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Today, Aaron Dowd joins me to talk about habits.

Aaron has three habits he says will 100% change your life if you implement them.

But maybe more interesting is the first part of the show where we talk about where habits come from and how they form.

Do you ever stop to think about the things you do automatically? When did you form the habits you have now? Why did they form?

More importantly, what do you do if you don’t like the habits you have? How can you intentionally form new habits?

We talk about how to form new habits by paying attention to the trigger, routine, and reward (known as The Habit Loop).

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • Triggers can set off good or bad habits, so be aware of both.
  • If you want to have a successful life, you need to have an individually successful day over and over again.
  • Be intentional, make choices, and think about your habits.
  • Create the kind of life you want to live (and it doesn’t have to be exactly like someone else’s).
  • Start believing new things about yourself.
  • Build up small habits over time to reinforce something you want to believe about yourself.
  • Decide what type of person you want to be and prove it to yourself with small wins.
  • Decide what’s important to you before you do anything else.
  • Get enough sleep, because sleep charges you to live your best life.
  • Count small wins because you can’t have big wins without them.
  • Start with little wins and stop making excuses.
Show Notes
  • 02:20 Aaron:I want to talk about habits today. I wrote down three habits I can think of that I’ve used in my life. These habits have completely transformed my life, and I think they’ll transform anyone’s life who’s listening. Then I wanted to go a little bit deeper, so I did some research online. I know that one of the speakers at seanwes conference this year, James Clear, has written a lot of great articles about habits. I started looking at some of his articles and pulling out little takeaways.

The Habit Loop

  • 02:51 Aaron: I came to this question, and I want to ask this question to our listeners and to anyone else. Our lives are made up of habits. As James Clear defines it in one of his articles, he said, “Let’s define habits. Habits are the small decisions you make and the actions you perform every day. Habits eventually become your life. They are the building blocks that become your life.” I started wondering, “Where do these habits come from?” We all have habits, right? But where do they come from? Where do they originate? I thought that was a fascinating question to explore, and that’s what I want to talk about in today’s episode.
  • 03:31 Sean: You asked me that. You were asking me where some of my habits came from, and I thought, “I don’t think about that so much.” Do you, Cory? Do you think about where your habits come from, the things you do on autopilot?
  • 03:47 Cory: I do think about my habits a lot, the little things I do. I don’t know if they accomplish tasks or anything, but they’re little things I do. I don’t know where they come from, I just wonder where they come from.
  • 04:01 Aaron: It’s interesting to think about. I bet a lot of our habits go way back, a lot of them even back to when you were a kid. Years and years! Thinking about those things can be beneficial if you want to understand how your life is right now.
  • Think about how the habits you picked up or started have caused you to have the kind of life you have right now.

  • 04:33 Sean: Aaron, you were sharing examples with me before we started the show, off the air, of different habits and where they came from. What have you identified as the source for habits? What is the point at which they form, or is it a single point?
  • 04:51 Aaron: I think there are multiple ways that we form habits. There is this really good book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. In this book, he explains a simple three step process that all habits follow. It’s a cycle that’s known as the Habit Loop.
  • 05:10 He says that each habit consists of the trigger, which is the event that starts the habit, the routine, which is the habit itself, and then the reward—the benefit that is associated with the behavior. I’m going to use the example of a bad habit I picked up a long time ago, ten years ago, when I was 21 years old. I was working in commercial construction. I was installing plumbing in apartment buildings near Fort Worth.
  • 05:42 I picked up this habit. There was a Chipotle right by the work site, and every day at lunch, I started going and eating a burrito bowl or a burrito. If anyone listening has never tried Chipotle, it’s delicious. Also, you get a lot of food for something like $7. If you get a burrito bowl or a burrito, you can pack it full of rice, beans, sour cream, cheese, guacamole… You can get this massive thing. It’s probably a good 1,200 calories if you really pack it in there.
  • 06:16 Sean: It’s loaded. It’s so heavy. I remember, I used to get those burritos when I worked at one of my very first jobs. I tell this story in the first chapter of my book, Overlap. You can look forward to that. I used to be a window cleaner. That’s all I’m going to say for now, but at this job, we were climbing these ladders and hauling these ladders on our shoulders. These were big, 24 foot ladders. They were heavy.
  • 06:46 I was way more buff at the time, lifting heavy stuff and spending all of this energy. We wanted something filling, because we had 20 minutes before the next job. We had to get something quick. We would always get a burrito.
  • 07:02 Aaron: You totally understand. So I picked up this habit.

Habit Triggers

  • 07:11 Aaron: The trigger is the event that starts the habit. The routine is eating the burrito, and the reward was a combination of being very satisfied and full and also, eventually, gaining 25 pounds over the course of a summer. I don’t know if you could call that a reward, but it’s definitely a payoff. Let’s talk about the triggers first, because this is important to understand if you want to know, “How did I get to this place where I was 25 pounds overweight?” Triggers, as defined in this book, can be:
    1. Time
    2. Location
    3. Preceding events
    4. Emotional state
    5. Other people

  • 07:46 I believe, in this situation, with my example of Chipotle at the construction site, this was both other people and location. I was on location at this site, I was doing work, I needed to eat food, and I went with the people I was working with to get it. A couple of the guys I was working with decided that they wanted to have lunch at Chipotle. Over time, because it was an easy choice and I enjoyed the food—it’s very tasty, but more calories than I need—over time, I started going back every day. It was comfortable. It became a habit because of the location and because of other people.
  • A lot of the good or bad habits we pick up are because of other people.

    You see someone do something and you imitate them.

  • 08:44 Sean: I have a habit story too, whenever you’re ready.
  • 08:47 Aaron: February of last year or so, my younger brother invited me to join him for a bike ride around a local lake. This was a lake I had been to a few times before. It was a lake, whatever. I brought my bike and we rode around this lake. This wasn’t something I would have done on my own, but I enjoyed it so much that I started going back. At first, I went back once a week, then twice a week, and eventually, it became a huge part of my exercise routine.
  • 09:18 For those of you who have been listening for a while, you know that last year, I hit it hard and lost 20 pounds or so. I got in much better shape. Riding around the lake became a big part of my exercise routine, and that was thanks to my brother for showing me the way and giving me an idea. He exposed me to something new, something that became a good habit for me to pick up. Sean, what’s your habit story?
  • 09:46 Sean: Now I feel bad, because you’re talking about biking around a lake. Mine isn’t necessarily a good habit.
  • 09:51 Aaron: That’s fine. Let’s talk about your bad habits. I just want to understand where these things come from.
  • 09:55 Sean: I didn’t say that it was bad either. My wife Laci used to work at a local coffee shop, a long time ago, and later on, she ended up working at Starbucks for a number of years. I would get free drinks all the time, because she gets free drinks when she clocks out. She could have whatever she wants when she was working, but when she left, she’d get a drink. She would get my drink and give it to me when she got off work.
  • 10:26 I got accustomed to getting free coffee drinks all the time. I would get an iced mocha, and it was free, so I got it every day. That was 1,000 or 2,000 days ago. It was a lot of days.
  • 10:46 Aaron: Why do you think in days and not years?
  • 10:48 Sean: Because, it’s daily! I want you to get the impression. This was every single day. There have been a few days where I haven’t, but generally, every day, I have an iced mocha.
  • 11:01 Now we make it at home. She doesn’t work at Starbucks. She hasn’t for some years now. We have an espresso machine and we make it at home, but that’s a habit. It started a long time ago, and I’m still doing it.
  • 11:17 Aaron: It’s interesting. Do you think you would have gotten into iced mochas if she hadn’t worked at a Starbucks or a coffee shop?
  • 11:26 Sean: Probably not.
  • 11:29 Aaron: Was she the one that introduced you to iced mochas, or was that something you found in the first place?
  • 11:33 Sean: As a high schooler, I might have had different desserts that were coffee flavored.
  • 11:40 Aaron: Like frappuccinos?
  • 11:42 Sean: Yeah, exactly. I was like, “That’s a little bit too much,” so I would gradually decrease the amount of sugar in it until it was stronger and stronger coffee. It was a gateway drug. Not to pin it on Laci. It’s not her fault, but it’s because she worked there that I had that access. I would pick her up from work, or she would come home, so there’s the habit.
  • 12:11 Aaron: It’s really interesting. Be aware of these triggers—time, location, preceding events, emotional state, and other people.
  • Triggers can set off good or bad habits, so being aware of those things is valuable.

  • 12:33 Sean: Now, Aaron, you mentioned something called a habit loop. Do you want to talk about that?
  • 12:41 Aaron: That is the habit loop: you have a trigger, the thing that sets it off. Then you have a routine, and then you have the reward.
  • 12:55 Sean: This is good or bad.
  • 12:56 Aaron: This can be good or bad, yeah. Let’s talk about another good habit of mine, jogging in the morning. My trigger is time. I wake up in the morning. I also have preceding events. I like to shower and have coffee. Sometimes I’ll jog before, so let’s simplify it. The trigger is time. The routine is to put on my shoes, go out the door, and go for a run. The reward is that I feel good during the day, and I get some exercise first thing in the morning.

Chaining Habits

  • 13:26 Sean: Speaking of triggers, I don’t always do this, but on my best days, I wake up at 4:30am and I’ll go on a run. I can’t think of any time, although maybe once or twice, where I’ve woken up at 4:30am and didn’t go on a run. That time is so strongly associated with going on a run. Otherwise, I’ll wake up at 6am and start my writing. I’ll skip that whole piece. I’ve never woken up at 4:30am and started writing. Those aren’t connected for me. I’ll write at 6am.
  • If I lay out my running clothes in the closet the night before, 100% of the time, I’ll go on a run.

  • 14:09 Aaron: That’s also trigger number three: preceding events. You lay out your clothes. That’s a preceding event. This happens, then this happens. That’s called chaining habits, and Sean, you talk about doing that a lot (Related: Lambo Goal e067 Sticking to a Routine and Chaining Habits). I do think it’s really important.
  • 14:23 Sean: For me, it was going to bed early. That’s the first thing I had to do. I had to reverse-engineer the goal. The goal was that I wanted to start writing at 6am, but I also want to have exercised by then. Obviously, I can’t wake up at 6am. I need to wake up at 4:30am. If I’m going to wake up at 4:30am, I can’t go to bed at midnight, so I need to go to bed early. If I’m going to go to bed early, I can’t work until 9pm or 10pm. My work needed to be done by 6pm so I could have dinner and wind down.
  • 14:54 For the work to be done at 6pm, that’s the most difficult part. That’s where you’re at right now. You’re saying that you don’t have time. I felt the same way. I don’t have time to stop work at 6pm. There’s too much work to be done.
  • The chain of habits starts with a decision, with you making a choice to change things.

  • 15:14 It starts with a choice to say, “I’m going to be done with work at 6pm, even when there’s more work and I can’t be done. I’m going to choose to be done at 6pm.” That allows me to kick off this nightly routine and be able to wake up early.
  • 15:33 Aaron: You don’t have time to stop, right? But time doesn’t stop for you. It’s one of those sayings that sounds like it should be really deep, but it probably doesn’t mean anything. Time is just a construct. It’s how we break up this experience that we’re having. It’s your choice. When am I going to stop doing this thing? What importance am I going to give to this other activity, in this case, sleep?
  • 16:17 Sean: It’s good. I like it.

Having a Successful Life

  • 16:23 Aaron: Understand your triggers, but also think about the choices you make and how the habits you have affect your day-to-day life, but also your bigger life. That’s what this entire episode is about. The title is 3 Simple Habits to Make Your Day More Successful, but I want people to have a more successful day so they can have a more successful life.
  • A successful life starts with being intentional, making choices, and stopping to think about your habits.

  • 17:00 How are they affecting your life, health, productivity, and relationships? Make intentional changes.
  • 17:07 Sean: Let me pull out something you said there. It’s simple, but it’s also profound. If you want to have a successful life, you need to have an individually successful day over and over again. That’s simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. Recognizing that is illuminating to me. I want a successful life. If I look at my day-to-day, do I prioritize having a successful day? Am I doing the things and setting up the triggers, am I making the effort and getting accountability, to be able to have a successful day so that I can have a successful life?
  • 17:54 Andrew in the chat says, “I’ve been doing the same thing, where I keep working until 11pm even though I’m trying to get up at 5:30am. Let me just say, it doesn’t work.”
  • 18:03 Aaron: We’re going to talk about that a little bit more later. This first section was an exploration of where habits come from, but the second section I want to talk about is how to build lasting habits, how to change your existing habits or introduce some better ones. In the third section, we’ll dive into the three habits I’ve found that have led to the biggest changes in my life.
  • 18:41 Sean: Can I say, by the way, if you haven’t checked out James’ website, go to JamesClear.com. He has amazing articles. Definitely get on his newsletter. He’s been working on a book, too, which I’m very excited about. He’s been working on it for a number of years. I’m in a mastermind group with him, and I’m very much looking forward to his book coming out.
  • 19:07 I don’t know if it’s officially announced yet, so I won’t say the title. Check out his website. He has tons of awesome stuff. He’s a really smart guy. I’m incredibly excited to have him speak at seanwes conference. I know a lot of people are really looking forward to this talk, specifically. I know it’s going to be really good. I hope you can come to seanwes conference.
  • 19:35 Aaron: I’m going to be hanging out with him there.
  • 19:39 Sean: You like to nerd out on productivity, habits, and exercise. He’s all about that.
  • 19:44 Aaron: Absolutely. If we can backtrack a little bit, Sean, you were saying that a successful life starts with a successful day, and I absolutely believe that. What’s tricky about that is that a lot of people haven’t defined what a successful day is for them. They don’t know what it means for themselves. A lot of times, we look at someone else’s life and we think, “They’re living a successful life. They’re living a successful day.” In my case, I always looked up to professional musicians.
  • 20:13 I wanted to have that life. There’s nothing wrong with that. If I were to live the kind of life where I played a show every night and got super smashed, had 12 shots, smoked a bunch of weed, and then passed out and woke up, I wouldn’t be that happy. That’s not the recipe for my successful life. I know that because I tried it when I was younger.
  • 20:39 Sean: When you did, though, didn’t you think that would make you happy?
  • 20:44 Aaron: I really did. I thought those different things would make me happy.
  • Through trial, error, experimenting, taking notes, and trying new things, I found what I needed to feel successful.

  • 21:01 I’m going to talk about those habits in a minute. If you haven’t decided what a successful day looks like, you need to try stuff. Think long and hard about it, and have conversations with people about it. I hope the stuff we talk about in this show and other shows on the seanwes network will help you get there, but in the end, you have to define this stuff for yourself. Be careful of assuming that because your life isn’t like someone else’s, that it isn’t like Grant Cardone or Madonna’s, you can’t be happy. You can absolutely be happy.
  • You can create the kind of life you want to live and it doesn’t have to be exactly like someone else’s.

  • 21:42 There’s danger in thinking that, unless you have someone else’s life, you’re not going to be happy.

What Kind of Person Do You Want to Be?

  • 21:49 Sean: What do you say to the person who wants to build a new habit? “I really do believe I should be writing every day. I think that would change my life. I think that would be good. I want to start exercising.” Also, what about the person who does something habitually that isn’t helping them, that’s not helping them get closer to their goals? It’s slowing them down, it’s taking them away from where they want to be. How do they fix that situation?
  • 22:16 Aaron: I’m going to pull from James Clear’s website, because he said it best. In one of his articles, he said, “The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person that you believe you are, either consciously or subconsciously.” That’s an interesting topic we could dive deep into.
  • 22:46 Going on, he says, “To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself.” He has a recipe for sustained success, creating new habits. “Changing your beliefs isn’t nearly as hard as you might think. There are two steps.” This is good, because if you throw too many steps at me, I forget. “Number one, decide the type of person you want to be. Number two, prove it to yourself with small wins.”
  • 23:13 Sean, let’s unpack that. First, decide the type of person you want to be. I’m going to put you on the spot, Sean. What kind of person do you want to be, different than who you are now?
  • 23:26 Sean: I want to be a person who works less while working more on the most important things. I want to be more physically healthy, because I can work hard and push myself right now while shaving decades off the end of my life. All I’m doing is robbing myself of time I would get to spend living in the destination, you know what I mean? It is about the journey, but also, I want a Lambo. I want to travel. I want certain things. I want to be able to do things and go places. I’m not there yet, but that’s okay. It helps me strive. I do know that, eventually, I will be there.
  • How long I get to enjoy being where I want to be is predicated on how well I take care of myself in the process of getting there.

  • 24:29 Aaron: I like that.
  • 24:32 Sean: I’m in time scarcity. Do you know what I mean? The things I need to do to run the business, to keep it alive, to pay the team to keep running the business to get where we want to go takes so much time. It’s easy for me to feel like I don’t have the time, even though I know that’s not true.
  • 24:57 Aaron: Time doesn’t stop for you, Sean. Let’s review those two steps for changing your belief about who you are, your identity. Number one, decide the type of person you want to be. Number two, prove it to yourself with small wins.

Small Wins

  • 25:15 Aaron: Let’s talk about physical fitness for a minute, because you said that you want to be the type of person who exercises more, is in better shape, is healthy, vibrant, and lives longer. James talks about small wins in this article. He uses push ups as an example. He wants to be more fit. He said, “I started with just doing five push ups every day.” He chained habits, eventually, to do more and to do them more often, but he started with just five.
  • 25:42 That’s a small win. Yesterday, I was working. I was finishing editing a podcast, and it was about 6pm. I want to be a person who is fit and healthy as well. I wanted to go to the gym, and I was right down the street from the gym I go to. The coffee shop I was at is right around the corner. I was like, “I don’t have enough energy to spend an hour in the gym, to really go hard.” I would want to go P90X style or cross-fit, you know, crushing it, 400 pound squats.
  • 26:15 All that crazy stuff. I didn’t have the energy, but I thought to myself, “You know what, Aaron? If you go and you commit to spending 15 or 20 minutes, that’s better than not going.”
  • 26:27 Sean: See, I think we all, myself included, convince ourselves that that’s a waste of time. “There’s no point in going on a 15 minute walk. I should be walking an hour a day. There’s no point in eating a carrot, because I don’t eat healthy meals all times of day. There’s no point in substituting my snack with something healthy, because I don’t eat healthy for lunch.” These are the things we tell ourselves.
  • 26:54 Aaron: Let me ask you this. Are you the type of person who goes on walks?
  • 27:00 Sean: Yeah, see. I like that you start with the identity. Who are you?
  • 27:09 Aaron: Are you the type of person that goes to the gym and works out?
  • 27:11 Sean: Now, what’s the right answer here? Let’s say the person listening does not do those things, but they want to. How should they answer that question? Are you the type of person who goes on walks? Who goes to the gym? What if they’re not doing those things? How should they answer the question?
  • 27:30 Aaron: It’s a simple question. Stop overthinking it. Do you want to be this kind of person or not?
  • If you want something, go do it.

  • 27:40 I’ll get a little bit harsh here. Stop saying you want things that you’re not going to do. You’re wasting your time and the time of the people you’re talking to.
  • 27:49 Sean: That’s true. I want it, Aaron. I want it.
  • 27:57 Aaron: You want it. Prove to yourself that you want something with small wins. We’re not talking about epic, “I’m going to go spend four hours locked in a gym,” or, “I’m going to spend a full, eight hour day learning programming.” Small wins, repeatedly!
  • 28:17 Sean: How do you get someone to see the value in small wins? What if they don’t see the value? What’s the big deal? One push up, five push ups. It’s not going to do anything.
  • 28:26 Aaron: It’s reinforcing your belief that you’re the kind of person who does push ups.
  • 28:31 Sean: There it is. That’s really good.
  • 28:34 Aaron: “I did five push ups? I’m the kind of guy who does push ups.” If you’re a musician and you go practice once a week, “I’m the kind of guy who practices and tries to get better.” It’s about reinforcing your belief in your current identity or your new identity. The danger, and this is what you have to be careful about, is that this can be a negative thing, too. You can reinforce the belief that there’s something wrong with you, that you’re the kind of person who cheats on their spouse or on their girlfriend.
  • Small wins are a reinforcement that you can be the kind of person you want to be.

  • 29:04 You’re the kind of person who eats junk food. You can absolutely prove things to yourself with small wins. In some ways, I think that’s the only way things happen. That’s the thing. We build up small habits over time, small reinforcements, that cause us to believe something about ourselves.
  • 29:24 I believe that I’m a podcaster and a podcast editor, because over time, I did that over and over again. Now, it’s just a thing that I am. That can happen to you if you’re not thinking about it. It absolutely happens to us when we’re not thinking about it. The trick here, the thing to pursue, is to be intentional about your small habits, because that will shape your belief about yourself, your identity, as James Clear says.
  • 29:57 Sean: You are in a band. You do a lot of recording with podcasts. You’ve been around microphones for a long time. Have you ever put a microphone up to a monitor or a speaker and gotten an infinite feedback loop?
  • 30:13 Aaron: I haven’t done it personally, but I’ve been in situations where that happens, and it’s interesting and sometimes painful.
  • 30:20 Sean: What happens is, even the smallest sound goes through the loop, gets picked up in the microphone again, goes through the loop, is amplified, gets picked up in the microphone—repeatedly. It’s a positive feedback loop, an upwards spiral.
  • The small thing you’re doing isn’t about the result it will produce—it’s about the positive feedback loop it kicks off.

  • 30:44 Let’s be honest, doing one push up isn’t going to change your physique. We all know this, and we let it keep us from starting. It’s not about the result of the first small thing you do, it’s about what it kicks off, that upwards spiral. It echoes. It’s a feedback loop. Eventually, it’s like, “I’m a vlogger. I’m a writer. I’m a guy who exercises. I’m a girl who eats healthy.” You start to take on this identity. In the beginning, you don’t fully believe it about yourself, but you’re trying to reinforce it.
  • 31:20 As you reinforce it, you do it more, because you’re acting in that identity. The more you do it, the more you look at the results and your actions, and that reinforces your identity, which reinforces the actions.
  • 31:36 Aaron: Absolutely. I love that. I want people to remember this part:
  • The recipe for sustained success is to decide the type of person you want to be and prove it to yourself with small wins.

  • 31:56 The big wins will come later. Don’t worry about those right now. Just the small wins.

1. Get Enough Sleep

  • 31:59 Sean: What are your top three habits that you think, if someone implements these right now, it’s going to 100% change their life?
  • 32:07 Aaron: I’m glad you asked, Sean. I was going to get into that next. Over the years, I have thought a lot about habits, my identity, and the way my life is going—how to course correct and shape my life in a way that I will be really happy with. Here are three things that I believe, universally, will help anybody improve their life. Number one, get enough sleep. We talk about this a lot and you’ve heard this, but I’m going to pound this into your head again, because this is important.
  • 32:38 Some people think that working 20 hours in a day and then sleeping for four hours is a sign of a true winner, but I call bull crap. It’s not true. Some people can do that if they have tight deadlines, but it’s not sustainable for most average people. You hear stories about these rockstar ninja programmers. They pull all-nighters and they get the job finished just in the nick of time.
  • 33:09 Maybe you’ve heard the story about Bill Gates, how we would sit at his computer, coding, for 20 hours. He would fall asleep mid-line of code, sleep for 20 minutes, wake up, and get right back into programming. That is the exception. We’re not all going to be exceptions at this thing. It’s not normal, and it shouldn’t be.
  • 33:30 Sean: No. I like what Gary Vaynerchuck says. He says, “It’s not about how much or how little you sleep, it’s about what you do while you’re awake.”
  • Get the sleep you need, because it’s important!

  • 33:47 Can I share something? This is silly, but it combines my desire for this person I want to be with my nerdy tech side. I have all these Apple devices. I have pretty much every device Apple makes. They have HomeKit, which is integrated with iOS, and you can control devices in your house, like lights, thermostats, switches, bulbs, etc. I have things on schedules. I have specific times certain rooms turn on. Other lights turn off.
  • 34:24 Lights change certain colors. It’s very Pavlovian, but these things happen as little triggers. I’m like, “This is the time!” I move around, doing things without really thinking about it. Last summer, when I wanted to write the Overlap book, I told Laci several months in advance, “I have to wake up at 4:30am. I need to be dedicated. I need to be writing consistently. This is extremely important. I need to go to bed by a certain time.”
  • 34:55 Both of us like staying up late. We have had seasons of our lives where we stay up really late. I’m the oldest of 13 kids and I lived at home until I was 21. I was used to being around a lot of noise and kids, so I would work late into the night. I got my work done at 2am. That was my time.
  • Over time, I realized that I’m more productive when I work in the morning.

  • 35:19 I said, “I have to wake up early.” I got my wife on board. Now, at 9pm, all of the lights in the house shut off. The lamps in the bedroom turn on.
  • 35:33 Aaron: It kind of draws you there.
  • 35:35 Sean: If you want to see what you’re doing, you better go to the bedroom. Brush your teeth, shower, and get ready for bed. Get in bed. What used to happen was that the lights would turn off at 10pm. That was a little bit inconvenient, because you might be sitting there, reading a book, and then they just turn off. Just last week, I got a couple of Philips Hue light bulbs that you can control the color and the brightness of.
  • 36:01 I set up a scene on a schedule, where at 9:55pm, the lights go to 80% brightness and get a little warmer. At 9:56pm, it goes to 60% brightness. 9:57pm, 9:58pm, and it gets warmer and warmer, darker and darker. By then, you’ve got the fan on, you’ve already set your alarm, you’re sitting in bed, and it just goes out. It’s the best.
  • 36:24 Aaron: You’re such a life-hacker.
  • 36:25 Sean: I know! We love it. It’s so fun, but it’s also like, “Well, you have to be in bed for the Philips Hue sunset.”
  • 36:37 Aaron: That’s great. Cory Miller said something interesting in the chat that I wanted to mention here. He laughed and he said, “Sleep. I remember sleep.” He has two little girls. I know that’s hard.
  • If you’re a parent with young kids, prioritizing sleep is more important than ever, because it’s going to be disrupted quite often.

  • 37:04 You need to. Maybe that means that if you have a night off or a few free hours, instead of playing video games or doing something else, you catch up on sleep. Invest and make a choice to get good sleep. It’s a shift in the way that you think about it. Rather than sleep being an inconvenience and a waste of time, realize that sleep charges you to live your best life. I 100% believe that. I don’t have specific evidence to back it up, but I’ve been tracking my sleep log. I’ve been using two apps, Sleep Cycle and an Apple Watch app that’s really cool.
  • 37:47 Sean: I use Sleep Cycle as well.
  • 37:48 Aaron: There’s an app called AutoSleep, and Brett Terpstra turned me onto this. It runs automatically on your watch, and it tracks how much you sleep. You don’t have to turn anything on. It’s just on every night, if you wear your watch. It’s really great. I also do the Self Journal thing, like I talked about in episode 257.
  • 38:07 I’ve noticed that I’m more productive, happier, and I have better quality of life on nights when I get good sleep. That’s usually seven and a half or eight hours of good sleep for me, every night. My life is better when I sleep well, so why wouldn’t I try to do that more? I’m more productive. I get more done. I’m nicer to people. I feel better. I have more energy. Number one, get enough sleep.

2. Start Your Day With Planning Instead of Consuming

  • 38:51 Aaron: This is really hard. I agree with you, Sean. I love waking up early. It can become a habit you get into, where you wake up at 4am and regardless of the time you go to sleep, your body is like, “Alright, it’s 4am! It’s time to get up!” That happened to me the other day. I went to bed at midnight, and guess what? I woke up at 4am. I was like, “No, go back to sleep. It’s not time to wake up yet.” I had a hard time going back to sleep, so I just got up. Wake up early and start your day with planning instead of consuming.
  • 39:26 Sean: What is consuming? What qualifies?
  • 39:29 Aaron: Let me explain this. Think about what’s important for you to do today rather than opening up email, social media, Facebook, or any of those things.
  • 39:37 Sean: But Aaron, all the notifications are just there on the screen!
  • Turn off your notifications; those should be for people from your work and your family.

  • 39:50 Aaron: Sleep mode, all the time.
  • 39:51 Sean: But it makes me feel good to see that someone liked my photo!
  • 39:55 Aaron: They’re just doing that because they want to care about what they do.
  • 39:59 Sean: I don’t have notifications on. This is what people do. They have favorites on Twitter, notifications when someone favorites their tweet. It’s ridiculous. Notifications when someone mentioned them or sent a message on Pinterest. They want to feel good, needed, popular, and important to other people. When other people are performing actions on things you’ve done in the past, like, “I like this/retweet this/heart this/favorite this/comment this/message this/share this,” these social media networks are trying to create events.
  • 40:36 They’re trying to create these shots of dopamine that get you addicted to the service. When you have notifications on, you’re playing into the addiction that these services have designed. They’re going to suck you in. As soon as you wake up, it’s going to suck you in. You’re browsing through the feeds, you’re looking at other people’s stuff, and now it’s gone.
  • If you start your day browsing social media, you squander the charge of sleep that is so precious.

  • 41:00 You can spend it on the most important work of your day, right when you wake up, or you can waste it.
  • 41:08 Aaron: Let me be really clear about this for people still receiving notifications for likes, mentions, and anything else. Your attention, your life, the only asset you have—your time—is being hijacked. You’re letting someone hijack your essence. Time is the only thing you have, and when you have notifications on, you’re giving it away. You’re letting someone else take it. Be very, very careful about that. Go read Deep Work.
  • 41:35 Start your day with planning. Start it off with sitting down and thinking about what you want to accomplish this day. What do you want to get done today? What’s important to you? Reading, a specific work project, doing a tutorial, deliberate practice, calling your mom, going for a run, hanging out with your girlfriend, having a meeting with your boss, working for two hours on that book.
  • Decide what’s important to you before you do anything else.

  • 42:05 Go back to episode 257 of the seanwes podcast. That’s the practical show. It’s a life-changer.

3. Exercise Before You Start Working

  • 42:18 Aaron: This was really big for me, too. I know you talked about this earlier, Sean. You said you like to wake up at 4:30am and go for a run. I’ve been doing something similar. It’s a small win. I start by putting on my shoes and walking out the door. It doesn’t matter how I feel. If I don’t feel good, I can walk for ten minutes and then come back. That’s a small win. That’s totally fine. Some days, I go on a three mile jog.
  • 42:45 Sean: I think a lot of people listening are like, “That’s great for Aaron. He likes doing that.” I don’t.
  • 42:51 Aaron: Not at first.
  • 42:52 Sean: That’s a good point, too. Once you get into it, you like how you feel. I certainly like how I feel during the day. I feel better. I have more energy. I feel more alert. I feel proud of myself because I started the day by fulfilling a commitment to myself. When Aaron says, “Exercise before you work,” he’s not talking to the people who exercise, like, “Those of you who are people who exercise, do it before you work.”
  • 43:21 He’s saying, “This is a good thing to do. If you’re not that person, this is a story you can start telling yourself.” I believe I’m a person who takes a walk in the morning. When I was trying to get back into running, I thought, “I don’t think I can run. I’m going to be too sore.” Rather than let that be an excuse, I did a mile walk. I was like, “That’s lame. I didn’t even run.”
  • 43:46 Aaron: It’s a small win.
  • 43:47 Sean: It got me outside. It got me moving. The next time I went out, I was like, “You know what? I’m going to run this time.”
  • 43:57 Aaron: Do you remember that year I told you about, where I was working construction and I gained 25 pounds from eating at Chipotle? A year after that, I decided that I was going to get fit. I was going to drop all the extra weight. I started running around the work place I was working at because there was a little trail. I was able to jog, not even run, for about 100 feet before it felt like somebody had hit me in the chest with a hammer. Over the course of a year and a half, I kept doing it every single day.
  • 44:29 I was eventually able to sprint for a half mile at a time. I got in really good shape. By the time I was 25, I lost 80 pounds, total. I was in super good shape.
  • When it comes to exercise, start with little wins.

  • 44:49 Watch your beginner yoga video on YouTube. Do 10 push ups and some squats. Buy a couple of small dumbbells and lift weights for ten minutes. Go for a ten minute jog. Take your dog for a walk. I don’t care. Do some kind of exercise in the morning. It doesn’t have to be the most epic thing in the world.
  • 45:05 Sean: But Aaron, I don’t have a dog. I’m off the hook. I don’t have to do anything he said.
  • Stop making excuses for why you can’t exercise.

  • 45:21 Aaron: Don’t blame your location. I do this sometimes. Don’t blame your spouse. Don’t blame the weather. If you have a room to sleep in, you have room to exercise. You don’t have to go outdoors. There are plenty of different ways. Stop making excuses. Do something. Give yourself a small win in the morning.

The Power of Declaring a New Identity

  • 45:50 Sean: This brings us to a section I like to call The Way I See It, With Cory McCabe.
  • 45:55 Aaron: This is my favorite section!
  • 45:56 Cory: It’s Aaron’s favorite. The small wins idea is such a big thing. That’s something I have a hard time letting myself celebrate. I think, “What’s five push ups?” What is that? That really spoke to me when you said to count those small wins as actual wins, because you can’t have big wins without them. It’s necessary. You have to have small wins in order to get big ones. It doesn’t just start with that. The big win is the goal
  • 46:32 Sean: But I want it to be the BOOM!
  • 46:35 Cory: It doesn’t work like that.
  • 46:35 Aaron: You want to have Thor abs.
  • 46:39 Cory: That really spoke to me. I was like, “Yeah, that’s what I needed to hear.” The other thing was identifying yourself. If you do five push ups, saying, “I’m a person who does push ups.” That’s so interesting to me. Sean, you gave me this advice a long time ago. I used to say, “I’m an aspiring film maker. I want to be a film maker.” You said, “Just call yourself a film maker.” I was like, “But—” “Call yourself a film maker!”
  • 47:05 I did. I started saying, “I’m a film maker.” It felt so weird and good when I started telling people that. I looked them in the eye and said that, and I thought, “What am I doing?”
  • 47:13 Sean: You’re like, “I’m an imposter!”
  • 47:16 Cory: I felt like an imposter, but I said it. Now, every one of my friends and even more people say, “Oh yeah, he’s a film maker.” That’s so cool. It happened because I started saying it.
  • Because I started identifying myself a certain way, now I’m actually doing those things.

  • 47:28 If I always said, “I want to be a film maker,” I don’t think I would be doing the projects I’m doing right now. I’m trying to make a feature length film, and I don’t think that would be the case if I hadn’t identified myself as, “I am a film maker.”
  • 47:41 Sean: You know, Aaron, I don’t identify myself as a runner. I just say, “I’m trying to do this thing.” If I said that I was a runner, that changes the way I think about myself.
  • 47:55 Cory: And it changes what you do.
  • 47:58 Aaron: You don’t have to be a marathon runner if you don’t want to be. You can just say, “Yeah, I jog. I’m a jogger.” It doesn’t have to be a huge part of your identity if you don’t want it to be. If you want to be the kind of person who goes out and jogs every day, you can prove it to yourself just by going out and jogging for two minutes. Jog to the end of the street and jog back. That’s how it starts.