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How to become better at anything in 2022
And two cool things I discovered this morning!
Before I begin… the most important thing first! Thank you for the donations 😊 You rock! Read my Season’s Greetings note if you don’t know what I am talking about.
Last week’s post was How to improve your mental health.
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How to become better at anything in 2022
You start from NYC bound for Los Angeles. The plane veers off course by a 1 to 3-degree smudge. No one notices. You munch on your overpriced airplane meal deal, take a nap, and wake up… in Tijuana. Yep.
Small, imperceptible changes lead to massive differences over time. It works with money, navigation, and personal development. Unfortunately, humans underestimate the power of compounding because our brains can barely figure things linearly, causally, and hypothetically.
So, let’s say, hypothetically, you want to lose weight, grow your nest egg, or learn French. How do you do it? Crash diet, of course! Put your nest egg on a vision board, and buy an expensive French course to be opened when you have some time.
You guessed it! Your results will be temporary at best but most likely non-existent.
Let’s use money as an example (since probably most of you want more of that!) If you bought $100 of Apple stock on December 1, 2016 (at about $27 per share) and continued to put in $100 per month until this December 1, 2021, you would have spent a total of $6000 in the five years, but own $19,000 of Apple stock. That’s what compounding and the habit of dollar-cost-averaging do. Yet, most people think $100 is nothing. Because, obviously, no one can get rich by saving $100! Except, of course, those who do.
Tiny habit changes shift life’s trajectory even though we don’t notice much in the short term. In good ways and in bad ones. Your life is the sum total of all of your habits. One cigarette now, becoming a smoker, leads to lung cancer thirty years later. One mile on the treadmill today, consistently, turns to habitually working out, will save you from heart disease, obesity, and the usual things that prematurely kill people.
Quantum leaps and massive action are possible but not likely and hard to sustain. Try small 1% changes instead. Think of something so small you will have zero resistance to doing it.
Going to the gym every day for two hours, if you haven’t left the couch in the last two years, is not going to happen without a colossal effort you will abandon at first sight of a donut. But putting your sneakers on and walking around the house for 10 minutes is totally doable. After a few days of that, you may find yourself opening the front door and walking a block. Keep it up for a week, and soon you’ll be clocking a mile or two. Before you know it, you could be running a marathon!
Want to excel in your career? What skills do you need? Pick one. Learn it in small bites. Stay consistent.
Habits compound and build on each other. As you get good at one thing, you open the door for more things. Once you save some cash for emergencies, you keep saving, but this time it goes towards your retirement savings, a new business venture, or paying off your debt. You may love the feeling of being fit, strong, and healthy, so you keep your fitness level up, learn about optimizing your diet, sleep, and supplements. You become an expert in your health!
In his book “Atomic Habits,” James Clear did the math on change. Doing 1% better every day for one year will make you 38% better at whatever the thing is. Compound this daily over five years, and you have a massive transformation you couldn’t imagine! Here’s another money example you won’t believe. $1 starting today and compounding 1% daily for one year will grow to $38, $1427 in two years, and over $77 million in five years! Play with the numbers yourself. That’s an effective annual rate of 3678%. It’s better than crypto. Here’s the calculator.
OK, so nothing in the investment world works out this profitably, but the point is – a little at the time goes a long way. What’s 1% of learning French daily? 20 min? I knew someone who learned German from zero to conversational level in a few months by listening to lessons and practicing while driving to and from work in LA traffic.
Even if we can’t sustain a daily effort, you may be able to make it weekly. As long as you regularly do what you said you would do, it will become a habit, and it will change your life!
Think of the future you, and habituate what you need to become that person.
Trust the process. The sucky thing about making progress at 1% per day is that you won’t feel it at first. If you go to the gym and do three things, you won’t get the muscle ache you can brag about to your co-workers. But if you get that muscle ache, you’ll be out of the gym for a week to recover. And there your momentum ends.
You need momentum to keep going.
Compare yourself not to the pros but your past self. There will always be inspirational badasses in the world you may have difficulty catching up to. But as long as you see progress and continue your improvements, you will be a badass in your own eyes!
Always schedule your activities. What gets scheduled gets done. Once it’s on your schedule, keep it there. Nothing should displace it! Set reminders on your phone, desk, or fridge. Planning will help you use time efficiently and decrease your chance of flaking.
Pay for it. Get a private trainer, tutor, a dance teacher. Book, and pay for your appointments ahead of time. It adds a layer of commitment and accountability.
Make it easy on yourself. Eliminate obstacles and possible excuses. For example, don’t go home before you go to the gym. Keep your workout clothes in the car. Leave things where you can see them and can grab them easily.
Do it with others. Put peer pressure to work for your benefit. Friends, project partners, workout buddies, and accountability partners can keep you going as they rely on you to keep them going.
Measure your progress. Keep logs, calendars, measurements in whatever way is relevant. Take the test. Weigh yourself. Keep track of body composition. How much you eat, sleep, walk, lift, paint, write, practice, read, meditate. Tracking makes you feel committed, responsible, and accountable. It also motivates you as you see the stats improving.
Celebrate milestones and small victories. That’s the best part of tracking your progress. Pet yourself on the back as you deserve it! Then, reward yourself for achieving a milestone. Pick meaningful rewards, no matter how small!
Don’t get ahead of yourself. Too much, too soon, will tire you out and overwhelm you. Remember the turtle and the hare. Be the turtle. Stay consistent and patient.
Stay inspired. Connect with people who’ve walked in your shoes and now exemplify your aspirations. Find them. Follow them. Copy them.
If you don’t give up, you don’t have to start over again. Just do it! Like this! (The best 1 min motivational video ever)
What habits do you want to cultivate in 2022?
I’ll be picking up meditation again. Back in 2006, I learned meditation from Jack Kornfield at Spirit Rock and a few other teachers along the way. For a doer, meditating means “sitting around and not doing nothing.” It took a couple of years to sense and truly appreciate the deeper transformation brewing within. I stuck with it for a decade, clocking in around 12,000 hours of daily practice and meditation retreats. Then came grad school and driving up to the Bay Area for classes from Morro Bay, CA! Plus, homework. Plus, full-time work. With not enough hours in the day, something had to go. Meditation went. My daily practice turned weekly and eventually non-existent. After I graduated, I returned to the meditation cushion, but irregularly.
It’s time to get serious again. Ask me how it’s going in a month 😊 Following my own advice, I will start with 15 min per day before going to bed (I used to sit for over an hour at the time!). I have a meditation app that will remind me and keep track of my days. It gives me starts when I hit milestones! I love getting stars!
Hit me up if you want to know more about meditation. I used to teach classes and have a very pragmatic, secular process anyone can learn. Mindfulness will change your life! And the progress you make will be with you in all areas of your life, forever. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle.
You can’t call yourself “life intelligent” if you lack mindfulness.
Two random things I discovered today that will make life forever better
First random thing:
I stuck my jacket in the dryer for about 10 min before going outside in the cold. Awe… the warmth and coziness on the inside! Discovery credit goes to the rain. I got wet walking Lulu. Attempting to dry my jacket, I ended up with a new life strategy! I shall never leave the house on a cold morning without a freshly warmed jacket again!!!
Try it to believe it!
Second random thing:
Did you know that Alexa can infuse your life with positivity with a sweet skill called “My Daily Mindset” by Health.com. For 14 days, it will give you a positive affirmation every day and some excellent and helpful mental health bits just for the asking. You can even set a schedule to do it automatically. So, if you want to know more about “My Daily Mindset” and how to set it up, go to Health.com. Alternatively, just ask your Alexa for it. She’ll know what to do. I found it refreshing. I guess my Alexa knows me well. She suggested it this morning.
Not bad for a single morning – two ways to make every day better going forward!
Is the media altering our perception of crime? Has America’s fascination with crime gone on overdrive and is it becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy? How crime affects communities and how do some communities protect themselves?
Find out in this Vice documentary.
Thank you for reading. Share your thoughts in the comment section below. I love hearing from readers!