None of us are perfect. We all have vices that we escape to in order to distract us from things that are stressful in our lives. Maybe it's something serious like drugs, gambling, or porn. Or maybe it's something less serious but you've realized you spend way too much time on like your phone, video games, or TV. Maybe it's something that's not serious yet but you know that it's better to stay away from - for instance, we all know someone who abuses alcohol to a point where it has damaged parts of their lives in a serious way.
One of the hardest things for us to do is to be and stay disciplined; to ignore impulses that seem harmless in the moment but we know add up to trouble. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately because this year I have a strong focus on being more disciplined all-around. Last year, research was my major focus so in the time I would normally spend in the gym, I would spend that time reading. I realize now, I could have planned this out better and forced myself to just listen to audiobooks or podcasts in times that I was in the gym so I could still reach my goal for research while staying disciplined. But when I wasn't doing research, I found it was far too easy to get sucked into playing video games or spending time on my phone.
This year I've been pushing myself and, even though we're only a couple weeks in, my habits have improved ten-fold and it's because I keep away from my phone and video games and instead spend that time working out or writing. I feel amazing and I see it in the goals I set for myself each week that I've been getting far more accomplished.
Let me share with you some tactics that have resonated with me from books that I've read and that have been helping me stay disciplined. I think that you will find them empowering and hopefully they will help you reach your current goals if they resonate with you as well...
1. James Clear's Identity Based Habits
James Clear, author of the Atomic Habits (a book that released over 4 years ago that still remains at the top of the charts in Self-Help on Amazon and I'm sure will remain there for a very long time) states that, "The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first."1,2
Clear's outlook is that we essentially are the summation of our habits - and that's a tough thing to argue. With identity-based habits, he's saying that if we want to change our habits, we should have the mindset that we want to change who we are in a positive way. For instance, if we want to quit smoking, the best mindset we can have is, "I'm not a smoker," so that if someone asks you to smoke, that can be your response and you relieve yourself from the pressure and impulse to continue that unhealthy habit and lifestyle.
This is a very powerful tool and is a great way to start when you want to set goals for yourself - by envisioning the person you strive to be. As I stated earlier, I decided I want to be more disciplined so I engineered my goals for this year around that.
2. Richard Thaler's Commitment Devices
Richard Thaler is a Nobel-Prize-winner for his work in behavioral economics and this tactic is from his wildly popular book titled Nudge. Commitment devices are tools used to keep us on-track for our goals.3
Thaler's most popular example of this is taken from when he used to have dinner parties. He stated that while they were waiting and talking before dinner, they would commonly have drinks and after a certain number of times, he decided to move snacks into a different room for this period of time. No one there, especially Thaler, wanted them to ruin their appetite and by moving the snacks out of sight and to a place they'd have to walk to, he realized this helped tremendously.
We can all use commitment devices to help us reach our goals and there are countless examples. One that should be obvious is with the food you keep in your house - if you leave the grocery store without the foods you "can't help but eat," you're helping yourself tremendously because it won't even be an option for you unless you take the time to go all the way back. Another easy example is that if you keep healthy foods like fruits and veggies out where you see them regularly rather than tucked away in your fridge, you're also far more likely to eat those foods more often.
A commitment device that I've been using so far this year that keeps me off from my phone is by keeping it in the bedroom when I am home. There are times I need it to pay bills or make a call but most of the time, the only purpose it serves is a distraction if it's within reach. This certainly has helped me be productive while I'm home.
3. Mike Matthews' Ten-Minute Wait
Mike Matthews is a fitness author as well as CEO and founder of the supplement company Legion Athletics, Inc. His flagship books, Bigger Leaner Stronger for men and Thinner Leaner Stronger for women has helped me and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of others with programming their fitness routines and learning the basics of lifting.4,5
In his book, The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation, Matthews advises that when we want to do something like scroll through our phones or watch TV, we should simply distract ourselves with a task that pushes us in a positive direction instead.6 He states:
"You can also institute a mandatory ten-minute wait before allowing yourself to indulge in an undesirable activity... Decide to do whatever you're dreading for just ten minutes, and once they're up, allow yourself to stop. Chances are you'll want to keep going!" (p. 59)
It's interesting how simple of a tactic this is, yet how true and helpful! I haven't forced myself to do ten minutes because it doesn't usually even take me one minute! Once I start moving in a different direction, I get wrapped up in that task and completely forget about the bad habit I was distracting myself from. One thing that helps with this is scheduling out your day so that you accomplish the things you want to. If you do it right, you'll find that you won't have time to fool around for hours in-between tasks.
Small distractions can quickly turn into bad habits that will eventually catch up to you.
What's keeping you from reaching your goals or being the person you strive to be? If you have a journal and you know there is something you want to work on, I recommend writing out your response to that question. If you don't, I recommend the free website/app that I've been using recently, Penzu. Once you've done that, consider these tactics given by James Clear, Richard Thaler, and Mike Matthews to help you stay true to that.
We all can make the conscious decision on how we want to spend our day. If you use these tools, they can truly help you stay focused and spend your time wisely.
I wish you the best on your current list of goals and with getting rid of those bad habits. If you have any questions or comments, please comment below. Thank you for taking the time to read.
Self, EP 5: Progress Update
This episode is much different than the first four – it is an update on what I’ve been working on recently and where I see this podcast and other works of mine progressing. This being the first Progress Update, I cover what I’ve done since the release of my first book and how it led me to this podcast. You’ll learn a lot about the purpose behind this podcast and the type of information I intend to share. I discuss why I’m currently researching books on the topics like free will, the power of choice, and the psychology of decision-making.
I plan to provide more Progress Updates periodically in the future so I can give some insight on what books I intend to read and other content I intend to cover in the upcoming episodes.
Click this link to have a listen!
If you have any feedback, positive or negative, please leave a comment. You can also subscribe to my newsletter on my Contact Page to be the first to know when new episodes are live.
Episode 5 Full Transcript
Self, Ep. 4: Book Summary & Discussion on Carl Jung's Modern Man in Search of a Soul
This episode cover's Carl Jung's Modern Man in Search of a Soul, a book that guides psychotherapists on how to treat patients as well as individuals on how to improve their spiritual sense and mental health. Jung was one of the founders of analytical psychology, along with Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler but much of his work was overshadowed since Jung showed some disagreement with Freud's work.
Jung has had a major influence on personality typing, being the creator of the words introvert and extrovert as well as being the #1 influence of the extremely popular Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (today's most trusted personality test), which was discussed in Episode 2. In this episode, we'll learn about his view on the importance of dreams, spirituality, religion, and the unconscious mind. Through helping thousands of patients who needed mental help, Jung has a very unique and educational perspective on these topics.
Click this link to have a listen!
If you've listened to multiple episodes, I hope you are noticing that the writing and production for episodes is improving! This is a new project for me but I am enjoying the challenge. If you have any feedback, positive or negative, please leave a comment. You can also subscribe to my newsletter on my Contact Page to be the first to know when new episodes are live.
Episode 4 Full Transcript
Self, Ep. 3: Book Summary & Discussion After Reading Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin – An American Life
Episode 3 covers the life of Benjamin Franklin after reading Walter Isaacson's book title Benjamin Franklin - An American Life. I share some of his core principles and the major influence he had on American culture and also discuss the author's background and other writings from Franklin himself.
You’ll get to know about his background as a printer/businessman, a scientist/inventor, and in American politics/diplomacy and hopefully will find some principles you can take away to improve your work ethic, creativity, and/or relationships.
Click this link to have a listen!
If you have any feedback (good or bad), I'd love to hear it in the comments below.
You can also subscribe to my newsletter on my Contact Page to be the first to know when new episodes are live.
Episode 3 Full Transcript
Self, EP 2: Evaluating Personality Types Using the MBTI & Do What You Are by Paul & Kelly Tieger, Barbara Barron
Episode 2 discusses the value that can be found from taking the Meyers Briggs Personality Assessment as well as reading Do What You Are. Whether you are between jobs or not, knowing your personality type helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses so you know what roles you are best suited for and what areas you need to work on most.
I break down the differences in personality types so that you may be able to figure out your type while listening and with a figure provided on my website, you’ll also be able to figure out your biggest strengths and weaknesses.
Click this link to have a listen!
Below are the figures mentioned in the episode - as images as well as downloadable PDFs.
Figures Mentioned in Episode
Episode 2 Full Transcript
I'm very excited to announce my newest project - my podcast, titled Self, where I share what I am learning in the areas of self-improvement and self-discovery. Click this link to have a listen! The full transcript will be included below.
I will be straight-forward and honest that these initial episodes may be difficult to listen to but I promise, as I work on these more, they will get better. These first episodes may be easier to read than to listen to but either way, I appreciate you for checking out the podcast and this post!
If you'd like to get notified of new podcast episodes, be sure to go to my Contact Page and subscribe to this blog.
Episode 1 Full Transcript
Welcome to Self, a podcast where you join me, Jacob Craig, as I research the areas of self-improvement and self-discovery. I am a researcher and author and my mission with this podcast is to simply share what I am learning in hopes you get as much value as I do. This podcast covers several topics, including health, fitness, motivation, personality types, self-worth, and more so that we can develop ourselves into the person we strive to be and reach new heights both personally and professionally.
This episode will be discussing Ray Dalio’s insightful book, Principles, and start to unravel the rabbit holes it has led me down. Being a high-achiever and creative mind himself and also having relationships with others like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and powerful political leaders around the world, he has tons of insight on topics like: what it takes to be successful, how we can take an idea and build it into something bigger than ourselves, and why it is important for all of us to have principles that we implement in work and in life.
On that note, let’s get started…
I chose Principles for my first episode because of just how powerful this book is. The amount I will be able to cover in this 20-minute episode will be just some of the highlights but I am being serious when I say every page of this book has value in it. I believe it is the most valuable book that I have read in 2021. It also covers so many areas that I will be able to branch off of this book for episodes to follow.
If you don’t know Ray Dalio, he built his company out of his two-bedroom apartment to earning the title of being the 5th most important private company in the US according to Fortune. He has also been titled one of the hundred most influential people by Time and one of the hundred richest by Forbes. But his life does not revolve around accolades like this. As you read Principles, you see that what he cares most about are the relationships he creates along the way and he and his family and coworkers had to overcome numerous hardships to achieve what they have today.
Ray’s company is Bridgewater Associates, an international investment firm (a.k.a hedge fund) out of Connecticut that handles investments from all over the world. Bridgewater is now up to 1,500 employees and Ray says that the success of the company has been sustainable by “having an idea meritocracy that strives for meaningful work and meaningful relationships through radical truth and radical transparency.”
Let’s break down what he means in what I just said – “having an idea meritocracy that strives for meaningful work and meaningful relationships through radical truth and radical transparency”
– because this really is one of his core principles and it is mentioned throughout his book.
Since he does such a wonderful job defining an idea meritocracy, I will quote his description and this describes how Bridgewater’s culture functions overall. So an idea meritocracy is “a system that brings together smart, independent thinkers and has them productively disagree to come up with the best possible collective thinking and resolve their disagreements in a believability-weighted way.”
Ray states how he wasn’t worried about management when he started Bridgewater and never imagined the company hitting 40 employees, never mind 1500. He started the company with a friend that he played Rugby with who knew nothing about what the work entailed and they hired an assistant. Ray was so passionate about the markets and he wanted to work with people who were smart but also that he just enjoyed being around. That is why, even today, Bridgewater strives for meaningful work and meaningful relationships, because he says there is “nothing more important than getting the culture and the people right.” They strive to enjoy themselves and each other’s company while also executing their jobs excellently.
What makes Bridgewater so unique and interesting is how they practice their idea meritocracy through radical truth and radical transparency. They not only allow but encourage all employees, even new hires, to be honest and open about what they think of not only meetings in general but how each person they work with executes a task and their thoughts on individual parts of meetings.
For example, he discusses two instances where he himself was critiqued:
This hit Ray hard but caused meaningful discussion on how to fix this problem. He states how these three employees did not want the radical truthfulness and radical transparency to change in the company and that they understand Ray has good intentions but for employees that did not know him as well, his words were having a lasting, negative effect. This reflection allowed Ray to be conscious of these reactions and it began a decade-long process of producing the company’s Work Principles that were discussed and disputed, then written down and distributed company-wide.
I also notice that the part that says, “The future success of the company Is highly dependent on Ray’s ability to manage people as well as money,” relates to a later part of the book. He talks about his transition out of the CEO role and during this transition, the company is much larger and he catches an area where the company is skipping on quality assurance. This pushes an audit company-wide, where they realize this is a much bigger problem and he states how the company continues to do well with money management but that those same standards need to be kept with other components of the company, especially management.
One of my favorite quotes from Ray Dalio is, “Pain + Reflection = Progress,” and he shows how this works by how the company took painful moments like those and used those situations as learning experiences to grow and develop in unique ways.
Most interestingly is how they have created apps and tools to assist with management and finding out what people are like. One way that Bridgewater does this is through an app they created called the Dot Collector. The Dot Collector is used while meetings are in progress, requiring everyone to rate the attributes of individuals along with the reasoning behind their rating so that they are using real data and can look at patterns in the data to find out what people are like and what subjects they are most believable in. If you recall, their company’s system revolves around an idea meritocracy that uses believability-weighted decision-making, so this is a major tool they use to facilitate that. Dalio says to, “Think of each individual dot as an at-bat in baseball,” in that you don’t rate the person based off one instance but in a collection of instances.
A couple other tools that Bridgewater uses are:
Of the several tools Bridgewater has, what I think is the most valuable tool is also the simplest. The Daily Update Tool is an app that started out as daily emails he would ask his employees to send him to inform him of what they did that day, the issues that have come up, and reflections on their day’s work. From this information, he is able to see who is doing what and decide if issues should be discussed further as well as gauge morale, work load, and collaboration from an individual’s perspective as well as collectively at a high level. I can see how invaluable this tool can be to an organization and how easily it can be implemented.
The last tool I will describe is a prominent one and possibly the most interesting and unique as well. At the very beginning stages of hiring someone, Bridgewater uses a combination of personality tests and in-person meetings to find out what attributes best describe them and actually develop what they call Baseball Cards for each individual. This allows everyone they are working with to truly know what they are like from the get-go.
In the next episode, I will start to unravel what I have discovered through different personality tests but Ray states, “If I had to choose between just the assessments and just the traditional job interviews to get at what people are like, I would choose the assessments. Fortunately, we don’t have to make that choice.”
He goes on to describe the valuable information found in these assessments and the four that he finds most useful:
In early 2021, Ray actually released his own personality assessment called ‘PrinciplesYou’ which is completely free for anyone to take and has a ton of great features so you can compare with others and use it in your organization as well.
A personality type that Dalio frequently talks about in Principles is what he calls a Shaper. He defines a Shaper as “someone who comes up with unique and valuable visions and builds them out beautifully, typically over the doubts and opposition of others.” He worked hard to find and recruit individuals with these qualities to Bridgewater and even went as far to find out exactly what makes up a Shaper in great detail.
He did this in two significant ways:
Some key characteristics he found they have in common were:
Ray highlights that the key difference between these individuals is whether their shaping comes mainly in inventing, mainly in managing, or if they execute both consistently over decades.
As much as many of us commonly think that we wish we had the success of individuals like Jobs, Musk, and Gates, it’s important that we are honest when thinking about how exceptional these individuals are and that professional success does not mean personal happiness.
One of my favorite quotes from Principles is where Ray states, “Having spent time with some of the richest, most powerful, most admired people in the world as well as some of the poorest, most disadvantaged people in the most obscure corners of the globe, I can assure you that beyond a basic level, there is no correlation between happiness levels and conventional markers of success. A carpenter who derives his deepest satisfaction from working with wood can easily have a life as good or better than the President of the United States. If you’ve learned anything from this book, I hope it’s that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and everyone has an important role to play in life.”
He also states that, “Some people want to change the world and others want to operate in simple harmony with it and savor life. Neither is better. Each of us needs to decide what we value most and choose the paths we take to achieve it,” and asks us to think deeply about whether we care more to savor life or make an impact. This empowers us to think of what success means to us and take our own path to get there.
The sheer amount of wisdom in Ray Dalio’s book, Principles, can’t be captured anywhere else. As I said at the beginning of this episode, every page holds value and the amount of consideration you can tell is placed in the wording and phrasing is just incredible. That is why Principles is my favorite book that I’ve read in 2021 and it will be a book I will always keep in high regards.
As you venture through the upcoming episodes, you’ll see how this book has led me down a rabbit hole to learn more about and from individuals like Walter Isaacson and Adam Grant and tools that help me reflect and learn more about my personality type so that I can improve.
I appreciate you for listening in and sincerely hope that:
Thank you, I hope you have an awesome day – let’s go crush it and think about what we can do to be just a bit better than yesterday.
Alright, I’m out.
After a long, stressful week, what is the thing you look forward to most?
We all need our outlets - whether it's the gym, having a night out with friends, or even just coming home and being able to relax on the couch and watch our favorite show.
While these all work, I'd like to take some time to discuss the importance of having a creative outlet and why it is notably beneficial for us to have one. Let me first define what I mean by a creative outlet: any hobby or practice that allows you to express yourself freely and for tangible things to be developed from your imagination. Normally, we think of things like drawing or painting but I would even extend it far beyond that. In climbing, soccer, skateboarding, and just about any other sport, there is a creative piece where you can create tricks or moves if you have an open mind as you are doing it.
What is it about creative outlets that makes them special? Whether we're introverts or extroverts, there is something about them that the gym, social media, or being at a loud bar can't seem to accomplish.
Once we leave high school, it appears most of our lives get much more complex and so, out of necessity, they also become far more structured. Eventually, this is what our schedules look like:
6:00am - Wake up
8:00am - Start work
5:00pm - Leave work
6:00pm - Eat dinner
7:00pm - Decompress
Cycle that on repeat, Monday through Friday. And this is if we are blessed enough to have a career where we work 40 hours a week, we can live off of the work we do there, and our life doesn't include children and/or other daily responsibilities.
The point I am getting at is there is a negative side to so much structure: there is a sense of freedom lost and the occasional feeling that you're programmed to do the same motions on repeat. From my earlier definition, a creative outlet is the exact opposite. It is something where you don't know the results until it's done and it's a unique experience every time.
A creative outlet should be something that you consistently get better at as you overcome challenges and obviously that you enjoy. Also, preferably you'd have access to this hobby/practice no matter where you are. You only benefit yourself more by having that pen & paper, book, soccer ball, climbing wall, or whatever your outlet is accessible to you as much as possible.
You can easily have more than one creative outlet and it's great to have a bit of variety. Maybe you enjoy spending time drawing, playing on your guitar, and also producing your own music altogether - these are all powerful creative outlets that could complement each other very well while testing your limits in different ways. For me, writing, reading, and producing content have been outlets that work together very nicely and allow me the freedom that I need away from my work as an Engineer/Construction Manager.
No one can specify the creative outlet that's best for you. Not everyone enjoys journaling and not everyone enjoys making music. It's completely up to you to experiment for yourself. If we look back at our childhoods, it's likely that most of us have found at least one or two outlets that we love but maybe we lost sight of them as our lives got more complex.
This is definitely something worth considering when thinking of new goals/resolutions to pursue.
What are your creative outlets? Have you lost sight of them? If so, you wouldn't believe the new appreciation for life you'd feel by picking up that guitar, pen, or camera once a day. Whether you want to find a new outlet or cultivate an old one, you can't go wrong.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Maybe share what creative outlets you enjoy most, why they're so important to you, and/or how you make time in your busy life for these activities.
Thank you for reading! If you haven't already and you enjoyed this read, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter by going to the Contact Page and entering your email address so that you are notified of news related to my work. Very exciting projects are underway that will be unveiled in early 2022 so stay tuned!
Update: What I've Been Up To
Since the release of my first book, Inspiring Leaders in Health & Fitness, Vol. 1, in March, I've definitely been keeping myself busy even though this blog site hasn't been updated as much as it used to. Some of the things I've done are:
At this point, I am back to being focused on research. You will notice at the top of this blog, you will find photos of the books I am currently reading and those I have recently read. One thing I realize I need to do better is post on books that have had lessons worth sharing. I will be working on this.
If you are interested in reading along with me or if you have book recommendations, I'd love to hear from you! Simply comment or shoot me an email at email@example.com. I also plan to start a Facebook Group for other avid readers in nonfiction, which I will share when it is ready for you to join.
Recently, I offered free one-on-one mindset/goal-setting consultations. The amount of people that reached out to me was incredible! I also really loved being able to see all of the folks I was able to meet over Zoom getting value from what I was telling them. I could see their attitudes turn from feeling lost to ready to get after it over the 45-minute talk we had.
What was difficult was realizing how much time and energy this takes and that I needed to do something different in order for more people to get this value... so here it is, The Reflection Tool! Think of it like a personality test - how you answer questions about yourself and receive a customized report that helps you learn and grow.
Many people struggle to get away from all of the distractions in life so they don't spend time reflecting, so my goal for this tool is to make that process as simple and powerful as possible.
The Reflection Tool comes in two parts:
1. The Assessment
The assessment is made to assist you with gauging where you are currently. It asks questions that prompt you to reflect on your personal happiness, professional success, and where your values currently lie.
After assessing where you are currently, it asks questions that give me an idea on how I can help you. They get you thinking of what areas of your life you should focus on, so that you can set goals for yourself and start heading in the right direction.
The assessment only takes about 5-10 minutes. As I said above, made to be simple yet powerful.
Click this link to take the assessment.
2. Your Custom Report
After filling out the assessment, you will receive a custom report based on your answers. I created an algorithm that leads to over 100 different possible reports. The main goal of this report is to assist you with setting and achieving big goals for yourself. If you don't have goals set, I suggest grabbing pen and paper while you look through this report in order to set a list of goals for yourself and if you do already have goals, I believe you will find tips and resources to help refine them and/or stay motivated to achieve them.
This report provides:
Here is the cover page of the report that you will receive:
I appreciate you for reading this and hope that you give it a try. If you do, I'd love to hear your feedback so that I can improve the tool over time!
Click this link to take the assessment.
Amazon has just released a new platform for authors and readers called Kindle Vella, where authors share ongoing stories. The first three episodes are free to read for each story and Amazon is also currently giving readers 200 free tokens to unlock more!
Boost Your Potential (https://amzn.to/3z6mu7s) provides tips on building confidence & setting goals so that you can reach new heights.
Dominate the Day (https://amzn.to/3ksYJSZ) is an ongoing series with a new reading each day. Each episode contains 3 days of an inspirational quote with reflection to follow.
Both of these series currently have 5 episodes with more to come! All of the episodes are quick, easy reads - I like to get right to the point to give as much value as possible.
I hope that you enjoy these series. Let me know your feedback and any questions you may have by commenting here or emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. If you're wondering why this blog has been less active than it used to be, it is because I am working on these series, my second book, and more. I am most active on Facebook and do my best to keep my book series website updated. For all of my links, you can go here: wlo.link/@ilc. Lastly, if you're not subscribed to this website for updates and other free content, go to my Contact Page.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.