This Zen Concept Will Help You Stop Being a Slave to Old Beliefs
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Posted by: 01dragonslayer - 10-09-2023, 08:37 PM - No Replies

Iplayed baseball for 17 years of my life. During that time, I had many different coaches and I began to notice repeating patterns among them.

Coaches tend to come up through a certain system. New coaches will often land their first job as an assistant coach with their alma mater or a team they played with previously. After a few years, the young coach will move on to their own head coaching job where they tend to replicate the same drills, follow similar practice schedules, and even yell at their players in a similar fashion as the coaches they learned from. People tend to emulate their mentors.
This phenomenon—our tendency to repeat the behavior we are exposed to—extends to nearly everything we learn in life.
Your political or religious beliefs are mostly the result of the system you were raised in. People raised by Catholic families tend to be Catholic. People raised by Muslim families tend to be Muslim. Although you may not agree on every issue, your parents political attitudes tend to shape your political attitudes. The way we approach our day-to-day work and life is largely a result of the system we were trained in and the mentors we had along the way. At some point, we all learned to think from someone else. That’s how knowledge is passed down.
Here’s the hard question: Who is to say that the way you originally learned something is the best way? What if you simply learned one way of doing things, not the way of doing things?
Consider my baseball coaches. Did they actually consider all of the different ways of coaching a team? Or did they simply mimic the methods they had been exposed to? The same could be said of nearly any area in life. Who is to say that the way you originally learned a skill is the best way? Most people think they are experts in a field, but they are really just experts in a particular style.
In this way, we become a slave to our old beliefs without even realizing it. We adopt a philosophy or strategy based on what we have been exposed to without knowing if it’s the optimal way to do things.
Shoshin: The Beginner’s MindThere is a concept in Zen Buddhism known as shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind.” Shoshin refers to the idea of letting go of your preconceptions and having an attitude of openness when studying a subject.
When you are a true beginner, your mind is empty and open. You’re willing to learn and consider all pieces of information, like a child discovering something for the first time. As you develop knowledge and expertise, however, your mind naturally becomes more closed. You tend to think, “I already know how to do this” and you become less open to new information.
There is a danger that comes with expertise. We tend to block the information that disagrees with what we learned previously and yield to the information that confirms our current approach. We think we are learning, but in reality we are steamrolling through information and conversations, waiting until we hear something that matches up with our current philosophy or previous experience, and cherry-picking information to justify our current behaviors and beliefs. Most people don’t want new information, they want validating information.
The problem is that when you are an expert you actually need to pay more attention, not less. Why? Because when you are already familiar with 98 percent of the information on a topic, you need to listen very carefully to pick up on the remaining 2 percent.
As adults our prior knowledge blocks us from seeing things anew. To quote zen master Shunryo Suzuki, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
How to Rediscover Your Beginner’s MindHere are a few practical ways to rediscover your beginner’s mind and embrace the concept of shoshin.
Let go of the need to add value. Many people, especially high achievers, have an overwhelming need to provide value to the people around them. On the surface, this sounds like a great thing. But in practice, it can handicap your success because you never have a conversation where you just shut up and listen. If you’re constantly adding value (“You should try this…” or “Let me share something that worked well for me…”) then you kill the ownership that other people feel about their ideas. At the same time, it’s impossible for you to listen to someone else when you’re talking. So, step one is to let go of the need to always contribute. Step back every now and then and just observe and listen. For more on this, read Marshall Goldsmith’s excellent book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There (audiobook).
Let go of the need to win every argument. A few years ago, I read a smart post by Ben Casnocha about becoming less competitive as time goes on. In Ben’s words, “Others don’t need to lose for me to win.” This is a philosophy that fits well with the idea of shoshin. If you’re having a conversation and someone makes a statement that you disagree with, try releasing the urge to correct them. They don’t need to lose the argument for you to win. Letting go of the need to prove a point opens up the possibility for you to learn something new. Approach it from a place of curiosity: Isn’t that interesting. They look at this in a totally different way. Even if you are right and they are wrong, it doesn’t matter. You can walk away satisfied even if you don’t have the last word in every conversation.
Tell me more about that. I have a tendency to talk a lot (see “Providing Too Much Value” above). Every now and then, I’ll challenge myself to stay quiet and pour all of my energy into listening to someone else. My favorite strategy is to ask someone to, “Tell me more about that.” It doesn’t matter what the topic is, I’m simply trying to figure out how things work and open my mind to hearing about the world through someone else’s perspective.
Assume that you are an idiot. In his fantastic book, Fooled by Randomness, Nassim Taleb writes, “I try to remind my group each week that we are all idiots and know nothing, but we have the good fortune of knowing it.” The flaws discussed in this article are simply a product of being human. We all have to learn information from someone and somewhere, so we all have a mentor or a system that guides our thoughts. The key is to realize this influence.
We are all idiots, but if you have the privilege of knowing that, then you can start to let go of your preconceptions and approach life with a beginner’s mind.

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  How to Master the Invisible Hand That Shapes Our Lives
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Posted by: 01dragonslayer - 10-09-2023, 08:35 PM - No Replies

Looking back, the most surprising thing about Robert Wadlow was his normal height and weight at birth. When he was born on February 22, 1918, Wadlow weighed 8 lbs 6 ounces (3.8 kg) and was 20 inches tall (0.51 m).
There was nothing normal about what happened next.

Within six months, Wadlow had doubled in height and quadrupled in weight. As a one-year-old, he was over 3 feet tall and weighed the same as the five-year-olds in his neighborhood. By the age of five, Wadlow had exploded to 5 feet 6 inches tall. On his first day of kindergarten he wore clothes made for a seventeen-year-old.
Wadlow suffered from an overproduction of human growth hormone caused by hyperplasia of his pituitary gland. To put it more simply: most humans have an internal feedback loop that regulates the production of growth hormone, but Wadlow’s feedback loop was broken.
Instead of regulating and balancing the production of growth hormone, Wadlow’s pituitary gland reinforced the production of the chemical. The more he grew, the more his body released growth hormone. It was like a car going downhill without a brake. His growth kept picking up speed.
By the age of 12, Wadlow was over 7 feet tall (2.18 m) and weighed nearly 300 pounds (130 kg). When his uncontrolled growth propelled him over 8 feet (2.54 m) at the age of 18, he went on a tour around the United States with Ringling Brothers Circus.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the rest of his body could not keep pace. Wadlow outgrew his nervous system and began to lose feeling in his legs and feet. His immune system began to shut down. When Wadlow died at the age of 22, he was the tallest human in recorded history at 8 feet and 11.1 inches (2.72 m) and by all indications he was still growing.
[Image: robert-wadlow-with-his-father.jpg]Robert Wadlow pictured with his normal-sized father, who was 5 feet 11 inches (1.82 m). (Photographer: Unknown)The Hidden Power of Feedback LoopsThe human body is governed by a wide range of feedback loops. These systems maintain a careful balance of everything from the amount of water in your cells to the amount of hormones released into your bloodstream.
Feedback loops are always running in the background of our lives, but they influence our bodies and minds in profound ways. When each process works as intended, our bodies function properly and we remain balanced. When something in the system breaks, we steadily slip away from equilibrium. In extreme cases, things spiral out of control — like the growth of Robert Wadlow.
Here’s the important part:
Feedback loops are not only at the core of human biology, but also at the center of human behavior. Like the biological processes mentioned above, psychological feedback loops often run unnoticed in the background of our daily lives. They can influence everything from how fast we drive to how frequently we take our medications to how often we check social media. In fact, I would say that feedback loops are the invisible forces that shape human behavior.
In this article, we’re going to talk about how you can harness the hidden power of these systems and use feedback loops to stick with good habits and break bad ones.
The Two Types of Feedback Loops“Feedback loops provide people with information about their actions in real time, then give them a chance to change those actions, pushing them toward better behaviors.”
—Thomas Goetz
We can divide feedback loops into two different types:

  1. Balancing Feedback Loops: we will use these to moderate bad habits.
  2. Reinforcing Feedback Loops: we will use these to build good habits.
Generally speaking, balancing feedback loops are associated with maintaining equilibrium or oscillating around a desired level. Meanwhile, reinforcing feedback loops are associated with continuous increases or decreases. Let’s break down each type and discuss how to use it to improve your habits.
1. Balancing Feedback LoopsBalancing feedback loops pull behavior back on track and help to stabilize a system around a desired level. These systems can be very effective at both moderating bad habits and kickstarting good habits.
Here’s a common example:
Let’s say you are driving just a little too fast and you pass a digital radar sign that says, “Your Speed Is…” and displays the current speed of your car as you pass.
You might not expect it, but these signs are incredibly reliable and effective ways to change the behavior of drivers. On average, “Your Speed” signs decrease the driving speed by 10 percent. Not only that, but drivers continue to drive more slowly for miles down the road.
These signs are one example of a balancing feedback loop. The output of your current behavior (driving too fast) becomes the input for your new behavior (slowing down).
The thermostat is another example:
Imagine that you set your thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). When the temperature of the room dips below your setting, the heater comes on and warms up the room. When the temperature rises above your setting, the air conditioning kicks on and cools the room. The thermostat acts as a balancing feedback loop and keeps the temperature oscillating between a narrow range.
How can we apply balancing feedback loops to governing bad habits and building good ones?
Here are a few examples:
  • Want to spend less time staring at a screen? Buy an outlet timer and set it to turn off one hour before your desired bedtime each night. When the power shuts down, this feedback loop is reminding you not to spend too much time staying up late and staring at your computer screen or television.
  • Want to improve your posture? Assume an upright stance and place a piece of tape across your shoulder so that it tugs on your shirt if your shoulders sag. This simple balancing feedback loop will trigger a reminder to stand up straight each time you feel a tug.
  • Want to make more sales? The paper clip strategy is a simple way to build a feedback loop that will measure your progress on daily sales calls. (In fact, it can work for any repeated task.)
Balancing feedback loops are fantastic at regulating bad habits because, similar to a thermostat, they can attack the problem from two sides. On one side, they can keep unproductive or unhealthy behaviors in check by making you aware of your mistakes (like displaying your speed or automatically shutting off your outlets). On the other side, they can remind you to perform good behaviors rather than slipping back into old patterns (like a piece of tape pulling on your slumping shoulder or a paper clip sitting in a bin on your desk).
2. Reinforcing Feedback LoopsReinforcing feedback loops increase the effect of a particular system or process. These systems can be great for building good habits and achieving peak performance because they naturally amplify and strengthen their own behavior.
Here’s one example from my own life:
I am the happy owner of a Honda Accord. On the dashboard of my car, there is a light that circles the speedometer. This light changes color based on how I am driving. If I drive aggressively and accelerate quickly, the light is white. If I accelerate moderately, the color changes to light green. If I drive in a fuel efficient manner, the light turns bright green. Whenever I see the green light around my speedometer, I know that I’m saving gas and driving in the most fuel efficient way possible.
When I first bought the car, I didn’t think much of it, but now this simple light has essentially turned driving into a game where I am constantly trying to live in the green zone. The light is a reinforcing feedback loop that emphasizes many good behaviors: I save gas, I save money, and I probably drive safer and more slowly as well.
Compound interest is another example of a reinforcing feedback loop:
Let’s say you start with $1.00 and get paid 10 percent interest each year. After one year, you have $1.10. The next time around, you get paid 10 percent interest on $1.10 and now you have $1.21. And so the cycle continues with each run through the feedback loop compounding into larger and larger growth. Of course, reinforcing feedback loops can amplify the impact of harmful behaviors as well. The more people hear an untrue rumor, the more the rumor spreads. Gossip is a self-reinforcing feedback loop.
How to Build Your Own Feedback LoopsI would like to offer a simple three-step method for building feedback loops in your life.
  1. Measure
  2. Compare
  3. Adjust
Let’s break down each step of this framework.
Measurement is the foundation of every feedback loop. All feedback loops have one key characteristic: the output from one cycle becomes the input for the next cycle. In other words, all feedback loops measure something and that measurement becomes the starting point for the next cycle of behavior. Data improves awareness and awareness is the first step to behavior change.
Comparison is essential for making sense of your feedback loop. Measuring something is useless if it’s not relevant to you. Remember the “Your Speed Is…” sign from earlier? That reading of your current speed is only relevant when compared to the actual speed limit. It is the comparison between where measurement says you are and where you want to be that makes the next step clear. Effective feedback loops help you make comparisons that are personal and relevant.
Adjustment is the action that closes the feedback loop. Adjustments should be made as quickly as possible. The more rapid the change, the tighter the feedback loop. In the words of Seth Godin, “The best way to change long-term behavior is with short-term feedback.”
[Image: feedback-loop-v2-700x333.jpg]
Why Some Feedback Loops Work While Others FailOne bad habit that commonly frustrates physicians is when a patient doesn’t take their medications as frequently as prescribed. A few years ago, a company called Vitality launched a new product called the GlowCap, which was intended to help solve this problem.
Here’s how WIRED Magazine described the product:
“The device is simple. When a patient is prescribed a medication, a physician or pharmacy provides a GlowCap to go on top of the pill bottle, replacing the standard childproof cap. The GlowCap … connects to a database that knows the patient’s particular dosage directions—say, two pills twice a day, at 8 am and 8 pm. When 8 am rolls around, the GlowCap and the night-light start to pulse with a gentle orange light. A few minutes later, if the pill bottle isn’t opened, the light pulses a little more urgently. A few minutes more and the device begins to play a melody—not an annoying buzz or alarm. Finally, if more time elapses (the intervals are adjustable), the patient receives a text message or a recorded phone call reminding them to pop the GlowCap. The overall effect is a persistent feedback loop urging patients to take their meds.”
When feedback loops fail, it is often because of one of these three problems:
  1. Measurement isn’t automatic.
  2. Comparison is irrelevant.
  3. Feedback is slow.
The GlowCap solves all three of these problems and that makes it an excellent feedback loop. First, it tracks your consumption and reminds you when to take your pills automatically, so you don’t have to worry about measurement. Second, it is specifically tailored to your prescription, which makes it instantly relevant to your needs. Third, it provides feedback quickly when you get off track: first the light, then the music, and finally the text message or phone call. Solving these three problems is essential to building an effective feedback loop.
Rapid Feedback Leads to Rapid ChangeHere’s a simple fact: most people, most of the time, don’t know where they stand on the issues that are important to them.
People want to lose weight, but don’t know how many calories they eat each day. People want to learn a new language, but they don’t know how many hours they practiced last month. People want to write a best-selling book, but don’t know how many words they wrote last week. People want to build a successful business, but don’t know how many sales calls their team made yesterday. People want to get stronger, but don’t know how much weight they lifted at the gym last week. Most people don’t measure things, and a feedback loop can’t happen without measurement.
My argument is that we should spend less time letting feedback loops shape our lives in invisible ways and more time designing the feedback loops we want and need.
In the unexamined life, it can be easy to slide into a downward spiral of bad habits and unproductive behaviors because of poorly designed feedback loops that trigger us to eat more, smoke often, and worry too much. Thankfully, the reverse is true as well. Carefully designed feedback loops can help us stick with good habits and regulate behaviors that would be unhealthy if they spiraled out of control.
Feedback loops influence everything from the bodies we live in to the choices we make on a daily basis, but most of the time we are victims of the feedback loops that surround us not the architects of them.

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  The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice
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Posted by: 01dragonslayer - 10-09-2023, 08:33 PM - No Replies

In some circles, Ben Hogan is credited with “inventing practice.”
Hogan was one of the greatest golfers of the 20th century, an accomplishment he achieved through tireless repetition. He simply loved to practice. Hogan said, “I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it.”
For Hogan, every practice session had a purpose. He reportedly spent years breaking down each phase of the golf swing and testing new methods for each segment. The result was near perfection. He developed one of the most finely-tuned golf swings in the history of the game.
His precision made him more like a surgeon than a golfer. During the 1953 Masters, for example, Hogan hit the flagstick on back-to-back holes. A few days later, he broke the tournament scoring record.
[Image: ben-hogan-1950-us-open-by-hy-peskin-e1505331372199.jpg]
Hogan methodically broke the game of golf down into chunks and figured out how he could master each section. For example, he was one of the first golfers to assign specific yardages to each golf club. Then, he studied each course carefully and used trees and sand bunkers as reference points to inform him about the distance of each shot.
Hogan finished his career with nine major championships—ranking fourth all-time. During his prime, other golfers simply attributed his remarkable success to “Hogan’s secret.” Today, experts have a new term for his rigorous style of improvement: deliberate practice.
What is Deliberate Practice?Deliberate practice refers to a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic. While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance. When Ben Hogan carefully reconstructed each step of his golf swing, he was engaging in deliberate practice. He wasn’t just taking cuts. He was finely tuning his technique.

Quote:While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance.
The greatest challenge of deliberate practice is to remain focused. In the beginning, showing up and putting in your reps is the most important thing. But after a while we begin to carelessly overlook small errors and miss daily opportunities for improvement.
This is because the natural tendency of the human brain is to transform repeated behaviors into automatic habits. For example, when you first learned to tie your shoes you had to think carefully about each step of the process. Today, after many repetitions, your brain can perform this sequence automatically. The more we repeat a task the more mindless it becomes.
Mindless activity is the enemy of deliberate practice. The danger of practicing the same thing again and again is that progress becomes assumed. Too often, we assume we are getting better simply because we are gaining experience. In reality, we are merely reinforcing our current habits—not improving them.
Claiming that improvement requires attention and effort sounds logical enough. But what does deliberate practice actually look like in the real world? Let’s talk about that now.
Examples of Deliberate PracticeOne of my favorite examples of deliberate practice is discussed in Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. In the book, Colvin describes how Benjamin Franklin used deliberate practice to improve his writing skills.
When he was a teenager, Benjamin Franklin was criticized by his father for his poor writing abilities. Unlike most teenagers, young Ben took his father’s advice seriously and vowed to improve his writing skills.
He began by finding a publication written by some of the best authors of his day. Then, Franklin went through each article line by line and wrote down the meaning of every sentence. Next, he rewrote each article in his own words and then compared his version to the original. Each time, “I discovered some of my faults, and corrected them.” Eventually, Franklin realized his vocabulary held him back from better writing, and so he focused intensely on that area.
Deliberate practice always follows the same pattern: break the overall process down into parts, identify your weaknesses, test new strategies for each section, and then integrate your learning into the overall process.
Here are some more examples.
Cooking: Jiro Ono, the subject of the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, is a chef and owner of an award-winning sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Jiro has dedicated his life to perfecting the art of making sushi and he expects the same of his apprentices. Each apprentice must master one tiny part of the sushi-making process at a time—how to wring a towel, how to use a knife, how to cut the fish, and so on. One apprentice trained under Jiro for ten years before being allowed to cook the eggs. Each step of the process is taught with the utmost care.
Martial arts: Josh Waitzkin, author of The Art of Learning, is a martial artist who holds several US national medals and a 2004 world championship. In the finals of one competition, he noticed a weakness: When an opponent illegally head-butted him in the nose, Waitzkin flew into a rage. His emotion caused him to lose control and forget his strategy. Afterward, he specifically sought out training partners who would fight dirty so he could practice remaining calm and principled in the face of chaos. “They were giving me a valuable opportunity to expand my threshold for turbulence,” Waitzkin wrote. “Dirty players were my best teachers.”
Chess: Magnus Carlsen is a chess grandmaster and one of the highest-rated players in history. One distinguishing feature of great chess players is their ability to recognize “chunks,” which are specific arrangements of pieces on the board. Some experts estimate that grandmasters can identify around 300,000 different chunks. Interestingly, Carlsen learned the game by playing computer chess, which allowed him to play multiple games at once. Not only did this strategy allow him to learn chunks much faster than someone playing in-person games, but also gave him a chance to make more mistakes and correct his weaknesses at an accelerated pace.
Music: Many great musicians recommend repeating the most challenging sections of a song until you master them. Virtuoso violinist Nathan Milstein says, “Practice as much as you feel you can accomplish with concentration. Once when I became concerned because others around me practiced all day long, I asked [my professor] how many hours I should practice, and he said, ‘It really doesn’t matter how long. If you practice with your fingers, no amount is enough. If you practice with your head, two hours is plenty.’”
Basketball: Consider the following example from Aubrey Daniels, “Player A shoots 200 practice shots, Player B shoots 50. The Player B retrieves his own shots, dribbles leisurely and takes several breaks to talk to friends. Player A has a colleague who retrieves the ball after each attempt. The colleague keeps a record of shots made. If the shot is missed the colleague records whether the miss was short, long, left or right and the shooter reviews the results after every 10 minutes of practice. To characterize their hour of practice as equal would hardly be accurate. Assuming this is typical of their practice routine and they are equally skilled at the start, which would you predict would be the better shooter after only 100 hours of practice?”
[Image: Basketball-Players-1-e1505331228362.png]
The Unsung Hero of Deliberate PracticePerhaps the greatest difference between deliberate practice and simple repetition is this: feedback. Anyone who has mastered the art of deliberate practice—whether they are an athlete like Ben Hogan or a writer like Ben Franklin—has developed methods for receiving continual feedback on their performance.
There are many ways to receive feedback. Let’s discuss two.
The first effective feedback system is measurement. The things we measure are the things we improve. This holds true for the number of pages we readthe number of pushups we dothe number of sales calls we make, and any other task that is important to us. It is only through measurement that we have any proof of whether we are getting better or worse.
The second effective feedback system is coaching. One consistent finding across disciplines is that coaches are often essential for sustaining deliberate practice. In many cases, it is nearly impossible to both perform a task and measure your progress at the same time. Good coaches can track your progress, find small ways to improve, and hold you accountable to delivering your best effort each day.
The Promise of Deliberate PracticeHumans have a remarkable capacity to improve their performance in nearly any area of life if they train in the correct way. This is easier said than done.
Deliberate practice is not a comfortable activity. It requires sustained effort and concentration. The people who master the art of deliberate practice are committed to being lifelong learners—always exploring and experimenting and refining.
Deliberate practice is not a magic pill, but if you can manage to maintain your focus and commitment, then the promise of deliberate practice is quite alluring: to get the most out of what you’ve got.

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  7 Ways to Retain More of Every Book You Read
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Posted by: 01dragonslayer - 10-09-2023, 08:31 PM - No Replies

There are many benefits to reading more books, but perhaps my favorite is this: A good book can give you a new way to interpret your past experiences.
Whenever you learn a new mental model or idea, it’s like the “software” in your brain gets updated. Suddenly, you can run all of your old data points through a new program. You can learn new lessons from old moments. As Patrick O’Shaughnessy says, “Reading changes the past.”
Of course, this is only true if you internalize and remember insights from the books you read. Knowledge will only compound if it is retained. In other words, what matters is not simply reading more books, but getting more out of each book you read.
Gaining knowledge is not the only reason to read, of course. Reading for pleasure or entertainment can be a wonderful use of time, but this article is about reading to learn. With that in mind, I’d like to share some of the best reading comprehension strategies I’ve found.
1. Quit More BooksIt doesn’t take long to figure out if something is worth reading. Skilled writing and high-quality ideas stick out.
As a result, most people should probably start more books than they do. This doesn’t mean you need to read each book page-by-page. You can skim the table of contents, chapter titles, and subheadings. Pick an interesting section and dive in for a few pages. Maybe flip through the book and glance at any bolded points or tables. In ten minutes, you’ll have a reasonable idea of how good it is.
Then comes the crucial step: Quit books quickly and without guilt or shame.
Life is too short to waste it on average books. The opportunity cost is too high. There are so many amazing things to read. I think Patrick Collison, the founder of Stripe, put it nicely when he said, “Life is too short to not read the very best book you know of right now.”
Here’s my recommendation:
Start more books. Quit most of them. Read the great ones twice.
2. Choose Books You Can Use InstantlyOne way to improve reading comprehension is to choose books you can immediately apply. Putting the ideas you read into action is one of the best ways to secure them in your mind. Practice is a very effective form of learning.
Choosing a book that you can use also provides a strong incentive to pay attention and remember the material. That’s particularly true when something important hangs in the balance. If you’re starting a business, for example, then you have a lot of motivation to get everything you can out of the sales book you’re reading. Similarly, someone who works in biology might read The Origin of Species more carefully than a random reader because it connects directly to their daily work.
Of course, not every book is a practical, how-to guide that you can apply immediately, and that’s fine. You can find wisdom in many different books. But I do find that I’m more likely to remember books that are relevant to my daily life.
3. Create Searchable NotesKeep notes on what you read. You can do this however you like. It doesn’t need to be a big production or a complicated system. Just do something to emphasize the important points and passages.
I do this in different ways depending on the format I’m consuming. I highlight passages when reading on Kindle. I type out interesting quotes as I listen to audiobooks. I dog-ear pages and transcribe notes when reading a print book.
But here’s the real key: store your notes in a searchable format.
There is no need to leave the task of reading comprehension solely up to your memory. I keep my notes in Evernote. I prefer Evernote over other options because 1) it is instantly searchable, 2) it is easy to use across multiple devices, and 3) you can create and save notes even when you’re not connected to the internet.
I get my notes into Evernote in three ways:
I. Audiobook: I create a new Evernote file for each book and then type my notes directly into that file as I listen.
II. Ebook: I highlight passages on my Kindle Paperwhite and use a program called Clippings to export all of my Kindle highlights directly into Evernote. Then, I add a summary of the book and any additional thoughts before posting it to my book summaries page.
III. Print: Similar to my audiobook strategy, I type my notes as I read. If I come across a longer passage I want to transcribe, I place the book on a book stand as I type. (Typing notes while reading a print book can be annoying because you are always putting the book down and picking it back up, but this is the best solution I’ve found.)
Of course, your notes don’t have to be digital to be “searchable.” For example, you can use Post-It Notes to tag certain pages for future reference. As another option, Ryan Holiday suggests storing each note on an index card and categorizing them by the topic or book.
The core idea is the same: Keeping searchable notes is essential for returning to ideas easily. An idea is only useful if you can find it when you need it.
4. Combine Knowledge TreesOne way to imagine a book is like a knowledge tree with a few fundamental concepts forming the trunk and the details forming the branches. You can learn more and improve reading comprehension by “linking branches” and integrating your current book with other knowledge trees.
For example:

  • While reading The Tell-Tale Brain by neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, I discovered that one of his key points connected to a previous idea I learned from social work researcher Brené Brown.
  • In my notes for The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, I noted how Mark Manson’s idea of “killing yourself” overlaps with Paul Graham’s essay on keeping your identity small.
  • As I read Mastery by George Leonard, I realized that while this book was about the process of improvement, it also shed some light on the connection between genetics and performance.
I added each insight to my notes for that particular book.
Connections like these help you remember what you read by “hooking” new information onto concepts and ideas you already understand. As Charlie Munger says, “If you get into the mental habit of relating what you’re reading to the basic structure of the underlying ideas being demonstrated, you gradually accumulate some wisdom.”
When you read something that reminds you of another topic or immediately sparks a connection or idea, don’t allow that thought to come and go without notice. Write about what you’ve learned and how it connects to other ideas.
5. Write a Short SummaryAs soon as I finish a book, I challenge myself to summarize the entire text in just three sentences. This constraint is just a game, of course, but it forces me to consider what was really important about the book.
Some questions I consider when summarizing a book include:
  • What are the main ideas?
  • If I implemented one idea from this book right now, which one would it be?
  • How would I describe the book to a friend?
In many cases, I find that I can usually get just as much useful information from reading my one-paragraph summary and reviewing my notes as I would if I read the entire book again.
If you feel like you can’t squeeze the whole book into three sentences, consider using the Feynman Technique.
The Feynman Technique is a note-taking strategy named after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. It’s pretty simple: Write the name of the book at the top of a blank sheet of paper, then write down how you’d explain the book to someone who had never heard of it.
If you find yourself stuck or if you see that there are holes in your understanding, review your notes or go back to the text and try again. Keep writing it out until you have a good handle on the main ideas and feel confident in your explanation.
I’ve found that almost nothing reveals gaps in my thinking better than writing about an idea as if I am explaining it to a beginner. Ben Carlson, a financial analyst, says something similar, “I find the best way to figure out what I’ve learned from a book is to write something about it.”
6. Surround the TopicI often think of the quote by Thomas Aquinas, “Beware the man of a single book.”
If you only read one book on a topic and use that as the basis for your beliefs for an entire category of life, well, how sound are those beliefs? How accurate and complete is your knowledge?
Reading a book takes effort, but too often, people use one book or one article as the basis for an entire belief system. This is even more true (and more difficult to overcome) when it comes to using our one, individual experience as the basis for our beliefs. As Morgan Housel noted, “Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works. We’re all biased to our own personal history.”
One way to attack this problem is to read a variety of books on the same topic. Dig in from different angles, look at the same problem through the eyes of various authors, and try to transcend the boundary of your own experience.
7. Read It TwiceI’d like to finish by returning to an idea I mentioned near the beginning of this article: read the great books twice. The philosopher Karl Popper explained the benefits nicely, “Anything worth reading is not only worth reading twice, but worth reading again and again. If a book is worthwhile, then you will always be able to make new discoveries in it and find things in it that you didn’t notice before, even though you have read it many times.”
Additionally, revisiting great books is helpful because the problems you deal with change over time. Sure, when you read a book twice maybe you’ll catch some stuff you missed the first time around, but it’s more likely that new passages and ideas will be relevant to you. It’s only natural for different sentences to leap out at you depending on the point you are at in life.
You read the same book, but you never read it the same way. As Charles Chu noted, “I always return home to the same few authors. And, no matter how many times I return, I always find they have something new to say.”
Of course, even if you didn’t get something new out of each reading, it would still be worthwhile to revisit great books because ideas need to be repeated to be remembered. The writer David Cain says, “When we only learn something once, we don’t really learn it—at least not well enough for it to change us much. It may inspire momentarily, but then becomes quickly overrun by the decades of habits and conditioning that preceded it.” Returning to great ideas cements them in your mind.
Nassim Taleb sums things up with a rule for all readers: “A good book gets better at the second reading. A great book at the third. Any book not worth rereading isn’t worth reading.”

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  The Scientific Argument for Mastering One Thing at a Time
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Posted by: 01dragonslayer - 10-09-2023, 08:26 PM - No Replies

Many people, myself included, have multiple areas of life they would like to improve. For example, I would like to reach more people with my writing, to lift heavier weights at the gym, and to start practicing mindfulness more consistently. Those are just a few of the goals I find desirable and you probably have a long list yourself.
The problem is, even if we are committed to working hard on our goals, our natural tendency is to revert back to our old habits at some point. Making a permanent lifestyle change is really difficult.
Recently, I’ve come across a few research studies that (just maybe) will make these difficult lifestyle changes a little bit easier. As you’ll see, however, the approach to mastering many areas of life is somewhat counterintuitive.
Too Many Good IntentionsIf you want to master multiple habits and stick to them for good, then you need to figure out how to be consistent. How can you do that?
Well, here is one of the most robust findings from psychology research on how to actually follow through on your goals:
Research has shown that you are 2x to 3x more likely to stick with your habits if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”
Researchers found that people who filled out this sentence were 2x to 3x more likely to actually exercise compared to a control group who did not make plans for their future behavior. Psychologists call these specific plans “implementation intentions” because they state when, where, and how you intend to implement a particular behavior.
This finding is well proven and has been repeated in hundreds studies across a broad range of areas. For example, implementation intentions have been found to increase the odds that people will start exercising, begin recycling, stick with studying, and even stop smoking.
However (and this is crucial to understand) follow-up research has discovered implementation intentions only work when you focus on one thing at a time. In fact, researchers found that people who tried to accomplish multiple goals were less committed and less likely to succeed than those who focused on a single goal.
This is important, so let me repeat: developing a specific plan for when, where, and how you will stick to a new habit will dramatically increase the odds that you will actually follow through, but only if you focus on one thing.
[Image: one-goal.jpg]
What Happens When You Focus on One ThingHere is another science-based reason to focus on one thing at a time:
When you begin practicing a new habit it requires a lot of conscious effort to remember to do it. After awhile, however, the pattern of behavior becomes easier. Eventually, your new habit becomes a normal routine and the process is more or less mindless and automatic.
Researchers have a fancy term for this process called “automaticity.” Automaticity is the ability to perform a behavior without thinking about each step, which allows the pattern to become automatic and habitual.
But here’s the thing: automaticity only occurs as the result of lots of repetition and practice. The more reps you put in, the more automatic a behavior becomes.
For example, this chart shows how long it takes for people to make a habit out of taking a 10-minute walk after breakfast. In the beginning, the degree of automaticity is very low. After 30 days, the habit is becoming fairly routine. After 60 days, the process is about as automatic as it can become.
[Image: habit-automaticity-walking.jpg]
The most important thing to note is that there is some “tipping point” at which new habits become more or less automatic. The time it takes to build a habit depends on many factors including how difficult the habit is, what your environment is like, your genetics, and more.
That said, the study cited above found the average habit takes about 66 days to become automatic. (Don’t put too much stock in that number. The range in the study was very wide and the only reasonable conclusion you should make is that it will take months for new habits to become sticky.)
If you want more practical ideas for breaking bad habits and creating good habits, check out my course The Habits Academya premier training platform for organizations and individuals that are interested in building better habits in life and work. 
Change Your Life Without Changing Your Entire LifeAlright, let’s review what I have suggested to you so far and figure out some practical takeaways.

  1. You are 2x to 3x more likely to follow through with a habit if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you are going to implement it. This is known as an implementation intention.
  2. You should focus entirely on one thing. Research has found that implementation intentions do not work if you try to improve multiple habits at the same time.
  3. Research has shown that any given habit becomes more automatic with more practice. On average, it takes at least two months for new habits to become automatic behaviors.
This brings us to the punchline of this article…
The counterintuitive insight from all of this research is that the best way to change your entire life is by not changing your entire life. Instead, it is best to focus on one specific habit, work on it until you master it, and make it an automatic part of your daily life. Then, repeat the process for the next habit.
The way to master more things in the long-run is to simply focus on one thing right now.

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  The Beginner’s Guide on How to Eat Healthy and Stick to It
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Posted by: 01dragonslayer - 10-09-2023, 06:08 PM - No Replies

Healthy eating. It’s something everyone knows they should do, but few of us do as consistently as we would like. The purpose of this guide is to share practical strategies for how to eat healthy and break down the science of why we often fail to do so.
Now, I don’t claim to have a perfect diet, but my research and writing on behavioral psychology and habit formation has helped me develop a few simple strategies for building and strengthening a healthy eating habit without much effort or thought.
You can click the links below to jump to a particular section or simply scroll down to read everything. At the end of this page, you’ll find a complete list of all the articles I have written on healthy eating.
I. The Science of Healthy Eating

II. How to Make Healthy Eating Easier III. How to Stick to a Healthy Eating Habit [Image: photo-1466637574441-749b8f19452f-700x438.jpeg]
The Science of Healthy EatingEvery nutritionist and diet guru talks about what to eat. Instead, I’d like to discuss why we eat the way we do and how we can change that. The purpose of this guide is to share the science and strategy you need to get the results you want.
Now, the benefits of good nutrition are fairly obvious to most of us. You have more energy, your health improves, and your productivity blossoms. Healthy eating also plays a huge role in maintaining a healthy weight, which means a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart problems, high blood pressure, and a host of other health ailments. (Genetics also plays a significant role. I’m not some crazy person who thinks genes don’t matter.)
But if there are so many good reasons for healthy eating, why is it so difficult to actually do? To answer that question, we should start by learning why we crave junk food.
Why We Crave Junk FoodSteven Witherly is a food scientist who has spent the last 20 years studying what makes certain foods more addictive than others. Much of the science that follows is from his excellent report, Why Humans Like Junk Food.
According to Witherly, when you eat tasty food, there are two factors that make the experience pleasurable.
First, there is the sensation of eating the food. This includes what it tastes like (salty, sweet, umami, etc.), what it smells like, and how it feels in your mouth. This last quality — known as “orosensation” — can be particularly important. Food companies will spend millions of dollars to discover the most satisfying level of crunch in a potato chip. Food scientists will test for the perfect amount of fizzle in a soda. These elements all combine to create the sensation that your brain associates with a particular food or drink.
The second factor is the actual macronutrient makeup of the food — the blend of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that it contains. In the case of junk food, food manufacturers are looking for a perfect combination of salt, sugar, and fat that excites your brain and gets you coming back for more.
Here’s how they do it…

How Food Scientists Create CravingsThere is a range of factors that scientists and food manufacturers use to make food more addictive.
Dynamic contrast. Dynamic contrast refers to a combination of different sensations in the same food. In the words of Witherly, foods with dynamic contrast have “an edible shell that goes crunch followed by something soft or creamy and full of taste-active compounds. This rule applies to a variety of our favorite food structures — the caramelized top of a creme brulee, a slice of pizza, or an Oreo cookie — the brain finds crunching through something like this very novel and thrilling.”
Salivary response. Salivation is part of the experience of eating food, and the more a food causes you to salivate, the more it will swim throughout your mouth and cover your taste buds. For example, emulsified foods like butter, chocolate, salad dressing, ice cream, and mayonnaise promote a salivary response that helps to lather your taste buds with goodness. This is one reason why many people enjoy foods that have sauces or glazes on them. The result is that foods that promote salivation do a happy little tap dance on your brain and taste better than ones that don’t.
Rapid food meltdown and vanishing caloric density. Foods that rapidly vanish or “melt in your mouth” signal to your brain that you’re not eating as much as you actually are. In other words, these foods literally tell your brain that you’re not full, even though you’re eating a lot of calories.
In his best-selling book, Salt Sugar Fat (audiobook), author Michael Moss describes a conversation with Witherly that explains vanishing caloric density perfectly…
Quote:He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. “This,” Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.”
“I brought him two shopping bags filled with a variety of chips to taste. He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. “This,” Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it … you can just keep eating it forever.”
Sensory-specific response. Your brain likes variety. When it comes to food, if you experience the same taste over and over again, then you start to get less pleasure from it. In other words, the sensitivity of that specific sensor will decrease over time. This can happen in just minutes.
Junk foods, however, are designed to avoid this sensory specific response. They provide enough taste to be interesting (your brain doesn’t get tired of eating them), but it’s not so stimulating that your sensory response is dulled. This is why you can swallow an entire bag of potato chips and still be ready to eat another. To your brain, the crunch and sensation of eating Doritos is novel and interesting every time.
Calorie density. Junk foods are designed to convince your brain that it is getting nutrition, but to not fill you up. Receptors in your mouth and stomach tell your brain about the mixture of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in a particular food, and how filling that food is for your body. Junk food provides just enough calories that your brain says, “Yes, this will give you some energy” but not so many calories that you think “That’s enough, I’m full.” The result is that you crave the food to begin with, but it takes quite some time to feel full from it.
Memories of past eating experiences. This is where the psychobiology of junk food really works against you. When you eat something tasty (say, a bag of potato chips), your brain registers that feeling. The next time you see that food, smell that food, or even read about that food, your brain starts to trigger the memories and responses that came when you ate it. These memories can actually cause physical responses like salivation and create the “mouth-watering” craving that you get when thinking about your favorite foods.
These factors all combine to make processed food tasty and desirable to our human brains. When you combine the science behind these foods with the incredible prevalence of food (cheap fast food everywhere), eating healthy becomes very hard to do.
How to Make Healthy Eating EasierMost people think that building better habits or changing your actions is all about willpower or motivation. But the more I learn, the more I believe that the number one driver of behavior change is your environment.
Your environment has an incredible ability to shape your behavior. Nowhere is this more true than with food. What we eat on a daily basis is often a result of what we are presented.
Let me share an interesting experiment to show you exactly what I mean…

The Importance of Environment for Healthy EatingAnne Thorndike is a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Thorndike and her colleagues conducted a six-month study that was published in the American Journal of Public Health.
This study secretly took place in the hospital cafeteria and helped thousands of people develop healthy eating habits without changing their willpower or motivation in the slightest way. Thorndike and her team utilized a concept known as “choice architecture.” Choice architecture is just a fancy word for changing the way the food and drinks are displayed, but, as it turns out, it makes a big difference.
The researchers started by changing the choice architecture of the drinks in the cafeteria. Originally, there were three main refrigerators, all of which were filled with soda. The researchers made sure that water was added to each of those units and also placed baskets of bottled water throughout the room.
The image below depicts what the room looked like before the changes (Figure A) and after the changes (Figure B). The dark boxes indicate areas where bottled water is available.
[Image: choice-architecture.png]Image Source: American Journal of Public Health, April 2012.What happened? Over the next 3 months, the number of soda sales dropped by 11.4 percent. Meanwhile, bottled water sales increased by 25.8 percent. Similar adjustments and results were made with food options. Nobody said a word to the visitors who ate at the cafeteria. The researchers simply changed the environment and people naturally followed suit.
Choice architecture is even more important when you’re already stressed, tired, or distracted. If you’re already worn-down, you’re probably not going to go through a lot of effort to cook a healthy dinner or fit in a workout. You’ll grab or do whatever is easiest.
That means that if you take just a little bit of time today to organize your room, your office, your kitchen, and other areas, then that adjustment in choice architecture can guide you toward better choices even when your willpower is fading. Design for laziness.

How to Eat Healthy Without NoticingBrian Wansink is a professor at Cornell University, and he has completed a variety of studies on how your environment shapes your eating decisions. Many of the ideas below come from his popular book, Mindless Eating (audiobook). Here are some of his best practical strategies for using choice architecture to make healthy eating easier.
1. Use smaller plates. Bigger plates mean bigger portions. And that means you eat more. According to a study conducted by Wansink and his research team, if you made a simple change and served your dinner on 10-inch plates instead of a 12-inch plate, you would eat 22% less food over the course of the next year.
On a related note, if you’re thinking “I’ll just put less food on my plate” … it’s not that simple. The picture below explains why. When you eat a small portion off of a large plate, your mind feels unsatisfied. Meanwhile, the same portion will feel more filling when eaten off of a small plate. The circles in the image below are the same size, but your brain (and stomach) doesn’t view them that way.
[Image: delboeuf-illusion-eating.jpg]This image shows how small portion sizes can look filling on a small plate, but sparse on a large plate.2. Want to drink less alcohol or soda? Use tall, slender glasses instead of short, fat ones.
Take a look at the image below. Is the horizontal or vertical line longer?
[Image: vertical-drink-illusion.jpg]Like the lines in this photo, vertical glasses will look bigger than horizontal ones and will therefore naturally help you drink less.As it turns out, both lines are the same length, but our brain has a tendency to overestimate vertical lines. In other words, taller drinks look bigger to our eyes than round, horizontal mugs do. And because height makes things look bigger than width, you’ll actually drink less from taller glasses. In fact, you will typically drink about 20% less from a tall, slender glass than you would from a short, fat glass. (Hat tip to Darya Pino for originally sharing this image and idea.)
3. Use plates that have a high contrast color with your food. As I mentioned in this article, when the color of your plate matches the color of your food, you naturally serve yourself more because your brain has trouble distinguishing the portion size from the plate. Because of this, dark green and dark blue make great plate colors because they contrast with light foods like pasta and potatoes (which means you’re likely to serve less of them), but don’t contrast very much with leafy greens and vegetables (which means you’re likely to put more of them on your plate).
4. Display healthy foods in a prominent place. For example, you could place a bowl of fruits or nuts near the front door or somewhere else that you pass by before you leave the house. When you’re hungry and in a rush, you are more likely to grab the first thing you see.
5. Wrap unhealthy foods in tin foil. Wrap healthy foods in plastic wrap. The old saying, “out of sight, out of mind” turns out to have some truth to it. Eating isn’t just a physical event, but also an emotional one. Your mind often determines what it wants to eat based on what your eyes see. Thus, if you hide unhealthy foods by wrapping them up or tucking them away in less prominent places, then you are less likely to eat them.
6. Keep healthy foods in larger packages and containers, and unhealthy foods in smaller ones. Big boxes and containers tend to catch your eye more, take up space in your kitchen and pantry, and otherwise get in your way. As a result, you’re more likely to notice them and eat them. Meanwhile, smaller items can hide in your kitchen for months. (Just take a look at what you have lying around right now. It’s probably small cans and containers.)
Bonus tip: if you buy a large box of something unhealthy, you can re-package it into smaller Ziploc bags or containers, which should make it less likely that you’ll binge and eat a lot at once.

What Should I Eat?As I mentioned at the outset, this is not a guide about what to eat. It’s a guide about why we eat the way we do and how to do something about it. That said, I’ll offer two suggestions regarding what to put on your plate.
1. Eat more greens.  There isn’t a consensus on the best diet, but pretty much everyone agrees on one thing: eat more veggies. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single diet that doesn’t think eating more plants is a good idea.
2. Eat a variety of foods. As we covered earlier, the brain craves novelty. While you may not be able to replicate the crunchy/creamy contrast of an Oreo, you can vary your diet enough to keep things interesting. For example, you could dip a carrot (crunchy) in some hummus (creamy) and get a novel sensation. Similarly, finding ways to add new spices and flavors to your dishes can make eating healthy foods a more desirable experience.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be bland. Mix up your foods to get different sensations and you may find it easier than eating the same foods over and over again. (At some point, however, you may have to fall in love with boredom.)

Two Simple Ways to Eat HealthyThe main idea of most good diets is the same: eat whole foods that are unprocessed and that grew or lived outdoors. Some of them have different variations — no animal products, no grains, etc. — but most of them fit the general “real food” framework.
The problem is that — if you’re anything like me — you will eat whatever is close to you, whether it came from Mother Nature or not. As a result, the best strategy is to surround yourself with healthy food.
1. Use the “Outer Ring” Strategy. When I go to the grocery store, I only walk around the “outer ring” of the store. I don’t walk down the aisles. The outer ring is where the healthy food usually lives: fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, eggs, and nuts. These are items that grew or lived outdoors. That’s what I eat.
The aisles are where all of the boxed and processed stuff is placed. Don’t go down those aisles and you won’t buy those foods. Don’t buy those foods and they won’t be around for you to eat. Try this the next time you go to the store and do your best to not to make exceptions.
Sure, there will be the occasional time that you’ll need to go down an aisle to pick up spices or grab a bottle of olive oil, but this is rare. The last three times I’ve been at the grocery store, I have easily stayed on the “outer ring” and I bet you can do the same.

How to Eat Whatever You Want Without Feeling Guilty2. Never Miss Twice. I think life is meant to be lived joyfully. I have no desire to judge myself for eating pizza or to feel guilty for drinking a beer. But, I also know that I feel much better when I eat healthy.
In order to balance the two, I have a simple rule that I try to follow: whenever I eat an unhealthy meal, I follow it with a healthy one.
Missing once is fine, but I never want to miss a healthy meal twice. Top performers make mistakes like everyone else, but they get back on track faster than most people. That’s what I try to do with my diet. I don’t worry about having fun and I try to enjoy life, but I also use this simple rule to guide me back toward a healthy diet as quickly as possible.
How to Stick to a Healthy Eating HabitAddress the Root Problem of Unhealthy EatingThere’s a reason why many people eat as a way to cope with stress. Stress causes certain regions of the brain to release chemicals (specifically, opiates and neuropeptide Y). These chemicals can trigger mechanisms that are similar to the cravings you get from fat and sugar. In other words, when you get stressed, your brain feels the addictive call of fat and sugar and you’re pulled back to junk food.
We all have stressful situations that arise in our lives. Learning to deal with stress in a different way can help you overcome the addictive pull of junk food. This could include simple breathing techniques or a short guided meditation. Or something more physical like exercise or making art.

How to Say No to TemptationLearning how to say no is one of the most useful skills you can develop, especially when it comes to living a healthy life. Research is starting to show that small changes can make it easier for you to say no, resist temptation and stick to healthy eating habits.
In a research study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, 120 students were split into two different groups.
The difference between these two groups was saying “I can’t” compared to “I don’t.”
One group was told that each time they were faced with a temptation, they would tell themselves “I can’t do X.” For example, when tempted with ice cream, they would say, “I can’t eat ice cream.”
When the second group was faced with a temptation, they were told to say “I don’t do X.” For example, when tempted with ice cream, they would say, “I don’t eat ice cream.”
After repeating these phrases, each student answered a set of questions unrelated to the study. Once they finished answering their questions, the students went to hand in their answer sheet, thinking that the study was over. In reality, it was just beginning.
As each student walked out of the room and handed in their answer sheet, they were offered a complimentary treat. The student could choose between a chocolate candy bar or a granola health bar. As the student walked away, the researcher would mark their snack choice on the answer sheet.
The students who told themselves “I can’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bar 61% of the time. Meanwhile, the students who told themselves “I don’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bars only 36% of the time. This simple change in terminology significantly improved the odds that each person would make a more healthy food choice.
Why does something so small make such a big difference?

The One Phrase That Will Help You Eat HealthyYour words help to frame your sense of empowerment and control. Furthermore, the words that you use create a feedback loop in your brain that impacts your future behaviors.
For example, every time you tell yourself “I can’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that is a reminder of your limitations. This terminology indicates that you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do.
In comparison, when you tell yourself “I don’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that reminds you of your control and power over the situation. It’s a phrase that can propel you toward breaking your bad habits and following your good ones.
Heidi Grant Halvorson is the director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia University. Here’s how she explains the difference between saying “I don’t” compared to “I can’t”…
“I don’t” is experienced as a choice, so it feels empowering. It’s an affirmation of your determination and willpower. “I can’t” isn’t a choice. It’s a restriction, it’s being imposed upon you. So thinking “I can’t” undermines your sense of power and personal agency.
Quote:“I don’t” is experienced as a choice, so it feels empowering. “I can’t” isn’t a choice. It’s a restriction, it’s being imposed upon you.
In other words, the phrase “I don’t” is a psychologically empowering way to say no, while the phrase “I can’t” is a psychologically draining way to say no.
Perhaps most importantly, a change in language leads to a change in mindset. You can now utilize your new, empowered mindset in all future situations, which is why a subtle shift can lead to very different outcomes over the long-run.

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  Successful People Start Before They Feel Ready
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Posted by: 01dragonslayer - 10-09-2023, 06:05 PM - No Replies

In 1966, a dyslexic sixteen-year-old boy dropped out of school. With the help of a friend, he started a magazine for students and made money by selling advertisements to local businesses. With only a little bit of money to get started, he ran the operation out of the crypt inside a local church.
Four years later, he was looking for ways to grow his small magazine and started selling mail order records to the students who bought the magazine. The records sold well enough that he built his first record store the next year. After two years of selling records, he decided to open his own record label and recording studio.
He rented the recording studio out to local artists, including one named Mike Oldfield. In that small recording studio, Oldfield created his hit song, Tubular Bells, which became the record label’s first release. The song went on to sell over 5 million copies.
Over the next decade, the young boy grew his record label by adding bands like the Sex Pistols, Culture Club, and the Rolling Stones. Along the way, he continued starting companies: an airline business, then trains, then mobile phones, and on and on. Almost 50 years later, there were over 400 companies under his direction.

Today, that young boy who dropped out of school and kept starting things despite his inexperience and lack of knowledge is a billionaire. His name is Sir Richard Branson.
How I Met Sir Richard BransonTwo weeks ago, I walked into a conference room in Moscow, Russia and sat down ten feet from Branson. There were 100 other people around us, but it felt like we were having a conversation in my living room. He was smiling and laughing. His answers seemed unrehearsed and genuine.
At one point, he told the story of how he started Virgin Airlines, a tale that seems to capture his entire approach to business and life. Here’s the version he told us, as best I can remember it:
“I was in my late twenties, so I had a business, but nobody knew who I was at the time. I was headed to the Virgin Islands and I had a very pretty girl waiting for me, so I was, umm, determined to get there on time.
At the airport, my final flight to the Virgin Islands was cancelled because of maintenance or something. It was the last flight out that night. I thought this was ridiculous, so I went and chartered a private airplane to take me to the Virgin Islands, which I did not have the money to do.
Then, I picked up a small blackboard, wrote “Virgin Airlines. $29.” on it, and went over to the group of people who had been on the flight that was cancelled. I sold tickets for the rest of the seats on the plane, used their money to pay for the chartered plane, and we all went to the Virgin Islands that night.”
Richard Branson
I took this photo right after he told that story. A few moments later I stood shoulder–to–shoulder with him (he’s about six feet tall) and thanked him for sharing some time with us.
[Image: richard-branson-1024x682.jpg]Sir Richard Branson during a conference panel in Moscow, Russia.The Habits of Successful PeopleAfter speaking with our group, Branson sat on a panel with industry experts to talk about the future of business. As everyone around him was filling the air with business buzzwords and talking about complex ideas for mapping out our future, Branson was saying things like: “Screw it, just get on and do it.” Which was closely followed by: “Why can’t we mine asteroids?”
As I looked up at that panel, I realized that the person who sounded the most simplistic was also the only one who was a billionaire. Which prompted me to wonder, “What’s the difference between Branson and everyone else in the room?”
Here’s what I think makes all the difference:
Branson doesn’t merely say things like, “Screw it, just get on and do it.” He actually lives his life that way. He drops out of school and starts a business. He signs the Sex Pistols to his record label when everyone else says they are too controversial. He charters a plane when he doesn’t have the money.
When everyone else balks or comes up with a good reason for why the time isn’t right, Branson gets started. He figures out how to stop procrastinating and take the first step — even if it seems outlandish.
Start NowBranson is an extreme example, but we could all learn something from his approach.
If you want to summarize the habits of successful people into one phrase, it’s this: successful people start before they feel ready.
If there was ever someone who embodied the idea of starting before they felt ready to do so, it’s Branson. The very name of his business empire, Virgin, was chosen because when Branson and his partners started they were “virgins” when it came to business.
Branson has started so many businesses, ventures, charities, and expeditions that it’s simply not possible for him to have felt prepared, qualified, and ready to start all of them. In fact, it’s unlikely that he was qualified or prepared to start any of them. He had never flown a plane and didn’t know anything about the engineering of planes, but he started an airline company anyway. He is a perfect example of why the “chosen ones” choose themselves.
If you’re working on something important, then you’ll never feel ready. A side effect of doing challenging work is that you’re pulled by excitement and pushed by confusion at the same time.
You’re bound to feel uncertain, unprepared, and unqualified. But let me assure you of this: what you have right now is enough. You can plan, delay, and revise all you want, but trust me, what you have now is enough to start. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to start a business, lose weight, write a book, or achieve any number of goals… who you are, what you have, and what you know right now is good enough to get going.
We all start in the same place: no money, no resources, no contacts, no experience. The difference is that some people — the winners — choose to start anyway.
No matter where you are in the world and regardless of what you’re working on, I hope you’ll start before you feel ready.

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  Believe in Yourself (And Why Nothing Will Work If You Don’t…)
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Posted by: 01dragonslayer - 10-09-2023, 06:03 PM - No Replies

Nothing Will Work If You Don’t Believe In ItEarlier this week, I posted an article on 2 psychological tricks that offer easy ways to lose weight. The article was well-received overall, but I also heard a complaint from someone who identified themselves as “NoSalt” (the internet is a strange place).
Here’s what NoSalt had to say…
“None of these techniques will work for me:
1. Let your plate control your portion.
My problem is that I eat until I feel full. Sure, I can use a small plate, but I’ll just keep going back until I feel full.
2. Pick a color that makes life easy.
How can normal people possibly do this? I don’t want to have 3, 4, 5 … different sets of dishes for every color meal that I have.
3. Try the holiday version of intermittent fasting. Literally. Simply don’t eat for a 24–hour period. This strategy is one form of intermittent fasting.
What do I do about my hunger pains? What do I do if I want food? I’ll end up snapping at people around me, and chewing all my fingernails to the bone.”
I did my best to answer the questions with actionable advice that would help the reader overcome the problems mentioned. But there is something much more important going on here.
Are You Determined To Fail?Do you notice the theme throughout all of the questions? There is an undercurrent of self-doubt and vulnerability. The unspoken thought that drives these questions is, “I don’t believe these ideas will work for me.” Or, stated another way, “I don’t believe I can make these ideas work. I don’t believe in myself.”
Worrying about not being able to implement a few diet changes is just one, tiny example of this fear. But a lack of belief in yourself will limit you no matter how great the ideas or opportunities are that you are exposed to.
My biggest question to the reader above would be this: Why are you determined to make these ideas not work for you? Why are you searching for reasons why these ideas won’t succeed instead of figuring out a way to make something good happen?
The biggest difference between successful people and unsuccessful ones (in health, in business, and in life) is that successful people are determined to make the situation work for them rather than playing the role of the victim and searching for reasons why a situation won’t work.
No idea will work for every person on the planet, but many ideas can work for most people … if you believe that you can make them work. You have to be willing to not just think differently, but to also to experiment with new ideas and trust that you’ll discover a way to make them work.
Believe in YourselfThe biggest difference I’ve noticed between successful people and unsuccessful people isn’t intelligence or opportunity or resources. It’s the belief that they can make their goals happen.
We all deal with vulnerability, uncertainty, and failure. Some of us trust that if we move forward anyway, then we will figure it out. As I sit here on Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that I’m one of these people.
When I started my business, I was the only entrepreneur in our family in the last century. I didn’t have anyone to learn from, but I trusted that I would figure it out anyway.
When I was kicked off a train in the middle of the night while traveling through Hungary, I was lost and confused. I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English, so as the train pulled away I ran along side, hopped back on, and trusted that I would figure it out anyway.
When I’ve discovered an opportunity that sounds awesome but that I’m not qualified for (which happens often), I trust that I’ll figure it out and go for it anyway.
I believe in myself. This confidence has made the difference for me again and again. I didn’t need intelligence or opportunity or resources. Just a simple belief in myself.
Do You Believe That Change Is Possible for You?One of the most foundational beliefs of this community is that you can become better.
We believe that it is possible for human beings to improve. We believe that it is possible to raise the bar in your own life even if the world around you accepts average. We believe in ourselves and in each other. We believe that if you want better health or more happiness or a more meaningful job that you can make those things happen.
And because of this belief we are willing to test, experiment, and try new things even when we feel uncertain. If you don’t believe that it’s possible to make new things work, then it’s hard to make any progress. I don’t care how good the ideas are, nothing will work for you if you don’t believe in it. And more importantly, nothing will work if you don’t believe in yourself.

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  Move Towards the Next Thing, Not Away From the Last Thing
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Posted by: 01dragonslayer - 10-09-2023, 06:01 PM - No Replies

Have you ever let one bad experience ruin the rest of your day?
I know I have.
In fact, I had an experience like that today and it taught me 3 valuable lessons.
Let me share them with you now.
Creating Value is HardI spent the entire morning writing an article that I really wanted to be good. I cited research studies, looked up video clips from some of the world’s most prominent thought leaders, and edited for 2 hours. In the end, I was totally underwhelmed by the result.
Creating something valuable is hard.
It doesn’t matter if you’re building a business, creating art, or forming a relationship. There are bound to be days when your best effort turns out to be mediocre. It’s easy to feel like you’re wasting your time. And if you’re working on something really important to you, then it’s easy to let one wasted effort spoil the rest of your day.
That’s how I felt about 30 minutes ago.
The article I wrote was disjointed and tried to cover too much ground without getting to a tangible action point that you could actually use in your life. (Giving you something to act on to live a healthier life is my primary goal whenever writing an article.)
To make an example of myself, I decide to leave the article up. If you’re interested, you can read it here.
Eventually, I decided to stop staring at the screen and do my pushup workout for the day. (I’m working toward doing 100 pushups in row. Once I do it, I’ll share my whole program and lessons learned with you.)
What Happened?Instead of letting my poor writing ruin my workout mentality, I decided to get excited about the workout, focus on the task at hand, and I ended up setting a new personal record for pushups in a single workout.
The personal record is great, but the lessons that are underneath it are much more important. In fact, these lessons tie directly into 3 of the core beliefs that our community has…
1. Health and happiness is the foundation of living a remarkable life.
Fitness has saved my day more than once. There’s something about physical movement that centers the mind.
Think about the highest performing people from any field in life. How many of them are severely unhealthy and out of shape? Very few.
If you’re struggling with something mentally, then get out and move physically.
2. Live in the arena instead of judging from the crowd.
If you play the game, then there will be days when you get your ass handed to you. You’ll produce average work, you’ll make stupid decisions, you’ll get beat by someone who is smarter, faster, or better.
That’s the cost of admission. That’s the price of being in the thick of things instead of watching from the sideline.
It’s better to work on things that are important to you and feel the frustration of failure than to play it safe and never push yourself.
3. Move toward the next thing, not away from the last thing.
Struggling with your latest project? Go have a good workout.
Failing to get your business off the ground? Grab lunch with a good friend.
Confused about what your boss wants from you? Make a tasty meal for dinner.
If something isn’t going well, then don’t run from it. Find something else to get excited about instead. Spend as much time as you can doing things that pull you in rather than pushing frustration away.
Move toward the next thing, not away from the last thing. It’s a subtle shift that makes all the difference in the world.

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  Learning From Superhumans: The Incredible Fitness and Success of Jack LaLanne
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Posted by: 01dragonslayer - 10-09-2023, 02:13 PM - No Replies

Jack LaLanne was a pioneer in the world of fitness.
The gyms that you see all over town? He opened one of the nation’s first fitness gyms in 1936.
The machines that fill those gyms? He invented dozens of them.
All of those home workout videos and television weight loss shows? He was the man who first brought fitness into your living room. The Jack LaLanne Show was the longest–running television exercise program of all time. It was on television for 34 years.
And that’s just his business career.
If you really want to be impressed, take a look at a handful of his personal fitness achievements.
Here are a few of the fitness feats that LaLanne accomplished…

  • He swam from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco while wearing handcuffs.
  • At age 42, he set the world record for pushups by doing over 1,000 in 23 minutes.
  • At age 45, he did 1,000 jumping jacks and 1,000 pullups in 1 hour and 22 minutes.
  • At age 60, he swam from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf for the second time. This time he not only wore handcuffs, but also towed a 1,000 pound boat.
LaLanne was in such remarkable shape that he could do one—armed fingertip pushups while in a completely stretched out position.
Ready for something really incredible?
To celebrate his 70th birthday, LaLanne swam 1.5 miles along the California coast from the Queen’s Way Bridge to Long Beach Harbor. And he did it while wearing handcuffs and shackles on his arms and legs and towing 70 row boats holding 70 people.
It sounds impossible, but the 70–year–old LaLanne finished the swim with all of the boats dragging along behind him.
What Made Jack LaLanne Different?In some ways, LaLanne’s accomplishments are so out of the ordinary that it’s hard to translate them into our own lives. (I mean, I love doing fitness challenges, but I’m not planning to tow 70 boats anytime soon.)
Thankfully, there is a lesson you can learn from Jack LaLanne that applies to nearly everything in your life. You won’t discover it by looking at his accomplishments, but rather, by examining his daily habits.
The Daily Routine of Jack LaLanne
Quote:The only way you can hurt the body is not use it.
—Jack LaLanne
LaLanne was a big believer in rituals and routines. He realized the power that consistent daily actions could have on his life.
Here are a few of the habits that Jack LaLanne did every day for decades…
  • Lift weights and do strength training for 90 minutes.
  • Swim or run for 30 minutes (in addition to his strength training).
  • Eat 10 raw vegetables.
  • Eat two meals: a late breakfast and an early dinner (hmm… that sounds familiar).
  • Wake up at 4am (in his later years, LaLanne “slept in” until 5am).
Look at that list. It’s not overly long, but imagine doing those things not just for one day or one week, but for 60 years like Jack LaLanne did.
Even at age 94, LaLanne was still exercising for two hours every day. 90 minutes of strength training. 30 minutes of swimming or walking. 10 raw vegetables. Every. Single. Day. For 60 years.
When we see someone who accomplishes something incredible, the easy way out is to discount it, chalk it up to natural talent or genetics, and claim that they were born with something you could never have. It takes the responsibility off of you. But the truth is that most incredible people — even the ones who accomplish superhuman feats — are simply more consistent than everyone else.
It was his incredible consistency that made Jack LaLanne superhuman.
When you look at Jack LaLanne’s life, it’s easy to focus on the big accomplishments and overlook the daily habits. Similarly, in your own life it’s easy to spend all of your time focused on transformations, big goals, and rapid changes, and forget that it’s the daily habits that lead to long–term success.
Success is any field is about lifestyle choices, not life–changing transformations. It’s your daily routine that will carry you to wherever it is you want to go.
If Something is Important to You, Schedule ItHow did Jack LaLanne stick to his daily habits with such consistency?
Do you think he just waited until he felt motivated to workout each day? No way. His consistency has very little to do with willpower or motivation. Nobody is motivated every day for 60 years.
LaLanne knew what was important to him and so he scheduled it into his life. He started every day with strength training. Then he did his swimming and walking. Then he has his breakfast. Same order. Same time. Every time.
If you look at LaLanne’s daily habits, everything had a time and place when it was going to happen. Can you say the same about your goals?
So often we tell ourselves things like, “I’m going to eat healthier” or “I’m going to workout more” or “I’m going to start writing more” … but we never say when and where these things are actually going to happen.
Carve out some time. Pick a date. Choose a place. Give your actions a time and a space to live.
LaLanne didn’t rely on his willpower or motivation. He just stuck to his daily schedule. That’s how all professionals approach their work.
Lessons from LaLanne: Keeping Life In PerspectiveIn his later years, Jack LaLanne was fond of saying, “I can’t afford to die. It would ruin my image.”
Eventually, he passed away at 96 years old. And in all of those years, I think one of his greatest accomplishments was holding on to his happiness as much as his health. Even with all of his fitness achievements, LaLanne didn’t ruin the rest of his life in pursuit of a particular goal.
The balance between achievement and happiness is something that I think about often – not just in my own life, but also in what I write on this site. I’m still working on it, but I believe that you don’t have to be dissatisfied to be driven. There’s no reason you can’t love the life you have and want to make it better at the same time.
But it’s not easy. Happiness and gratefulness require constant tending, much like diet and exercise. Your happiness and your health form the basic foundation of your life. There’s nothing new or complex about this — despite what the newest commercials for health products, new drugs, and fitness programs want you to believe.
This balance between happiness and achievement is something that I’m working on getting better at myself. What Jack LaLanne showed us — not just in his words, but also through how he lived — is that you can do incredible things and have a wonderful time while doing it.
Learning From Jack LaLanneJack LaLanne lived an incredible life, and he mastered something that we can all benefit from: the daily routine.
Is there a skill that is more valuable than the ability to consistently work towards goals that are important to you while maintaining a sense of perspective and happiness?
It’s not the incredible achievements, but rather your daily habits that determine who you are and what you accomplish. Get your habits handled, and the rest will fall into place. If we can take this small lesson and apply it to our lives, there is no doubt we will all be better off for it.

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