Habits: Where is Your Autopilot Taking You?

habits success

Habits are our autopilot system.  When we are not consciously directing our actions, our habits direct them for us.  Successful people deliberately program their autopilot system to take them where they want to go.  Unsuccessful people spend most of their lives with autopilot on, but have no idea where it is taking them and have no idea how to give it directions!

We are all born with an amazing brain with this incredible autopilot feature.  Unfortunately our brain did not come with an owner’s manual.  Luckily, scientists have tinkered around enough to figure a lot out.

From Wikipedia, a habit is a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur unconsciously.  Habits are formed by regular repetition of a behavior until it becomes automatic.

According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, the time required to form a new habit is between 18 to 254 days; 66 days is the average.

Habit formation occurs in three stages:

Stage 1: The cue – an association that triggers the behavior

Stage 2: The actual behavior

Stage 3: The reward – a positive feeling that reinforces the behavior

Thus to program our autopilot system, we need a cue or something that reminds us to take action and a reward for completing the action.

My favorite method for forming a new habit is to connect the new behavior to a habit I already have.  I use an existing habit as the cue for the new habit.  I found I can form a new habit in 10-20 days using this trick.

In The Miracle Morning, Hal describes a process for building a series of habits he performs every morning.  This idea is pure gold; it is easily in the top 10 best ideas I have ever discovered.

Here’s why it is absolutely brilliant:

1. The morning routine is performed EVERY DAY.  This drives incremental improvement everyday.  As discussed in Success is Built on Habits, not Defining Moments, even tiny incremental improvements achieved daily will snowball to spectacular success.

2. The routine is performed the first thing every morning.  Everyday starts on the right foot.  Momentum is HUGE.  When you are having a great productive day, it is easy to keep being productive.  The opposite is also true.  When a day starts out bad, it usually stays and ends that way.

3. We love our habits.  We look forward to them.  I look forward to performing my morning ritual every morning.  It is honestly the best part of my day!

4. We can specifically design a morning routine that will drive us towards success.

Here is my personal morning routine:

Total Time, 1 hour, 40 minutes

  1. (15 min) Get out of bed, use the toilet.  Read autobiography of a highly successful person while on the toilet.
  2. (15 min) Warm up for workout.  Spend a minute visualizing achieving each one of my goals:
    1. Financial
    2. Physical
    3. Personal Self-development
    4. Relationships
  3. (60 min) Perform workout while listening to a motivational book or podcast.  Jot down ideas while resting between sets.
  4. (15 min) Drink protein shake at my computer.  Record ideas in Journal.  Create several action items I can accomplish today to move me towards my goals.
  5. Shower and start the day

At the end of this routine, I am completely pumped, excited, and motivated to take massive action and get a ton accomplished.

Here is why my routine works particularly well for me.  I wake up every morning because I need to use the restroom (THE CUE).  I’m still a little groggy, so spending 15 minutes on the john reading is a great way to coax me awake.  I do not check email or look at anything that could distract my mind from my morning routine.  I read the autobiography of a success giant for inspiration.

My warm up routine makes my body 100% awake and ready for the workout.  Visualizing achieving each of my goals 1) keeps them in my focus 2) makes me believe I can and will achieve them and 3) reinforces my desire and commitment to them

During my workout, I perform my daily plan for achieving my physical goals.  I always think most clearly and have my best ideas while working out.  Listening to a motivational book or podcast right after visualizing each of my goals causes my mind to brainstorm great ideas for making progress toward the goals.

After the workout, I drink a chocolate protein shake.  I love chocolate and my body is filled with endorphins from the workout (BIG REWARDS!).  I sit down and relax while getting my ideas into my journal.  Before I start each day, I have a list of actions I can accomplish that day that will get me closer to my goals.  I love getting each one done and checking them off the list.

Where is your autopilot taking you?  Do you start each day with massive positive momentum?

If you are interested in learning more about creating a morning routine, definitely read Hal’s book.  Hal’s idea is absolutely brilliant.  A good morning routine followed daily will absolutely change your life.


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The Best Advice I Have Ever Received

advice wisdom talent

The best advice I have ever received was from my father.  My dad struggled in school and never went to college.  He wanted better for me but knew that I would have to learn from others.

He told me:

Whatever you want in life, find somebody that has it and ask them how they did it.  Nobody is smarter or better than you.  If they have something you don’t or can do something you can’t, it’s because they know something you don’t and are doing something you’re not.

I grew up believing that the only differences between me and a Michael Jordan were 1) He knew a lot about basketball that I did not and 2) he practiced a lot, and I had not.  I grew up thinking I could be Michael Jordan if I wanted to.

When I failed at something, I did not take it personally.  It just meant I was not working  hard enough or I was doing something wrong, or both.  I tried again harder and smarter until I succeeded.

Decades later, I still love finding successful people and asking them how they achieved their success (hence this blog)!  It is 2nd nature to me.  What shocks me:

  1. NOBODY asks this question.
  2. NOBODY will answer it.

Deep down, people do not want to be successful; they just want to feel good about themselves.  Asking how to achieve success implies an understanding that:

  • Success is your responsibility.  You are not doing something you could be doing to be successful.
  • Successful people are successful because of what they are doing.  It is not luck; it is not talent; they did not cheat.
  • You must be ready to change and struggle to improve yourself.

Attributing success to talent abdicates responsibility.  People are in love with “talent.”  They believe everything comes easily to talented people.  The goal is to find your “talent” and do what is easy for you.  People that believe in talent:

  • Cannot understand, explain, or learn from the limited success they do have.  They want to believe they are special  If someone else could do what they are doing, then they are no longer special.
  • Cannot ask for advice.  They would be admitting that they are not special.
  • Are in denial about their true ability on almost everything.  Their self esteem is tied to being special.
  • Are terrified of failure or trying anything new because struggling means you must not be talented.

In reality:

Smart hard work and PERSEVERANCE  are far more important than talent.  Smart hard work and perseverance will make nearly anyone world class at nearly anything.  Talent is only worth talking about after smart hard work and perseverance (the result is a legend like Michael Jordan).

You should constantly try new things.  Trying, failing, and trying again is the most effective way to learn (I discuss this in more detail here).

Starting out, you should expect to struggle at everything because you have not worked hard and do not know what you are doing yet.  If you systematically apply smart hard work and perseverance, you can expect to be better than most in a very short while.

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Sam Walton: Made In America

This book is a must read for any aspiring or current business owner.  I read it cover to cover in a few days, and I will read it again every few years.  This single book might be worth more than everything I learned in my MBA combined; it is that good.

Sam Walton was an absolute genius at the following critical success components in business:

1. Understand Your Customer

Money is made by creating value for others and then trading that value for their money.  Understanding your customer (chosen benefactor of the value) is absolutely fundamental.  Sam understood small town America better than anyone.

2. Create Value for Your Customer

Trying to make money is like pushing on a rope.  Focus on creating as much value as possible for as many people as possible.  Making money is and always will be a side effect of creating massive value (there are other options, but I would call them taking money and speculation/gambling).

3. Learn from Others

Sam tells a story that I absolutely love.  He buys his first store without knowing much of anything (and he gets swindled).  He finds himself right across the street from the most successful store in town.  What does he do?  He spends all his time in his competitor’s store picking up ideas and implementing them in his own store!  Sam has probably been in more stores than any human being who ever lived or ever will live.  He never stopped looking for and discovering new ideas from others.

4. Recognize and Recruit Top Talent

Sam was able to immediately recognize winners, and he quickly recruited them for his team.  Every successful business is built on world-class “A players.”  The quality of people determine a business’s success.  I would rather own a business with A players and a mediocre business plan than have the best business plan in the world but try to execute it with mediocre people.

5. The Root Word of Culture is Cult

Life is a believing contest.  If you believe and are in love with your vision of the future more strongly than others believe theirs, others will adopt your vision as their own.  When people believe and fall in love with your vision, they will make that vision reality.

Commit to your business. Believe in it more than anybody else. I think I overcame every single one of my personal shortcomings by the sheer passion I brought to my work. I don’t know if you’re born with this kind of passion, or if you can learn it. But I do know you need it. If you love your work, you’ll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you— like a fever.”

– Sam Walton

Sam Walton was a genius and self-made billionaire.  If you have not read his autobiography yet, what on earth are you waiting for?

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