. I know he answers emails from people like Ben Casnocha and Cal Newport and I’m sure there are hundreds — if not thousands — of young people he’s helped over the years (students or otherwise). He doesn’t need to do this but he does. It’s paying it forward.

25. Watch One TV Show at a Time — Tyler has a great rule about not watching more than one big TV series at a time.

26. Don’t Offer to Work for Free — From Average is Over: “It doesn’t matter how flexible the wage is in the more complex, less brute force jobs. A manual worker who just shows up at your door is probably not someone you want to hire unless it is already part of a preexisting business plan with broad buy-in from your enterprise and your creditors. The worker might say, “I’ll lower my wage demands by thirty percent!” or, “I’ll work for nothing!” It usually won’t matter. The sad reality is that many of these workers you don’t want at all, even if the business plan involves additional labor. Some workers simply aren’t worth the trouble unless the demand for extra labor is truly pressing.”

27. Command Your Audience — I’ve become addicted to Tyler’s podcast. Aside from the conversations, a secondary pleasure is his command over the audience (‘I will cut you off.’ ‘We will be out of this room by 5pm.’) and his very specific questions. His confidence and directness was not something I expected to hear, but it’s impressive. I can’t tell you how many conferences I’ve been to where I wished for someone like that.

28. For Good Food, Go to The Suburbs — As Tyler writes in his rules for dining out, “I love exploring the suburbs for first-rate ethnic food. Many people consider suburbs a cultural wasteland, but I am very happy searching for food in Orange County, California; the area near San Jose; Northern Virginia, near D.C.; Somerville, Massachusetts; and so on. I don’t always pre-Google to find the best place, and I don’t keep tapping on my iPhone. I drive around and keep my eyes open for dining establishments likely to follow the economic rules for good, innovative, and affordable food.”

29. Ask: Do Your Actions Match Your Beliefs? — The Tyler post that has me thinking the most lately is something he said after the election of Donald Trump. A good portion of the country thought Trump was dangerously unfit for office and would enact terrible, destructive policies…yet the markets have steadily gone up. Why don’t we see more people acting on these beliefs? Why aren’t there more short sellers in the market? More doomsday preparations? His point: People love to talk but rarely match their actions with their beliefs. This is both a contradiction or a potential market opportunity. It’s made me re-examine my actions in regards to both.

I could keep going but it might start to seem weird. Besides, the other thing I’ve learned from Tyler is this: keep it short. Almost all his blog posts are pithy — sometimes just a few sentences long. Even his opinion pieces are tight and to the point. So I’ll end it here. If you want to learn from Tyler, go read his stuff. He’s the best.

LIFE – How I learnt to become comfortable with uncomfortable situations  

Photo by Šárka Jonášová on Unsplash

I must admit that for a long time I was waiting for the life I dreamt of to somehow materialise and fall into my lap. But after finding myself in countless frustrating situations that were not a reflection of my true potential, I realised something had to change.

I had to take the first step, which would set off a chain of events. Fully accept that I was enough but not yet the best version of myself. I had to commit to growth, learning to become comfortable in situations that I avoided but recognise as pivotal to progress. Recognise that the goals I want to achieve are far from typical so require a stronger, committed me.

Admit that my current lifestyle and choices are not reflective of where I am headed.

Make a plan to become more comfortable with what seems difficult and unachievable at first. And in Albert Einstein words ‘stay with problems longer’.

Find a strong stimulus that is worth challenging your fears for.

We all have goals but most don’t achieve them because they are simply not intrinsic enough. This requires going several levels below that to identify something deep down that will compel you to action. A key one for me was the realisation that continuing on my current path would result in major regrets later down the line.

Once you become clear on your stimulus, then the focus shifts from how everything seems impossible to ‘my mission is worth being uncomfortable for’. That what you are reaching for is far greater than how you currently interpret your insecurities, and perceived limitations. You then commit to small actions today in the knowledge that it will be easier on the 2nd attempt.

At this stage you will rarely even digress back to your feelings. You realise they are fickle and not always the ideal guide to progress.

You remain fearful until you realise what it’s stopping you from getting.

Start small.

I took cold showers every morning in the first few months of launching my business. Embarking on an unfamiliar journey is daunting and is best managed in small doses. Knowing there was no going back, having a cold shower initiated the process of becoming comfortable with what seemed very uncomfortable. Starting my day in this manner helped me to change my self-perception from ‘ I’m not sure I am cut out for this to, if I can do this, imagine what else I can overcome’. Slowly but surely, I started to place myself in the camp of doers. I was becoming the type of person who takes action regardless of their comfort level.

Impacts other areas of your life

Committing to this experiment has overhauled my mind-set. From living with limited beliefs for so long to realising that a small act of courage has the potential to flow to other areas.

Doing what is necessary in creating the ideal career has also given me the methodology to address my relationships, spirituality, health, personal development and how I contribute to causes that I care about.

Just like most people on this journey, I went through a phase of searching for the magic formula to success. I read and learnt everything related to ’10 steps to conquering fear’, ‘8 tips on becoming a warrior’. Whilst some were useful, I now realise that knowledge is not power but applied knowledge is. The biggest project of your life begins with constant exposure to what seems uncomfortable.

Clapping lets me know that you have enjoyed reading this post and also allows others to see it. I always appreciate your comments too.

The Right Way to Restore a Relationship

The Right Way to Restore a Relationship (lessons from 15 years of burning bridges)

I’ve burned a lot of bridges.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve burned a lot of bridges.

I’ve done a lot of hurtful things, said hurtful stuff, and was a complete asshole to many people I loved, who loved me back and deserved better. I have to live with that for the rest of my life.

At times, I still marvel at how stupid I was. How conceited and profoundly self-absorbed I was. And how I didn’t even see it.

But in the process, I’ve learned how to restore those relationships (some of them, at least. Some people still won’t talk to me).

Years of a severe pornography addiction left me frozen as an immature, whiny brat who would never take responsibility for his actions. It took 5 years of gut-wrenching therapy and brutally honest sponsors in 12-step programs to learn how to truly apologize and restore relationships I broke.

That’s what this post is about: how to restore broken relationships that were broken by you.

Because whether I like it or not, I have major experience with that.

It’s Your Fault. Shut Up and Admit It.

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” -Harriet Beecher Stowe

When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us a piece of advice that would end up changing our lives:

Always make the first move.

The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you want them to).

A lot of people have shallow, even ruined relationships. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize. This is a pride thing; it’s a weakness, and it destroys relationships.

If you want to restore a broken relationship into an incredible one…make the first move.

Photo by Joshua Sazon on Unsplash

I can’t forget a certain day in 3rd grade. It was during recess.

There was this girl Sandra in my class. She was nice. Both of us were trying to grab one of the few soccer balls from the ball barrel, and I remember accidentally tripping her as I grabbed one.

She fell on the floor. Angry tears welled up in her eyes. I can still remember the look of shock and humiliation on her face.

I should’ve said I was sorry.

I should’ve helped her up. I probably should’ve given her the ball, too.

But I didn’t. I just ran off, leaving her on the floor.

After recess, Mrs. Salinas pulled me and Sandra outside.

Anthony, did you push Sandra onto the floor at recess?” she demanded in disbelief.

I denied it. It wasn’t my fault, I reasoned. It was an “accident.” I didn’t meanto! I wasn’t willing to take responsibility.

Mrs. Salinas forced me to apologize.

Sandra never talked to me again.

Here’s a lesson that took several dozen times to finally stick:

If you did something wrong, shut up and admit it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t blame someone else. Even if it was an accident — even if you didn’t mean to — that doesn’t matter. If you want to restore a broken relationships, be the first to own what you did.

Otherwise, your relationships will always be strained and mediocre.

The Most Important Lesson About Relationships I Learned From a 12-Step Program

The day after I quit my corporate job before I left to teach English overseas, I published an article that would eventually destroy every relationship I had with all my old colleagues.

It was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. Frankly, it still haunts me sometimes, because many people are still hurt by what I said. Some people still aren’t willing to speak to me.

Basically, I wrote an article condemning 9–5 jobs and essentially called all my old coworkers a bunch of cowards for wasting their life in corporate America. In efforts to be “gritty” and authentic, I was actually just an asshole.

I wouldn’t find out until months later that my entire department read it (what did I think would happen?). I naively emailed my old boss one day from overseas saying hello. I was shocked at her scathing response, informing me neither her nor anyone else wanted anything to do with me, and how much I had hurt them with my words.

There is only one response you can make in this situation. And this still doesn’t guarantee anything.

Make amends.

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw on Unsplash

I’d never used that phrase until I got into recovery and counseling. Essentially, making amends is a way to take ownership for wrong you’ve done in hopes of reconciliation.

Making amends has a few parts:

1. Write down exactly what you did wrong, and to whom

2. Write down why it was wrong (be specific)

3. Take complete ownership for the hurt you caused

4. Tell the hurt person everything you wrote down in a sincere apology (if appropriate)

The only way I was ever going to hope to restore anything with my old coworkers was to make individual, direct amends with anyone still willing to listen (some still aren’t).

So that’s what I did. I told my boss how awful my article was, and why (it was demeaning, hurtful, and profoundly ungrateful). I didn’t make any excuses — I owned the entire screwup.

Miraculously, months later she ended up forgiving me.

Of course, things can never go back to the way they were. There’s still a divide of hurt that probably won’t ever go away.

When you hurt someone like this, you have to “take care of your side of the street.” Do everything you can to make things right.

Making Amends is the Single Best Way to Restore a Broken Relationship

I’ve gone through the process of making amends more times than I can remember:

  • To my childhood friends for gossiping about them
  • To my old writing hero for accidental plagiarizing their work
  • To my best friend for not giving him credit for his ideas
  • To my old girlfriend for liking another girl while I was still dating her
  • To my cousin for constantly ditching him for my friends

I could write dozens more. Goes to show all the hurt I’ve caused, even if it was unintentional.

But miraculously, I’ve restored many of these relationships, through making amends.

Making amends is the single best way to restore broken relationships. It’s one of the most mature, adult actions you can possibly take.

I know I’m going to hurt people down the road, however unintentional. I’m not perfect.

But I can always make proper amends: realize what I did, why it was wrong, and communicate how sorry I am.

In Conclusion

“We can never flee the misery that is within us.” -Arthur Golden

The simple truth is, most people won’t have great relationships.

When my wife and I were in premarital counseling, our counselor gave us a piece of advice that would end up changing our lives:

Always make the first move.

The meaning is simple: if you can help the relationship, then do it. Don’t wait for the other person to act (even if you don’t want to).

Many people have several strained, even broken relationships with family and friends. This is because most people always wait for the other person to “make the first move;” say hello, organize a hangout, or apologize.

If you want to restore a relationship and experience a deep, meaningful bond with that person, make the first move — even if it should be them. Be the first to:

  • Initiate the conversation
  • Send the first text
  • Say you miss them
  • Say you love them
  • Apologize and ask for forgiveness
  • Organize a hangout
  • Compliment them
  • Thank them
  • Tell them you appreciate what they did

There’s no reason to not restore a broken relationship if it’s in your power to do so.

What If Your First Love Didn’t Work?

What If Your First Love Didn’t Work?

Nothing is predictable…not even ‘Life’!

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Unsplash

Ihave often seen people wonder the need to take another chance at love after suffering an episode of a major heartbreak or a backstab!

Such people are either too afraid to even try out something again. Or too apprehensive and skeptic.

It is to them I want to reach out!

One bad life experience can’t make you conclude that life is fucked!

God has no enmity with you, remember that.

Each one of us is his special child.

‘To experience joy, you have to feel pain.’ Keeping this in mind know that nothing great will ever come without a hefty input of effort.

‘Love’ can be the best effort you give to make someone in your life feel special. It can be a defining point in your life when you might suddenly decode the reason of your being- the true essence of youth!

It might present to you the perfect reason why you should love- once again- an yet again!

Love doesn’t come with a warranty card- There’s nothing certain about it.

Don’t fall in love with the concept of ‘Permanency’ in your mind.

‘Love’ is as unpredictable as ‘Life’ itself!!

It is boundless, and best described as an adventure for those who can make the best out of it.

Of course, you might be less willing after a decent try or two. But in those sharp edges you will find something smooth that you will keep in your memory and treasure for the rest of your life!

All I want to say aloud is just that…Love as much as you can.

If Love was the reason why you are broke today, Love shall be the only solution going to help you out too!

The Only 3 Things I Need In A Partner

The Only 3 Things I Need In A Partner

My list is short. But also non-negotiable.

Love is not as complicated as we make it out to be

Too often, we make finding a partner about finding someone who meets a check list of criteria — most of which doesn’t even matter when it comes to a meaningful relationship.

We’re create demands to distract ourselves from the real work of discerning what’s important.

And I’m not going to tell you what you should want; I’m only suggesting that we define it better. Sometimes people get hung up on things that don’t really matter in love. They forget that in order to prioritize one thing, you have to de-emphasize others. If you try to shoot for “everything,” you end up with nothing.

#1 for EVERYONE: Emotional Maturity

Self-sufficiency. Emotional health and stability. Responsibility. Grace.

Without it, there’s effectively no relationship.
And with it, everything else will follow suit.

This isn’t just number one on my own list, it’s the most important thing in anyrelationship, and a responsibility that falls on both partners.

Mark Manson calls it,

“People who manage their insecurities well”

and,

“The ability to see one’s own flaws and be accountable for them.”

Karen Salmansohn called it

“good character values”

i.e., “not a psychopath.”

Anna Faris describes meeting husband Chris Pratt similarly, saying,

“The most striking thing about him was that he knew how to be happy.”

She had previously accepted “cynicism, discontent, and anger” in others, but with Chris she realized that the opposite made her happier.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits uses the term “emotionally self-reliant,” saying,

“We look for happiness from others, but this is an unreliable source of happiness… And here’s the thing: it’s not their job to fill our emotional needs.”

Zaid Dahhaj describes emotional self-sufficiency as “your relationship with yourself,” saying,

“If you do not love yourself entirely and actively ensure your own needs are met, you will find it difficult to do the same for others.”

And when we talk about “actively ensuring your own needs are met,” we do not mean “actively asking others to meet them” —we cannot ask others to manage our feelings of insecurity, jealousy, anxiety, fear, anger, toxicity, defensiveness; these are first ours to handle.

Being able to perceive situations with clarity, understand what we need, take responsibility for our own mistakes, and communicate fairly is what makes us a mature adult.

Emotional health means both partners work to meet their needs themselves.

The other 2 things I want and need…

I like the simplicity of “trifectas” — with “tall, dark and handsome” being the classic (albeit bad) example — and when it comes to my own, it’s this:

“emotional stability, friendship and critical thought.”

#2: Friendship and Understanding

I yearn for these in love.

I wanted someone who was pickin up what I’m puttin down and makes me laugh just as often — an inside joke or two, total bonus. I wanted comfort and ease and play; someone who“gets me” in my mentally “pajama’d” state, my thoughts sprawled out and talking nonsense at the ceiling. I wanted laughter and warmth, the tie loosened at the end of the day and the little adorable marbled bits of being a human rolling loosely on our hardwood floors.

#3: Critical Thinking

Too often people bastardize the idea of “smart” as “knowing a lot of facts,” “being good at trivia,” “having an advanced degree,” or “working a big job.”

But real intelligence isn’t about what you know. It’s how you think. It’s problem solving —figuring out the answer, not remembering it. It’s being handed a spaghetti problem and massaging a reasonable solution out of it.


My current partner has all three in spades — and makes me very happy.

Nothing else matters

We lose focus so easily.

We find someone and then want them to be “everyone,” a perfect package smattering of all the best qualities, many of which contradict each other at their core. Or we find someone and then tack on a bunch of extra qualities that just cloud things up, dumping ketchup on our steak or adding every. single. topping. to our ice cream. It doesn’t work — it just ruins things, not least of which is our perspective of our partner, who is, at the end of the day, just another human being.

Keep it simple, and focused.