The Best of James Clear

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems"

I stumbled across James Clear's tweets sometime in 2018 while digging through a mental models rabbit hole - inspired by Farnam Street's article on mental models. It took me a while to get on his newsletter but his tweets  - they were something special.

Probably wondering who the hell is James Clear?

James Clear is an American author and entrepreneur obsessed with answering the question - "how can we humans live better?". He is the author of the international bestseller Atomic Habits and also the founder of "The Habits Academy". The Habits Academy is a training platform for individuals and organisations interested in building better habits for life and work.

Why does this matter

Making things - ideas, theories, stories, data - simple is complicated. It is a gift few humans possess. For most, it is easier to make a simple thing more complex than it is to make a complex thing more simple.  

But not James Clear!  

That is one gift he seems to have in abundance.  James has this uncanny ability to take almost anything - maybe except human mortality - and break it down into pithy sentences that pass on the insight instantly to the reader.  

His writings have been (and still are) a huge influence on my life the past 12 months - especially as I struggled with focus after the sudden death of my lovely mother, who was my anchor.
I would recommend his articles and book to anyone looking to accelerate their self-improvement journey.

Top five articles

This section should have probably been titled my five favorite articles. These essays explore topics such as the eternal argument of motivation vs environment or how to stop procrastinating on your goals. I think they are a great introduction to his work, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

- Motivation is overvalued: The value of a product is increased by the strength of it's ecosystem. Humans are no different. We tend to think that our habits are a product of our talent, effort and motivations. These three factors are important, but in the long-term, your habits are usually defined by your environment or culture.

- For writers - the importance of daily routines: When asked what his daily routine was, Ernest Hemingway replied that he writes every morning. Daily routines are what separate the successful people from the pack. It can be difficult and laborious at times, but the only way to get better at anything is to embrace the struggle and do the hard work. The cool thing about this particular essay is the lessons apply to almost every walks of life.

- How to stop procrastination: Humans have been procrastinating for centuries, and it doesn't look like that's going to stop anytime soon. This essay dives into the career of Jerry Seinfeld - regarded as one of the "Top 100 Comedians of All-Time" by Comedy Central - and how he uses consistency to focus on the process, not the results. Most times, excellence requires that you just show up everyday. This essay was particularly helpful as I struggled to find my way back after Mom passed on.

- Forget about setting goals: Albert Einstein famously said, "If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or goals. The general consensus is success is dependent on setting specific and actionable goals. However, James argues that while goals do a great job of motivating you in the short term, it's wiser to create systems if you plan to make sustainable progress.

-Unlocking your creativity: Everyone wants to be seen or termed as a creative. Most experts argue that creativity can't be taught or learned. James puts forward a masterful essay on how to design a creative process that helps you jump-start your creative thinking process.

My best 5 tweets

If you are looking for easily digestible content, Twitter is a great place to start reading his thoughts/ideas. Here are my best five tweets over the past six months - not just for their conciseness and clarity, but for the deep insight that James has distilled into a 280 - character pack.

  • As a general rule: Broad ideas influence more people. Specific ideas influence people more.
  • Your 1st blog post will be bad, but your 1000th will be great. Your 1st workout will be weak, but your 1000th will be strong. Your 1st meditation will be scattered, but your 1000th will be focused. Put in your reps.

A paradox of life is that the greatest returns come in the long-term, but the opportunity cost of moving slowly is huge. Long-term thinking is not slow acting. Act fast on things that compound. Never let a day pass without doing something that will benefit you in a decade.

  • Life gets easier when you don’t blame other people and focus on what you can control.
  • Today might be the best chance you have to take action. The longer you wait, the more deeply embedded you get in your current lifestyle. Your habits solidify. Your beliefs harden. You get comfortable. It will never be easy, but it may also never be easier than it is right now.

Final thoughts

James Clear's work on habits and self-improvement concepts are a treasure trove. I hope you find his work as interesting and influential as I have these past 12 months. If you are not sure where to start, Twitter is a great place to begin.

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