The Myth of Willpower

Came across this response to “Can Brain Science Help Us Break Bad Habits?” over at the New Yorker.

The biggest myth we’ve been sold is that success is due simply to willpower.

Joe Holder’s Instagram Story

This aligns with James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits.” It’s not about saying “I can’t smoke,” it’s about “I am a person who doesn’t smoke.” Building systems, from the basic beliefs and creating new habits, is core, not just the white-knuckled facade of “willpower.”

It’s easier for me these days to avoid mindlessly snacking on junk food because of a belief. I no longer buy bags of Oreo’s or chips at the grocery store because I am a runner. That’s not to say I don’t snack, or that runners CAN’T eat those things, but I have a bad habit of buying those things then eating the whole bag in a day.

So my plan to not devour a bag of Oreo’s in a day is not WILLPOWER.

It’s belief, identity. Those things keep me from putting those items in my grocery cart nine times out of 10.

Less Waste

In the world of running there’s a lot of waste. Lots of plastic water bottles, papers, “swag” that is generally garbage, styrofoam, and that’s just what the race provides.

One of the other things is waste from the food products we bring along. The gels, and “powerbar” types of foods. Single serving food items wrapped in plastic that usually just ends up in the garbage.

My buddy Jesse (one of the key people who inspired me to start running) has started making his own foods for running, and storing them in re-usable food pouches, which you can find on Amazon and probably elsewhere.

Sure, it’s a drop in the ocean as far as waste, but it’s something, and I think it’s awesome. You should try it out!

Do It Yourself

The suits saw blogs as a cheap and easy means to display ads. Every site started looking the same, to keep things cheap, and the writing had to get quicker, because ad rates kept falling.

All that to say – do it yourself.

Buy a domain name, start a site on, and now you’ve got a site. The site is the same as any Deadspin or Gawker or any other beloved site you used to enjoy but was destroyed by the dudes in sport coats. It’s the same in that there’s a URL that anyone on the planet can access using a browser, and there’s words on a screen for them to read.

Sure, the economics have changed, but the demand has not gone away. The trick is to make something that people are willing to support with their dollars. That means “same old same old” won’t cut it.

Niche the fuck down and find an audience that lusts for what you do. Find other creative people who crave the same thing and ask them to write for your site.

HOW WILL IT MAKE MONEY is putting the cart before the horse. Make something today, when no one is looking, when you only get 35 visits a day. Do it over and over again, for a year, or two. Build a brand, gain trust.

The reason we’re in this mess is because the entire publishing platform was built on display ads that people ignore (or blog), and inflated job titles like VP OF SECONDARY DESIGN METRICS.

Remove the garbage ads (be nice to your readers), and the dead weight, and suddenly a website doesn’t need to make $45,000/minute to keep the checks from bouncing.

Build it yourself, on an independent platform (like WordPress), and own your work.

Are Websites Even Relevant Anymore?

You buy your concert tickets through a website, and just about every article you read via social media lives on a website, so yes. Yes you do.

Don’t let the lack of LIKES or COMMENTS or even traffic sway you.

“Facebook, Twitter and other companies use methods similar to the gambling industry to keep users on their sites,” said Natasha Schüll, the author of Addiction by Designwhich reported how slot machines and other systems are designed to lock users into a cycle of addiction. “In the online economy, revenue is a function of continuous consumer attention – which is measured in clicks and time spent.”

Social media copies gambling methods ‘to create psychological cravings’

We have been conditioned since we abandoned our blogs that ENGAGEMENT is key. That public, viewable metrics are king!

Fuck that.

Like any good practice, it takes time to see results. If you’re running, taking photos, anything – it might take years. Even a decade.

Sure, you can get the quick jolt by writing something witty on social media and it gets 35 likes. Or, head down, write, create, craft on your own space (like this website), and five years later you have a giant body of work on display.

Name Your Thing

One thing that worked for me over the years was jamming two words together; Buzz Grinder, Noise Creep, Skull Toaster, Close Mondays.

Any name you dream up is void of a brand, it’s up to you to fill it with every ounce of creativity and awesomeness. Not just the logo and the site design, but how you reply to emails, and handle yourself around other people.

Wireless Ear Buds

It’s 2019, and I hate cords. No matter what, they’re always getting tangled, snagged, or in the way. Sure, they always work, and never need recharging, but wow, the reviews of the AirPods Pro are great.

I forget where I read this, but someone was saying how this is ushering in an audio augmented-reality. Instead of wearing weird glasses that display images and such, the voice-controlled nature of Siri, especially when you’re out and about, is really something to think about.

Rattle It Out

A few friends inspired me to start running. Years later, I hired a nutritionist. Soon that person will probably be my strength coach.

I’ve been a freelancer since 2006. Years later, it’s just me. But that’s changing, too. Since signing up for Seth Godin’s Freelancer Course, a flood of changes have come in, washing away a lot of my old thinking.

Sometimes no matter how many books we read, or inspiring articles, or watching amazing videos, sometimes it’s the conversations with other people that we don’t even know that rattle out the breakthroughs.

We Can Work With This

Met up with an old friend for lunch recently. We met via our faith, more or less, something we’ve since walked away from. We’ve been through some low points and – at least for now – we’re seeing some good stuff.

The bad times don’t last forever, and dammit, we just enjoy the good stuff when it’s front of us.

“And hey, is everything perfect right now? Nope.”

So much isn’t perfect, but we can work with it. And that’s what we’ll keep doing.

Please, Just Blog

Social media gave us LIKES, a quick number to show that people saw, they clicked, the engaged. But remember, the LIKE or FAVE is simple. It’s not a of effort.

So now we set up our blogs again, after years of neglecting them. Of course the traffic isn’t there. Why write a 200 word blog post when a Tweet can get 10,000 likes?

Why? Because that Tweet will be “gone” tomorrow. Another Tweet will come along, and we’ll keep feeding the Twitter beast, pouring our work and our attention into a social media website filled with nazis and trolls and Russian operatives.

Just write, share, blog, whatever. It’s yours. Get a few people and write about music. Congrats, you’re now a music blog (and we can honestly use some more of those these days)!

Choosing the Positive

Enjoyed this episode the Love Drive, “How to Change Your Life with Dr. Jeremy Goldberg.”

The one thing that stuck out for me was choosing your outlook. If you think the universe is conspired against you, that nothing is going to work out, generally that’s sorta gonna happen. I had that mindset for a few years, with clenched fists and carrying lots of stress in my shoulders and face.

Then I started running, because being mad wasn’t getting me anywhere. Running led to autonomy, dignity, self-respect, achievement. Things that a grumpy attitude weren’t able to provide.

So like Dr. Jeremy Goldberg spoke in this episode, if you can choose the negative, you can also choose the positive. If the negative can lead to the grumps and “nothing ever works out,” then the opposite must be true, right?

It’s what I believe, and it’s led me to some pretty damn good times.