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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Habit Stacking

"We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit." 
- Aristotle

Building better habits creates improvement if not excellence. Tomas Laurinavicius includes "habit stacking" in his 12 POWERFUL HABITS

We determine our habits' value and consistency. For instance, I believe one can justify being a vegetarian. That's not a habit I've adopted. "Better ingredients, better pizza." Better habits, better version of ourselves. 

Reading. At least a quarter of Americans don't read books. They tend to be poorer, older, and less educated. If "the difference between who we are today and whom we become in five years is the people we meet and the books we read" is true, then many are missing out. Kevin Eastman, former Clippers' VP of Basketball Operations, reads two hours a day. Billionaire Steve Forbes reads at least 50 pages a day. Ideas are the currency of the future; books are the printing press of ideas. 

Writing. Ideas unwritten and unrefined, become ideas forgotten. Write, review, and embrace the good ideas. 

Stretching. Stretching is a metaphor for growth. Build the stretching habit, both figuratively and literally.  

Checklists. My wife is one of the most productive people I know. She follows daily lists of priorities and finishes them. Atul Gawande wrote The Checklist Manifesto (as well as Better and Being Mortal), describing the power of checklists throughout many industries. Why? They work. 

It's not rocket science, although my wife is a rocket scientist. Really. 

I've often shared this simple "basketball symmetry checklist" pregame.

Do the work. Gladwell cited "10,000 hours" as a common standard for professional achievement. The threshold may be domain-dependent

Compounding. Concerned about weight? I like muffins. If a muffin is 500 calories and you have one a week, that's 1/7th of a pound of muffins/week or about 7-8 pounds of muffins a year. Pretty soon you've got your muffin top. 

I'm painfully aware of the killer P's - pizza, pasta, and pumpkin muffins. 

Pizza - about 285 calories a slice
Pasta - about 200 calories per cup (cooked) 
Pumpkin muffin - medium, about 400 calories

The late Senator Everitt Dirksen understood compounding. He spoke about government spending, "a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking about real money." 

Better habits are our path to improvement, but commitment precedes their implementation. Start now. Good intentions litter the road to excellence.

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