In Defense of Inconvenience (and Why I Ditched My Smartphone)

Three days before I left to start my book tour last fall, I begrudgingly traded in my old phone (the one with the huge extended-life battery that always falls out, and that I usually hold together with a rubber band) for a smart one.

I had resisted for years, fearing that with 24/7 access to email, Twitter, and the like, I would become a miserable drone of a dad. Of a husband. Of a person.

But I needed the iPhone for the book tour. To use that nifty Square card swiper to sell books and shirts, to navigate from one state to the next, to book hotels on the go, and (crucially) to stay in touch with my wife and kids via Skype. In this case, the phone would help us to feel closer, not more distant.

I asked the sales rep at the Verizon store what my options were for when the book tour was over and I wanted to go back to my old phone.

“Once you get used to a smartphone,” he laughed, “you’ll never want to go back.”

The Inconvenience of a Plant-Based Diet

Something I often say about a vegan diet (that many other vegans seem not to like) is that it’s inconvenient — but that its inconvenience is its strength, when it comes to health.

I’ve come to believe that the best diet for any person is the diet that will cause him or her to make the best food choices. And that, far more than the replacement of animal products with plants, is why this diet has made me the healthiest I’ve ever been.

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7 Inspiring Links, Books, and Changes

It’s January 7th, which means two things:

  1. We’re a week into the new year! Not a bad time to check in and see how you’re doing, if you’ve got some changes to make this year.
  2. Today is the last day to get Wake Up (my new 31-day program) before two of the bonuses go away. I added a brand new bonus yesterday (to help people whose goal it is to start a blog or podcast); see the end of the post for details on that.

And it also means … I’m going to write a post with some 7’s in it.

And then, after a few much-needed days off to put some of my own resolutions and plans into place (described below), I’ll be back.

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Why Goal-Setting Doesn’t Work

Yep, you read that right. Coming from one of the biggest goal-setting freaks you’ll meet.

Goal-setting, the way most people approach it, simply doesn’t work. Not in the quantum-leap, overnight-success way that most first-time goal-setters assume it should.

This, of course, is where most people go wrong with their New Year’s resolutions — they expect that they’ll suddenly have willpower they’ve never had before, and they’ll use that willpower to get immediate and dramatic results.

Most people — and I’ve been one of them — think that once they’ve set goals, magic should happen. As if that’s all you need to do to: set the goal and write it down, then visualize, visualize, visualize, and untold fortunes will soon come flowing your way.

Or, slightly less airy-fairy but no more true, that the simple act of writing down a goal and committing to it virtually guarantees that you’ll find a way to make it happen.

I’ve got some bad news: setting a goal just isn’t enough.

What Makes Goals Work When They Do

Don’t get me wrong: I strongly believe in the tremendous power of goal-setting, when it’s approached from the right mindset. So what’s that mindset?

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33 Rules I Strive to Live By

iStock 000004705762XSmallToday — December 26th, 2013 — is my thirty-third birthday.

Everyone always assumes having a birthday right after Christmas is no good because you get short-changed on presents, but I’ve always loved it — having Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s (still my favorite holiday) all in one week is pretty sweet. And writing this post is the closest I’ve ever come to working on my birthday, another plus.

I like what Leo did for his birthday post a few years ago, so here’s my version. This list of “rules,” of course, leaves out many obvious ones like “be a faithful husband,” “tell the truth,” etc. And I’m by no means perfect with the ones I’ve included here, but I’m happiest when I am doing well with them.

I hope you find one or two that might be worth adopting in your own life.

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On Turning Pro — One Year Later

What a year.

On January 4th, 2013, I wrote a post called On Turning Pro, about my plans to overcome debilitating anxiety by “growing up and turning pro” in just about every area of my life.

I was not in a good place, coming off the most worried and powerless six months I had ever experienced. But the new year had brought me the first glimmer of light at the end of that dark tunnel, and in this post I wrote about my plans to navigate the rest of the way out.

Here’s the last paragraph:

January 1st has passed. Another year of your life is gone. And before you know it, this one will be over too. My challenge to you — before another day goes by — is to find the place where you need to grow up and turn pro. And then do it.

I hope you’ll join me.

Fast forward 10 months from when I wrote that post …

It’s October 30th and I’m in San Francisco, sharing a stage at Samovar Tea Lounge with Jesse Jacobs, the owner and founder of Samovar, and Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits and one of my personal heroes.

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5 ‘Easy’ Steps for Making Your Unrealistic Goal a Reality

iStock 000020646047XSmallWith the book tour just about wrapped up, it’s great to be sitting at my own desk in my own house writing a blog post again.

The tour has been amazing. So many roads, people, stories, hotels and cities, and so many delicious meals (especially once I hit the west coast). There are still a few events left, including Charlotte, Raleigh, and my hometown of Asheville this Thursday, but these and the remaining dates in Raleigh and Atlanta (maybe) are short drives away. The hard part — all 11,000 miles of it in my Hyundai Elantra — is over. The goal, achieved.

Yes, this self-supported book tour was like any other goal. It started as a speck of an idea that hit me on a run one day, a ridiculous and unrealistic idea. Then the day of intense, excited research to answer the “Is this possible?” question — knowing that no matter what the facts were, I’d somehow bend them into the shape of “Yes.” Finally, going public with it and creating the accountability. At which point it became real … then the rest was just details.

I’ve got plans for a book tour wrap-up post with photos, links, stories, maybe even a recording of my talk … but this is not that post.

My talk each night focused on three topics: running, the plant-based diet, and setting big freaking scary goals. Far more than the other two topics, the ones I thought were a safe bet, it was the talk of goals that people really cared about.

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The One True Secret of Endless Motivation (And 12 Ideas for Finding Yours)

matt on bridge

The final “point 2″ of my Boston-qualifying marathon.

People often ask how you stay motivated. For getting in shape, running a marathon, or tackling an endeavor entirely unrelated to fitness.

I’ve never really had an answer.

I was a motivation machine when I was training to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I was so focused on the goal — obsessed even — and that alone proved to be an endless font of giddy-up. I couldn’t answer the motivation question, because I didn’t have a problem staying motivated.

The 100-miler was different. The idea of training for it overwhelmed me so much that the first time I signed up for one, I never even started training! Ultimately, it took a two-year plan, knowing that tackling a hundred would first require me to get back into marathon shape, then back into 50-miler shape, and finally into the uncharted territory of whatever 100-miler shape was.

Staying motivated for two years wasn’t easy. I call myself a runner, but I don’t have whatever the it is that compels other runners to religiously put their miles in, running just for running’s sake.

Instead, I’m prone to violent ups and downs. Seventy-five straight days of running, then a month of almost none. That feeling where all you want to do is run, followed by the struggle to get yourself out the door at all.

How to Stay Motivated

That was 100-miler training, for me. In hindsight, I’m amazed that I made it happen.

But in the process, I discovered the secret to staying motivated. Ready? Here goes:

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The 5 Most Valuable Lessons I’ve Learned in a Month of Living on Purpose

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post called On Turning Pro, about my new mindset for the new year, one of discipline and responsibility. The post really struck a chord, even though it wasn’t specifically about running or diet (but the ideas in it could, of course, be applied to fitness and food).

This is the first of several follow-ups I’ll write about my progress. If I were writing this post at the end of January, which I had every intention of doing, I would be celebrating a month of huge success at what I set out to do.

As it is, I’m still celebrating success, but of a different kind — this week, I finished writing my book! There’s still lots of revision and editing to be done, but the hard part — the sitting down, facing the Resistance, and writing — is finished. The cost of finishing, unfortunately, was abandoning many of the healthy habits and disciplines I had developed in January.

But I’m not deterred. The idea of the meta-habit (perhaps better called an “anchor habit,” by Brett and Amber) is a comforting one — rather than feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of having to restart 10 or 12 different habits, I know that all I have to do is get back to my daily habit of reading and listening to positive material, and the others will fall into place like dominos.

I’m excited for things to return to the way they were before the huge push to get the book finished. Reading over the journal I kept in January, I’m astounded at how much I learned about myself in so short a period.

I learned way more than I can fit into a single post, but I figured I’d start with the five most important lessons I learned during this month of dedication and discipline. I hope you find them useful, in some way, for your own life.

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