[Even when my aim was off my Dad love & believed in me anyways.]
What makes a great FATHER?
I think two keys are UNCONDITIONAL LOVE & CONSISTENT MENTORSHIP.
Being loved even when you make mistakes and consistently being gently mentored at how to aim & re-aim at a LIFE WORTH LIVING makes a truly GREAT FATHER.
When I went through SEVERE DEPRESSION a few years ago and was considering SUICIDE I could actually openly talk to my father about it. I did not have to hold anything in secret. I shared it all. Everything I was thinking, considering, & feeling. In all its darkness. Without shame or withholding.
He didn’t judge me, tell me I was wrong, try to fix me, or try to tell me what to do. He just patiently LISTENED to me. He just gently & unconditional loved me. He did this weekly for months as I went through the darkest time of my life.
Fortunately, because of him and the rest of my incredibly unconditionally loving family I made it through this DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL and am now gratefully living the LIFE OF MY DREAMS.
And one of the biggest reasons I am now actuating living this DREAM-LIFE is because my Dad gifted me with daily mental conditioning.
Every day he would mentor my mind with three specific training routines. He started this when I was very young. At least by the age of 5. Maybe even earlier.
First, he would ask me to tell him THREE THINGS I AM GRATEFUL FOR. They could be anything. He never judged. It could be serious or silly. I just had to give him 3 things I was grateful for. Whatever that was for me that particular day. And after each gratitude he would give me a genuine HUGE POSITIVE RESPONSE. That usually sounded like “That is GREAT, Justin!” or “Wow! So awesome! Good work!”
Secondly, he would ask me to tell him THREE THINGS I LEARNED. Again, it could be anything. I could tell him about some superpower my favorite superhero had or how I learned to do subtraction. With every learning I shared he gave me such an explosively happy & excited response I couldn’t help but feel like one of the SMARTEST people in the world — whether or not this is true remains highly controversial… 😛
Lastly, he would ask me to share THREE MISTAKES I MADE & WHAT I LEARNED FROM THEM. He would always remind me that “a mistake is NEVER a mistake if you LEARN something from it.” Again, my mistakes could be anything — big, small, silly, or serious. All I had to do was admit the mistake and then find the silver-lining learning and the gift of opportunity hidden within.
Basically, my DAD regularly coached me to live the GROWTH MINDSET in a subtle loving fatherly way.
For periods of my life I forgot these three mind-training techniques and become mentally out-of-shape. Largely due to ALCOHOL, DRUGS, and poor choices of ENVIRONMENT.
All of which led me to my deep depression & suicidal time in my life.
But my Dad never said a word. He let me take my path & travel my unique journey no matter how radically different it was from his own. He has never drank or done drugs in his entire life.
[Even when I took a completely different path he loved & believed in me…]
My Father never forced his sobriety upon me. He let me live however I chose.
He never told me what to do.
Instead he just patiently LOVED & BELIEVED IN ME. I like to think that he always knew I would reawaken to my own brilliance no matter how far off course I went.
A large part of that is because I have re-instilled this childhood mental conditioning my father entrained into me throughout my childhood along with other daily nano-habits and actually consciously set myself up for consistent vision-living.
Now these three daily mental conditioning techniques keep me empowered despite the ever-changing weather of life. They can actually turn a dark day of breakdown into a day of brilliance & breakthrough through sheer rote execution. They literally create the space & mental reprogramming to paradigm shift.
Today on Father’s Day I honor you DAD! My deep gratitude for all the love and blessing you graciously bestowed upon me and many others in our family.
[My younger brother Morgan & his son Simon, me, my Dad (maroon), and my uncle Paul (another important Father-figure in my life).]
P.S. A huge part of an empowered & enlivened life is consistency. I would be truly honored to be a part of your consistent ever-evolving transformation. Please sign up for my newsletter ALCHEMIZED and I will be your journey-partner in the adventure of consistent life transformation! 😀
SPECIAL NOTE: I am not a Father to another human yet, but I read this book all about the GROWTH MINDSET and wholeheartedly believe every parent should read it. I actually think EVERYONE who wants to be at the top of any and all areas of their life should read it.
In moving cars, parked cars, on flying airplanes, outside, inside, in total quiet, in busy noisy environments, in dark rooms, in the sunshine, at the office, at home, in random hotels and all other sorts of conditions. 365 days of meditation in a vast array of settings.
One year of unerring commitment to my awakening and my own evolution.
I did it. April 13th, 2016. This date marks one full year of meditation. Every day. Twice a day. Two sessions of 20 minutes each day. 40 minutes total per day. I didn’t skip a single meditation. In one year I meditated more than 14,600 minutes (some days I added in an additional session at my own discretion). Over 243 hours.. Over 730 sessions of meditation in the course of a year…
Looking back on this year of experience this is what I have been gifted with by my meditation practice:
1. The deepest most intimate level of self-knowledge, self-awareness, & self-acceptance I’ve ever attained in my life thus far. This has led to a sense of peace & belonging in this body, in this life, and in this world that I was unaware was even available to me in this lifetime.
2. A restoration of self-integrity & personal power that I spent 20+ years avidly destroying with self-abuse, toxic environments, drugs, alcohol, etc.
3. The GREATEST MOST LOVING, ACCEPTING, INTIMATE & UNDERSTANDING RELATIONSHIP I’ve EVER had with another person. This is easily tied as the number one reward of my meditation but I would like to think that I would have had that despite the meditation practice because SHE is that incredible. The kicker is that SHE is the reason I actually had the courage and took the action to begin this meditation journey. If she hadn’t been in my life I don’t think I would have ever begun. So in the end it was HER anyway. I call HER my Phoenix. She’s my best friend, my twin flame. She is the ever-burning FLAME that consistently rekindles my creative fire & inspires me to become the greatest man I can become. I still have a life-time to of work to do, but knowing she’s there with me makes it an exciting journey with a best friend and NOT a pain-staking obligation. I much prefer magical adventures with a magical best-friend over obligations. 🙂
4. The BEST CAREER of my life. I’m a leader and founding team-member of a Stanford startup (Oh My Green! aka OMG). We are a wellness & human potential technology company. I always dreamed of being a part of a Stanford startup. I am living that dream now. And I couldn’t ask for a more fitting industry to be in. After spending over half a decade encouraging the use of alcohol, drugs, & many other fun forms of debauchery during my stint in Hollywood Nightlife I have found redemption within OMG and bring wellness & potential to the world as part of my life’s calling.
*SPECIAL NOTE TO EVERYONE FROM MY HOLLYWOOD NIGHTLIFE PAST: I don’t regret my time in nightlife or think there is anything wrong with nightlife. Nightlife is awesome and it was a crazy awesome adventure! In truth:
I will forever be grateful for my experience in Hollywood Nightlife and forever hold a lot of LOVE for all the people that shared that journey with me.
That time of my life was absolutely necessary to shaping me into who I am and it will always be a deeply important part of my life and who I am.
I think of it as the DARKEST time of my life, but it is within the DARKNESS that I have discovered my strength & power to make a difference in the world.
(My original official Hollywood Nightlife business partners and I… the infamous Revolver Group. We were a FORCE that’s for sure — literally changed the whole game of nightlife. Love & success to you Angela, Andrew, & Benjamin! Forever grateful for the experience we shared!)
(Me & my most recent nightlife business partner & forever dear friend Kennedy (I love you, brother!)… Just another day at the office in the world of nightlife…LOL! No but, seriously… this picture pretty much sums it up… I)
(Another Hollywood throwback favorite… All key players in my life from that time. I have a ton of other honorable mentions from my Hollywood days coming too so stay tuned if I missed you… I just had to finish this piece before my creative fire went out and if I missed you here it bears no refection on your importance in my alchemical journey.)
Special shoutout to Liam and Pen&Public. Liam, you were there in Hollywood pretty much since my beginning. You were basically an unofficial business partner at the same time I was with Revolver. You blessed me with great work then. And then you moved on & created a prestigious boundary-pushing ad agency from your experience. You graced me with great work again after I finished up at Stanford and was trying to figure out my next move. This was the perfect transition that I needed. This time you took our work together to a whole OTHER LEVEL! I’ll never forget my first work event with Pen&Public…. Just a a little concert on a barge in the beautiful San Diego Bay with some small-time companies (Toyota & Pandora)… You are a BEAST, Liam! And forever a dear friend! So very grateful to you & your company. Always.
(This was only the setup for the event… You can see the magic of the event here.)
And now… I, along with my OMG superhero colleagues, hold a vision of wellness & potential for the world. Every week we deliver upon that vision.
Our mission is “empowering people to live healthy & blissful lives.” We are the vanguard of moving this world more fully into that vision of wellness & potential while driving the transformation from the industrial-economy into the age of CONNECTION. I take great joy in co-leading this revolution with my OMG Dream Team.
So what is OMG and who is the OMG Dream Team? I’m glad you asked! I’ll tell you more another time but this following video is a creative project & a testament to me living as a transformation artist & leader within my professional career. This was a vision I had that came about through my mediation practice that I chose to manifest into reality with the graces of the incredible company & team I work with at OMG. This video hold’s our VISION, exudes our ESSENCE, & showcases many of the superheroes on our Team.
*SPECIAL SHOUT TO OUR OMG FOUNDER & CEO, MICHAEL HEINRICH (narrator in video) : I met this magnificent man in one of my last & most favorite classes at Stanford after returning from a 7-8 year leave of absence. Also known as dropping out with only 2 quarters to go… Genius! But, actually one of the best decisions of my life… Michael was working on his master’s degree and had just created the first version of the concept for OMG a few weeks prior in another grad-level class at Stanford as a project. He was working on his class project by being one of the projects in my class. This is confusing but bear with me. Stanford can be confusing to outsiders but when you’re in the innovation hub of the world I swear it all makes sense. As part of my class, Global Entrepreneurial Marketing (aka GEM), we got to work on real-life startups/companies and Michael was pitching his startup class project to our class. I was immediately enamored by him. Call it an instant man-crush if you will. After being gone from Stanford undergrad for almost a decade I was in a class of mostly 20-ish year-olds and desperately looking for friends my age (30-ish). During his presentation he talked about his passion for meditation, yoga, & kung-fu. All things I thought were rad. So, I randomly approached him after his presentation and pretty much said, “I think you are cool, I am looking for friends my age, can we be friends?” He looked at me with the slightest hint of a pause and said, “Sure.” I can’t blame him for the pause. I would have paused too if some random person approached me with a crazed look in their eyes and asked to be friends.
I’ll save the rest of the Michael & Justin story for another time, but I wanted to provide a basis of understanding how the evolution of my career and meditation practice came to be. You see, Michael holds a vision of me that I am still learning to embrace and live. Michael is coming up on a decade of meditation and it was this evolutionary man who gifted me with my meditation practice. It was the first major OMG company benefit. He literally showed me the bridge to another life and paid my toll. He paid for my life partner as well. I think he somehow knew I needed her with me to take the leap of faith. If that isn’t belief in another, faith, unconditional love & compassion, and a whole lot of intuition then I don’t know the meaning of those words. **I cried writing this part… that is how deeply his graciousness towards me & my Phoenix has touched me.**
I now know that meditation is one of the most important things in my life and I will forever be grateful to our visionary OMG Commander-in-Chief. We call him Captain Kirk and we are definitely on the Starship. In him I found not only someone I could follow, but someone who empowered me to lead in ways that were deeply authentic to my core being. I am still learning how to both follow & lead, but with my spiritual brother it has been a lot of fun and a very much an exciting journey!
5. I am living my creative vision of being a transformation artist & leader as a writer, blogger/vlogger, & alchemist. This here ever-expanding blog and my ever-growing Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, & Twitter are all LIVING EXPRESSIONS of this vision.
I creatively express with integrity & authenticity AND I have a full-time job at a fast-growing Stanford startup at the same time! I never thought I could live my creative dreams and at the same time live my Stanford startup dream. I always thought I would have to choose one or the other. Turns out that was just a limiting & false belief I inadvertently “chose” to believe.
I thought about this writing & blogging/vlogging vision pretty much every week since 2005-ish. I didn’t even start writing until January 31, 2015. Yes… I thought about writing and blogging/vlogging for almost 10 years and had never filmed a video or creatively written outside of a school/class assignment…. And even that writing was pretty lame, inauthentic, and uncreative writing that was written for the sole purpose of getting good grades. More on that 10 years of waiting to “start when I was ready” here.
My meditation practice began a few months after my writing. And here we are today… I am a writing machine! And I’m becoming a filming beast too! This article explains how I started my writing and this article explains my current practice of 500+ words of writing per day. The next step for me is to copy my writing formula and apply it to my video & audio ventures.
My vision of myself as a transformation artist & leader is in its infancy but the epic journey is well underway! Finally! And my role at OMG supports and empowers this vision. I literally have permission and encouragement by my company CEO to live this vision in every way possible and he is constantly providing opportunities to empower this vision. Wait, I can have a job and live my dreams?!A whole new world of possibility revealed itself this last year…
I am still learning to live in this realm of possibility and I do fall out of it, but thankfully I have my Phoenix & Captain Kirk to lend a hand when I stumble.
(Michael aka “Captain Kirk”, me aka “Dragon“, & Phoenix at StartX – Stanford’s startup accelerator where OMG got it first major boost)
6. I am sober, happy, & very much ALIVE (feeling magical again without drugs!). After becoming sober from marijuana I felt like I lost the “magic transcendental” space I was regularly put in through my use of cannabis. Through meditation I have rediscovered the innocent joy and magic of life without drugs or alcohol.
I’ve somehow recaptured the wonder of childhood where I didn’t need drugs to see & experience the magic of life on a regular basis.
(CAUTION: Man-child at play… No alcohol or drugs powered this Peter-Pan flight! :P)
For the record, at the time of this writing I am over 3 years sober from marijuana and will be two years sober from alcohol in September 2016. I was an everyday pot-smoker for 4-5 years and quasi-alcoholic since 2002. I am still confused by what really qualifies as alcoholism as I rarely drank by myself, but I did drink circumstantially with regularity. I binge drank like crazy during college the first time around and I’m sure one can imagine how often I drank while working in nightlife… Basically every day of work… I am sure different people living different lifestyles could argue either way. In the end it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’ve always wanted that sense of magic & wonder I had during childhood back. When I lost it growing up I rediscovered it in drugs and alcohol, but I the side-effects took a heavy toll… [more on that here]. Now, thanks to my meditation, I got my natural & innate magic back!⚡️☄🐉
7. I am in the best physical shape of my life. No steroids or crazy illegal supplements. There is another practice that played an even greater part of this and I will be sharing that in another post in the near future [signup here if you want to make sure I email it to you when I finally release it]. My eating strategy and philosophy also plays a huge role (post coming on that too). Nonetheless, the meditation definitely plays a significant part and empowers the other techniques I use to be in awesome shape year-round.
(No steroids, no illegal supplements, all-natural FitnessRake & FlexEating — my fun, flexible, & year-round flex-worthy eating strategy/philosophy. Post on FlexEating in-development…sign up here to receive it when it’s released.)
8. Space. Meditation gave me space. Space in my mind. Space in my emotions. Space in my reactions to things in life. You could also call it awareness or mindfulness. The more I meditate the more space I discover. I am able to pause before reacting to things that would have set off pre-meditating Justin. This has done WONDERS for my relationship and just about every other area of my life. Instead of reacting, I respond from a place spaciousness & awareness. It is so much more powerful & profound than reacting.
9. Clarity. Clarity of intent. Clarity of action. In other words, I am also in the best mental shape of my life. Again, the more I meditate the clearer both my being and action in the world becomes. It is a slow and subtle shift and I am really only noticing it a year later, but now looking at all that I’ve done in the last year even I am amazed at the crystallization of long-held dreams and personal accomplishment.
10. A radical reduction of the frequency and intensity of my ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, & NEGATIVE MENTAL/EMOTIONAL STATES. Looking back I can confidently say that I’ve experienced at least a 50% reduction in both the frequency and intensity of my anxiety and bouts of depression. It may even be as a 70-80% reduction, but I am still observing myself in comparison to a year ago and it isn’t an exact quantification process. Nonetheless, considering that I am not currently doing therapy or taking any prescription/recreational drugs this is HUGE! I am naturally able to stay in positive states more often & regularly. AND… I move through darker states much more easily now thanks to my meditation practice.
11. A deep understanding, appreciation, and acknowledgement of my power to commit to something. This alone has unlocked me in so many ways. Commitment has been a big area of healing, growth, & transformation for me. Since meditation I have come a LONG way from my old uncommitted-self. And now that I’ve completed 1-year without breaking my commitment to meditation…
I KNOW WITH PERFECT FAITH THAT I HAVE THE POWER TO TRULY COMMIT TO ANYTHING IF I CHOOSE TO.
The secret is in the power of decision & choice. When I began this meditation journey I made the decision that I would meditate twice-a-day. Every. Single. Day. For 365 days in a row. I CHOSE because I CHOSE. And I decided that there was no exception to this decision.
When I crystalized that decision in my head & heart and took that stand… EVERYTHING in my life adjusted itself to support that choice.
There were some days where I had to jockey my schedule and get creative, but honestly most days it was pretty easy to accomplish simply because I made a decision that had no exceptions. I also didn’t allow there to be any excuse for reneging on this agreement I made with myself.
I believe anyone can do this with anything important in their life. But first, one must FULLY & COMPLETELY make a decision and fully stand in that choice. I am still very much learning how to do this in other areas of my life. I did that with OMG when I finally committed & came on full-time. And again, this choosing to commit TRANSFORMED my life. I’ve done it in my relationship with my Phoenix and my commitment to ever-continuous healing, growth, & transformation, but I still have plenty of areas where I still need to heal & transform my responsibility & commitment. I’ve also committed to sharing these healing/healed wounds here on this blog once they are at a level where I believe the sharing will be of service.
Special note: I am still questioning and exploring just how many things you can an “ideal commitment” with at the same time. I chose ONE thing and committed to it for a year. If you are thinking about trying an “ideal commitment” be wise and choose to do this with only one thing as you test it out for yourself in some new area of your life. Chances are you already have a “ideal commitment” like this to something in your life (partner, paying taxes, your career advancement, etc.). Take a moment and look at your life. Look and see what you are doing in the areas of your life where you naturally already have an “ideal commitment” and try applying it to another area. I can almost guarantee you have at least one, if not several “ideal commitments” that some deep part of you made with unwavering commitment. Good chance you made some of these without even being aware of how deep your commitment was. I did this with my exercise, although I didn’t realize it at the time. For years I trained relentlessly, almost never taking a day off from the gym. I eventually learned that it is better to have some rest days (more on that later), but for whatever reason when I began my Transcendental Meditation practice I immediately applied the same conviction and it turned into 365+ days in a row.
If you decide to to consciously initiate another “ideal commitment” and you fail — forgive yourself and begin again. I’ve committed to plenty of things and broken the commitment over and over again. My writing & blogging is a living example of a reoccurring broken agreement with myself despite this commitment. One thing is for sure though. As soon as I publicly posted that piece of creative work regarding my commitment I instantly began holding to the agreement more often than not. And since sharing my commitment to this endeavor my commitment just keeps on growing stronger. Yay! Accountability leveraged to the hilt with social media! 😛 Accountability is a powerful tool (another thing I am finally learning).
I don’t know if I got lucky with my “ideal commitment” to meditation or what. But I know I could do it again. 😉
So… Why Transcendental Meditation?
Before I discovered Transcendental Meditation (TM) I would have thought you were bat-shit crazy if you had told me that I could meditate anywhere at any time in any environment, let alone keep it up every day for an entire year. And I probably would have thought of punching you when you told me to do it twice a day. You see I had this preconceived notion that you basically HAD to have a monk-like environment to meditate and sit in some uncomfortable position.
After a year of meditation in all sorts of environments that limiting belief has been completely shattered.
I also always thought that my mind was just too busy and active to ever meditate. Before TM I thought “I think too much to ever truly meditate.” I had even tried several different meditation practices and failed miserably. I still remember having to do a group a meditation during my yoga teacher trainer certification and literally feeling like I was going out of mind. My monkey mind literally feeling like I was going to break, go insane, and just walk out on the group. I stuck through it though… Despite the misery of it… It was a basic breath-based meditation and it was before I learned TM.
As I mentioned earlier, my foundational meditation practice is Transcendental Meditation (TM). This is a specific technique of meditation that is mantra-based. Do I think it is THE WAY ONLY WAY TO MEDITATE? Definitely not. Just like I don’t think bodybuilding and yoga are the only ways to exercise. They just happen to be natural modes of physical expression for my unique body. TM happens to be a mental practice I naturally experience affinity with. Furthermore, bodybuilding, yoga, & transcendental meditation not only work really well for me…
I regularly experience deep joy, love, & happiness from my practice of these disciplines.
I also still rollerblade and as much as I want to bring rollerblading back into vogue the point I am making is that does not mean any of those practices are for you (although you should definitely give rollerblading another shot). The only way to find out is to try it for yourself. I know people who have been doing TM for years and I know people who have done TM and decided it wasn’t for them. And in both cases my belief in their invaluable worth as people is definitely not determined by their meditation practice no matter its current state.
Here is what works for me about Transcendental Meditation (TM):
It is easy & it works for me. Probably the most important points.
It is a specific technique that works exceptionally well with my hyperactive, always-thinking, overly-cerebral mind.
You can literally do it ANYWHERE in ANY ENVIRONMENT/CONDITION.
You don’t need any external thing to do it. Just your beautiful & divine self. And you are always with you. No app, no special clothing, no special place, & no timer needed. (Personally, I do usually use a timer-alarm to avoid falling into a super long meditation and messing up my daily schedule, but I know plenty of TM-ers who use no alarm at all.)
IN SHORT RECAP ON WHY I USE TM:
It the most dynamic & robust meditation technique I’ve discovered. It is easy & it works (scientifically & personally proven).For an entrepreneur or anyone who has a very active life these qualities make it a sustainable practice that can live within & EMPOWER just about any lifestyle.
Please note the emphasis on “I”. This practice may not be for everyone. It is an invaluable practice for me personally.
On a random side note, what is really personally interesting for me is that TM has opened me up to explore & really embrace several types of meditation. Where as before I tried them and could barely get through a few minutes I can now do them easily. I like to think about it in the sense that since I bodybuild and do yoga I am naturally fairly good at most things that require physical effort. TM is like my mental bodybuilding/yoga and over the course of the last year I’ve delved into mindfulness, Yoga Nidra, lucid dreaming, and various guided mediations. All with great ease and enjoyment. There is a list of other types meditation that I am into at the bottom of another article I wrote [see here].
Here is what I DO NOT necessarily appreciate about TM:
The training to learn it can be pretty expensive. Mine was over $700 and that is why it was such a huge deal that Michael gifted it to me & my partner. I have mixed feelings about the cost. On one hand I know from personal experience that when something isn’t cheap to get you tend to care a whole lot more for it, proactively invest your time & energy into it, and actually make strong & regular use of it. “Getting your money’s worth” is a saying that comes to mind. So, I can see how the steep cost of TM actually can play a large role in people sticking with it long enough to experience and notice the benefits and by that time the chances of them keeping the practice indefinitely go way up. In that light, the cost could be considered a benefit. On the other hand, it can be a limiting factor that scare people away or make it inaccessible to some. I believe there are discounts, scholarships, and financial need available to those in need but don’t quote me on that.
There is a weird social stigma around TM floating around on the internet and among groups of people. It reminds me of the Mac versus Windows ridiculousness. Or the cult-like following or avoidance of Apple products in general. For the record it is not a cult. The TM organization does NOT harass me in any way. They do not even randomly call me and try to get me to spend more of my money. Even my beloved alma mater does that! [I actually appreciate it by-the-way because I love giving back to Stanford. Keep calling me! I used to make those calls to raise money for Stanford too.]. Here is the way I think of it: if you think TM is a cult then you should also consider the following successful companies as cults by the same logic: SoulCycle, Nike, Apple, Amazon, Whole Foods, etc. All of these companies are hyper successful in their field of business. So is TM. It just happens to do business in the field of meditation. I think that any organization or person doing work to bring mediation to world is doing something valuable & noble.
Ok, I think that is a concise and honest overview of the pros & cons of TM as specific meditation practice. Now back to the big picture…
Here is how I like to think about my meditation practice:
It is an infinite ever-expanding foundation.
As you invest in the practice the foundation grows with each session. It is the foundation which you can build everything else in your life upon. Want to build a castle in the sky? You will need a foundation for that. Can you build a home without a foundation? Sure, but maybe only one or two stories high. And the longevity & vitality of that house will be severely limited & compromised. Can you build a skyscraper that touches the clouds & sky above without a foundation? Definitely not. Is meditation the ONLY foundation upon which to build your castle? Nope, there are plenty of incredible people doing incredible things that don’t meditate. But I guarantee you they have discovered some foundation which to build upon — faith, family, mindset, & other various human potential practices. Meditation is just one scientifically proven foundation.
The other aspect of regular meditation that is so powerful and may be under-realized is that it acts like an AMPLIFIER to every positive thing you do in your life. And in converse it acts as DAMPENER to the harmful things you still do… often leading to the release of these negative habits.
I personally witnessed this positive amplification and negative dampening in so many areas of my life now that I’m looking back over the last year. I am utterly in awe! But it all happens so subtly with meditation and often it was easy to miss it happening. It is only retrospect that I can see just how much of impact meditation has had in so many ways.
DO PEOPLE YOU KNOW & ADMIRE MEDITATE?
You would be surprised at how many incredibly successful & happy people DO meditate. I know I was when I first began to explore my meditation practice. As I delved into it I realized that a lot of people I admire meditate, but aren’t overly open about it. Not that they hide it, they just don’t speak about it much. It was like the common force-factor, or golden-thread, that many people I admired shared. Here are a some of my favorites: Hugh Jackman (aka Wolverine — my personal favorite), George Lucas, Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Russell Simmons, Russel Brand, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tim Ferriss (another personal favorite), Justin Boreta of The Glitch Mob (one of my favorite music groups), Jennifer Aniston, Jeff Bridges, Cheryl Crow, Ellen Degeneres, Cameron Diaz, Clint Eastwood, Eva Mendes, Rick Rubin, Miguel (R&B artist), Moby, Katy Perry, Martin Scorsese, Howard Stern, Liv Taylor, Ray Dalio and so many other famous & uber successful people. AND just about every recent spiritual leader (Ghandi, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, etc.). And let us not forget Buddha & Jesus and all the other great spiritual masters of our short human history.
I am also taking a wild guess that probably a lot of the super successful people you admire meditate and you may not even be aware of it.
As in pretty much all areas of life, what is most important is finding what is enjoyable and sustainable for you & your lifestyle. I cannot emphasis the word ENJOYABLE & SUSTAINABLE enough. If it is not personally FUN (as in you like to do it) then you will likely not keep it up over a long period of time. This is incredibly true for a physical fitness routine and the same truth applies to most areas of life I think. Think about it… If you don’t enjoy your marriage or job chances are you will eventually give it up despite the original commitment and agreements you made.
I had to do a lot of exploring to find a meditation practice that I could easily stick to. TM happened to be that for me. Does it help that most of the living famous people I mentioned above also do TM? Yes it does. Am I following? Yes I am. I have learned that if you want to be a great leader you have to be a great follower. Then you add your own unique alchemical twist to it all and authentically lead in your own way. 😉
Before I end this let’s dispel some common myths about me & meditation in general:
Can I levitate and move objects with my mind? Not yet, but I am still working on it. I can do some pretty cool yoga poses and I like to jump around (see picture above). Nonetheless, I’ve yet to meet a meditator who can fly or has the power of telekinesis. However, there is something about the increase of synchronicity that happens with meditation the longer you do it. And that is truly magical! It isn’t really something I can fully explain (yet) but the increase of random incredible things syncing up and happening for the betterment of my life is palpable compared to the years before I meditated.
Do I have mind-control over myself & others? I definitely have a much more harmonious relationship with my mind and the minds of others. I am not able to 100% control my monkey mind or make other people do things they don’t want to do. True power is self-mastery. And meditation has been playing a huge part for me in coming into greater mastery over my own mind. I still have a long way to go, but I’m infinitely further along than I was a year ago.
Have I completely removed breakdowns and all darker states of being & existence? LOL! This is life. I am human. I still have dark days, experience failure, over-react, and cause pain/suffering/hurt to others and myself. Even superheroes experience all of this. But I now have a level of power to move through these experiences with grace that was unavailable to me before meditation. And for that I am deeply thankful and have greater faith in myself and my life during the rainy days.
Have I fully overcome all of my anxiety & depression of the past? Nope. They are still with me. I still find myself experiencing mind-breaking levels of anxiety at times and do still fall into mini-bouts of depression [see here for more on that]. BUT! The frequency and intensity of these states has dramatically reduced over the course of the last year of meditation. I’ve also discovered the space to meet and embrace these states with compassion instead of trying to fight, beat, or kill them. I also discovered that resisting these states only seems to make them stronger and endure longer. I now have the space and courage to heal & integrate my anxiety and depression as they come up in everyday life thanks to my meditation.
Do I literally stop my thinking mind through my meditation practice? Ha! Ya right! I still have a billion thoughts whizzing around in my mind quite regularly. However, I do find myself falling into pure presence more and more. This is feeling of complete being with everything that is suspended from time. I am still coming to understand this, but I think it is what some would call a blissful state of existence. Also, my ability to focus has dramatically increased due to my meditation. This has benefits in so many areas of my life. Think about it. How much more could you do if you could really focus well on the things that are important to you?
The fact that I am living a dream working at a Stanford startup in Silicon Valley, while consistently expanding my vision of myself as transformation artist & leader through my blog & on other social media platforms, am in excellent physical health & condition, have an incredibly happy & harmonious relationship with a divine being & my family, etc. should all speak to the power of focus I derive from a regular meditation practice. I am far from perfect. I know this. I have tons of growth still to do. But now I am firing on way more pistons at the same time in unison. And it seems like the longer I meditate the more horsepower I get to use for whatever I find personally meaningful & important.
Do I sit in lotus pose or cross-legged every time I meditate? I can’t even do lotus pose (yet) and I am a certified yoga teacher. This is mostly due to an old hip injury from a bike/car accident (I was on the bike). But the truth is that lotus pose has ZERO bearing on one’s ability to meditate. And I don’t think I sat cross-legged for even one meditation session in the last year. All that is really important is to have a straight (but relaxed) spine. Most of the time I sit up in a bed, chair, or couch. If I am outside I will usually find something to rest my back against. One of the keys to great sustainable meditation is being comfortable while you meditate. The common vision of the yogi sitting in lotus or cross-legged is because those people do yoga every day and have been for years. Sitting in those positions is comfortable for them. For many of us those two sitting positions are painful or even impossible. The truth is most of the time when I meditate I sit in my bed with my back against the headrest and my legs fully extended out in front of me resting along the mattress. Nice & comfortable for me. Find a meditation and mediation posture that works for you, don’t buy into some purposeless dogma that demands a certain position. Meditation is an inner pose.
Is every meditation amazing & serene? Definitely not. Just like my bodybuilding & yoga sessions some days are pure joy and full of transcendence. Other times I feel off and out of my power. Some meditations literally suck and I just bear through the 20 minutes. Just like some of my exercise sessions suck. Yet each time I complete a workout or a meditation never have I thought, “that was a waste of time.” The magic comes from the regular practice. I’ve discovered that the practice, process or journey is the real fortune of meditation, bodybuilding, yoga, or any endeavor really.
Did I get instant results? Again, I return to my bodybuilding and yoga analogy. One bodybuilding session or even several isn’t going to suddenly make me ripped and shredded. One yoga session or even a few won’t completely realign my body and make me super flexible. The fruit is in the ongoing practice. Until I sat down to write this piece I wasn’t even fully aware of all the incredible benefits of my year of daily meditation. The transformation is slow and subtle… But it’s lasting! REMEMBER: ever-growing foundation upon which you can build upon.
I think that is it for now. I may or may not come back at some point and add some more if it comes to me, but I think this is a pretty comprehensive review of my experience from of a year of daily meditation.
In closing I leave you with this…
Did meditation solve all my problems? No. I still have tons of growth opportunities. But it did slow-motion catapult me into a RADICAL NEW REALM OF POSSIBILITY. It is paradoxical because the transformation happens ever-so-slowing. But it is lasting & compounds over time. Over weeks or even a couple months it seems like nothing happened. Over a year… Two different worlds.
One last thing to note is that I have been experiencing what some would call an awake transcendent state. These just started happening towards the end of my year of meditation. Or I just started becoming aware of them. Either way, I am still coming to understand them. For now I am content to enjoy the mystery of them and sit in ambiguity. All I can really say for now is that these experiences are so worth a year of daily meditation! You can read about the experiences here & here. Fair warning, these are direct from my journal I keep and may be a little confusing.
If you read this far… Thank you! I deeply appreciate your curiosity and hope you enjoyed reading about my journey with meditation so far. If you didn’t, that’s okay too. You see, I really wrote this for me. I wanted to commemorate something that is so deeply intimate and profound to me and the best way for me to honor that was by writing about it and then sharing it without attachment to how long it ended up being or having any attachment to the response it got. I am grateful to anyone and everyone who even read a sentence of this and shared in my honor and acknowledgment of a major milestone in my life.
And if you are curious about meditation… Go explore! I truly believe there is a meditation practice for everyone! You just have to be open to the possibility and take courageous action until you find one that clicks. And I promise you will know when it does. If it hasn’t clicked yet and you have been exploring it just means you’re meant to keep being curious, open, & actively searching. Hell, I am still curious and exploring the infinite inner realms through various modes of transportation. I am NOT in it for the destination. I am in it for the alchemical journey! Feel free to join me! 😀
Daily nanohabits was the missing keystone that finally led me to unlock my aesthetic fitness potential (transformation pictured below). More importantly, the same simple process can be used to unlock latent potential in any area of life.
The following two quotes capture the essence of the concept of daily nanohabits and their capacity to radically unlock latent potential in anyone:
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” -Confucius
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
Throughout life I have set incredible lofty goals. Goals that would change my life if achieved. Noble goals born from true dreams. At times these goals and dreams were achieved. Getting myself into Stanford was one of those. Getting myself back to Stanford and graduating after a 7-year leave of absence was another. But more often than I would like to admit many of my dreams and goals remained unmet, unachieved, and often I never even got around to actually starting. I’ve always been frustrated with unlocking my own latent potential. Potential I know I have, but have yet to actually develop and manifest in my physical life. What do I mean by latent potential? This is all untapped talent that I have that just sits unused and stored within but never actually gets put into action in my daily life.
Usually, these are the things “I wish” I would do or accomplish. They are my precious dreams, desires, and habits I yearn to embody. All of them could be possible in this physical reality if I truly strived for them regularly. However, since they aren’t essential to my day-to-day life and means of living most of them have sat by on the sideline. Patiently waiting, but never truly being put into play. My dream body was always one of those goals that seemed forever elusive. Starting a blog and writing was another. Others things I always wanted to do have included daily journaling, affirmations, meditating, etc. Within the realm of my latent potential is big and small goals, dreams, habits and more. Essentially, latent potential is all things that would make my life better and make me more effective and happy in life, but have yet to become fully realized and maintained in any consistent manner. Sound familiar? Read on to find out how I finally overcame this common hurdle that so many people seem to struggle with. Ultimately, I discovered a fairly simple way to develop and manifest latent potential. It led me to achieve the body always I wanted, actually start writing, keep up a blog, and much more.
**SPECIAL NOTE: This is a really long written piece. Probably too long for the common reader. I am putting together a more concise guide on this that will be much shorter. If you want me to send that directly to you please sign up for my email newsletter & I will send it to you as soon as it is complete. And/or feel free to “Like” my Facebook page as I will be sending it out there too.
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Through personal study, introspection, and discussion with some incredibly intelligent and successful people I have come to realize that for me goal setting is not enough to bring out latent potential. In fact, it is usually too much. Or rather it is the wrong focus for me when it comes to unlocking this ever-elusive chi that lies dormant within. It places so much energy around a goal, dream, or habit that it becomes down right daunting. The dream, goal, or habit seems so far away, unrealistic, or energetically distant that instead of working towards it I spend more energy and time avoiding it. If it is directly related to my current work/profession it seems to be fairly easy for me to accomplish, but if it’s one of those things that I wish I would or could do, but it isn’t directly required of me then it usually stays in the magical land of tomorrow. I talk about it with close friends and family. I think about it. I fantasize about it. But, in reality, I don’t actually “do” anything about it. Achieving the physique I always dreamed of and starting this blog and actually writing regularly were some of those fantasies I could only seem to think and talk about, but not actually “do.” My dream physique was such a long-time goal always just barely out of grasp. I’ve strived for the body I have now for nearly two decades, but it wasn’t until I discovered an extremely simple process that it finally manifested in physical reality. Having a blog and writing has been such a big dream for so long that it became too intimidating to even get started. I spent over 5 years dreaming of starting a blog and writing, but it all finally came together in very short order once I discovered and implemented a simple concept.
In reality, we all have the ability to achieve just about anything we put our minds to. But how do you overcome that initial inertia and the fear of starting? And then when you finally do start on that dream or goal how do you keep yourself from quickly giving up? And what about habits? I cannot count how many times I have decided to start on a new habit that would change my life if I could stick to it. But of course, if I am going to start a new habit it’s going to be HUGE and immediately life-changing. And it’s going to be hard. Because if it’s not hard it’s not worth it, right?! But I can do it! My willpower is infinite! That’s how it starts… Then I get stressed or overwhelmed with work or with something else in life or don’t get enough rest one night and the new habit is quickly abandoned. Like big dreams and goals this habit is such a mentally/energetically huge insurmountable task that took such incredible courage and willpower to start the first time around I find myself unable to stir up the same level of enthusiasm to begin again and it remains abandoned. I see this happen regularly with people starting new healthier exercise and eating habits. For me, it usually stays abandoned until I randomly find that incredible burst of willpower again. Sometimes that happens a few weeks or months later. Sometimes I never get up the courage to begin again. On special days I will find that courage and energy to finally start making some good progress again. Nonetheless, something else always happens at some point and I am distracted, discouraged, or sidelined by life and give up again. Then, of course, guilt and shame poison the whole thing making it even harder to start over. Why can’t I stick to my habit that could forever change my life?! Why can’t I continuously and steadily pursue my dream?! I must not be cut out for it, it must not be right for me, or I must be weak, inept, unworthy, and so on and so forth goes my inner self-talk.
This was the general case for me for many of my dreams, goals, and habits for most of my life. Thankfully, this was interrupted by random spurts of inspiration, courage, and willpower that did lead me to doing and achieving some amazing stuff and building some lasting habits that have led me to live a fairly effective and abundant life. Even so, how awesome could it be to turn random, intermittent, unpredictable goal-achievement, dream-attainment, and habit-building into regular and consistent growth, transformation, and realization? I believe I have finally discovered a process that works. And the best part is that it’s fairly simple and straightforward. Furthermore, I firmly hold to the idea that it is one of the most essential keys to developing and manifesting latent potential. In fact, it is so simple I am embarrassed to admit that it took me so long to recognize it. But maybe, just maybe, I can save others some time, energy, and frustration by sharing what I discovered. This key principle has radically changed my ability to manifest my dreams, achieve some pretty big long-term goals, and systematically improve just about every area of my life through lasting habits. The key is a principle I call daily nanohabits.
NANOHABITS: These are microscopic habits that are so small that they are not intimidating and can be almost effortlessly accomplished on a regular basis. Like nanotechnology they are so small you hardly notice them, if at all. They are so small that you would almost laugh at yourself for not doing them. They will be different for everyone. Something that is super simple and easy for one person will be incredibly hard for another person. The first part of the core concept of a nanohabit is that they must be small and undaunting habits that are easily accomplished repeatedly. The second and equally important part of the core concept of nanohabits is that though they are small, with the compounding of time, they become mighty.
When I explain this concept to people in person I often use the analogy of jumping over a building like a superhero. The jumping over the building is the proverbial action that must be taken to realize the dream, goal, habit, or change. Like most people (especially type A overachievers like myself), when I commit to starting something new whether it be a dream, goal, habit, change, etc. I choose something that is going to be amazing and truly life-changing. And of course it’s going to be hard. Because if it isn’t hard what’s the point, right? On rare occasions, I can figuratively jump over a building like a superhero and accomplish something big. But could I do that every day? Definitely not. How about every week or month? Maybe once or twice a year is more likely. And for the truly life-altering stuff, maybe a few times during this particular existence. As much as I would love to claim that I have superhero-level willpower on never-ending demand, that is not reality. And it isn’t reality for most people. But what if I asked you to jump over a crack or line in the sidewalk? Just a tiny hop over a line. Could you do that? I could. Could you do that every day? Surely you could. It’s just a tiny line on the ground that anyone could jump, step, crawl or even roll over. Getting over that line is your nanohabit. In one day, the superhero jump over the building would get you much further. But what if you could only do that superhero jump once every few years, but you could hop over that line every day? Which would get you farther in a year? How about 2-3 years? How about a life time? At some point the nanohabit line-crossing turtle would be much farther along than the superhero building-jumping hare. The longer the time period the farther the turtle gets ahead. This is the secret of nanohabits. They are so easy and small they can be done every day and in the end will get you much further than you ever thought possible.
I always wanted to be in incredible aesthetic shape. I am well aware that it is a fairly vain goal and freely admit that it stems from body relationship issues I have spent a lifetime healing, but more on that in another article. For most of my life I have been in pretty good shape, but never aesthetic fitness model level. I worked out pretty much every day for 1-2 hours, ate clean, took all the right supplements, and on and on, but still those abs and shredded body I dreamed of remained just barely out of grasp. I tried just about every type of exercise and diet known to man as well–P90X, kettlebell training, Insanity, spinning, hiking with a weight-pack, low-carb, slow-carb, paleo, blood-type diet, geno-type diet, and the list goes on. Then in September of 2013 I began a simple daily nanohabit that radically changed my life from an aesthetic fitness perspective. The new daily nanohabit was daily food and weight logging. To an outsider this may sound hard, but I found a smartphone app, MyFitnessPal, that makes this incredibly easy for me. I can literally scan barcodes and the food shows up in the program and then I select a serving size and voila! The food and macro calories (grams of fat, carbs, and protein) are logged. There is also a place to log your weight.
I started small. I didn’t try to stay under a certain number of calories or reach specific macro targets. I didn’t care what I weighed. I just weighed myself. At first, it maybe took me an extra 2-5 minutes per meal to weigh out my food if cooking at home or to estimate it while eating out. Now it maybe takes me an extra 30-60 seconds at home and an extra 1-2 minutes to estimate while eating out. Weighing myself takes 30 seconds or less. Food and weight logging became a “keystone” habit for me. Author Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit that “keystone” habits are catalysts that create a ripple effect of positive transformation in multiple ways and areas in one’s life. For me, the domino effect of my daily food and weight tracking has been amazing in retrospect. It did take months before I even realized it though.
Without even trying I began eating better just because I was taking that tiny bit of extra time to actually pay attention to what and how much I ate. Ultimately, it led to more consistency in my eating patterns. And since I wasn’t forbidding myself any food I began to stop binge eating. I have always been good about working out, but my eating/diet has been somewhat all over the place. I have a long history of being in famine or feast mode. I would eat super “clean” for six out of seven days, then go ballistic on a “cheat” day. I didn’t realize it at the time but that “cheat day” literally destroyed any progress I made the rest of the week. Yes, I have no problem destroying six days of good eating when I let my inner alpha-eater out. That’s how big my appetite is.
Over time this simple nanohabit led to me realizing how much I could eat on a daily basis and still lose body fat. Since I was weighing myself daily I saw exactly what my eating did to my body day-in and day-out. This led to even further consistency in my eating. And before I knew it I was consistently dropping the right kind of weight (aka body fat). Just weighing yourself daily is actually a pretty influential keystone habit. For most people, myself included, it causes an almost subconscious effect on one’s daily decisions when it comes to food and exercise. Getting constant feedback on how your body is responding to your lifestyle and daily choices is powerful stuff.
On a side note, I thoroughly realize that weighing oneself is often personally charged with shame, guilt, stress, and whole host of other ill feelings. I also admit that it isn’t for everybody. Plenty of people have great relationships with their body and are accurately able to listen to what their body is telling them. Because of my issues with my body image and abusing food and exercise like a drug, weighing myself has been essential to clearing the lines of communication with myself. Initially, I had to get over all the negative and weird energy I held around weighing myself. It was a very confusing emotional space for me in the beginning. Partially, this was because for my entire life I had been trying to get in amazing shape, but hadn’t ever clearly defined what getting into amazing shape meant to me. Was I bulking, getting jacked, getting shredded, getting stronger, leaning out, increasing physical performance, or something else? By weighing myself every day I was forced to get very clear what my true fitness goal was. It cleared up my own communication and led to me clearly defining my true personal fitness aspirations. By having this daily conversation with the scale and asking myself what am I trying to do with this weight data I was collecting I finally realized that I didn’t really care how much weight I could lift and I didn’t want to bulk or get bigger. I just wanted to look aesthetically fit and look great in a slim fit suit — well defined and muscular (think Hugh Jackman in Wolverine), but not too meat-heady (I got lots of love for meat-heads, just not the look I desire). Once that was defined the scale became a simple feedback tool to help guide myself towards that aim. As the months of daily weight logging went by it became easier and the weird energy I held around the scale cleared up. Eventually, it did just turn into a feedback tool that kept me honest with myself. In reality, humans decide what their experiences mean to them. Weight is riddled with a lot of shameful, confusing, dark and fearful stuff, but one of the easiest ways to clear that is to face that fear daily. Eventually, you will likely come to the same conclusion and find out that it isn’t that scary after all. And what’s really cool is if you stick with it you realize you have control over what the scale does, whether you are trying to bulk up and put on mass or lean out and lose fat. It’s 100% within your power to control if you choose to. And by practicing facing fear in one area in life it makes you that much better at facing it in other areas of life. Weighing myself daily was what allowed me to see just how dysfunctional I was with my “cheat days”. I would literally be up 5-8 pounds in a day after one of my infamous feedings and then spend the rest of the week getting my weight back down only to repeat the same process after each week’s “cheat day.” It was a vicious mental/emotional cycle. Nonetheless, by no means do I recommend weighing oneself or tracking calories. For many people neither is a good idea and only you can decide if it makes sense for you. Now back to the idea of food and weight logging as a nanohabit.
I built this daily nanohabit one meal or snack at a time and one weigh-in a day. I did not stress about what or how much I ate. I just logged my food and weight every day. It was my small line I had to hop over daily. I didn’t set some crazy goal of getting an 8-pack or losing 20 pounds of fat. I did not meal prep or plan what I was going to eat for the day. I just focused on tracking each item of food I put into my mouth. This is a KEY point of daily nanohabits. They must be so small that they are not intimidating. So small that you can very, I mean VERY, easily do them. I realize I am beating a dead horse here, but I know that if I were trying to teach this concept of nanohabits to a younger version of myself I would have to emphasize this repeatedly otherwise my younger self would set the bar too high and end up not sticking to it long term. And long term is where the true pay-off comes. Additionally, by keeping the nanohabit so small one can keep to it indefinitely.
The tricksy thing about fitness changes and nanohabits is that you don’t notice the changes day-to-day. You don’t even necessarily notice them from week-to-week, although sometimes you will luckily start to see it even at this time interval. The change truly becomes noticeable after time, but since you see yourself and are yourself every day you don’t notice the micro-incremental changes. This is the case with most areas of life in which you apply nanohabits. It will almost seem like nothing is changing and nothing is happening. However, if you start a nanohabit and then stick to it for a month or more then look back to right before you started something magical happens. Often you will be struck with epiphany. One or more areas of your life will have significantly improved. In my case with fitness and food I thought I had discovered magic. I looked back over the first month and realized I had lost 8 pounds. I had also taken photos of myself in my skivvies when I started and compared them to photos each week. Suddenly I could visually see the change and the change was huge!
“Follow the process not the prize.” Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is The Way
By focusing on the tiny process of just recording what I ate and weighing myself dramatic changes occurred without any strategic calorie/food manipulation or major changes in exercise. This is another KEY element to finding success with daily nanohabits. You keep just about all of your attention on the micro-process of the nanohabit. The process is completing the nanohabit each day. This is where you keep your energy and thoughts. Then as the weeks and months go by you will one day suddenly realized that you have achieved something much bigger than you ever thought possible. The power behind daily nanohabits is that they are like daily savings and compound interest. Each day you are putting just a few dollars into developing your “potential” bank account. In a month you may not notice much change in your bank account, but if you keep investing a tiny bit every day it begins to add up, compound, and create major momentum and transformation. As you look back after time passes you will be amazed with the potential-fortune you have amassed and can literally see it manifested physically in your life in an abundance of ways.
Over months, as I continued with my nanohabit of food and weight logging I figured out exactly how many total calories I could eat daily and still continue to drop body fat. Let me emphasize that it wasn’t until the nanohabit of food and weight logging was drilled into my core being and became something I did without I fail that I began to play with calorie manipulation to further enhance the achievement of my fitness goals. Through personal testing I eventually figured out how many grams of fat, carbs, and protein I can have daily and continue to achieve my fitness aspirations. By learning my macro maintenance levels for fat, carbs, and protein I was able to eat anything I wanted. Nothing was off limits as long as I stayed within my macros. Still to this day I eat anything I want. I have burgers, pizza, ice-cream, cookies, and desert daily. I have literally turned it into a game to see just what kind of crazy stuff I can eat and still maintain my feel-good shreddie-status (to see pictures of my crazy food and fitness check out @fitnessrake on Instagram). It still seems crazy to me that I now eat worse stuff more often than I ever have since starting college in 2002 yet I am in such better shape then when I was eating “clean” most of the time. Please note that I do eat fairly healthy from a macro perspective. My general rule is 80% of what I eat is fairly healthy and 20% I can go buck wild. By not restricting myself to only eating certain things it makes eating well most of the time much less mentally and emotionally draining. Again, this is a demonstration of how food and weight logging acted as “keystone” habit. The habit’s effect led to many positive changes including more balanced eating, highly customizable fitness goal achievement, and most importantly–more enjoyment of food and life. I could eat anything I desired and eat out with friends and family without having to sacrifice my fitness goals. The flexibility over my eating and power over my personal fitness has been truly life-changing. I am so much happier in so many ways just because of this sense of flexibility and conscious control over my body’s physicality.
Fundamentally, macro calorie tracking led me to lose over 20 pounds of body fat in less than a year. At the time of this writing I am down over 30 pounds of body fat. And let me just reiterate, I was never overweight or out of shape. I have been in better than average shape for most of my life, but definitely no where near the level I lay claim to currently. Daily food and weight logging is one of two daily nanohabits that led me to achieving the body I had always dreamed of (abs year round and sub 10% body fat). The other habit is naked affirmations, but I’ll save that story for another time.
HOW TO INTRODUCE DAILY NANOHABITS INTO YOUR LIFE
1. Start very small. Something that you would almost feel ridiculous about if you didn’t complete it each day. It has to be so small and simple that you won’t avoid it. If I immediately decided to only eat x-amount of calories per day I probably would have given up much sooner. Instead, all I did was record everything I ate without judgement and recorded my weight no matter how I ate or felt. I did this for quite awhile before I started playing around with calorie manipulation to achieve fitness goals. I built the habit of just recording what I ate and what I weighed first. Plain and simple. I did the same with writing. Though I always dreamed of writing and sharing, I never wrote creatively outside of work or school until very recently. Up until a few months ago I had never truly journaled. So, I started with this super simple journal called The Five Minute Journal. It made things incredibly easy. It is broken into 1-3 minutes upon waking and 1-3 minutes before going to bed. I kept it next to my bed with a pencil. It is even layed out in an easy to-do structure (three things you are grateful for, three things that would make today great, etc.). It was so simple and quick that even if I forgot to do it first thing in the day I would go back and pretend like I hadn’t and just do it (mentally trying to trick myself into forming the habit even when I missed a day). I spent many months just using this simple book. Then I started keeping a regular journal along with my handy pre-set 5-minute journal. I started small here too. All I had to do was write 3 pages longhand. This was inspired by Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way and her prescription of daily morning journaling. There was no requirement for what I could write. I could write the same sentence over and over until I reached 3 pages. I could write about what I ate yesterday. I could write about a dream I had. I could write about a feeling. I could write about all the things I wanted to do or not do. I wrote in huge cursive writing too. In my first journal I wrote on every other line to allow me to write big and reach three pages even faster. My second journal had unlined paper so if I was feeling particularly avoidant I could write even bigger to get it over with quicker. I believe my first journal entry I wrote about how avoidant I was feeling about the journaling. Over weeks and months that journal morphed into average of 5+ pages per day. I now journal upwards of 5 pages (in my own handwritten cursive writing). Sometimes I write well over 10 pages before I realize it. If I had set 5 pages as my daily goal/habit I would have never even started. Once this nanohabit was built I added another daily nanohabit that has revolutionized my writing production — 5-minutes of creative writing for www.lifesrake.com. That tiny nanohabit is the reason this ridiculously long essay got written and that I even have anything up on my blog.
2. Start with one thing. Two at the most. Build this into an automatic daily habit. Keep your focus tight. If you try to make too many changes at once you will become overwhelmed and end up not doing anything. Once the habit becomes effortless (and it will if you start small enough) then you can start to refine the nanohabit and add in further strategy or add other related or unrelated nanohabits. I spent months just practicing logging my food and weight without any other goal than to record it. Once that became effortless I started playing with calorie manipulation to see how I could use food to get leaner. In the past I tried to exercise my way to my dream body. Through calorie tracking I finally came to realize that you cannot out-train your eating. It doesn’t matter how many hours you train. If you don’t get your eating strategy in place you will be fighting a never-ending battle that will never be won. I spent years learning that the hard way. I now implicitly understand that your aesthetic fitness is governed by 70-80% or more by the way you eat. Exercise accounts for maybe 20%. And supplements account for 1-3%. Your eating strategy is the true magic pill. My daily nanohabit of food and weight logging is what led to this discovery and the incredible power I now have to sculpt my body in any manner I wish. The daily nanohabit of The Five Minute Journal lead to the discovery of one of the most joyful and therapeutic activities I have yet to discover, free-form/free-thought journaling. And those nanohabits led me to my this creative writing and blog.
3. Set yourself up to succeed. By this I mean make it easy for yourself and create trigger systems, reminder systems, and momentum systems. If you want to do 1-push-up before every shower write a reminder with a dry erase marker on your mirror. If you want to journal for 3 minutes a day, place your journal next to where you sleep and make it the first thing you do in the morning. Put your walking shoes by the front door. Want to record everything you eat in MyFitnessPal (set a reminder in your phones calendar for 3 or more different times that you would normally eat). I eat a piece of the same flavor of gum immediately before and during my gym workout. I light a candle and put on ocean waves music before I start writing (yes, I am a weirdo spiritual hipster). By combining sensory action with your nanohabits it makes it more powerful. These small sensory cues become physiological triggers that prime your brain for the desired action. As you build the nanohabit, all of these mental, emotional, and physiological things all start to connect and link up in your mind. By pairing physical senses with your desired actions you build the nanohabit path faster and deeper. Just by lighting the candle and chewing the gum my brain, body, and emotions are triggered and primed for what is to come next. The momentum has already begun and that makes it that much easier to do.
4. Do it first. Whatever new daily nanohabit you are choosing for yourself make it one of the very first things that you do upon waking for the day. We only have so much willpower per day. It is like a muscle and it fatigues. If you try to do it at the end of the day you will be setting yourself up for failure as your willpower muscle will be exhausted. Not to mention all the distractions and fires of the day will surely keep you from doing it if you put it off in the first part of your day. I discovered the importance of this with my journaling and creative writing. Whenever I didn’t do it first thing upon waking the chances of it actually happening went down drastically. Even though I would promise myself I would do it later. When later came I was either too busy or too tired. For nanohabits to survive and thrive they must be prioritized. Once they are built you can become a little more flexible about when you do them as long as they are small enough, but play with the timing at your own risk after you have deeply ingrained the nanohabit over many days of doing it first.
5. Keep the daily nanohabit small. After a year of focus upon the simple nanohabit your willpower muscles will be noticeably stronger compared to the previous year. Again, this doesn’t happen over night. Willpower and habits are skills that take daily exercise for them to get stronger and stay strong. If you suddenly give up on a daily nanohabit the effect it has on your life will begin to fade. Just like when you stop regularly working out a particular muscle it begins to weaken. The way to avoid sabotaging yourself is to keep the nanohabit small. That way when you have a rough day, week, or month you don’t suddenly give it up. On those hard days you can just do the minimum and maintain the habit-potential muscle. Then when you are back in power you can go above and beyond and build that habit-potential muscle bigger and stronger.
6. Remember it is a practice. A practice is meant to be done regularly, repeatedly, and often. That doesn’t mean every day will be an amazing practice. Some days will flow, feel awesome, and energize you. Other days you will have to use some of your own grit and personal willpower to get through it. And despite the low bar you set for nanohabits some days will be damn near impossible, but if you have appropriately set your bar at an achievable nano-level, even on these days you will be able to maintain your practice. Nonetheless, sometimes you will completely miss doing a nanohabit practice due to various things that come up life. We are all human after all. The key is to focus on completing the practice daily while understanding and acknowledging that even the most well-kept intent can be destroyed by the unexpected from time to time.
HOW TO MAXIMIZE DAILY NANOHABITS
1. Stretch yourself and go with the flow when you are feeling in power. With daily nanohabits you will soon realize that you can go much further than the small daily objective you have set for yourself. Keep the daily requirement small, but if you have the time run with it. I set aside 5-minutes of creative writing per day, but if I am in flow and have the time I will keep on writing. Sometimes for just another 5 minutes. Sometimes for another few hours. This same idea can be applied to any nanohabit you decide to incorporate into your life — journaling, exercise, meditation, work, relationships, etc. Allow 1 minute to turn into 30 minutes (or much more) if you are in the flow. Embrace your energy and power if one rep turns into 30 or one set turns into 5 sets.
2. Choose keystone daily nanohabits that over a year could radically change your life. A good way to methodically come up with one of these is to think about where you would want to be in a year in any given area of your life — health & fitness, career, creativity, relationship, etc. By logging my food and weight daily I lost an average of 15 pounds per of body fat per year and now steadily stay around 7-10% body fat year round. This simple daily nanohabit of logging food and weighing myself radically changed my fitness. Up until 2014 I thought achieving my dream body was pipe-dream. Now it is a reality.
A current keystone nanohabit I am in the process of instilling is writing. I put this off for over half a decade. Then I chose two daily nanohabits that have rapidly changed that. The first one was “The Five Minute Journal” which eventually translated into 3-5+ pages of handwritten journaling a day. The second was my easily achieved 5-minutes of creative writing. Now I write a fair amount every day. Sometimes I write upwards of 2,000 words a day. I don’t do this every day, but just maybe if I keep my focus on the process of my daily nanohabits I will settle into a rhythm of something as awesome as 500-1,000 words a day. In truth, it doesn’t really matter. I am infinitely further along than I was during the 5+ years I “thought” about writing. I’ve learned that what is most important is just keeping my energy and focus on the small incremental process of nano-habits and remain open to whatever those bloom into. Every day I practice embodying my vision of myself as a writer and blogger by committing to a minuscule daily nano-habit of 5-minutes. That doesn’t scare me. And since I am not overwhelmed by my dream by keeping my focus on the nano-habit I am sticking with it. I now look back on how much I’ve written and cannot even believe it. I have gone through multiple journals and now the articles and essays I am writing for LifesRake.com are beginning to add up.
GOING FURTHER WITH NANOHABITS: EXPLORING VARIOUS AREAS OF LIFE
Daily nanohabits can be applied to virtually any area of your life. Again, these are microscopic habits that are not too big or too scary but easily done each and every day without fail.
Work & Career
For your work and career what daily nanohabits could you start today? Pick something super small. I.E. one business development email per day to a potential new customer or partner. Even if only 5% of those convert into new opportunities that is 13 new clients or partners per year (math based on 260 working days per year). What if one of those 13 clients/partners was the juggernaut that blessed your company’s yearly revenue by 10 fold? What other daily nanohabits could you come up with to add to your daily business that may not change your bottom line in a week or two, but could change the face of your company if done every working day for a year?
How about your relationship with your significant other? I’ll share my daily relationship nanohabit. One short written sentence of appreciation delivered in any form I feel inclined to — on the back of an envelop left for her to find, on a sticky note, written in dry erase marker on the bathroom mirror so she sees it when she first gets up, a Facebook or Instagram post, etc. Anything counts as long as I put it in writing. Most of the time it is one simple sentence and takes me less than 30 seconds. It’s nano-level small, but think about how it would feel if you were acknowledged and loved in writing by your favorite person in the world every single day. How would that make you feel? Would you feel appreciated? And what about those days you point out exactly the thing they needed to hear most and forever change the course of their entire day? That is a great deed to do for someone you truly care about. Furthermore, like any good investment, relationship karma compounds over time. At the end of a year you have acknowledged, appreciated, and loved your significant other at least 365 times in writing. I guarantee it will increase the sense of happiness, love, and appreciation in your relationship. Don’t have a significant other? Apply this concept to your best friend or a family member. Good relationships of any form are one of the biggest keys to personal happiness. Again, a friendly reminder not to try do this with every single person in your life at once. Pick one person and spend several months doing it with just one person before thinking about doing it with another person.
Exercise & Fitness
Exercise is an obvious one but many people are reluctant to start any new habits in this area of life because they think they have to go big and hard or not go at all. You see this after every new year. People from all walks of life mustering up all their courage and willpower to start a new routine only to give up after a few weeks (or days) because they forced themselves to either do too much too soon or chose something they didn’t even like and instead did what they “should” do according to some external source (family, friends, media, etc.). Doing things from the emotional driver of “should” is dangerous in any area of life, but especially so in exercise. The key to building great exercise and fitness habits is to pick something that is fun for “YOU” and to start nano-scopically small. Like lifting weights? Commit to 5-minutes a day. Keep dumbbells or kettle bells at home. Set your countdown timer for 5 minutes and don’t stop until the bell rings. Or maybe commit to 5 minutes a day at the gym. I guarantee that by the time you take the effort to get to the gym you will often stay much longer than 5 minutes. Like running? Commit to one-block per day. Like stretching/yoga? Set your timer for 3-minutes and do it first thing in the morning. Or pick one pose to do every day. Again, the key is to pick something small and easy. And it’s best if it is something portable that can be done from anywhere so you don’t lose track when traveling or when your home routine gets interrupted in some way.
Creativity & Artistic Development
Want to unlock your inner artist. How about one creative sentence per day? Or one paint-stroke per day. Or one minute of guitar practice per day. Obviously you can set the bar slightly higher than one sentence, one paint stroke, or one minute, but only you can decide where that level of comfort is. If you haven’t picked up a paintbrush in years, maybe one paint-stroke is perfect. If writing comes easy to you maybe you commit to 5-minutes a day. And if you already know how to play an instrument maybe you commit to playing through one song a day.
Food & Wellness
Want to eat healthier? Again, the power lies in starting super small. Eat something naturally green at every meal. Commit to getting enough daily fiber–see my hacking cinnamon toast crunch article or video for a fun and easy way to get your fiber and discover why it’s an essential part of my eating strategy. Drink one glass of water before each meal. Commit to not drinking anything with calories in it. Again, you choose what is an appropriate level for you since we all find different things easier and other things more difficult.
How about personal growth and personal peace? Could you commit to 5-minutes a day to reading something that will inspire you to grow and transform? Or if you don’t like reading how about 5-minutes of listening to an audiobook? How about personal affirmations? Could you pick one affirmation to repeat to yourself daily? Instead of trying to suddenly become a master meditator why not commit to one minute per day? Even if you pick just one tiny personal growth nanohabit it could alter your life significantly over a period of years.
TAILORING DAILY NANOHABITS & MAKING THEM FIRE-PROOF
Discover YOUR Optimal Nanohabit Level
It is important to find that perfect amount and stick there. It is a delicate balance and you will only find it by testing it out. Everyone is different. Keep trying different amounts until you find your balance. Be gentle with yourself. I tend to beat myself up when I don’t achieve the initial nanohabit bar I set for myself. Then I realize it’s pointless to beat myself up, I let go of my ego, and I pick an easier level to achieve. You want to be right under your easy-to-accomplish tipping point. Though I stress making it ridiculously easy you also want to keep it at the top end of ridiculously easy. You still want to maximize your ability and transformation. I am arguing very fine points here, but the concept I am trying to solidify is that if doing 5-minutes of something is super easy for you don’t go down to 2-minutes just because that’s what someone else is doing. Stick with your version of easy is, whatever that may be.
Embracing Refinement, Iteration, & Planning For Life’s Fires
If any of these amounts, distances, or time intervals are intimidating or you find yourself avoiding them you are starting with too much. Keep starting with less until you get to the point where you are not skipping or avoiding your daily nanohabits. Keep making it easier and smaller until you literally laugh at the thought of not being able to accomplish it. When you reach that laughing-point stop and start from there. Another way to think about it is to pick a level that even on your hardest day you could stick to. I am talking crazy bad day when everything goes wrong. You get fired, you lose a friend or family member, you get a ticket, etc. If you can’t see yourself accomplishing it on your worst day then the chances of you accomplishing true transformation on a consistent basis go down significantly. We all have bad days. In time you will find that these nanohabits become easier and easier, but don’t add more to your daily required amount you overachievers! Keep your daily required amount infinitesimal. You can always choose to do more the day of. Just keep your minimum laughable so you don’t shy away from it. When I first started creatively writing (I.E. writing for this blog) I set my bar too high. I started with 20 minutes per day. I kept avoiding it. I would maybe get lucky once or twice a week and follow through, but a majority of the time I just kept putting it off. Then I cut it to 10 minutes and suddenly I jumped up to accomplishing this daily nanohabit 4-5 times a week. Then I got busy and stressed with work and life and fell off once again. Finally, I moved it down to 5 minutes and that has been working even on tough days. The point is that you can always do more than whatever the minimum is and often times you will do quite a bit more. Sometimes it will turn into hours. The key is to build the habit muscle and set yourself up for year-round success. Keep the minimum requirement so small you never completely abandon the habit.
Closing Concepts For Overachievers & Humans
In closing, I want to review a few important ideas. These are core concepts that I know I struggled with for a long time. I cannot stress enough how important it is to build only one or two daily nanohabit at a time. I have spent incredible amounts of energy and time trying to change everything at once only to fall back to where I started. Then I would waste even more time and energy by avoiding all these life-enhancing changes because I was upset to discover once again that I don’t have God-like powers to fundamentally change every single area of my life in one fell swoop. By hyper-focusing on one nanohabit you can become truly great at it and instill it into the core of your being. Once you feel a particular daily nanohabit is fundamentally ingrained in your DNA then you can add more. The beautiful thing about nanohabits is that once they are built they actually take virtually no extra willpower. So once your nanohabit is built you get your willpower energy back and you can invest it into something else like starting another life-changing nano-habit!
By focusing on simple daily nanohabits one at a time a lot can change in a year. You will literally be a new person by the same time next year if you focus on the super simple process of sticking to a daily nanohabit. The other awesome thing about willpower that I want to mention is that just like a muscle it can be trained to get stronger. Your willpower endurance will increase with each daily nanohabit you successfully implement. The next one you start will be easier to achieve and you will be able to set the skill level slightly higher each time. So even though these daily nanohabits aren’t huge by themselves, they add up quick. By conscious design, you can incrementally transform yourself in radical ways.
To all my fellow humans, there will be days that even the most minuscule daily nanohabit will get skipped. Life isn’t perfect and chaos visits everyone from time to time. When you do fall off the first thing to do is forgive yourself. This is paramount to beginning again. In retrospect, I believe it is one of the key factors to maintaining the compounding effect of nanohabits that occurs over the long-haul. You will fail from time to time and this is okay. You are human. Failure is natural and everyone experiences it. Yet, for some reason most of us often treat any failure, big or small, like it is a direct refection of our personal self-worth. In my own life I have spent so much wasted time and energy beating myself up over not sticking to habit, losing momentum on a goal or dream, or even feeling like progress isn’t happening fast enough. Not meeting self-imposed time constraints and schedules often seems to mean I am failing too. That is usually the case until I take a quick pause and realize that it in fact doesn’t mean anything. I am just choosing to create that particular meaning around an experience of time. I believe this is a huge struggle for most humans. We are our own worst enemy. The way we talk to ourselves is often incredibly harsh and abusive. So when life happens and your daily nanohabit falls to the way-side practice self-forgiveness. Even if you only think of letting go of self-flagration from the analytical and logical standpoint of seeing it as a further waste of time and energy. Energy and time that you that can put towards something much more useful like beginning again. In the long-run, the best thing to do is to just get back up every time you fall. There is a great Japanese proverb that captures this idea:
“Fall down seven times, get up eight.” -Japanese Proverb
If you fall off your nanohabit horse you want to make sure you have no problem getting right back on. The key is to keep it as easy as possible to begin again and to do it as soon as you can. You are building pathways in your mind and in your routines. So when you skip a nanohabit that you normally do in the morning and find yourself thinking about it in the evening do it then and there. Most, if not all, of your daily nanohabits should be small enough and portable enough to do anywhere at any time. So as soon as you find yourself thinking about it, just do it. Keep conditioning that habit path in your mind and body. You are already expending energy thinking about it. Even if it’s the day after, gently release the guilt and begin again. If you correctly sized your nanohabit it won’t be too intimidating to get back on the horse. The ultimate key is to just keep building that habit muscle one nano-fiber at a time. It compounds over time. And over time you will be truly amazed at how far you have come just by sticking to something so small and easy.
A PARTING PORTABLE THEORY ON NANOHABITS
I realize that this almost seems too small to be so impactful but look at the areas of your life where you are already excelling consistently. Take a good look, do some personal analysis, and see if there is something you do regularly, possibly daily, that is one of the greater or greatest contributing factors to your success in that particular area. We are all good at something. Often, a large part of this is due to regular habits that we do at an almost subconscious level. They are so ingrained that we aren’t even aware of them anymore. Pretend that you are trying to teach this area of excellence to a younger version of yourself that hasn’t yet reached the level you are at currently. If you could only give him or her one piece of advice what would that be? Look at what you are good at and break it down into tiny parts. Keep breaking it down until you come to one or two key tiny processes that you believe contribute to 80% or more of the success in this area. Then once you have found it think about how you built that particular success-generating process? If it’s large and complex how would you begin to teach it to your younger self? What one thing would you have him or her do daily? That is your daily nanohabit. Now, pick another area of life you want to be great at and go through the same theoretical engineering and come up with a consciously self-designed nanohabit that just may lead you to unlock your next level of potential in your chosen area of life.
There is an infinite number of areas where you can implement a life-changing nanohabit. Pick one that has significant and personal meaning to you. Remember to pick only one daily nanohabit and truly stick to it for a few months. Take note of where you are before you start then compare that to where you are a few months later. Look for the compounding effect and the ripple effects it has had throughout your life. For me, daily nanohabits have been absolutely crucial to tapping all the latent potential within. It is my sincere hope that they lead you to the same discovery.
I would love to hear about your own experience with old, current, or new daily nanohabits. Reach out to me via Facebook or Twitter and please share your story with me.
P.S. A huge part of building nanohabits or any habits for that matter is CONSISTENCY. Want an easy way to stay consistent? Get a partner in ongoing, ever-evolving fitness, human potential, & transformation by joining me!
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SOURCES THAT INSPIRED THIS ESSAY:
1. Special thanks to one of my best friends and huge bodybuilding mentor, Waylon, for patiently convincing me to give food and weight logging a shot. Check him out on Instagram for some bodybuilding and food inspiration. It only took me a year or so to finally give it a chance. For the longest time it sounded like way too much work. Turns out that with today’s technology it’s pretty damn easy.
2. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
3. The Five-Minute Journal by Alex Ikonn & UJ Ramdas
4. The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
5. Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister & John Tierney
6. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
7. The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday