Burn The Boats

​”If you want to take the island, burn the freaking boats!” ~ Tony Robbins

I heard this quote in a Tony Robbins’ video on YouTube, and I haven’t been able to shake it from my head since. It’s a single sentence that perfectly captures the reason for so many of our failed endeavors. We want to take the island, but we leave the boats in harbor just in case plan A doesn’t work out. The problem? We fight a much different battle on the island when we know the boats are waiting for us in harbor. A battle we’re much more likely to lose.

The obvious place this applies is in business. We start a project or company on the side that gains traction, but ultimately fails because we held onto our stable income job just in case. The difference in action in an entrepreneur that is receiving a paycheck and benefits each month and an entrepreneur that doesn’t know where the next rent check is coming from is stark. Very stark. Oftentimes in our journey to achieve a quest, it is the burning of the boats that spurs us into heights of action and creation that we would have otherwise never been able to achieve.

This doesn’t just apply to business however. We see this written all over our lives. I can’t tell you how many friends I have that will pursue a dating relationship with someone, yet keep in touch with their ex just in case. That’s a relationship destined for failure because it will never receive the nurturing necessary to succeed with only one foot in the water.

I see it in habit formation as well. Take quitting drinking, or taking a break from drinking, as an example. This becomes a goal for a lot of people at some point in their life. Yet they’ll leave certain clauses in their mental agreement that destine them for failure from day one. It could be something like “I’m allowed two drinks per weekend”, or “I’ll have a drink in social situations just to not make it awkward”. Clauses like these kill the goal before it has even gotten started. If you leave the boats in harbor, you will not take the island. If you really wanted to quit drinking you’d pour every ounce in your house down the drain and burn the damn boats.

This metaphor becomes an incredible tool for reviewing our own lives. We can reflect on our own goals, and ask ourselves if we’re really all in on them.

Have the boats been burned?

We can reflect on areas of our life that aren’t working out very well or need a lot of improvement.

Have the boats been burned?

We can reflect back on previous failures in an effort to learn from them.

Had the boats been burned?

Most importantly, the next time we come across that burning desire or nudge to create, the next time we meet that person that just might be the one, or the next time we set a goal to build or change a habit…

Burn the freaking boats. It’s the only way to take the island.

It Doesn’t Take Much

“I’m going to start a company.”

As I closed the pages of the book, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that my world was about to change forever. I uttered those words to myself as the final pages fell shut, and at the time I had zero clue what that meant or what it would look like. But something was different and I knew my path in the woods had diverged into two and I was about to take the one less traveled.

I had just finished a book that I still treasure today, The $100 Startup, by Chris Guillebeau. I was working in a technology sales job that was neither here nor there. I had no horror stories or battle wounds from it, but at the same time I didn’t exactly wake up every day excited for what lay ahead. My life, for the most part, just was what it was. Neither exciting nor dull, good but not great, and fun but not on fire.

This epiphany, this moment of clarity, happened in the fall of 2012. If you fast-forward to today, a short three years later, my life looks much different than it did then. That seedling of an idea, planted by a great book with a simple message, grew into me starting a company that has since reached nearly 500,000 people across the globe, being featured on Inc.com, Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, and Under30CEO to name a few, and publishing my first book. In short, I went from leading a mostly uninspired and uninspiring life, to living out my passions and creativity for the world to see, in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

I write this not as a pat on the back, though I certainly need to give myself that from time to time, but more as a simple reminder. A reminder to myself and a reminder to you reading this. A reminder that…

it doesn’t take much. 

A book that resonates. A quote that won’t go away. A video you can’t stop rewinding in your head. (A post that you can’t stop re-reading…) These are the small things that become big things in retrospect. They’re that figurative snowflake that mushrooms into a snowball in the blink of an eye. The tipping point that takes people from standing on the outside looking in, to being on the inside along for the ride.

There’s a reason so many famous peoples’ stories begin with colloquial reflections not too different than mine. All it takes, in any of our lives, is that one small thing that resonates with us so deeply that we cannot pretend to be the same person after experiencing it. Call it a change in perspective. Call it a paradigm shift. Call it whatever you want. Just don’t call it the way it’s always been.

Life can be viewed as something to endure or something to experience. We endure when let life dictate the path we take. We experience when we take the path that looks the most fun, the most rewarding, or the most exciting. This year, as the resolutions come and they fade, as the excitement of a new year grows and then withers, simply be aware. Be aware that this moment could be right around the corner for you. Be aware that something beyond your comprehension might just be nudging you down that path of experiences. Be aware that saying “yes” to that little voice that won’t go away just might lead to things you could have never imagined. Be aware of the fact that it doesn’t take much.

Looking Within

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 6+ years of marriage, it’s this.

Most issues in a relationship are better solved by looking within than by looking without.

Yet, something inside of us always wants to go against that better judgement and fix the external. It’s someone else’s job to change, or it’s someone else’s issues to fix, or it’s someone else’s viewpoint that’s wrong. What is it that constantly derails us from ever looking within when we know we should be? It’s simpler than we might think.

It’s…ego.

When issues arise in a relationship – whether that’s a significant other, a family member, a friend, or a colleague – rarely do the parties involved stick to the facts in trying to come to a resolution. Almost instantly, the ego jumps in to protect itself and any actual details of the argument become a moot point. A conversation about X, very quickly moves to a conversation about Y, with Y being a superficial mask for finding an answer to X.

I have struggled with this my entire life. Conversations are whittled down to who wins, which is oftentimes very different from who’s right. The internal protection of the ego, most of which happens subconsciously (or more appropriately – so mechanically as to not even notice), takes priority over the relationship at hand.

It is our mindset’s version of fight or flight, yet nowhere in the scenario is survival ever at risk. A confused and inappropriately applied reaction to scenarios that don’t dictate the need for this fight or flight protection.

The counter to this, which is and will always be a work in progress for me, is simply the awareness of its presence. The ego thrives when hidden, but diminishes when brought into the light. When we can confront ourselves with the reality of our ego taking precedence over the other person in the relationship, logic allows us to melt that ego away.

To get to that point, there has to be a conscious moment of pause. A moment where instead of reacting, we go inside and ask ourselves “Am I seeking to win or am I seeking the truth?” Or better yet “Am I seeking to win or am I seeking to get back to harmony in this relationship?” Because oftentimes, who’s right doesn’t even matter. It’s moving past the disagreement, by removing the ego and the need to be right, that gets us to that harmony again.

Like so many one-liner lessons we learned as kids that wind up being painfully valid as we get older, the wisdom “think before you speak” is an apt summation of letting logic, truth, and ultimately love win.

Though tough to do in practice, like a muscle it strengthens with use. The more I look within in any type of relationship, the easier that introspection becomes. And without that introspection, the ego wins every time.

Habit Stacking

HABIT STACKING

With the new year a full week under our belts, there’s likely a lot of us already falling short of achieving resolutions we created. Maybe it was a health related resolution and we’ve already skipped a workout or binged during a meal. Or maybe it was a “no drinking” resolution and we’ve already had a few drinks to unwind from the workday. Or maybe it was a resolution of writing more and we’ve yet to pick up the digital pen. If we haven’t fallen short of our resolutions yet, statistics tell us that we likely will soon.

Why do we jump on the same hamster wheel every year knowing we will wind up in the same place?

I don’t believe it’s for a lack of effort, and I honestly don’t believe it’s for a lack of willpower. Simply put, most of us have never been taught how to achieve goals or build habits, so instead we take our best guess at achieving them and throw our hands up in the air when that guess is wrong. The solution to this problem has been hiding in plain sight all along, and it’s called habit stacking. In a nutshell, habit stacking is exactly what you’d guess it is – stacking, or attaching, a new habit to an existing habit. Put another way, it’s taking something you already do out of habit everyday and adding something else to it. Simple as that.

There are a couple ways I like to think about habit stacking, the first being horizontal habit stacking and the second being vertical habit stacking. Both operate the same way but achieve different things.

HORIZONTAL HABIT STACKING

Horizontal habit stacking is when you stack a new and entirely different habit on top of an old existing habit. For example, the vast majority of us have been in the habit of brushing our teeth in the morning for most of our lives. This habit is second nature to us, and thus is the perfect place to stack a new habit on top of, say for example, taking a daily multivitamin.

Traditional Approach

Historically you may have purchased a bottle of multivitamins with full intention of taking them, then placed them in your cupboard and completely forgotten about them until weeks later when you stumble upon them again. Habit failed.

New Approach

Now instead, with the process of habit stacking to operate from, you place the bottle of multivitamins next to your toothbrush. Each and every morning you see your new habit right in front of you, and it’s as simple as grabbing the bottle. Habit succeeded.

VERTICAL HABIT STACKING

Vertical habit stacking is similar in practice to horizontal habit stacking except that it’s focused on going deeper into a habit as opposed to creating a new one. Take, for example, a common resolution – waking up early each morning.

Traditional Approach

The usual resolution goes something like this. You approach that first week of the new year with full intention of waking up at 6am each morning. You’re used to waking up at 7:30am but this year will be different. So that first morning your alarm goes off at 6am and you promptly hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. If that scenario doesn’t play out the first morning it likely will soon. It simply is too dramatic of a habit shift to make at once. Habit failed.

New Approach

Now instead, with the process of habit stacking to operate from, you set your alarm for 7:15am that first morning. And wouldn’t you know it, you successfully achieve it! After a week of this, you set your alarm for 7am, and wouldn’t you know it again, you are successful. This repeats each week until just a short six weeks later you are waking up at 6am each day. You’ve used the power of small changes applied consistently over time to your advantage, and because of it you’re successful in your resolution. Habit succeeded.


CONCLUSION

When it comes to resolutions and building new habits, first and foremost we need to allow ourselves some grace. We aren’t perfect, and we don’t need to hold ourselves to perfect standards. From there we need to realize that our previous failed resolutions have been from a lack of process not a lack of ability. When we implement the appropriate process, like habit stacking, we allow our ability the chance to succeed. Habits are not about reinventing the wheel. They’re about looking at the existing wheel, seeing what’s working, and improving upon that which is already working.

Rinse. And. Repeat.

 

2015: Rose Thorn Bud

2015: ROSE THORN BUD

It is officially that time of year again. The time to reflect on the previous year in anticipation of improving upon it. Not improving in the sense of being ungrateful for our last 12 months, but improving the way an athlete or an artist would improve each year – focusing on the good and getting better at the not so good.

I call it “watching the game film” and I love to use the game Rose Thorn Bud to do so; Rose being the good, Thorn being the not so good, and Bud being the anticipation and excitement for what’s next.

Without further ado, here’s my personal RTB for 2015.

ROSE

My without-a-doubt-not-even-close-cant-stop-smiling Rose from this year was the birth of my daughter, Berkley.

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Being a dad has been something I’ve looked forward to for as long as I can remember, and raising this little girl has brought more joy into our world than I thought possible.

2014 was the year of Cade, our first born son that passed away a couple days after birth. The addition of Berkley into our life doesn’t replace that pain, but it without a doubt enhances the joy we feel on the other side. Now nearly nine months old, I can’t wait to see what the next nine hold.

I’ve had a couple other major life changes that have been Roses for the most part. In February I began building entrepreneur communities across the country with Galvanize, and in September we moved to Kansas City to be close to family. I’m grateful for both for what they’ve added to our lives in terms of people and experiences.

THORN

Just like my big Rose, my big Thorn is also an easy choice. After three years, a half million users, and countless millions of workouts, I’ve officially shut down Bodeefit. I will continue providing great health and fitness content on AdamGriff.in and use some of the Bodeefit content for that, but the mission, workout apps, and advancement of the company is without a doubt shut down. I had spread myself far too thin for far too long, and something had to give.

It wasn’t easy to do, but in hindsight the decision has also been a catalyst for what I hope to be a big year in my writing. Not running a side business allows me to go even deeper into writing content that resonates with people in an impactful way.

BUD

My Thorn for 2015 is a great transition into my Bud for 2016 – writing. This is the year of going deep, not wide, and that means writing more, writing better, and building a bigger community inspired to become Better Than Yesterday. That begins and ends with one article and one reader interaction at a time. Author Steven Pressfield says we turn pro in our lives when we remove the resistance and excuses that are in the way of becoming our ultimate selves. This is the year I turn pro in my writing, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

If you’re reading this, it means you’re a part of the community I’m building at Better Than Yesterday. And for that, thank you. Thank you for being a part of my world in 2015, and thank you for being my inspiration to go deep into my writing in 2016.

ARTICLES MENTIONED IN THIS POST

Watching The Game Film

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