The One Thing

I am currently reading through “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. It isn’t a huge surprise that I’m reading a book like this, I tend to find a lot of value in reading books that try to encourage success and productivity. I’m usually reading something like this in addition to one work of fiction and one work of non-fiction.

Anyway, the basic concept of this book is that you should identify one thing that will make everything else easier or unnecessary and then focus only on accomplishing that one thing. No multi-tasking, no balancing, and no shooting for mediocre targets, instead you focus only on one thing and then move on from that. We each have limited motivation during the day and if we waste it on unimportant things then we won’t accomplish what we want.

Overall, I’ve found it valuable and I’ve cut down my monstrous “to do” list into a few things that must be done. For example, I have three areas of life that I’m focusing on: work, physical health, and mental health. Each area has an activity that I’m focusing on for 66 days (because 66 days is the average time that you must do something daily for it to become a habit), in my case that means going for a run every day, writing a blog post every day, and meditating every day. When I finish the complete 66 days I’ll ask myself what is the next one thing to accomplish my life goals and then focus in on that again. Maybe it’ll be a daily weight lifting or yoga routine for my physical health, or studying a foreign language or musical instrument for my mental health, or writing a novel to advance my work as an author.

Well, in today’s reading I found something the authors said kind of interesting. They said that there is a specific order of life areas that work the best, specifically that focusing on things in this order will maximize results. The order is spiritual life, physical health, personal life, key relationships, job, business, and finances. Basically, if you work on your spiritual life it will make your physical health easier, which will make your personal life easier, etc.

So here are the rough definitions of each life section:

Spiritual Life – How we interact with our community and our relationship with God. I’m an atheist so that last point is moot, but I do find value in the community and certain spiritual practices such as pagan ceremonies.

Physical Health – Exercise, healthy diet, and mental health. My diet and exercise are pretty solid, but there is always room for improvement.

Personal Life – This is personal growth in hobbies and skills and finding time for yourself.

Key Relationships – Pretty self-explanatory, family, friends, partner, etc.

Job – This is the area that focuses on accomplishing what you want to accomplish within your role at work

Business – This is focusing on how to move your business forward

Finances – Increasing net worth, investment cash flow, debt reduction, etc.

I find the order kind of interesting, but it makes sense. I currently don’t break down things in that way, but I think I’m going to next week when I hold a weekly staff meeting with myself and type up the agenda (a tip from “The War of Art”). I’m always looking for new habits and insights and techniques to avoid being stagnant.

Wanna hear my thoughts on some random controversial subject like abortion, circumcision, or whether IPAs are good? Got a question for me that is too personal to ask directly? Do you just want to tell me I’m a douchebag? Send me an anonymous message and I’ll respond on my blog! Just fill out this simple form on SurveyMonkey ( and if you need inspiration check out the previous questions that I’ve answered  here  and you’ll see that no subject is off limits.

Yesterday Makes Today Easier

Every Sunday I create and print off a checklist table for the week. It includes things like work I need to do, habits I’m developing, exercise routines, and nutrition goals. At this point, there are twenty-eight things I want to check off… and man it feels so good to make that check mark, particularly the final one of the day.

I’ve found this method of planning to be incredibly valuable for me, particularly as someone who works from home. Many times throughout my day I feel a little unfocused or distracted and having a list like this gives me something concrete to do. I can look down and see that I haven’t meditated, eaten enough nuts and seeds, gone Pokehunting, or written a blog post, this gives me options for things to get done.

When I look at this piece of paper and see that I’ve gone on a morning run for the last five days straight it makes me want to keep up that pattern. It is added motivation. I don’t want my laziness to be what breaks the daily trend of positive behavior, it is added motivation. Usually, it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t work it starts a trend of negative behavior, taking one day off turns into two and then a week, and it is increasingly difficult to get back into my routine.

In fact, that is exactly what today’s meditation in “The Daily Stoic” was about, but it focused on eliminating bad habits as opposed to starting new ones. From Epictetus’ Discourses:

If you don’t wish to be a hot-head, don’t feed your habit. Try as a first step to remain calm and count the days you haven’t been angry. I used to be angry every day, now every other day, then every third or fourth… if you make it as far as 30 days, thank God! For habit is first weakened and then obliterated. When you can say ‘I didn’t lose my temper today , or the next day, or for three or four months, but kept my cool under provocation,’ you will know you are in better health.

A psychologist friend of mine had a similar insight on a Facebook post I recently shared, but she brought some scientific insight. When we think about something repeatedly our brain wraps myelin around that connection, strengthening it and making it a more commonly used connection. Procrastinating today means tomorrow you’re more likely to procrastinate. Being jealous or angry today means that you’re more likely to feel those emotions tomorrow. Our mind loves efficiency, and by practicing habits (good and bad) those pathways increasingly become stronger and more efficient and, eventually, become the default path we take. Luckily, we have the ability to be aware of this and create new, healthier paths.

A Defense of Imperfection

I’m not a perfectionist, much to the chagrin of my partner (and possibly my boss). I’m able to be a perfectionist when necessary (especially when I’m getting paid), but it doesn’t come naturally and I will usually fight it tooth and nail. I don’t know why I’m this way, maybe genetics or maybe it is years of “schooling” that has encouraged me to just do the minimum necessary, but the reason isn’t important. I am solidly a “good enough” type of person, and I think that’s a good thing for two reasons.

You can’t pursue perfection and innovation at the same time.

Perfection is defined by someone else, usually someone who is invested in the status quo. The perfect way to garden or build a car or design a home is based on the patterns established in the past. Perfection is a conservative pursuit, it is the belief that the old way is best and we should just fall in line. That way lies stagnation.

It is the people who decide to ignore the rules that push advancement. It is those who are too lazy or bored or stubborn to read directions and do things the “perfect” way that are acting entrepreneurially. To paraphrase Henry Ford, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”. If Ford was seeking the perfect way to provide transportation during his time he would have become a horse trainer. Evolution occurs when imperfections enter the system and prove to be beneficial.

Perfection is inefficient.

Even if I must tread the same, boring, status quo path to make something “perfect”, it is still probably a waste of my time. We should aim for “good enough” because that will allow us to spend our time and resources on other things. When I was in college I could spend two hours to get a 90% on a paper, or I could spend ten hours to get a 100%. At some point, the payoff isn’t worth the price (knowing what I know now I probably wouldn’t have even pursued a 90%).

“Good enough” lets you move on to bigger things. It lets you spend you diversify your time and skill set instead of wasting it on perfection. Someday we may have eternity to perfect skills and papers and curry recipes, but we don’t yet. Time is finite and it is better to have 100 skills and a dozen recipes and write a thousand papers that get the job done than miss out on those opportunities trying to perfect one. Variety is one of life’s pleasures, it is a shame to abandon that for some unattainable goal. We should do enough to accomplish our goals, and then move on.

Welcome to the new website!

Hello, everyone!

With so many new projects and things happening in my life I decided to set up a new website to put everything into a central location. This is still a work in progress but soon I’ll have information about my upcoming book and I’ll start blogging again. I’ve also got some side-projects that I’m excited about. If you want to receive an email when I have updates on my book or side projects just fill out the form to the right.

Until then, feel free to reach out if you have any thoughts on the aesthetics of the page so far.

I’m really excited about this new chapter in my life and I’m thrilled to share it with the world.

– Peter