Q & A with Leo of ZenHabits.net
Welcome to PeopleJam's Q & As where we interview influential life improvement authors, bloggers, PeopleJam members and individuals.
We have interviewed Leo Babauta, founder of the popular and extremely helpful life changing blog ZenHabits.net.
PJ: Leo, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Leo: I'm the blogger and creator of Zen Habits, a Top 100 blog about simplicity, productivity, happiness, personal development and more. I live on Guam with my wife and six kids, blogging from home, and live a simple life filled with writing, reading, running and spending time with my family. I was a journalist for 18 years and will have a book coming out on Dec. 30, 2008 called The Power of Less.
PJ: What lead up to you creating Zen Habits?
Leo: I started Zen Habits in January 2007, and the year or so previous to that had been an amazing one for me -- I had changed a number of habits in my life, from quitting smoking to starting running and eating healthier to living a simpler life to being more organized and productive and more.
I had accomplished all of that and more by learning some simple but effective habit change techniques, and so I decided to share what I'd learned and hoped it would help other people trying to do some of the same things. I found out rather quickly that there was a lot of interest in these topics, and I've never regretted my decision to start Zen Habits since!
PJ: What's the number one lesson that creating and running Zen Habits has taught you?
Leo: Humility. While I've found some success doing Zen Habits, I've also learned that there is a LOT I don't know. My readers teach me that every day -- I learn more in the comments from my readers than they do from me, even if they don't realize it. I've learned that no matter how good I think I am at something, there's always a lot of others who are better. I learned that I can't do everything myself and that I need help accomplishing my goals. I learned that instead of trying to beat others and be the only successful person, it's better to work with them, support them, and together find success. This is all part of the lesson of humility that I've been taught by this experience.
PJ: How do you find enough time in the day to work towards all of your goals?
Leo: I simplify and focus. I simplify my schedule and my goals by working on a smaller number of things, and choosing only the essential. Just the goals and projects and tasks that will have the most impact on my life and my career. Then I focus by clearing away distractions and working on one task, project and goal at a time. This is essentially what my book, The Power of Less, is about, and I encourage you all to read the book for more on how to do this.
PJ: Zen Habits consistently has some of the most valuable life improvement articles in the blogosphere. Where do you find inspiration?
Leo: The first source of inspiration for my articles is my own life -- I carefully observe and analyze the things I'm trying to do, the things I'm learning, and figure out what works and what doesn't. I experiment, and then write about the experiment and the results. But there are many other inspirations for my articles as well: my friends and family who are doing great things, books and magazine articles, discussions I have with people, online and in the real world. And of course other blogs: favorites such as Lifehacker, Get Rich Slowly, Dumb Little Man ... actually, too many to mention! There are a lot of great bloggers out there who inspire me every day with interesting and thought-provoking articles.
PJ: Any New Year's resolutions for 2009?
Actually, I don't really like resolutions, because they are usually unsustainable. For example, often they are statements such as "This year I will do X more" or "This year I won't do X". Well, how are you going to put that into action? If it's something like "exercise more", how will that work? You'll get out there and exercise for a few days, maybe even a couple weeks or more if you're really motivated, and then when your motivation fades you'll stop and feel guilty about it. That's the normal cycle and most of us have been through that.
What works better than resolutions is actually creating a new habit. This means using effective habit-change techniques (such as the ones I talk about in The Power of Less) to focus on creating one new habit in 30 days. Once you've formed that habit, if you've done it well, it will stick with you much longer. In fact, I'm going to have a Power of Less New Year's Challenge once the website for my book launches (thepowerofless.com), where people can sign up and create a new habit in January.
PJ: How has the internet changed the self improvement industry?
Leo: It has put the power of changing your life into the hands of the masses. It empowers people to make changes, to find information they need to make those changes, to find others striving for the same goals, and to share with others what they've learned. It has created a massive discussion about personal development that has never existed in the history of civilization. That's powerful too.
For example, I've read numerous self-help books in my life, from health and fitness books to productivity books. They're great, but they're packaged wisdom coming from an expert or guru. And what happened after I read the book? Well, I'd try out the things in the book, but after that I had nowhere to go, no one to talk to.
Today, I can read tons of articles on the topic if I want more. I can go to forums and discuss it with others. I can read blogs and discuss the articles in the comments. I can create my own blog -- which is what I did -- to share my experiences and knowledge and continue the discussion. Again, this has never existed before and it's tremendously empowering.
PJ: What's the one piece of advice you would give to others looking to improve their lives?
Leo: Just change one thing at a time and focus on that one thing completely until it becomes a habit. Small and gradual change is best. Most people try to change everything at once: "I'm going to start waking early, running every day, then lift weights, quit smoking and drinking and eating junk food, and eat only healthy food. Oh, and be neater!"
That doesn't work. It's too many things to focus on at once, and as a result we decrease our effectiveness and energy for each one. Instead, put the full power of your focus and energy into one goal, one habit, and make the change. Start on a small goal and gradually increase it. Again, these are the main topics of my book, The Power of Less.
Thanks Leo! We'll be looking out for your book.
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