Discipline Versus Willpower

At the turn of the year I was the heaviest I’d ever been. Looking at myself in the mirror and my son next to me, I knew I needed to change – for his sake and mine. I knew I needed more than a diet. I knew I needed an overhaul of my life’s systems. I knew I needed to become a different person on the inside in order to look different on the outside. Thus began a systematic upgrading of my habits.

For instance, I’ve never eaten much for breakfast. Coffee has been about it. That works for some people, but it left me vulnerable to snacking in mid-morning and eating junk food for the rest of the day. Rather than look for the “perfect” breakfast, I simply decided to start eating food that I knew I could eat every day: sausage egg bake, coffee, powdered greens, and fish oil. I worked to make that automatic, and now it is.

I also knew that I needed to have food on hand that would make my food choices easy. Having soup for lunch in the winter time simplified things. However, making two egg bakes and a batch of soup a week required planning and cooking in advance. Thus the creation of a new system – prepping food on Sunday afternoons after church.

I’ve also added in working out and getting up earlier in the morning to the mix. Progress has been steady, but I’m more pleased at my consistency with my new habits. As much as I like goals, systems are more important.

This focus on systems has made a significant difference in my life. I don’t feel the need to step on the scale every day in order to get a self-esteem boost because I’m focused on lifestyle change rather than bodyweight. I’m more focused on becoming a better person than I am on achieving certain short term goals. Trusting a process rather than pursuing goals is new territory for me. I like it.

I’ve been ruminating on the ideas of discipline and willpower for a little while. Here are some thoughts I hope will interest you.

Discipline is the ability to submit current desires to future goals. Discipline is the ability to sacrifice short term comfort for long term reward. Discipline is a lifestyle, not a resource.

Willpower is the ability to make yourself do something you don’t want to do. Willpower is a finite resource that is drained throughout the day by every decision we make. Willpower, while important, is fallible and should not be relied upon in order to live the life you want to live.

Discipline is sustained through a combination of habits, routines, and structures. While willpower is often needed to get these systems up and running, they are intended to transition to autopilot fairly quickly. Discipline is the systematic upgrading of our habits, routines, and structures and results in an increased quality of life.

I like who I am when I am living a disciplined life. I don’t like who I am when I just go with the flow. I enjoy making myself do something that I have decided is good for me. I like leading myself through conscious decisions rather than through spontaneous desire.

If 50% of my behavior is going to be on autopilot, then I want to ensure that those habits are as good as they can be. I want to leverage my brain’s laziness to my advantage. I want to have systems in place that allow me to be excellent by providing a solid foundation of nutrition, health, and energy. I’m far from perfect in this regard, but I plan on updating this thread throughout the year in order to share what I’ve learned.

Thanks for reading friends.

Ben

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Self-publishing: What I Will Do Differently Next Time

I loved my experience with self-publishing, from start to finish. I enjoyed seeing all of the different pieces, knowing what I did and didn’t do, and being able to look back and make things better. My 46 day break-neck pace was a great learning experience, but not something I will shoot for in the future.

I’ve been enjoying bullet point lists lately, so please excuse my indulgence in this post. 🙂

Things I will do differently next time:

  • Write a much longer rough draft. When panning for gold you have better chances with more raw material.
  • Do more rigorous self-editing. I heard this just recently from someone: “First, edit for yourself – it has to be fun for you. Next, edit for your audience in order to provide them something of value. Last, edit for your critics. What might they say to pick apart your argument? How can you preempt them?”
  • A/B test book titles and covers. I plan on doing some Google AdWords campaigns and looking into some testing sites.
  • Marketing. The best book in the world doesn’t benefit anyone if they don’t hear about it and feel compelled to pick it up.

Other thoughts:

  • I don’t think I will do an e-book again. As an author, I know that when people purchase a book, they are buying ideas, insights and wisdom. The form those things take shouldn’t matter. But it does. The most popular price for e-books on Amazon is $3.99. Much like Walmart, Amazon subscribes to a volume-based approach to sales. They wants a plethora of cheap products and make money by moving large amounts. This doesn’t help out authors, however. Amazon also forces you into certain programs in order to get the highest tier royalty package. While great for Amazon customers, this undermines sales for authors.
  • I’m still not going to build an email list. It seems like all of my Facebook advertisements now are for how to build an email list in order to distribute products. I didn’t do one for my first launch, and I am hesitant to ever do one. I have a junk email I use for all of the websites that ask for my email before they give me the things they promised. This, along with drip marketing campaigns, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. So after thinking about it for awhile, I ultimately rejected the idea.

I think self-publishing is valuable. I’m even working on another book. However, I’ve become much more interested in Amazon’s Create Space company rather than Kindle Direct Publishing. Create Space allows for a wide range of art to be produced. I’m looking forward to exploring it more.

Thanks for reading,

Ben

Making Time to Write

It is impossible to find time to write. As with any meaningful activity, you must make time. If I live in a passive or reactive mode, my time will always be filled with the needs of other people or my own base desires. It is only when I choose to proactively assert myself that I can get anything done.

I choose to write from the time I put my son to bed until I go to bed. This gives me 1.5 to 3 hours every evening to think and write. I will occasionally have meetings or other social engagements that take up that time, but I can generally count on being in my study at least 3 nights a week.  I’ve found that 2 to 3 hours is about my max for really intense and focused concentration.

I’m also finding that I must steward my attention better if I’m going to be a productive writer. Time is meaningless without attention. I’ve saved myself a lot of distraction by not having the internet in my home, but I’m also finding that I need to be better about protecting my attention during the day. I recently watched a TED Talk by Dr. Cal Newport called Quit Social Media and have been inspired to guard my attention more carefully.

I also find that writing is more appealing when I know what I’m going to write about. Sitting down at my desk with a blank piece of paper and an internal void is a recipe for disaster. So whether it is the Snowflake method or Self Publishing School’s Mind Map –> Organize –> Write  method, I always try to know what I’m going to write about and what I want to say about it. This isn’t always the case. In fact, sometimes I plan out one writing session and end up writing about something totally unrelated, but I don’t mind. The plan is there for next time.

Discipline is the seed bed of inspiration. I don’t always feel like writing, but once I start I can almost always get excited about it. If I’m still not excited after 20 minutes of writing then I give myself permission to quit. I grabbed this idea from my weightlifting career. Sometimes your body feels tired and is lying. Sometimes your body feels tired and really does need rest. But the only way to know for sure is to show up and start working. Some of my greatest workouts were the ones I wanted to skip because of feeling “tired.” Sometimes “tired” is just a fear of greatness, a self-defense mechanism designed to keep us in line with the status quo. Showing up and doing the work is the cure.

For the aspiring writers out there, here are my takeaways:

  • Make time to write. You will never find it.
  • Creative work is best done in 2-3 hour chunks. It can’t be cobbled together in spare moments.
  • Discipline is critical to your success. Make writing a habit.
  • No matter how you feel, show up and do the work.
  • Know what you are going to write about in advance.
  • Guard your attention zealously.
  • Writing and editing are two very different experiences and shouldn’t be combined.

Self Publishing School

I’ve wanted to be an author since my mom first read me The Chronicles of Narnia when I was in third or fourth grade. I marveled at how words could conjure up images and emotions and communicate ideas. When we first got an in-home computer, one of the first things I learned to do was use the word processor. I’m pretty sure my first book idea was a series called The Unicorn Chronicles. I don’t think that is ever going to make it to print…

Since that time, the idea of being a writer has always bubbled in the back of my mind. Starting this blog was one attempt to satisfy that desire, but it didn’t quite hit the spot. Then I stumbled across Self Publishing School on Facebook.

For the price of my email address, I received an ebook called Book Launch and a four-part video teaching series designed to help me write and self-publish an ebook. I listened to the first video and read the book in an afternoon. I was so fired up afterwards that I started typing that same evening.

Chandler Bolt, the founder of Self Publishing School, made writing and publishing simple and clear. He broke down the different phases into the perfect size – not too small as to seem tedious, and not so large as to discourage execution. He made the whole process seem entirely doable. And it was.

I wrote the rough draft for Doing Good While Doing Well: Where Faith and Finance Meet in 10 days, from Nov. 17 through Nov. 27, 2016. Start to finish, from blank page to available in the Amazon store, the whole process took 46 days. Now, I will be the first to admit that my book is not the most amazing book you will ever read. But it is short, actionable, and filled with information that has been transformative for me.

My goal in writing DGWDW was to build my writing chops and demystify the whole self-publishing process. Chandler’s book was a great help with that. The quote that stuck with me and helped push me through such a blistering pace was “Done is better than perfect.” As someone who has dreamed of becoming an author for a long time, this was the perfect set up for me to succeed. Going through the process has only increased my desire to write because I now know how easy it is to get books out and in circulation.

For anyone who dreams of becoming a published author, Self Publishing School is the way to go. While I did not pay to go through the 90 course, I think it would be valuable if you feel like you need someone to help you clarify your ideas and hold your hand through the process. If you have a pretty clear idea of what you want to write about, and have the self-discipline to make yourself do it, the ebook Book Launch is enough.

I loved the process and am eager for more.

I look forward to reading your work soon.

Ben

Doing Good While Doing Well

Hello everyone! Happy New Year!

I’m kicking things off with a bang this year and announcing my first book, Doing Good While Doing Well: Where Faith and Finance Meet. It is FREE in the Kindle Bookstore until Thursday, January 5 at 6:00pm CST. I’ve been working on this for the last month and a half and it has been a whirlwind. Today, I’m going to focus on explaining the book a little bit, and the next couple days I will focus on my process. My goal is to inspire anyone out there who has a goal of writing a book to do it, this year.

What the book is about

This book started as a compilation of notes for my congregation’s financial sermon series, which we do every January. It then morphed into an ebook after a friend of mine turned me on to the Self Publishing School (more on them later). I was so inspired by their material I decided to give it a go.

DGWDW is comprised of two parts: Theology and Praxis. In the Theology section I explore some of Jesus’ teachings about money. It was really important to me to cover both the positive and negative teachings on money because it seems that, all too often, we gravitate towards one side or the other. I chose to follow in the Vineyard tradition of pursuing “the radical middle,” so both viewpoints in tension throughout the book.

The Theology section can be summed up in the following sentences. Money is a form of power. How we use and think about money reveals our character. The best use of money is to help those that are in need. Large amounts of money threaten to distort our view of ourselves, other people, and other people’s motives. Therefore, we must always strive to find our security, significance, and self-worth in God rather than money. Handling money well grows in us certain skill sets and mind sets that are valuable and necessary in God’s Kingdom.

The Praxis section is where we get into the gritty details of money management. We begin with an overview of cash flow adapted from Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad and then build upon that framework. I offer some financial goals to pursue as well as a plan for getting there. The section called “Clarity” helps you explore your reasons for pursuing wealth and clarify your actual goals and desires. I end with a step-by-step guide to putting the whole book into practice.

What I hope will happen

As a pastor, the number one thing I see holding people back from extravagant devotion to God is money. People can’t go into missions because of student loans. People can’t start a business because they don’t have the resources. People don’t give to the causes they care about because they don’t have any money leftover.

My hope is that, by putting the ideas expressed in my book into practice, those limiting factors will go away. My hope is that people will get a firm hold on their finances and be able to quickly divorce their income from their labor so that they can do the things God has called them to do. But, ultimately, my hope is that people will embrace the call to discipleship I articulate in the book.

I almost named this book The Crucible of Wealth because I am so enamored with how God uses money to refine and reveal our character. Becoming wealthy is a challenge and it often reveals our prejudices and insecurities. When we are able to address those facets of sin head on, in partnership with Holy Spirit, wonderful things take place. In the grand scheme of things, money is insignificant. However, the things we do with money are eternally significant. Every time a dollar comes into our possession we have an opportunity to grow and mature. I find that endlessly exciting.

I hope you benefit from reading my book. If you do, would you please let me know? I’d love to compile your thoughts and comments so that I can continue to refine my message and help people in the future.

As always, thanks for reading.

Ben

P.S. In case you missed the bolded words above, my book is FREE until Thursday, January 5 @ 6:oopm CST. Grab your free copy here.