A teaser from the introduction:
30 Days of Discipline is the boot camp. Discipline is the required outcome …
You eliminate the bad habits that lead to laziness, sloth and gluttony and you replace those [with] habits that encourage success …
Habit and routine are the cornerstones of success. No highly successful man got to the top by mere chance and haphazard, sporadic actions – only through steady habit and daily activities does one cultivate ultimate success of their goals. Forming a habit or routine is a matter of discipline … The little habits make all the big difference.
Victor Pride prescribes a lifestyle program to follow for 30 days. The program includes 12 habits. The idea is, after the 30 days, the most effective habits stick.
I employed the program to start writing Mad Outta Me Head: Addiction and Underworld from Ireland to Colombia, a book for which I had 38 hours of audio interviews to turn into a book. During the Kickstarter campaign, I promised the final product in 60 days (a goal I missed, but in my defense I offered all the donors the book as it was at the 60-day point). In retrospect, I do not think I could have finished the book in such little time with or without 30 Days of Discipline unless I quit my physical training program and caring for my infant son.
Here are the habits I am sticking with. The other habits were either already a part of my life or I did not get much out of them.
No snacking. Three meals per day max.
In 2012, I started what is called “Carb Backloading” or “Intermittent Fasting,” in which you skip breakfast, have a carb-free lunch (a salad), and a big, satisfying dinner with all the potatoes you desire. Athletic performance aside, the best benefit was a more productive workday.
All my life I felt the most important thing to do upon rising was to eat breakfast, to “break the fast.” If you skip that, you can get straight to work. When I was an office slave, I remember intense sleepiness around 2 or 3 p.m. I combated it by ingesting liters of coffee. Under the carbs-only-at-night diet, you can have a salad (or nothing) at lunch. No carbs, no food coma.
This habit extends that logic. Victor says eating makes you sleepy. It saps energy just to digest food. So do away with the snacks. You can eat less than three meals per day, as I was doing. But NO SNACKING.
Wake up by 5 a.m.
As Victor quotes in the book and you have surely heard before, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” — Benjamin Franklin
I gave myself a little room for error on this one because I have an infant in the house. A baby cries for milk in the middle of the night, or because his diaper has a kilo of piss/poop in it, or because he had a nightmare. Many nights’ sleep are more like a series of naps. Baby must be attended to as often as he wakes, regardless of your new productivity habits.
I woke up by 6 a.m.
5 is great, but 6 was good enough given the baby boy.
One potential qualm with this habit concerns writing. I have found that my best written content was produced in the wee hours of the morning. Something about the dead silence of the night, the lack of activity outside, and the whole world being asleep makes a good environment for writing compelling content. Most people accept that the brain works differently during the day than at night. Lima culture blog writing can be done during the day. But the old Expat Chronicles stories (for those of you who have been reading since before I was married) were almost entirely written after the streets went quiet. I never felt OK with that realization until I read that Tim Ferriss writes at night.
Only cold showers.
This one caught my attention because I had gotten into the habit of hot baths — the opposite. I have not seen many bathtubs in Latin America. I am sure they exist, but they have not existed in the apartments I lived in. So when I returned to the United States in 2013, where almost everybody has a big bathtub, I took advantage. I took lots of hot baths.
Hot baths drain your energy. When I read this book and saw this habit, I realized how lethargic I felt after a hot bath. Going from hot baths to cold showers is extreme, but you immediately see the effects. After a cold shower you are ready to kick ass. Tackle the world. Get down to business. The Latin American showers are a blessing in disguise.
Dress your best every day.
Sleeping and waking whenever I wanted, I built my Peruvian Naturals business and this blog in my underwear. Literally, during most of the work completed I wore nothing more than underwear. I made five-figure, international wire transfers at banks in my gym clothes.
Now I am embarrassed to admit that. Now that I dress business casual every day, I will not go back to working in my underwear or gym clothes.
Victor calls for a suit and tie every day. In my opinion, that is a little excessive if you are not an investment banker or lawyer. I own only one suit, but more importantly, St. Louis in August is one of the harsher climates I have seen in the world. Visitors from Atlanta tell me St. Louis is worse, and the only sweatier cities I have visited are New Orleans, Miami, and Cartagena. Step outside in a suit and you will be sweaty before you get to your car, much less turn on the air conditioning. Maybe I make this complaint because I only own one suit.
Dressing in (at least) sharp slacks, a pressed dress shirt, and dress shoes changes your attitude. If you dress that way every day after a cold shower, you are going to have a productive day. No two ways about that. You will not take a cold shower and dress like a professional, and then lounge around reading the news or watching television. You will get work done.
The other benefit of dressing like a professional is in how others treat you. I went to buy a new laptop in St. Louis at a giant, warehouse-style, discount electronics store that carries an impressive selection in every category. But it can be difficult to find what you need. Lots of people running this way and that. Dressed as I was, however, a sales rep was on me as soon as I walked in. I had the model I had found online, and was quickly out the door and back to work. It reminded me of this Davivienda bank manager in Chapinero who used to act annoyed with my international wire transfers. In hindsight, sharp clothes would have probably changed his disposition. Especially in Latin America, and even moreso in the uber-formal Bogota, appearance makes a difference in you and others.
Have a to-do list you must accomplish for every day.
My to-do list during the book featured Chapter titles and various tasks for Peruvian Naturals. Since finishing the 60 days and the book, I loosened up on this habit. And I have felt difficulties now since the book is published. If you wake up without a clear idea of what you need to accomplish that day, you end up reading the news for a few hours, or wasting away in your preferred time sink (TV, video games, Facebook, online chatting).
Take a lazy Sunday morning and afternoon, but Sunday evening is for preparing the week ahead.
I work a half-day on Saturdays, and I am lucky to get away with that. Again, having a family changes the priorities. It is sometimes difficult to pull myself away from work at night and on weekends, but the thought of being an absent father or neglecting husband do the trick quite well.
The point of this habit is to plan your to-do lists and make sure you are not entering the week blind. Sundays in Latin America are notoriously unproductive, slow, and dead. Enjoy your rest. But somewhere in the day, take a look at the to-do lists for the week.
Have one specific goal. Do something to further your goal every day.
This habit illustrates the benefit in owning 30 Days of Discipline. For my 60 days, the goal (albeit very specific) was publishing Mad Outta Me Head. In time, I forgot about this habit. I only remembered it upon opening the book for this review. In addition to not having day-by-day to-do lists, an overarching goal helps keep you on target.
1. I have to agree with the intro teaser that habits bring success.
2. My “solopreneur” or “digital entrepreneur” (or whatever you want to call the indie, work-from-home professional) career has been an interesting path. At first, I was thrilled to work from home on my laptop. No boss, no office, no hours, no rules. Travel where I want, do what I like. But in time, my attitude has come almost completely 360 degrees back to a corporate warrior’s lifestyle. I have given myself minimum fixed hours. I have a dress code. I am considering getting an office because my infant son can be quite the distraction in demanding my attention when he sees me and wants to play. Take those three habits (hours, dress code, office) and I am right back to corporate warrior. Maybe the established norms were not a bad idea. If I ever have employees, I can see the wisdom in setting rules for a productive work environment.
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