"If you create an environment that allows most of your decision-making to be done for you, then you can focus on other things."
Benjamin Hardy has been the #1 writer on Medium.com since 2016. He writes about self-improvement, motivation, learning, and entrepreneurship, organically receives over 1,000 new email subscribers daily, and works to help his readers live in alignment with their highest values and visions.
Last month, Benjamin sent me a copy of his new book, Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success. I started reading it immediately and was hooked. It’s phenomenal. Challenging everything we’ve been taught about what it takes to improve our lives, ourselves, and achieve our goals (hint: it’s not willpower), Benjamin enlightens us with a new paradigm that I believe is revolutionary in personal development.
Today, he joins the podcast to talk about the book, what it means to be 100% committed to anything you truly want to achieve, and the power of shaping your environment. If you’ve ever set goals and fallen short of them, this is a must-listen.
- Why relying on willpower dooms us to failure—especially when we’re 98% committed to something.
- The reason we need a mixture of high stress and high recovery environments in order to succeed.
- Benjamin’s 5 steps to proactively shape your environment to best achieve your goals—and why it’s so important to have people in your life to hold you accountable.
- How writing his first book helped Benjamin redefine the audience he wants to build—and can help you better define yours.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
If you enjoyed this post and received value from this episode, please leave a quick comment below and SHARE with your friends. Thank YOU for paying it forward! :^)
COMMENT QUESTION: What is your big takeaway? Write it in the comments below.
Hal: Willpower doesn’t work. Let’s be honest. You’ve tried to improve your life a million times and a million times you’ve come back to the drawing board frustrated. You’ve tried willpower to kick a bad habit but fell back into old patterns. You’ve tried new year’s resolutions but by February everything reverts back to how it has been the year before. You’ve set big life-changing goals but seem to find yourself far short of them despite hard work. After in a failure, it’s easy to conclude that you are the problem. You must not have what it takes, the grit, the inner strength, the willpower. Perhaps you should just settle for the life you have but what if that assessment was all wrong?
Welcome to the Achieve Your Goals Podcast. This is your host, Hal Elrod. And what I just read to you was the first page of the introduction of my favorite new book, Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success by Benjamin Hardy. I just was chatting with Ben before we are starting this interview. I’ll bring him on here in a minute and I was just geeking out on how much I am loving this book. I’m only a third away through it. I just got it a couple of days ago but phenomenal and I told him, I said, “This is going to be, or this is one of the bibles of personal development or self-improvement,” and it’s so fundamental but not fundamental in a way that we’ve heard before. It’s fundamental in a way that challenges everything that we’ve learned, everything we’ve been taught about what it takes to improve our lives, ourselves, and achieve the things that we want in our lives.
Let me tell you who Ben Hardy is. If you do not know, Benjamin Hardy has been the number one writer on Medium.com since 2016. His new book, Willpower Doesn’t Work, just came out in March of 2018. The book has disrupted the idea of willpower and brought the idea of willpower to a new light. The book teaches the best way to get results is to improve your environment. Ben and his wife have three beautiful children. I have had dinner with this man. He is a good, good guy and it is a pleasure to bring him on the podcast.
Hal: Ben, are you there?
Ben: Yeah, dude. I’m stoked to be here with you, Hal.
Hal: Dude, I’m excited to have you. So, you prefer Ben or Benjamin or both or either or how does that work?
Ben: Let’s go with Ben in this case, man.
Hal: Yeah. For a friend, so we can go Ben. All right. I love it, man. So, dude, tell me what life’s like right now. This is your first traditionally published book. The buzz is insane and I’m seeing it everywhere online. Joe Polish, he loves it so much. He’s given away a Tesla. I mean, we’ll unpack that story a little more. I’m like, “Joe, you didn’t offer to give away a Tesla when my book came out. What the hell?” All of Joe’s friends are jealous like, “Dude, what? You’re giving your Tesla away for Ben’s book?” All Joe’s friends are authors so they’re all kind of like wondering what’s going on. Anyway, dude, but yeah so what’s life like right now, man, with the book coming out and what’s going on?
Ben: Yeah, man. So, I mean, so many beautiful and also so many hard lessons I’ve learned in this experience. The book actually came out exactly one month ago today and…
Hal: Okay. Happy Birthday.
Ben: Thank you. Yeah. Truthfully, I didn’t do as well as I expected. I think as you’ve said, I believe that this book has got a long shelf life. I think it’s gotten into the hands of people like Hal Elrod. You know what I mean? It’s in the hands of the right people and that’s kind of what? Some really good networking has allowed just for this book. So, I believe that this book is in quantity hands although it’s not in quality – I mean, sorry. It’s in quality hands and not quantity. It actually had the numbers to hit a lot of the big list, but the book got flagged by BookScan which is kind of the organization that tracks books because there were some huge bulk orders which kind of freaked them out so they kind of flagged it, so it didn’t go on the bestseller list but that’s alright.
Hal: It’s a bunch of crap.
Ben: I’ve been doing good, man. I’ve actually learned some good hard truths to this experience. One of the biggest hard truths is I’m really good at growing an email list. I get almost a thousand new email subscribers a day from just organic traffic. No paid ads but I’m realizing I am not the best at creating a loyal devoted powerful following and that’s going to take time. And so, probably 5,000 to 10,000 less people on my list bought than I expected to and if what I had expected have happened, a lot of different things would’ve occurred.
Hal: If you don’t mind sharing, how many copies did you sell this first month?
Ben: First month I think was probably it’s -ish between like probably 15,000 to 18,000.
Hal: All right. So, let me make you feel way better, okay? So, the Miracle Morning, the month that it came out, I sold 1,500 copies and it took me, so I had no platform. I shouldn’t say no platform but I have very little platform but I had belief and I was like I’m in it for the long haul like I believe this message can change the world as I know you believe your book and do the same and I think it is destined to be a classic but it took me a year-and-a-half in like well over 100 interviews on other people’s podcast to get back to 1,500 copies. So, like put that in perspective. It’s in five years now and obviously, Miracle Morning is doing well. So, yeah, 1,500 copies in the first month so you sold 10 times as many as I did and then it took me a year-and-a-half and like next month was 700, next month was 400, next month was 300. Because once I exhausted my platform then it was like, all right, now I’m at zero and I got to jump on podcast and I got to promote it and share it. So, anyway, yeah, man so you should…
Ben: Wow. You’re freaking great. I mean what I’ve done is I’ve redefined my audience so one thing that all this has clarified for me is what kind of platform do I want to build. There’s the whole online marketer thing, Russell Brunson, where you’re taking people up and down through different funnels and upselling, down selling. It’s selling this, selling that. For me, I’m less into the burn and churn model. For me, so I have a mentor. His name is Richard Paul Evans. He’s written 38 New York Times bestsellers and every time he publishes a book, and he’s a fiction writer, but every time he publishes a book, there are about 50,000 people who are anxiously waiting to read it. He’s got loyalty and he has an author platform.
And so, I have a couple of products that all sell regularly that will give me a really nice income in different ways than books that I can provide value but for the most part, I want to do what he’s done because I’m really interested in just learning and writing more and more books. And so, it’s caused me to reposition even how I onboard new subscribers. So, like, I write on Medium.com. I have this really great strategy that’s worked for me as far as getting new subscribers but now once I get a new subscriber, I’ve transformed my strategy for how I…
Hal: Engage with them?
Ben: Yeah. It’s more about creating value but then at the end of like a sequence probably seven or eight emails that are automated, rather than signing them a course or something, it’s just all about the book. It’s like I want to get book buyers so like right now my book I think it’s selling probably 100 a day. Who knows? I mean, I’m selling like in perspective I don’t know the exact, but I was just looking at the Miracle Morning. It’s like 550 on Amazon. My book is like 1,400 but like all of that is just from the new people coming into my email list every day, and hopefully, it gets down to like 900 or 800 but like I just want…
Hal: As long as it doesn’t pass Miracle Morning I’m fine with it.
Ben: As long as it doesn’t pass Miracle Morning. It’s what I want though is like I want my new subscribers to get a ton of value and then I want them to understand my purpose. By understanding of my purpose is I want them to read this book and then further I want them to read future books.
Hal: Yeah. Awesome. Well, let’s unpack. Like I said, this book is so rich with content and strategy and really just shifting the mindset that we have around willpower and why that’s not the key to success and why I like there’s almost an element in the beginning of like kind of if you happen to achieve what you want, it’s not your fault because we don’t understand. We haven’t been taught the right way and you’re so freaking smart in the way that you approach this stuff. So, in your book, one thing that you say early on is if you’re relying on willpower to lose weight, improve your relationships or achieve more at work, you are doomed to fail. So, why is that?
Ben: Yeah. Absolutely. So, willpower is a popular idea in Western culture because we’re very individualistic. We’re very focused on ourselves and unfortunately about a century of research in psychology and again I’m a psychologist and so from a social psychology standpoint, it’s almost always situational factors that shape who a person becomes. I mean, my guess is had your car accident not happen, you probably would have never written the Miracle Morning. I could be wrong but…
Hal: Yeah. I don’t know what I would’ve done. Yeah. I don’t know.
Hal: I would say it’s the best thing that ever happens to me because it shifted everything. Yeah.
Ben: Yeah. I mean, it was an experience. It wasn’t some inner food. It was something that changed you and so there’s situational factors or even just – so basically, I don’t want to get too into the weeds but basically, the world has shifted a lot. I think that everyone who’s on the Internet or who has a smartphone or who eats packaged food could admit the world is a different place than it was 100 years ago. And so, because the environment has shifted so much, we’re seeing changes in humanity and how they operate. We’re very addicted to our technology and it obviously serves us brilliantly but also, we have access to different foods. I mean, when you change an environment, you change the animals or the species within that environment. That’s how evolution works.
And so, because our environment is so in our face, it’s just all-encompassing, it’s everywhere, people are becoming very reactive to the environment and basically what that means is that people’s willpower is gone before they even have breakfast because willpower from a psychological perspective is a finite resource. It’s something that you only have so much of and then it’s gone. And you have to be very thoughtful about – and really another definition of willpower is it’s called decision fatigue. So, basically, it’s based on decision-making and after you’ve made so many decisions, your ability to make quality decisions goes away. And so, if you’re constantly deciding whether to keep yourself focused or what kind of clothes you’re going to wear, what you’re going to eat, what app you’re going to use like we’re just making 100 choices, when are you going to look at your phone again like we didn’t have as many choices to make at all times and so the idea at this point now is rather than bombarding yourself with decisions, it’s about making a few decisions that make your life a lot easier.
So, if you create an environment, for example, that allows most of your decision-making to be done for you then you can focus on other things. And so, I go into all sorts of science, but I just want to keep it really simple. Basically, what psychologists say is that almost all your behavior is outsourced to your environment like in this conversation I’m talking to a microphone like this conversation, in this situation is in a lot of ways shaping my behavior like I’m not going to get on a treadmill and I’m not going to go running like we’re in a situation. I’m going to have a conversation with Hal. Like if I’m on an airplane, I’m probably not going to smoke a cigarette because, in that environment, it just doesn’t allow for it. If I’m at a Genius Network meeting like I’m probably going to get a lot of epiphanies because I’m surrounded by people like you.
And so, your situation in a lot of ways shapes your psychology and I think what people have thought about for a long time is the reverse. A lot of people think it’s psychology that shapes your situation and in a lot of ways, it is. That’s how you proactively create your world and I’m not disagreeing with that, but this book says where did the idea come from in the first place? If you have this idea that you want to write a book, the Miracle Morning, or if you want to write, that idea didn’t come out of nowhere. It was triggered by some external event. Maybe you read a great book and so what this book is just saying and I’ve kind of already gone too far is, well, I’m just going to…
Hal: You haven’t gone too far, Benny. You haven’t gone too far.
Ben: Okay. I’m like I’ve already gone too far in the weeds. I’ve already lost it.
Hal: No. You’re good. You’re crushing.
Ben: Okay. Well, I think I’ll really break down what I say in the intro which is really simple. If you’re required to use willpower in your life, it’s probably for one of four reasons. One is that you haven’t yet made a choice. So, Clayton Christensen, he’s a Harvard psychologist or sorry, no, he’s a Harvard business professor. He says 100% commitment is easier than 98% commitment because if you’re only 98% committed then you don’t actually know what you’re going to do in every situation. So, if you’re like, “I’m 98% committed to like eating sugar-free,” then you’re at a wedding. It’s like then you have to decide what you’re going to do in that situation because the cake looks really good. If you’re not fully sure what you’re going to do, usually the situation is going to win and that’s where your willpower gets crushed. And so, Michael Jordan once said the moment he makes a decision he never thinks about it again.
And so, once you’re fully committed to something, then the choice is already made then the circumstance doesn’t derail you. Because if you’re 100% committed let’s just say to not eating sugar, then it doesn’t matter how great the cake looks like you’ve already chosen so there is no option. So, willpower doesn’t really matter like it’s not an option. You already made a commitment. Point number two is that obviously your why is not powerful enough. Like, if you’re required to use willpower in a lot of ways it’s because you don’t have enough motivation. You have to actually force yourself to go to work so there are two types of motivation. There’s push and there’s pull. Certain things you have to like literally push yourself to do because they’re not intrinsically motivating. Other things just pull you forward. They don’t take grit or willpower. It’s like you actually have to get stopped from doing it because it’s so interesting to you.
And how do you actually get yourself to get that level of motivation or how do you get yourself to actually make a powerful decision? And that’s where the other two come in and that’s point number three is that you’re not invested enough in your pull. So, I talked a lot about investment in the book and that’s really how you can make a profound decision and that’s what I’ve been studying throughout my whole Ph.D. is what’s the difference between dreamers and doers, and a lot of it has to do with just once you start actually investing money in your goal, you shift your psychology. So, I go into a lot of things but the final one is obviously just environment. If you have to use willpower is because your environment is pushing against your goal and that’s kind of where we go from there.
Hal: Yeah. Environment, I mean, again, like I said, I’m about a third away through the book and from what I’ve gotten is that that’s kind of your big shift is that it’s not this internal willpower, this fortitude, that we have to muster up. That’s always a fight. Like you said, because either we don’t know what we want or our desire, our why for our goals is not strong enough. As you said, we’re not invested in ourselves for our dreams enough or the environment opposes the goal. So, these factors, the external factors, the environment, is what is really the key. It’s either the key to getting yourself to do the things you need to do or the thing that is stopping you from doing the things that you need to do. So, talk about environment. I mean, that’s a huge concept in the book. So, what’s environment? I mean, when I think environment or some people might think, “Well, yeah, there’s global warming and the environment is not in a good place.” So, what are environments in terms of the context of helping us to achieve all of our goals and how – what are environments that we are faced with each day and let’s start there. Just defining environment as it relates to this.
Ben: Absolutely. So, like environment is anything outside of you. So, like if you’re hearing my voice, that’s a part of the environment like it’s outside of you but it’s going in you. And if you think about a human being, it’s taking in so many things. It’s taking in information. It’s taking in sounds. It’s taking in air. It’s taking in food, water. And so, the idea is that what’s outside of you shapes what’s in you. If you stop eating food, your inner world is going to change. Your body is going to start breaking down. The types of foods you put in actually influence your psychology. The type of people you surround yourself with influence your ideas, your goals, your values, the type of information, the type of experiences. And so, basically, environment is anything outside of you that influences your biology or your psychology.
And basically, what most of improvement has done is it’s gone, it’s basically removed the individual from the environment and acted as if the environment has no bearing on what the person is or what they can do. In psychology, we call that abstraction. They have abstracted the variable or the person from the situation and the person is completely defined by the situation. If you weren’t alive at this time, you wouldn’t even know what a computer is. You know what I mean? If you live in some other era, you would be a different person. And so, basically what I talk about in the book is that so there’s a really important quote from Marshall Goldsmith and he says, “If you do not create and control your environment, your environment creates and controls you.” And that’s basically the same thing that Charles Darwin said. He said, basically what happens is that species evolve in one of two ways, either naturally or domestically.
So, natural evolution is what happens when the environment changes just in some form or fashion. An asteroid hit the earth, and then the animals have to adapt to the changes in that environment. It’s unpredictable. It’s reactive. Whereas, domestic evolution is where you’re looking for very specific things. You’re looking for like that’s where specialization comes in. It’s like I want a horse that runs really fast or like I want this mushroom to be a lot bigger or taste better. And what you do in order to do that is you shape external, you change the environment.
Hal: You fertilize it, water it.
Ben: Yeah. You change the soil, you change the lighting, I mean, basically you shape the environment and you shape the circumstances to get what you want. And that’s more of a conscious proactive decision-based way of doing it. And so, in the book, I talk about two types of optimal environments and I call them enriched environments which is based on a psychological theory about how to enrich jobs, about how to – so basically where the research in business psychology has gone is it’s all about creating environments where people can be more autonomous and more effective and that’s why there’s been such a huge focus on changing organizational structure, making it less vertical and making it more horizontal, focusing on, you look at companies like Google and they actually have game rooms. They’ve got sleep rooms, like the whole focus on all of this is realizing that it’s actually the environment that influences motivation. But what I talked about in the book is less business and it’s more like self-help.
Basically, I talked about two types of environments. One is high stress and the other is high recovery, and in both of these environments, the only way for them to be truly enriching is if you’re fully absorbed in the situation. If you’re not fully absorbed, if you’re even semi-distracted, it means that your situation isn’t fully enriched. So, in a high stress environment, basically it means that there’s some level of difficulty like your performance actually matters like because there’s feedback so like if Hal stopped listening right now during this conversation and like all of a sudden, I stopped talking and he wasn’t paying attention like he would not be absorbed in this conversation. In this case…
Hal: Wait. I’m sorry. I tuned out. What were you saying?
Ben: But in this case, his performance matters because he gets immediate feedback and because he gets immediate feedback, he has to be paying attention. So, like in this case at least for this momentary time like Hal’s situation is pretty enriched like we’re talking about topics that are semi-new to him so there’s novelty. So, basically, some of the components to an enriched environment that’s focused on high-performance is that it’s challenging. You get immediate feedback. There are consequences for your performance. There’s newness, there’s novelty.
So, like all of these things are what are called flow triggers and the more flow triggers that you can have in your environment, the more enriching it’s going to be, the more absorbed you are. The problem is with most people’s jobs is that they’re not that demanding. They’re not dealing with new challenges every day. They’re not getting immediate feedback like if they do, if they just kick it on like YouTube or if they’re like scoping Facebook every 30 minutes like their performance isn’t that crucial to their everyday job. So, most people are distracted and so most people are being forced to rise up to a new and interesting situation.
Hal: What are the flow triggers? Can you give some examples? So, factors like accountability. Would that be a flow trigger?
Ben: So, some of these big flow triggers are one is immediate feedback, one is difficulty, one is novelty or newness, one is challenge. Basically, anything that forces you into the moment because flow is all about like the highest possible level of presence where you’re just totally absorbed in what you’re doing. And flow triggers are all situational factors. You know what I mean? That’s why they’ve studied flow so much in the form of extreme sports because your performance really matters like if you’re snowboarding and you’re doing like this huge triple backflip like you get immediate feedback. If you weren’t there, you’re crushed, but one interesting way, that’s phase one is if you want high-performance, you need a situation that forces you to rise up.
In one of the quotes that I use at the beginning of the book is from Will Durant. He’s a historian and he talks about how basically the ability of the average person can be doubled if their situation demanded them to rise up but most people, their situations are actually they’re not forcing them to respond. They’re not forcing them to do new things like if you had to do something where necessity was the case like if you had a gun to your head like you would perform differently than and it’s just like it’s why Parkinson’s Law matters. It’s why short timelines work is because if you have to get something done or else something bad is going to happen, you start acting a lot differently like the short timelines, that’s why short timelines work. That’s a flow trigger is just when anything you can do to create a situation that forces you to act, and in the book, I call that forcing functions. They’re situations that force you to function the way you want to.
The reverse of all of this is enriched environments for recovery because, in fitness, you’re actually if you’re going to push yourself and work out really hard, your growth is actually going to happen generally while you’re asleep or while you’re resting. You need to rest in order to actually get stronger and it’s actually while you’re resting that you actually do get stronger. The same is true of creativity like there’s so much research in the realm of creativity that says like only 16% of creative ideas happen while you’re at work like almost always they happen when you leave work and after you’re kind of recovering. That’s why there’s so much emphasis these days on like sabbaticals or like time off or like mini-retirements is because that’s actually where you’re going to get your best ideas because your mind is at rest.
Hal: Or showers. That’s a good…
Hal: If people aren’t showering, they’re missing out on lots of creative ideas.
Ben: Yeah. So, it’s like recovery is like where you get stronger. It’s where you get smarter. And so, the problem again with today’s cultural environment is that most people are almost always plugged in. They don’t actually allow themselves true recovery, true recovery from technology, from work, from demands like most people they take their cell phone with them even if they go out of the country nowadays. And like they don’t actually allow themselves to just get a break. And what they’re doing is they’re missing out on so much. And so, basically, the idea is you need high stress, you need high recovery if you want optimal performance, if you want to actually grow in the best way is sadly most people haven’t set up their life for either. Most people are never fully present with their loved ones when they’re at home. They’re still semi-distracted or thinking about work or they’re on their phone and they’re never actually – very few people actually proactively like make the situation in place where they have to be in, have to be present like leave your cell phone in your car or like leave it at work like…
Ben: Yeah. If you’re going to be home, be home. And so, it’s like the whole idea is wherever you are that’s where you should be.
Hal: We have a friend who he puts his cell phone, there’s a rule that all the family puts their cell phone in a gun case when they get home.
Ben: See, that’s creating your environment. That’s freaking smart because they know that if they don’t take such measures then they’re going to react in addictive ways. You know what I mean?
Hal: Yeah. One of the simplest examples I think of creating your environment for people to really just go, “Oh, that totally make sense,” is that not keeping unhealthy food in your house. Then you don’t have access to it. Like for me, I don’t have any dessert at my house and then also I usually won’t order at a restaurant but like we were at the restaurant tonight, my wife and I, for our nine-year wedding anniversary and the waitress goes, “Hey, surprise, we brought you our most popular dessert,” and I’m like, “Son of a…” Like, I can’t turn it down when you put it in front of my face. So, it’s a great example. Willpower doesn’t freaking work, right?
Ben: Yeah. I mean it’s such a bad approach and the problem is that we’ve made it so popular like we put all this pressure on people to say like, “If you don’t have willpower, you’re a loser,” and it’s like the research is so clear. The situation sadly was what shaped you. You know what I mean? Like, they brought you this cake or whatever it was and obviously you could’ve said no. You guys could’ve taken measures but it’s awkward and it’s hard. So, the idea is why would you want your whole life to be hard? Why would to want your whole life to rely on willpower? Like in that case, that was a random situation but for the most part, you’ve controlled your environment like you want to be healthy so you’re not going to deal with willpower. You’re going to remove that. It’s so much easier to avoid a temptation than it is to try to overcome it, right?
Hal: Absolutely. I think some of the biggest factors in shaping environment and think of it this way. Like, this is really I think this is your teaching how to make life easy or easier. You’re teaching how to make success as easy as possible. The idea that relying on willpower is the hardest way. It’s the most difficult way to achieve our goals and everything else that we want. Shaping our environment is the most intelligent, effective, strategic and easiest way to achieve all of our goals and some like I give the example I say one of my favorite philosophies is the greatest gift that we can give to the people we love is to live to our full potential so that we can influence them to live to theirs. And if everybody we hang out with eats unhealthy food, guess what we’re probably going to do, right? Eat unhealthy food. If they all drink excessively when we’re hanging out in social situations, we’re going to drink excessively. So, I think one of those important environments that you talk about is surrounding yourself with the people in your life that’s a huge if not like number one component of our environment. Any thoughts on that like how do you get around the right people and how do you strategically set up the people environment in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.
Ben: Yeah. I mean, I think that you hit the nail on the head. So, Dan Sullivan who’s a friend of both of ours, he said something amazing. He said, “It’s better to surround yourself with people who remind you of your future than people who remind you of your past.” And so, it’s like unless you wanted to stay the same person you’ve always been, but I guess if anyone who’s read the Miracle Morning or who’s listened to this podcast probably doesn’t want to stay the same person. They probably want to have, they want to become better, and so there’s this intrinsic belief that they actually can change. They can become better, they can do better, they can get better results. And that is one of the core premises of the book, absolutely, is that you can change but the only way to do that is actually to change your environment. And you can’t actually make criminate change in yourself without changing the environment as well to match that change.
And so, when it comes to people, absolutely, who you are has shaped so powerfully by the people you’re with and so it even dramatizes the person you marry. If you marry someone, you’re going to become a different person. You’re going to have a different life. You’re going to deal with different problems and challenges and internally you’re going to become a different person than if you had married someone different. It’s the same when it comes to making money and the level of health you have. And so, I mean, the only reason I’m even on this podcast is because I met Hal through an environment like we both specifically have invested money to be a part of this specific network.
Hal: The Genius Network. Let’s throw Joe a bone.
Ben: Oh, dude. I love Joe. I also talk all about Joe in the book. If you’ll get there, there’s a whole section about Genius Network in the book.
Ben: So, I mean, here’s the question. How do you actually surround yourself with the people you want to be like? I mean really one of the fastest ways is actually investing. The other one is helping, helping someone. So, if you don’t have a lot of money, you can at least help them. So, when it comes to like – and it should be goal specific. It’s like if you want – when you’re thinking about your future, you should probably be thinking about what kind of person you want to be and about what you want to be doing and the life you ought to be living. In my case, the people I surround myself with have very specific purposes. It’s like it’s either career related or it’s like based on just people we enjoy surrounding ourselves with as a family.
Well, so when I knew I want to be a writer, I started to kind of look at who are the people that I want to know, who are the people that I want to be around, that I want to be influenced by? But not only be influenced by but who are the people who I want to be peers with? And I started to just like look for my favorite writers that were obviously still making waves in the space and then it’s just like you start to study these people. I mean it’s not that hard actually when you actually understand how to do this to actually getting proximity to pretty much anyone. You start to just put yourself where they’re putting themselves. You start to know the people they know. You start to be a giver, not a taker. You start to invest like just as an example, Ryan Holiday, who is someone who I always wanted to mentor me. He was a friend but three years ago Ryan Holiday didn’t know who I was. I never existed on his field because I hadn’t even written a single blog post.
Hal: Now his endorsement is at the top front cover of your book.
Ben: Yeah. And so, how do you do that? Well, I’ve looked at all the places he wrote then I started trying to figure out ways to write at the same place. And then I just started shooting him emails and eventually, I hired him. I hired after writing for a year-and-a-half or two years so my articles had – we had exchanged emails that I asked him if I could hire him to help me write a book proposal and I paid him a few thousand bucks, took a few hours of his time, and he helped me write my proposal then he helped me get an agent. And then I ended up hiring him again to help me write at least edit the book and make it better. But we had become friends and I’ve helped him a lot as far as helping him publish on Medium and stuff and help him get tens of thousands of subscribers. It’s like in order to actually develop true transformational relationships, you got to be a giver, not a taker. I mean who wants to be in a relationship with someone who is just about them, right?
Hal: Yeah. No, I think that’s one of the greatest focuses for anybody is to become someone who’s known for adding value for other people, period, and not out of trickery because you’re obviously trying to get something and there’s no manipulation there. It’s genuinely developing that. Even through daily affirmations or whatever, clarify why you want to become someone of value who serves other people and it’s okay to be I would say selfishly selfless, right? Which is it’s okay to know that by doing that, by adding more value for others I’m going to have better relationships and more people that I can call on when I need a favor. That’s okay. I think, right, but not keeping score where you’re going, “All right. I’m only going to add value, so I can get something out of this one person and I’m going to keep score.”
So, I’d love to unpack your kind of as our closing segment. There’s something it’s early in the book. You say when it comes to achieving goals, making committed decisions involves and there’s like five bullet points. Number one, investing upfront; number two, making it public; number three, setting a timeline; number four, installing several forms of feedback/accountability; and number five, removing or altering everything in your environment that opposes your commitment. To me, those five steps like if someone got nothing else from this interview, those five steps to me are just so crucial. So, let’s unpack those a little bit even just of 30 seconds, a minute each, just kind of tell a little more on that. So, number one, when it comes to making – you got it? All right.
Ben: Yeah. That was fun. Yeah. I mean, this is literally how you proactively shape an environment. I mean, if you want to achieve some goals, again, I talked about investing upfront and the reason why investing is so important is because, first off, investing it changes your identity. So, one of the big things I try to break down in this book is that there are so many western myths. One is that confidence creates success. No, it’s actually success that creates confidence. If you start getting small wins, you do your morning routine, you’re going to have more confidence. I’m telling you. So, confidence is a byproduct. Personality is also a byproduct. Your personality is not what shapes your behavior. Your behavior shapes your personality. You can change who you are. You obviously have to do that through specific environments and through specific behaviors but what’s cool is investing money in something as one of the fastest ways to change your environment and to change your identity and also it gets you committed.
So, you need to get committed to whatever it is you’re trying to do and number one is just investing in yourself. It was by investing by example that I was able to get in proximity to Ryan Holiday and by having him in my environment that challenged me in a different way that allowed me to write an epic book puzzle. I would not have been able to write it without him. So, investing is just key to becoming who you want to be and to increasing your commitment. Making it public is just matching your outer world with your inner world. So, one of the things that Joe Polish who we’ve already talked about, he talks so from an addiction standpoint, willpower actually is the opposite way of trying to overcome addiction. Willpower is trying to do something by yourself. It’s trying to fight a silent battle and as Joe says, “You’re as sick as your secrets.”
And addiction is really an isolating behavior. You isolate yourself rather than connect. The opposite of addictions is connection. The only way out of an addiction is actually through an environment, through support, through love. And so, that’s kind of an addiction standpoint but in general, in any form of goals. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are all in harmony.” And so, the whole idea of making it public is just if you want to do something, tell people about it. Like actually start to put it out there so that then there’s an immediate accountability and feedback because you’re actually saying it and there are all sorts of research on public commitment that basically says that if you say you’re going to do something, you’re far more likely to do it because as a human being you want to be seen as consistent. If you’re telling all your loved ones that you’re going to start eating healthy and then you just keep eating donuts, they’re going to call you on it if they’re real relationships.
Hal: And they’re going to judge you. Like it or not, they’re going to judge you and…
Ben: Yeah. They are.
Hal: Well for me like that’s when I decided I wanted to run at an ultramarathon, I had never run more than a mile in my life. I hated running and so literally that was my strategy. I did exactly what you said. And it was for a charity, so I would even look really bad because I publicly committed, “Hey, guys, I’m going to run this ultramarathon to raise money for the Front Row Foundation at the Atlantic City Marathon on this date.” So, I put it out there and I made it public and to me it’s one of the best forms of accountability and if it wasn’t for that public, if I would’ve just written it down in my goals and kept it a secret, I probably after the second or third run when I hated the way it felt and my body ached, I probably would’ve not kept going but it was like I have to now because I put my integrity on my character and reputation on the line so I love that.
Ben: Yeah. I mean it’s like you’re just creating these situational factors that force you to be the person you want to be. It’s like if you want to get in shape, tell everyone you’re going to get in shape, and then the next one it makes it even more compelling. Set a timeline like literally all the stuff sounds so obvious when you’re going through it but it’s like give yourself a date and like make there be consequences if you don’t hit that date like sign up for that marathon or buy that plane ticket like actually have a date and the investment is there like you bought the plane ticket or you signed up the marathon and you paid $200 or you signed up in charity. Like all of these things can be linked together but if you have a timeline and what I like to do is I actually like to create so I heard one of the differences between busy people and productive people is that productive people set unrealistic timelines like they actually leveraged Parkinson’s law which is just this whole idea that work fills the space you give it.
So, like one way to make positive behavior happen is like just me, for example, I have an agent. I’m going to tell her that I’m going to get my book proposal to her way faster than I want to because now that it’s public and now that she expects it like now I have to do it and so to give yourself sort of timelines that makes you force yourself to figure it out. And selling several forms and feedback and accountability is just getting other people invested in your goals with you. So, it’s like if you’re going to obviously you could hire an accountability partner, a coach, or you could have a partner who’s involved in the project that you’re working on or just have someone who expects you to rise up, marry someone for example or surround yourself with people expect who actually holds you accountable to what you’re doing like I just think the more forms of accountability you can create around you for your behavior, the better.
Hal: I agree.
Ben: Then just the last one…
Hal: Oh, go ahead.
Ben: Yeah. Go ahead.
Hal: I’m going to say for me, one of the best forms of accountability was I formed an accountability when I was trying to hit a huge sales goal, I was trying to double my sales. It was my last year with my company and I was both to be in alignment with purpose of helping others, I thought, “It only is going to be meaningful if I help other people by bringing them on the journey and I help them do better than they’ve ever done before too.” And so, to do that I scheduled a weekly accountability call with like 20 other sales reps, but I led it. And so, when you’re leading a group to do something and you’re all making commitments to each other and you’re the leader of that group, well, you look really bad if you’re letting not just yourself, you’re letting everybody down. If you show up in the call and you’re like, “Oh yeah. Yeah. I didn’t actually follow through with my stuff. Did you guys?” Right. So, I think that’s a beautiful form of feedback and accountability is to you actually be the leader of an accountability. Even if it’s only one other person or five or whatever. Yeah. So, just an idea on how somebody can implement that but, yeah, dive into the last one.
Ben: I love it, dude. The last one is just really you being honest with yourself. I mean, we already talked about but if you actually are making a commitment that you want to do something, you need to remove everything that would impede you from actually making that commitment and that’s hard. That’s the hard truth that made literally mean removing people or removing commitments like Jim Collins who’s the guy who wrote Good to Great. He said, “If you have more than three priorities, you have none.” It’s like everything you say yes to like you’re saying no to something else and chances are you’re saying yes to a lot of things that are opposing a commitment, a goal, or a priority and you have to remove those things. It’s like that’s hard but it’s only hard short-term like it’s so much easier to say no initially or to remove the sugar. It’s hard in a moment but then you’ve created the scenario where the rest of your life is pulling you to the direction you want to go.
And so, if you really want to do something, you have to remove the stuff that’s stopping you from doing it like if you really want to be focused at work, take the apps off your phone or just like leave your phone somewhere else like remove the step that’s stopping you and the people and the things and the commitments, the distractions, remove all the stuff that’s stopping you from being who you want to be and if you’re not willing to do that then you’re not actually committed because commitment, as I talked about in the book, is not internal. It’s demonstrated by creating an external environment that actually evidences to yourself that you are committed. If you’re not going to create an environment to support your goals, then the goal is not really that important to you like you’re just relying on willpower and this is not real.
Hal: Dude, it is such a powerful paradigm shift and if you’re listening to this, again, if you don’t shape your environment, it will shape you and Ben’s new book, Willpower Doesn’t Work, the book will teach you how to purposefully shape your environment and again, I cannot speak highly enough about this book. Ben, phenomenal work, man. I’m so glad that you took your writing from Medium and you finally put it into a book because I think this is going to be a classic, man, and I’m really proud of you and I’m grateful to know you, brother.
Ben: Yeah. I love you, Hal. You’re freaking amazing, man. Thanks for taking the time to have me on your show and I hope to be with you in person more often, man.
Hal: Yeah. We got to go to Genius Network again soon here. I’ll be at the annual event so at the latest I’m sure we’ll get time there and we’ll go to dinner again and get maybe a one-on-one dinner or dessert after everybody else.
Ben: Maybe we just hang out, man. I want to hear about…
Hal: That’s right.
Ben: Your writing stuff and just everything you’re doing.
Hal: Awesome, brother. Well, thanks for being on and, Achieve Your Goals Podcast listeners, thank you for tuning in. I love you. I appreciate you. The book is Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success by Benjamin Hardy. By the way, where’s the best place to get it? Amazon or Barnes & Noble?
Ben: Amazon’s cool. Whatever. Wherever people have heard of my books.
Hal: If you’ve got the internet on your devices, go to Amazon and grab the book. You will love it. You will thank me for it. Well, I don’t know if you thank me for it, but you’ll be glad you got it. So, Achieve Your Goals Podcast listeners, I love you. Appreciate you. I know I said that but it’s how I like to close the show. So, go out there today and make a difference for somebody else and expect nothing in return. Just do it because it’s the right thing and do it because it will enrich your life many, many, many times over and I will talk to you next week, everybody. Take care.
"In a lot of ways, your situation shapes your psychology. Most people think the reverse."