by Tom Furman
The idea of doing something regularly to achieve success is often frowned upon. Most advertising taps into our need for quick pleasure. It’s like offering magic, yet the information inundated consumer is willing to purchase smoke and mirrors before reality. The reality is that short cuts do not exist. However short term actions lead to long term success or what appears to be magic.
“I’m not doing the time. The time is doing me.” — Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) in the movie, Blackhat
While many say that, “Time is Money”, few view it as currency. Like money, we always think we don’t get enough. However when an objective analysis comes into play, we may find that our organizational skills are more emotionally driven than logically driven. That is not to say that humans should be worker drones or mindless task masters. It means that by having a consistent group of habits or tasks, given time, the outcome is quite demonstrable.
“Morning rituals are for guys who sit down to pee.” — RoR/#notdeadyet
The application of a simple daily habit was made vivid in a largely unknown TV movie from the eighties, “Two Father’s Vengeance”. It starred Robert Conrad as a retired steelworker from the south side of Chicago and George Hamilton as a high end executive. The story is basically that after the murder of their children and not getting adequate justice, the fathers go after the killers. There is a telling scene in which the actors are running together and Robert Conrad’s character is getting tired. He wonders how George Hamilton’s character, who is not a tough guy like him, is able to continue. Hamilton’s character replies, “While you were holding court on a bar stool drinking beer all those years, I was running three miles every morning.”
Habits, versus some metaphysical ritual that makes the social media headlines, are where the meat is. If it actually takes some muscle, either mental or physical, then it is measurable, recordable and subject to adjustment. If it is a specific goal, then it can be organized with tasks, timelines and review. Simple meditation, while valuable, will not allow you to pass a Bar Exam. Studying will. There has to be some checklist and transparency. As well they need to be automatic and when they are skipped, your Spider Sense should tingle. Skipping once is a mistake and skipping twice is the start of a new habit according to James Clear of Atomic Habits.
While many, “success”, guides tell you to publicly verbalize your goals, I’d prefer them to be quiet and automatic. They become your secret weapon. An elegant application in personal discipline that sets you apart from those who blame everyone but themselves. It’s like announcing you are taking Vitamin D. Everyone pats you on the back for taking control of your health. However a few months down the line you question them about their Vitamin D intake and their reply is, “Oh,…..I ran out!” (months ago, btw). That same person never forgets to buy cigarettes for 4 days in a row. They aren’t bragging about smoking, they just do it. It’s a habit.
A stumbling block to adding habits is overestimating one’s skill set. That’s the reason for chronically late individuals, by the way. A thirty minute drive for you is five minutes for them. So that should give you a clue. Be realistic. There is only so much you can do, but the small things that you add and stick to can’t overwhelm you or exhaust you. You add them bit by bit, every day. It’s like the old metaphor of chaining an elephant to a stake. Eventually the stake is a rope and the rope is a string and the elephant just hangs out. The change is gradual and manageable and eventually becomes normalcy.
Here is a list of small habits to adopt —
Read, daily. Fiction and Non Fiction both have value.
Walk. This is separate from exercise. Walking for years and decades has awesome power.
Learn a language. There is software for this. It’s a favorite habit of grappler, Dean Lister.
Have a daily salad and a daily fruit. Green drinks don’t count.
Take the stairs whenever possible.
Park far from where you intend to go.
Double your listening time when interacting with people.
Keep a Moleskine and jot down your thoughts.
Clean something daily at your desk or home that really doesn’t need it.
Throw out or donate clutter. Don’t seek security through abundance.
Add an hour to your normal sleep.
Use sunscreen in sunny climates.
Leave for appointments early.
Skip a meal. You won’t die.
Weigh and measure your waist every Monday.
Call a different friend or relative every week you haven’t spoken to in a while.
Clean out your wallet or purse once per week.
Throw out your, “large”, clothing. Burn those bridges.
Reduce daily caffeine by 50%
Hang from an overhead bar for as long as you can.
These are just a few ideas. Anything sewn into the fabric of your life that benefits you can work. Just do it every day.