Reinvesting Your Gains

Real personal change is hard. Not only do you have to pick an appropriate goal, but you have to slog towards it over an extended period of time. Lots of things will jump in the way of real personal growth, with everything from relationship drama to boredom and depression making an appearance. Your mind is not only an incredible pattern matching device, but it’s also a device that is absolutely amazing at making you regress to previous behaviors.

“I think I was listening to the Build Your Hustle episode and someone talked about reinvesting your gains, the how to/experience of reinvesting gains would be a topic I’d love to hear.” ~ Chang-Hsin Lee

Reinvesting your gains in any worthwhile activity or life goal is not all that hard, but it has to be approached intentionally in order for it to work. The idea of big goals is to create a better version of yourself, and nothing short of good process is going to make that happen in a sustainable fashion. It’s not just about your goals, but about how you integrate them into the broader scope of your life.

Episode Breakdown

12:25 Why new habits don’t stick.

Because you are not sticking with them long enough. It usually takes at least a month of regular practice to make a habit stick. You can really only consider a habit “installed” when you can remember it almost every time without prompting. For some things, you may never get to that point, especially if the habit isn’t well-integrated into your life.

“Learning to use the Mac, I’ve been learning a whole new set of shortcut keys.”

Because you are in situations that make them more difficult. Life comes at you fast, and situations can arise that make your habits tricky to keep. An example of this is someone who goes on a diet, only to find an emotional situation that drives them to eat a pint of ice-cream (or free cake at work).

Because you do not have systems in place that make it the default. Human beings are lazy at some level. That’s all of us. As a result, we tend to fall back to comfortable defaults. This is especially true when we are tired, stressed out, or just really busy. If the default and easiest thing to do is to go the wrong way, that’s what you’ll eventually do. An example of this is trying to eat healthy, but keeping a pantry full of junk food. Eventually you get tired and a bag of doritos suffers.

“One of the hardest things for me, the last 2-3 months…was not drinking when I edit.”

Because you are not making the improvement part of your identity. If you look at the improvement as something outside yourself enough for long enough, eventually it will be. So if you are constantly telling yourself that you are a fat slob who makes bad choices and has to be forced to eat properly, you’ll slip. If, on the other hand, you tell yourself that you are a guy who overcame being a fat slob and now makes good choices, it’s less likely you’ll screw up.

Unfortunately sometimes we have nasty surprises and setbacks. Getting injured, a death in the family, a change in job, or even surprise expenses can derail personal change, especially if you aren’t prepared. Will’s hernia last year knocked him out of lifting for almost a year and he still hasn’t gotten back to full strength. Sometimes the setback can’t be avoided, but some degree of mitigation is often possible. The reaction to the setback can often be worse than the setback.

Finally you may have major changes in life priorities. Having a child, buying a house, getting married, getting promoted, etc., are all things that will drastically change how you look at your goals. Sometimes these things sneak up on you. If you don’t prioritize the change, it will fall by the wayside if major changes to your daily habits occur, even if those are for good reasons.

25:35 What you should be doing before starting.

Planning beforehand how to reinvest your gains is one of the best ways to make sure that you have gains to reinvest. Not only does this help with motivation, but it can also help make sure that the goal is actually going to be valuable. Planning ahead can also help alert you to other things that you need to do for the goal to have maximum effect.

“It’s really easy to chase something and have no idea what to do with it when you get there.”

Have a reason for the improvement. If the goal stands alone, it’s a lot harder to make it useful. If it is a prerequisite for something else important, it’s easier to maintain motivation. If a goal isn’t necessary for something better, you should re-evaluate whether it is worthwhile, or come up with something to do with it. One other thing that happens with goals is that it is really easy to chase something and have no idea of what to do with it when you get there. For instance, losing weight is a goal by itself. Losing weight because you want to look good on the trip to the beach that you are planning makes you more likely to do it. The idea here is to create urgency for the achievement of the goal.

Figure out how to desire the difficulty of achieving the goal. There’s a reason that you haven’t gotten to some of your goals yet. One common reason is that it’s painful, difficult, or tedious. If you are fighting the tedium, pain, and difficulty, eventually the fight wins and you don’t. If you can psychologically recharacterize the situation such that you actually embrace the difficulty, it’s a lot easier to get through to the goal. This can be anything from having intermediate milestones with rewards to actually trying to challenge yourself with the greater difficulty.

“The low carb thing is a pain in the butt, seriously.”

Work on appropriate habit formation. Generally we go into goals in an attempt to become a better person. Consider what that “better person” might do on a daily basis and start working to get those habits in place. You’ll need to slowly ramp up your habit chain for this to work well, but the idea is to have the habits of the “better person” before you become them. The habits will carry you.

Try to anticipate the problems and wargame on avoidance strategies. This is like being careful not to only write code for the happy path. Think about what is likely to go wrong, and have backup plans in place. For instance, from the dieting thing, imagine what happens when you forget your healthy lunch. Do you have a place to go and something to eat if that happens? The idea is reduce the choices you have when under stress to choices that are more or less correct.

Find a social circle with the same goals. Your current social circle may or may not be supportive. The most successful I’ve ever been with a diet has been when I’ve had a group around me doing the same thing. This is why things like weight watchers work well for some people. The mutual support is powerful for keeping with it.

36:20 Things you should be doing before you reach the goal.

Reviewing and measuring your results to keep motivation from waning. You should keep a regular log of where you are and set calendar reminders to review where you were a month or two back. This also implies that you are keeping accurate measurements of where you are. This will often help your motivation or will help you notice when you are stuck.

Coming up with the next milestone for the time after the goal is achieved. You should have milestones and checkpoints on the way to larger goals. Smaller, closer goals are easier to reach and are also good times to re-evaluate what you are doing. You should be fairly fixed on your big goals, but not overly fixated on methodology. This can help you adjust to changing conditions, rather than being clobbered by change.

Tweaking your habits and making sure they are solid by continual practice. Habit formation is important, but ease of execution makes it more likely that you will do them.

“Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, look at how he solves problems.”

Figure out how to turn problems into advantages. You are going to have problems trying to achieve most things that are worth doing. However, the way you pivot on a problem can often be as important as overcoming it.

Strengthen your connections with the other people going toward the same goal. If you know others headed toward the same goal, act as a support to them and share your struggles and victories. Even the most introverted person is still a social animal, and mutually supporting a “tribe” of others will help you all achieve the win. Not only does it help you reach your goals, but the shared experiences can forge powerful friendships that make life better.

“This is why things like CrossFit are popular.”

Distance yourself from situations that hurt your goals. You’ll also encounter situations and people that make your goals more difficult. Whether it is the coworker who insists on eating pizza and fast food all the time while you are dieting, or the person who is just negative about your efforts, you can’t change them. This doesn’t mean cutting people and situations off entirely, but it means recognizing that you can’t change people and situations by sheer will. You can with results though.

42:45 What to do immediately after reaching a goal.

Small celebration, but don’t derail with the celebration. For instance, with a diet, you might allow yourself to have some ice-cream with dinner or a favorite comfort food after achieving a goal. But don’t turn it into a weekend binge. Be sure to be fully present in whatever celebration you create. You want it to be a reward, not a backslide into previous behavior.

“Usually I go for something that is not food related.”

Immediately start on the next thing. Sitting around and waiting after achieving a goal is a good way to backslide on it. Momentum is easier to maintain than to generate.

Find ways to tie the achieved goal back into the rest of the ecosystem. Keeping your results is easier when they feed back into other things.

Find people in your social circle that have achieved the next goal. If you are the most accomplished out of your set of acquaintances, you need to find other people who are ahead of you. Not only will this help you, but it will help them, as explaining to others is very clarifying. This also means that you should help those who haven’t achieved as much as yourself, both because it’s a decent thing to do, and because it will help you grow.

“It’s one thing to walk into a room and be the smartest person there, but if in a few years you’re still the smartest person there you are the dumbest person in that room.”

Re-evaluate life situations that were a problem. While you ran into situations or people before that were hurting your goals, now is a good time to re-engage. You may find that they are no longer a problem, because you are more sure of yourself and have gotten results. If they are still a problem, finding out why and dealing with the issues might be a worthwhile thing to do as well.

48:40 The long term plan after achieving a goal.

Goals stick when they are ecosystemic. Make them so. We mentioned making the results you’ve achieved into the inputs for something else already. However, you also need to be looking for other things in your life that aren’t congruent and working on those. For instance, you might have dieted for health or appearance, but you spend all day cooped up in a non-ergonomic chair and stressed out in an office. Now is the time to start working on fixing those things.

The practices that make the goals work should fade into the background noise so you can do more things. If you’ve worked on habit formation and gotten good habits in place, the stuff you can get wrong should largely be handled by routine. This gives you space to add additional habits that get you even further. If your habits aren’t to this point, this is the time to smooth out the remaining rough spots in your process.

“Build the simplest solution you possibly can and then add complexity as you need it.”

Add complexity only when it makes sense and only after getting simplicity down. When you are stacking habits and goals on top of the ones you already have, it can be really tempting to make things far more complicated. This is almost always a mistake. Slightly complex systems evolve from simple ones, but really complex systems are conjured up out of whole cloth and don’t work. Complexity is a function of granularity, and granularity is a function of mastery. For instance, driving a car is complex, but most of us can do that at the same time as we do a dozen other things, ill-advised or not. We couldn’t when we just started.

This is when you start looking at systematization and automation. Now that you have a working system down, don’t forget to look for ways to systematize things or automate them. You want to make sure you have your processes in a very stable state before automating and systematizing, because doing so is complicated enough when you know exactly what you are doing, and you don’t want to spend a bunch of time tweaking. Diet and exercise are not easily automated, but they are easily systematized via regular routines. But you are probably doing those anyway if they are working for you.

IoTease: Project

Teleprompter DIY

 

For podcasting and live feeds we use my laptop and webcam. Because of that we’re able to have our notes right in front of us as we record or broadcast. However many productions (TV and video) use teleprompters. These are machines that display a script or outline for the person on screen to read. It’s how newscasters can talk about in depth subjects while looking at the camera and not their notes. The display is on a screen in front of the camera lens so that the person reading is looking at the camera. Why there are professional versions of this you can get costing thousands of dollars this project shows you how to build one for around $50. It’s a good step by step project with video examples.

Tricks of the Trade

Figure out how to make things ecosystemic if you want them to fit with everything else. Ecosystems maintain themselves without external energy, artificial systems do not. You want the ecosystem approach, because it’s frankly easier and the rest of the system supports it.

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