My good friend James Clear has been teaching me how to create habits that stick. Since he was a couple years below me at the same college Denison University, even though we’ve never met – and to be honest never even tweeted at or to each other – I would, being me, consider us pretty tight. On a more serious note, his book and website are game changers. Check out Atomic Habits and JamesClear.com.
I learned that to create habits that stick, you have to build systems.
This is something I feel I intuitively know and have read and learned about time and time again. But even more revolutionarily for my mind, he explains that you have to decide: Who do you want to become?
It is from this deeper understanding of who you want to become that you then can more effectively build your systems and habits in service of becoming that kind of person. It’s been helpful for me to think from this more top down approach. It enabled me to break things down into the component parts – the atomic bits as James wants you to understand – to figure out how to do small, repeated things to build yourself up to become the thing you want your big picture to become.
I wrote down who I wanted to become in my journal:
There are a few areas that I feel are missing from this, namely my relationships with friends and family. However, I feel so good on those fronts right now that I didn’t feel it was as important to focus on evolving this part of who I am for this phase of my growth.
It was really interesting for me to have landed on these 3 core areas:
Becoming a father and great husband
Becoming a natural athlete
Becoming a super-connector ethical businessman
What do I need to be the husband and father I want to be?
I know I will need to build habits and the systems that support these to be the kind of provider that I want to be and the kind of romantic and responsible partner I want to be. It’s also been eye opening to feel I’m ready to be a dad – even though I don’t really feel ready at all, I also know that no one ever really feels ready!
This focus has already made a number of my decisions around things like property, finance, and health much clearer which I will be explaining in greater detail in future posts and will link back here. But the main take-away for me here, is I want to create a more stable and safe environment for my wife Kristina and I. This stability will act as a platform for me to develop these habits and systems to help me to become who I’m looking to be not only in terms of husband and father, but also interestingly, with my other two areas of focus explained next.
What do I need to become a “natural athlete”?
What the f*** does natural athlete even mean first of all? Well, having lived in cities all my life and played sports at a high level in high school and university in the US (soccer, ice hockey and lacrosse in high school and lacrosse at university) a lot of my training for these endeavours has been “artificial.” I’ve worked out in gyms, taken supplements, and generally done whatever seemed most efficient to get me into the shape I wanted to be in. Now starting to shift my goals for what really gives me pleasure as well as results, I want to spend more time interacting with the physical and mental and spiritual worlds to bring me challenge, joy, growth and ultimately – flow.
Being in Portugal currently means that I can (and do) now do things like invest in a wet suit and rent a bodyboard and get out in the ocean to do my favourite thing in the world: ride waves. I did this yesterday and am right at this very moment champing at the bit to get back to the water! But alas, I also need discipline to stick to my writing which is another area I’ve been working to improve. Hold your horses Nick, you’re nearly there with this blog! Get it done, but get it done well, and then give yourself the reinforcing reward of the cold, salty waves crashing over your head and all around you. Right. On to the next point so I can actually become this athlete!
What do I need to become a “super-connector” ethical businessman?
This is another one that I want to write a ton about in much more detail. Fear not, I will make sure I make this happen! I’ve recently been anthropomorphized perfectly, summed up brilliantly, TLDR’d like a champion by the genius and creative expert Kristina Katz with a description that I felt has finally captured my true essence.
She told me I am like a:
What. The. Finely shaven spice does that mean?!
I will dive deep into this analogy in another post, but essentially saffron is one of the most expensive items per ounce (it’s more expensive than gold for instance) but needs to be used sparingly to highlight food dishes, otherwise it can be completely overwhelming. This, saffron, is what I have learned I am like for colleagues, friends, family, and entrepreneurs particularly when I am either knowledgable and/or passionate about a subject. I’m an absolute weapon sprinkled in small amounts. Too much, and the dish, the moment, the advice, temporarily if not permanently…ruined.
I’m an octopus because of my many tentacles which I use to keep multiple projects going at one time, multiple visions living in my head simultaneously even if to someone else they could seem contradictory, and because of the massive size of my network that I reach out to for various things. Doing too many things sometimes overwhelms me, so, as you can see from my journal entry above, I’m working to become more reflective of this and focus on becoming who I want to become so that I can try to focus in on more of the most critical areas that will help me here. I also realise that while I constantly am building my network day in and day out, that my network is already so big and powerful (sorry not meaning to sound like a total douche bag here – but I do have the amazing pleasure of being connected to some absolutely stunning minds and souls all around the world!) that I need to be more thoughtful about where I look to just grow grow grow my network vs realise that I need to re-invest back into the folks I already know. I need to make sure I’m helping my existing network and keeping myself on their radar so we can do great things together now and in the future.
Entrepreneur magazine explains that “Super-connectors know everyone and everyone knows them. These people build relationships very quickly and with a lot of people. Super-connectors are invaluable people. They match people with opportunities and, in doing so, they leave their connections with a positive opinion of them and their abilities.”
I didn’t realise I was a super-connector until a new contact of mine introduced me to the CEO of Startup Portugal as a “super-connector.” Hearing this phrase in the same couple weeks as my wife calling me a saffron octopus (which I also can’t help but giggle at when I hear, think or say still) has allowed me to reflect on the deep truth of these comments in terms of who I am.
In order to continue becoming a better version of this super-connecting ethical businessman, I want to make sure I focus on how I do business and who I network with to help create not only economic opportunity, but also positive social and environmental outcomes. As I explained in “My Opening Gambit” I love finding ways to look through the lens of triple bottom line value which covers people, planet and profit. If you have a business or are looking to start one that you consider covers 2 or more of these areas and want to connect, please hit me up!
By defining for yourself who you want to become, it makes it so much easier to design your life and work, prioritise your habits and systems, and to be the person you want to be.
This is all a work in progress for me. I have no clear answers yet. But I do know that this path and this process is helping me and if any part of my story can help you, fantastic. If it doesn’t, no worries – this was mainly for me anyways 😉
I’ll leave you and me with a quote to end this post:
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Gandhi