Developing Good Habits

“Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.” ~Confucius, Analects

“Every grown-up man consists wholly of habits, although he is often unaware of it and even denies having any habits at all.”

~Georges Gurdjieff

Habits are stored by the brain in the Basal Ganglia. This is a golf ball size mass of tissue smack in the center of the brain. Habits save the brain work. There is very little processing power involved with respect to habits. When a habit is formed and stored in this region, the rest of the brain stops fully participating in any decision making with respect to that habit.

Here’s the shocking thing: 40% of all of our daily activities are habits. This means that 40% of the time we are all on auto pilot. We are thinking and doing things without the rest of the brain even being aware of the activity. We don’t realize how significant habits are in our daily lives. Habits make us who we are.

Any mental thought, often repeated, becomes a habit. Habitual thoughts make you who you are. Poor people are poor and rich people are rich because of the way they habitually think. Their habitual thinking comes first and their habitual activities follow. If you habitually think in a certain way you will habitually act in a certain way. Greatness requires great thoughts. To become rich, you have to learn how to think like a rich person. To avoid poverty, you have to understand how not to think.

So how do we go about changing our habits? In a very calculated and deliberate manner. The first thing to do is to decide which actions and activities that are productive and help you to achieve your goals, and which actions and activities hinder you from your goals. Deliberately replace bad activities and routines with productive ones. You can read one of the many books that illustrates the habits of successful people and incorporate those habits into your lives. We see that successful people arise early when everyone else is asleep. You have to look at each day as an opportunity and try to squeeze as much good out of that day as possible. Even on vacation I arise at 5 am to workout, eat, and read. By the time that the majority of people are just awakening, I’m almost halfway through my day.

A tool that’s always worked well for me is to map out my day. Sometimes I map out my day to the 1/4 hour. I even map out my down time. Time is the one thing that you can’t get back, and how we use our time is ultimately what distinguishes one person from the next. When I consult businesses, sometimes these business owners have been in business since I was a child. They have just simply never done their homework and never changed their habits. If you keep doing the same things, then you’ll keep on getting the same results.

Another habit of successful people is that they read incessantly. You can either acquire knowledge by experience or you can learn through other people’s experience. When I hear someone say “I have to make my own mistakes” I think to myself “how childish.” Who would step on a grenade knowing that other people tend to lose their legs or their lives when doing the same thing? This is part of leveraging knowledge. In one month, I can learn the lessons that it’s taken someone else a lifetime to learn; just by taking time to read or listen to what they have to say. As a matter of habit, I incorporate lessons into my life as I read through a book. Why wait? By the time that you finish a book, you’ve already forgotten a lot of what you’ve read and have ignored a lot of the epiphanies that you’ve had while reading it. Read incessantly and read material that will help you better yourself as a person (mentally, spiritually, and physically) and that will allow you to further establish your genius.

On more than one occasion, you’ve read where I’ve referred to people from the perspective of mind, body, and spirit. That’s how we come packaged. Wealthy people overwhelmingly take steps to increase their own physical health. Perhaps the stimulus for this sense of fitness comes from the realization that they have agency over their own being.  If they have found this true for their business transactions, why would it not reign true for their own physicality. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. If you frequent 5 star hotels, 5 star restaurants, galas, charity functions, or anywhere else that you tend to see the wealthier and more successful, you’ll notice that there is exponentially less obesity. I’ve been around the world and it has always fascinated me that in the U.S. that the poorest people are the most obese. There is absolutely no excuse for that. It would seem to me that if you cannot afford better healthcare, cannot afford to take time off of work, and cannot afford to have other people to do laborious and menial tasks for you, that you would ensure that your body were in tip top shape. However, that is not what we see.

The Washington Post ran a troubling article last weekend that explains why raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare would be unfair to the poor.

For although many Americans are living longer than previous generations, the gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor in the U.S. is startling.

Post reporter Michael A Fletcher explains:

Even as the nation’s life expectancy has marched steadily upward, reaching 78.5 years in 2009, a growing body of research shows that those gains are going mostly to those at the upper end of the income ladder. …

A Social Security Administration study several years ago found that the life expectancy of male workers retiring at 65 had risen six years in the top half of the income distribution but only 1.3 years in the bottom half over the previous three decades.

In 1980, life expectancy at birth was 2.8 years longer for the highest socioeconomic group defined in a research study than the lowest, according to a report by the Congressional Budget Office. By 2000, the gap had grown to 4.5 years. …

Not only is life expectancy diverging by income level, but now some demographic groups — particularly low-income white women — are losing ground.

A study published last week in the journal Health Affairs said that in almost half of the nation’s counties, women younger than 75 are dying at rates higher than before. The counties where women’s life expectancy is declining typically are in the rural South and West, the report said.

“Life expectancy has increased mainly among the privileged class,” economist Monique Morrissey of the Economic Policy Institute told Fletcher. “For many people, raising the

retirement age would amount to a significant benefit cut.”

(http://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2013/03/income-gap-plays-out-us-life-expectancy)

So as you see from the preceding article, the differences in attention and agency with which the successful provide their physical health allows for them to not only live longer and healthier, but ultimately allows for them to be more productive. Remember, at the end of the day, productivity is the name of the game. Every business has one thing in common, the primary desire and responsibility of productivity.

I’ve seen studies and I’ve heard complaints that eating healthy is too expensive for many Americans. Yet, eating greasy fast food, pizza, consumption of alcohol and drugs isn’t? Let’s be honest with ourselves here. A meal of chicken breast or salmon with rice and broccoli costs much less than the fast food and other junk that people are putting into their bodies. I would estimate it costs about $3/meal to eat healthy. I know for a fact that the average outing at a fast food establishment costs much more than that. It’s about priorities.

People who are highly driven know that ill health is counterproductive. They know that low energy levels are counterproductive. They know from a marketing standpoint that people are more responsive to attractive people. This isn’t my opinion. This is human nature. There is no right or wrong to these facts. They just are…

Successful people focus on one or two main goals and do not allow themselves to become scattered. I’m currently working with a healthcare entrepreneur who has great potential, but she allows herself to try to do too much at once. She divides her resources and cannot maintain quality nor see anything to completion. The end result is failure after failure with her losing her limited resources. Her constant failure also buts a smudge on her reputation. People around her hear her constant promises of success and also see the lack of fruition of those lofty goals. After a while she will lose all credibility and whether or not she has a good idea, people simply will not listen to her. They won’t give her a chance. Focus on one or two attainable goals. Those other opportunities are not yours just because they are presented to you. You have to learn to play the odds, particularly when you are first starting. You can succeed 100 times but it’s that 101st time when you fail that will make you infamous.

As I’ve written previously everyone is created equal, it’s how they spend their time that separates them. The majority of successful individuals maintain a to do list. By maintaining such a list, you’re not just existing in time, you’re using time to your advantage, and when you become savvy enough, you learn to leverage your time. How do you leverage time? When you have 3 goals to complete and you see that many of the task are redundant or that you have to accomplish these goals in the same part of town, then you schedule in such a manner that you don’t have to re accomplish the same task multiple times, or you schedule in such a manner that you don’t have to repeat the same movement patterns again and again. There’s nothing worse to find yourself zipping back and forth across town knowing that you should have knocked out all your business on this side of town or the other, all at the same time. Leveraging your time in essence, allows for you to create more time…in a sense. If that’s not a miracle I don’t know what is.

The mentality of success has to be a lifestyle. It has to permeate everything that you do. Successful individuals establish the habits of success in their children. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month. By making non fictional reading a part of your child’s upbringing, you instill habits in them that will separate them from their peers as they grow and mature. By teaching your children your habits, you are also showing integrity of action. The mentality of “I do this but I don’t teach my children the same” works no better than the old “do what I say not what I do.” You must have integrity in all that you do, otherwise you fall into a degree of cognitive dissonance, which of course, is counterproductive.

Successful people surround themselves with other successful people. This doesn’t mean that you shake your loyal, less successful friends. But you have to look at how you spend your time. Successful people gird each other, network with each other, and share ideas with each other.  It is said that you can judge someone by the 3 people with whom they spend the majority of his time. The Scriptures tell us “bad company corrupts good character.” Remember, integrity is a matter of character. You can’t say on one hand that your life is about productivity and success, yet when I see you I see everything around you inferring the opposite truth. That’s not integrity. The mindset of “I can” is fundamental to success. You have to surround yourself with other people with a can do mentality. Even though you may think yourself impervious to other’s attitudes, you’re human. In as much you are, at least partially, a consequence of your environmental influences. In this world, nothing is static. You’re either going one direction or you’re going in another direction. If you’re ascending, how can having those around you who are descending help you? How can those with no momentum help you to gain momentum. If how you spend your time is what distinguishes you, how does spending a great bulk of potentially productive time, instead trying to teach someone else the basic concepts of success, or even worse, trying to make them successful without teaching them concepts of success, further your efforts towards success? I believe in charity and giving, but carrying someone else is a different task indeed. You never carry someone. You can teach a receptive person the tools needed for them to achieve success, but you don’t carry someone who isn’t pulling his own weight. It will drag you down and both of you will drown.

As you achieve success, many of those around you will start to reach out to you for help. There is a fine line between helping someone and disempowering someone. If your friend knows that you will always pick him up, then why should he pick up himself? Industriousness is a consequence of need. If there is no need, there is no industriousness. By allowing your friends, family, and loved ones to lean on you, you rob them of their ability to be industrious. I don’t expect for them to understand this, but you should. Yes, it’s hard to watch loved one’s struggle, but keep the prize in mind. If the goal is to have them stand on their own two feet, then they have to go through the fire just like you did. A sword is formed only in fire, not in a tepid environment. So let them go through the fire. It’s better that they go through this while you’re in the background somewhere watching, guiding, and only if absolutely necessary intervening, rather than they never gain the skills and fall flat on their faces when you are not in a position to gird them. In other words, love them more than you love yourself. When we give in and try to be there, it’s because we can’t stand to see them go through hardship. If you are a true friend, if you truly love someone, you will bear the discomfort and do what’s best for them.

Successful people concretize their goals. They make their ideas and concepts as real as possible. As discussed in the previous chapter, this starts by writing down your goals. I generally use computer programs to make 3 dimensional models of the house that I want, or the boat, or whatever it is that I want. Before I moved to Texas, I completely designed my office on the computer; 5 years before I opened that office. I’ve realized that the more energy that you put into something, positive or negative, the more likely it is to become concrete. So selectively focus your energy on that which is productive and beneficial and avoid harboring on anything negative. If a business deal goes bad, as they will, cannibalize the remains and refocus towards a new goal. You don’t have time to focus on the failure, nor is focusing on the failure productive. Spend as much time as you need making your dreams and aspirations come to life. You should know how your dream smells, looks, tastes, sounds, and you should know that cold. Make artistic rendering, write descriptions, post your goals on your walls and if you have a stumbling block, like fear of failure, put Theodore’s Roosevelt quote in which he addresses those who strive and fell, on your wall. You can look at it every time that you have fear or doubt. This is why I’ve posted so many quotes in this book. You’ll remember one or two of them, and you’ll lean on these in tough times.

Go as far as establishing short, medium, and long term goals towards which you’re working. You’ll constantly have to adjust the short term goals as reality sets in, but this way you can always make sure that you’re making positive progress towards your long term goals. I reverse engineer everything. If I decide to open a service line and I want that service line producing $1,000,000 per month by month 12, I first establish the value of each unit. Then I calculate how many units that I need to reach my goal and how much growth that I need monthly, weekly, and daily to reach that volume. I establish, conservatively how I am going to acquire that volume, the costs involved, and the turnaround time. Then I establish short and medium term goals that I can tweak as needed to get me to that 12-month goal. I do that in a matter of minutes. That’s how I know if there’s enough of a profit margin in it for me.


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