Category / Self

Diabetes CupcakesI had just finished giving a speech on building habits when a woman in the audience exclaimed, “You teach how to create habits, but that’s not my problem. I’m fat!” The frustration in her voice echoed throughout the room. “My problem is stopping bad habits. That’s why I’m fat. Where does that leave me?”

I deeply sympathized with the woman. “I was once clinically obese,” I told her. She stared at my lanky frame and waited for me to explain. How did I hack my habits?

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The first step is to realize that starting a new routine is very different from breaking an existing habit. As I describe in this video, there are different techniques to use depending on the behavior you intend to modify.

12721092Here’s the Gist:

  • Duncan Watts is a sociologist and principal researcher at Microsoft Research. His latest book is Everything Is Obvious (Once You Know the Answer): How Common Sense Fails Us.
  • Personal preference, though not entirely arbitrary, is likely constructed and justified on the fly.
  • According to Watts, the problem with prediction is not that we’re good or bad at it, but rather we are bad at distinguishing predictions that we can make from those we can’t.
  • Business should embrace “strategic uncertainty” and “measure-and-react strategies.”

Nir’s Note: This book review is by Sam McNerney. Sam writes about cognitive psychology, business, and philosophy.

At a special event in the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, the CEO of Apple Tim Cook riffed on Apple’s latest gadget, the Apple Watch. “It’s the most personal device we’ve ever created,” Cook said.  “It’s not just with you; it’s on you. And since what you wear is an expression of who you are, we designed Apple Watch to appeal to a whole variety of people with different tastes and preferences.”

Nir’s Note: This book review is by Sam McNerney. Sam writes about cognitive psychology, business, and philosophy.

The Power of NoticingIn Moneyball, Michael Lewis tells the story of Billy Bean, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics who transformed the A’s using sabermetrics, the data-driven approach to understanding baseball. Bean noticed that instead of using data to predict player performance, baseball professionals relied on faulty intuitions and anecdotes. Commentators debate how effective sabermetrics actually is, but Bean’s original insight—that we can’t learn that much about baseball just by watching—changed the game.

The essential theme of Max Bazerman’s new book The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See is similar. Like Bean, the best leaders don’t make decisions based only on what they can see and what they can recall. Instead, they ask for more information, question the status quo, and are aware of common biases. Becoming a “first class noticer,” as Bazerman phrases it, isn’t necessarily about noticing things-in-the-world but becoming conscious of our systematic mistakes. Here are three suggestions from The Power of Noticing.

Nir’s Note: This post is co-authored with Stuart Luman, a science, technology, and business writer who has worked at Wired Magazine, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and IBM.

Fomo

“I wish that I could be like the cool kids,” goes the catchy hook for the hit song by Echosmith. The official video has been viewed over 15 million times on YouTube, perhaps tapping into something deeper than mere adolescent angst.

We all want to be like the cool kids.

In 2013, the word “FoMO” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The “fear of missing out” refers to the feeling of “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere.” Although the terminology has only recently been added to our lexicon, experiencing FoMO is nothing new.

“You teach best what you most need to learn.” – Richard Bach

editorial portrait of Nir Eyal | Engage MagazineI don’t usually write about personal and revealing matters, but recently I’ve noticed something I don’t like about myself–I check email too often.

This confession doesn’t come easily, because, ironically, I am the author of a book titled Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming ProductsIt is a guidebook for designing technology people can’t put down. There’s just one problem–I can’t put my technology down.

I ritually check email when I wake up in the morning. If I’m out to lunch, I’ll sneak a peek on my way to the restroom. I even look at my email when stopped at a red light. Most troubling, I catch myself emailing instead of being fully present with the people I love most. My daughter recently caught me scrolling on my iPhone and asked, “Daddy, why are you on your phone so much?” I didn’t have a good answer.

WSJ list

HOOKED debuts on the WSJ bestseller list.

“Hi Nir,” the email began. “I have been reading your work and find it incredibly interesting.” Naturally, this is the kind of message a blogger loves to receive. However, this email was special for another reason. It was from a prominent New York publishing agent who represents several authors I read and admire. “I don’t know if you’ve already started down this road or whether writing a book interests you, but I’d be delighted to have a conversation with you if you are interested.”

Was she kidding? Heck yeah I was interested!

We scheduled a time to talk. She told me she is fond of my work and thought it could reach a larger audience if it was promoted by a major publisher. That email and the subsequent call would lead to the release of my book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Productswhich just debuted on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list this week.

This week I chat with Ryan Holiday, an author, hacker, and self-described “media manipulator.” Ryan’s new book “The Obstacle is the Way” takes an interesting look at how challenges shape and improve our lives.

We discuss the personal habits Ryan integrated into his working life to reveal how he accomplished so much in so little time. Enjoy!

Nir’s Note: This guest post is by James Clear. James writes at JamesClear.com, where he share ideas for mastering personal habits. Join his free newsletter here.

In 1936, a man named Kurt Lewin wrote a simple equation that changed the way we think about habits and human behavior.

The equation makes the following statement: Behavior is a function of the Person in their Environment. [1]

Known today as Lewin’s Equation, this tiny expression contains most of what you need to know about building good habits, breaking bad ones, and making progress in your life.

Let’s talk about what we can learn from it and how to apply these ideas to master the habits that shape your health, happiness, and wealth.

What Drives Our Behavior?

Before Lewin’s Equation became famous, most experts believed that a person’s habits and actions were a result of the type of person they were, not the environment they were in at the time.

Nir’s Note: This guest post is written by Max Ogles. Max writes at MaxOgles.com about behavior change, psychology, and technology. Sign up for a free copy of his upcoming e-book, “9 Ways to Motivate Yourself Using Psychology and Technology.”

6273266577_c37d3fec72_zA commonly quoted and incredibly scary stat reveals that 9 out of 10 people who undergo heart bypass surgeries as a result of poor health are unable to change their habits, even with their lives on the line.

We’ve all failed at something, though luckily most of us don’t face death as a consequence. Here’s a short list of some of the habits I started, only to eventually fail:

  • For two months, I went running 3 to 4 times each week. (I even ran a half marathon!) Then I quit running and didn’t run again for over a year.

Nir’s Note: This guest post was authored by Lisa Kostova Ogata, one of the first product managers at Farmville and a VP of Product at Bright.com (sold to LinkedIn). While at Zynga, Lisa learned how to shape user behavior, but in this essay she describes her surprise when she found herself unexpectedly hooked.

3316432769_6fcd31e674I don’t consider myself a gambler. I’m the person who places a minimum bet at the roulette table with the specific intent of getting a free drink — after all, it’s cheaper than buying one at the bar. Yet, there I was on a Monday night, glued to my computer screen for over an hour as I watched an online auction. I couldn’t resist.