A month ago, I gathered 1200 people around the fire and made an announcement. Every Sunday from now on, I’d be writing, putting that message in a bottle and throwing it into the ocean. One would argue I told the people that follow me on Instagram that I would be writing and publishing a new piece on my site every Sunday.
Either way, that happened. Public accountability is a concept that has always sparked my interest, ever since I came across it on Leo Babauta’s corner of the internet, Zen Habits.
He has turned his life around completely, putting so much thought into every aspect of it. He quit smoking, started exercising, paid off his debt, became a regular meditator, stopped eating meat, etc. Leo started documenting his successes and failures in 2005, 2 years later, he had 26,000 readers. He quit his job to write full time and has now turned his little corner of the internet into a 2 million+ gathering around the fire.
Babauta talked a lot about the importance of public accountability. Reading about it then, it was wild to me that Person 1 would have to pay Person 2 if Person 1 didn’t do what they said they would. Still is, but it’s clearer now why some people turn to extreme measures to make sure they’re sticking to their word.
How it works
We are social creatures and credibility is one of our most valuable assets. Plus, we care what others think. A healthy amount of giving a shit is necessary, yet there’s still a negative stigma around caring what others think. That’s because most people are at the extreme ends of the spectrum, caring too much or too dangerously little.
You don’t need “an audience” to use public accountability as a driving force. Telling your family or friends works too if they take their “duty” seriously and hold you accountable.
This is why a lot of accomplished people on the Internet advise others to document their progress:
- write about it
- post about it
- tell others about it.
You can get advice, help, support, and if you slip up, people cheering you on to keep going.
That’s why I publicly said I would be doing this.
I felt bad that I hadn’t written on here since September. Considering how often life gets in the way of our plans, I knew I had to tell people I was doing this if I wanted to actually do it.
Has a year passed? Five?
No? Just a month?!
Then why are you telling us about it like you made it, like you carry the key to success when actually only DJ Khaled does? And why are you referencing a 5-year-old meme?
These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.Dr. Maxwell Maltz in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, sold 30 million copies and referenced almost as much
So, if we’re to reference this study that has shown 21 days are enough to change, drop or form a habit, then I have made it. I am DJ Khaled in a way.
Okay, okay, these findings have recently been proven false, but that magical number sure has been used as fuel by thousands of people around the world to form new habits or change old, toxic ones. 21 days?
Pssht, I can do 21 days.
The theory is that once you build momentum, it’s easier to keep going than to stop. To this day, I keep referencing that study, even though it’s no longer considered true. To me, there is some truth to it, and honestly, as my manifesto says: “Every little helps.”
Just a month has passed, but I like to think I got the hang of it! Since a short time has passed, here are some quick tips on how I managed to stick with my routine.
Narrator voice: little did she know they would not, in fact, be quick.
Pick a time
Ideally and also realistically, when are you most likely to do this work? I picked a specific day, Sunday. It worked out because:
- No work on Sundays
- I hope to reach people like myself -> I prefer to read on Sundays (and Mondays!)-> My theory is that other people like me enjoy that too
- People usually have more free time on Sundays
- I looooove Sundays
You know yourself best so don’t pick a time that seems exciting, but one that seems doable, enjoyable even.
Make it as smooth as possible for yourself
Smooth peanut butter is a disgrace. Smooth as butter is what we’re aiming for here. Friction isn’t good for anyone. Try to optimize for success. Minimize distractions, adjust your space, time, circumstances and any other factor that might come in the way.
If you hate running in the morning, don’t strive for 4 am runs. Make it as simple and smooth as possible, especially in the beginning.
Aim for real, not perfect
YouTube creators who promise absurd things like 5 videos a week either fall behind, making their ‘WHY I LEFT YOUTUBE’ video reappearance months later, or they follow through, just to eventually end up so burnt out they can’t stand to look at a camera again.
Those creators who’ve promised such things have had a toll on their personal lives, or their mental health has suffered greatly, and often they come back to tell us exhausting ourselves is never the answer. Not a long-term one at least.
Statements like 5 videos a week or ‘ New juicy articles every day’ are more exciting than New piece every Sunday, juiciness unspecified.
Mistake: Two years ago, I tried the Seth Godin ‘An article a day’ way, just to later stop writing altogether.
Lesson: Don’t set yourself up for failure.
What do you mind when?! At the beginning of this article. You’re not just skimming it, are you?
Pick something you care about
Self-explanatory, but I like explaining. Communication, am I right?! Let’s divide this tip in two categories so you get an extra tip. I love math.
#1 “This is my thing!”
This category usually includes hobbies, things considered fun like painting, photography, fashion, etc.
Things you enjoy doing, but:
- never get around to doing
- don’t do them as much as you’d like
- you don’t practice enough to get good at them
- you’re scared of showing that weird talent of yours to the world, which brings me to my next very important point.
No talent is weird.
Let’s talk about designers.
They solve problems and make things beautiful. Imagine trying to sell that second part, or to make a living out of it 2 centuries ago.
Delfina’s guess on the number of business owners who resisted and were opposed to the idea of designers, let alone giving money to them until they saw competition benefiting from it.
Delfina’s guess on the number of employees with “real” jobs and skills who hated design and designers at first. “They’re getting paid for that?!”
Design is now an indispensable, integral part of every business and enterprise. It’s become common for people as well, in the form of personal branding and blogs and stuff.
They are getting paid for that, and that was a long way to say, designers are living proof that no talent is weird, dumb, or lesser-than.
Psst, I hope you’re not weird about using the word talent to describe your thing, but if you are, just replace talent with hobby.
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, and/or the willingness to learn, and if you want, you can turn your passion into a side hustle, and if you’re lucky, into your main income.
Choosing the right thing for you is 3/4 of the work, no matter how small or weird Your Thing may seem to you (or others) at first.
“The goal is not to be successful and famous. That’s not the goal. The goal is, if you have a specific God-given ability, is to live your life out through that.”– Jay Z
#2 “This is definitely not my thing!”
This second category is trickier. It involves things you don’t enjoy, but that you should do. Your employer can say so, or your partner, or society. But look, a bird! Just joking. But look at the bigger picture!
Example 1: Your boss asks you to learn that programming language you despise.
You may find this irritating and think that your employer is an entitled prick who doesn’t respect your opinion or input… or you could go deeper.
You may not be passionate about the language, but you are passionate about your career growth. You’re committed to lifelong learning.
You know that the right mindset will get you places skills won’t.
Now, you’re looking at the bigger picture and seeing it as an investment in yourself, rather than a bore or waste of time.
Excuse my french, but since we were speaking of asses, let’s look at another bird, umm, I meant example. Birds have really been flaunting their vocals these quarantine days, btw.
Example 2: You’re trying to lose weight and apparently, cardio is the way to go. You hate cardio.
This may be one of those cases where society is telling you what to do (cardio) to conform to social norms (by being thin).
For argument’s sake, let’s say cardio is the best way to go at it, that you actually hate it, and you’re not doing this because of society or fucked up beauty standards, but because you want to be healthier and stronger.
You could look at cardio as a pain in the ass or you could see it as an investment in your body, health, and mind. A conscious step you take to a healthier, stronger, fitter you.
Obviously, there are hundreds of ways to move your body and you definitely shouldn’t be doing the one you happen to hate. (Same with healthy food. Please don’t focus on eating the one veggie you hate because you heard it’s good for you. It’s obviously not good for you.)
Try allll the sports/workouts/veggies/things to find out what YOU like. As I said, it’s about the momentum. Try to focus on your goals, be stubborn about them, but flexible about your methods.
Considering how “This is my thing!” and “This is definitely not my thing!” categories differentiate, you can adjust your routine, goals, and expectations accordingly.
These were my 5-6 tips for establishing a writing routine and building new habits. Thanks for joining. Hopefully, I’ll come back in a year or so with more tips, observations, birds, and DJ Khaled jokes.