Atomic Habits by James Clear

The Big Idea: Forget about goals. Focus on systems, good habits, and continuous improvement.


Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years .

PART 1: THE FUNDAMENTALS – Why Tiny Changes Make a Big Difference

Ch 1: The Surprising Power of Atomic Habits

It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

Making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse seems insignificant in the moment, but over the span of moments that make up a lifetime these choices determine the difference.

Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions.

Eg. bamboo can barely be seen for the first five years as it builds extensive root systems underground before exploding ninety feet into the air within six weeks.

Poster in the San Antonio Spurs locker room: “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it — but all that had gone before.”


Super Bowl winner Bill Walsh says, “The score takes care of itself.”

Winners and losers have the same goals.

Achieving a goal is only a momentary change.

Goals restrict your happiness.

Goals are at odds with long-term progress.

Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.

True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement.

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

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead.

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

Ch 2: How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa)

Once your habits are established, they seem to stick around forever.

Three layers of behavior change

  1. Changing your outcomes
  2. Changing your process
  3. Changing your identity

Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe.

Behind every system of actions are a system of beliefs.

The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.

The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it.

The person who incorporates exercise into their identity doesn’t have to convince themselves to train.

Once you have adopted a negative identity, it can be easy to let your allegiance to it impact your ability to change for the better.

Whatever your identity is right now, you only believe it because you have proof of it.

The more evidence you have for a belief, the more strongly you will believe it.

The process of building habits is actually the process of changing yourself.

The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.

Decide who you want to be. This holds at any level — as an individual, as a team, as a community, as a nation.

Identity change is the North Star of habit change.

Your habits matter because they shape you into the type of person you wish to be.

There are three levels of change: outcome change, process change, and identity change.

The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.

Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.

Ch 3: How to Build Better Habits in 4 Simple Steps

Habits are mental shortcuts learned from experience.

The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.

Four Laws of Behavior Change

  1. Cue: Make it obvious.
  2. Craving: Make it attractive.
  3. Response: Make it easy.
  4. Reward: Make it satisfying.

The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible.

Any habit can be broken down into a feedback loop that involves four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.

PART 2: THE 1ST LAW – Make It Obvious

Ch 4: The Man Who Didn’t Look Right

Eg. Pointing-and-Calling, is a safety system designed to reduce mistakes by making an unconscious habit a more conscious action.

Make a list of your daily habits.

The process of behavior change always starts with awareness.

Ch 5: The Best Way to Start a New Habit

An implementation intention is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act.

Eg. “When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.”

People who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new habit are more likely to follow through.

Eg. Meditation. I will meditate for one minute at 7a.m. in my kitchen.

Eg. Exercise. I will exercise for one hour at 5p.m. in my local gym.

Make the time and location so obvious that, with enough repetition, you get an urge to do the right thing at the right time.

One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top. This is called habit stacking (BJ Fogg).

The habit stacking formula is: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”

Eg. Meditation. After I pour my cup of coffee each morning, I will meditate for one minute.

Eg. Exercise. After I take off my work shoes, I will immediately change into my workout clothes.

Eg. Gratitude. After I sit down to dinner, I will say one thing I’m grateful for that happened today.

The secret to creating a successful habit stack is selecting the right cue to kick things off; a very strong habit to build from.

Habit stacking works best when the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable.

The 1st Law of Behavior Change is to make it obvious. Strategies like implementation intentions and habit stacking are among the most practical ways to create obvious cues for your habits and design a clear plan for when and where to take action.

The 1st Law of Behavior Change is make it obvious.

Creating an implementation intention is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with a specific time and location. The implementation intention formula is: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].

Habit stacking is a strategy you can use to pair a new habit with an existing habit. The habit stacking formula is: After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT ].

Ch 6: Motivation Is Overrated; Environment Often Matters More

Eg. People often choose food not because of what they are, but because of where they are (convenience matters.) Items at eye level tend to be purchased more. End caps are moneymaking machines.

The most powerful of all human sensory abilities is vision.

Eg. Homes with meters located in the main hallway use less electricity.

Creating obvious visual cues can draw your attention toward a desired habit.

Eg. If you want to remember to send more thank-you notes, keep a stack of stationery on your desk.

Eg. If you want to drink more water, fill up a few water bottles each morning and place them in common locations around the house.

The most persistent behaviors usually have multiple cues.

You can train yourself to link a particular habit with a particular context/environment.

Teach your brain that sleeping — not browsing on phones, not watching television, not staring at the clock — is the only action that happens in the bedroom.

Want to think more creatively? Move to a bigger room, a rooftop patio, or a building with expansive architecture.

Trying to eat healthier? Try a new grocery store.

Create a separate space for work, study, exercise, entertainment, and cooking. The mantra I find useful is “One space, one use.”

When you can use your phone to do nearly anything, it becomes hard to associate it with one task.

Make the cues of good habits obvious in your environment.

Ch 7: The Secret to Self-Control

Typically, 90 percent of heroin users become re-addicted once they return home from rehab.

“Disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control.

Yes, perseverance, grit, and willpower are essential to success, but the way to improve these qualities is not by wishing you were a more disciplined person, but by creating a more disciplined environment.

Researchers refer to this phenomenon as “cue-induced wanting”: an external trigger causes a compulsive craving to repeat a bad habit.

You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it.

And that means that simply resisting temptation is an ineffective strategy.

In the short-run, you can choose to overpower temptation. In the long-run, we become a product of the environment that we live in.

A more reliable approach is to cut bad habits off at the source.

Reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.

If you’re continually feeling like you’re not enough, stop following social media accounts that trigger jealousy and envy.

If you’re wasting too much time watching television, move the TV out of the bedroom.

I’m often surprised by how effective simple changes like these can be. Remove a single cue and the entire habit often fades away.

Make the cues of your good habits obvious and the cues of your bad habits invisible.

One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.

Self-control is a short-term strategy, not a long-term one.

PART 3: THE 2ND LAW – Make It Attractive

Ch 8: How to Make a Habit Irresistible

Junk food, for example, drives our reward systems into a frenzy.

The more attractive an opportunity is, the more likely it is to become habit-forming.

We begin by examining a biological signature that all habits share — the dopamine spike.

Habits are a dopamine-driven feedback loop.

When it comes to habits, the key takeaway is this: dopamine is released not only when you experience pleasure, but also when you anticipate it.

It is the anticipation of a reward — not the fulfillment of it — that gets us to take action.

This is one reason the anticipation of an experience can often feel better than the attainment of it.

As an adult, daydreaming about an upcoming vacation can be more enjoyable than actually being on vacation.

We need to make our habits attractive because it is the expectation of a rewarding experience that motivates us to act in the first place.

Temptation bundling works by linking an action you want to do with an action you need to do.

Temptation bundling is one way to apply a psychology theory known as Premack’s Principle.

The habit stacking + temptation bundling formula is : After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [HABIT I NEED]. After [HABIT I NEED], I will [HABIT I WANT].

After I get my morning coffee, I will say one thing I’m grateful for that happened yesterday (need). After I say one thing I’m grateful for, I will read the news (want).

If you want to check Facebook, but you need to exercise more: After I pull out my phone, I will do ten burpees (need). After I do ten burpees, I will check Facebook (want).

The hope is that eventually you’ll look forward to calling three clients or doing ten burpees because it means you get to read the latest sports news or check Facebook.

Temptation bundling is one way to make your habits more attractive. The strategy is to pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.

Ch 9: The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits

“A genius is not born, but is educated and trained.”

Eg. The Polgar sisters grew up in a culture that prioritized chess above all else — praised them for it, rewarded them for it. In their world, an obsession with chess was normal. And as we are about to see, whatever habits are normal in your culture are among the most attractive behaviors you’ll find.

Humans are herd animals.

We don’t choose our earliest habits, we imitate them.

Often, you follow the habits of your culture without thinking, without questioning, and sometimes without remembering.

We imitate the habits of three groups in particular: The close, the many, the powerful.

  1. Imitating the Close

We pick up habits from the people around us.

Another study found that if one person in a relationship lost weight, the other partner would also slim down about one third of the time.

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.

Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You’ll rise together.

Join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and (2) you already have something in common with the group.

Nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to the tribe.

  1. Imitating the Many

We are constantly scanning our environment and wondering, “What is everyone else doing?”

There is tremendous internal pressure to comply with the norms of the group.

Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.

Running against the grain of your culture requires extra effort.

  1. Imitating the Powerful

We want pins and medallions on our jackets.

We try to copy the behavior of successful people because we desire success ourselves.

We tend to imitate the habits of three social groups: the close (family and friends), the many (the tribe), and the powerful (those with status and prestige).

One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where (1) your desired behavior is the normal behavior and (2) you already have something in common with the group.

Ch 10: How to Find and Fix the Causes of Your Bad Habits

It is an inversion of the 2nd Law of Behavior Change: make it unattractive.

Some of the underlying motives of human nature include: conserve energy, obtain food and water, find love and reproduce, connect and bond with others, win social acceptance and approval, reduce uncertainty, achieve status and prestige

Look at nearly any product that is habit-forming and you’ll see that it does not create a new motivation, but rather latches onto the underlying motives of human nature.

You can make hard habits more attractive if you can learn to associate them with a positive experience.

Now, imagine changing just one word: You don’t “have” to. You “get” to.

Reframing your habits to highlight their benefits rather than their drawbacks is a fast and lightweight way to reprogram your mind and make a habit seem more attractive.

Saving money is often associated with sacrifice. However, you can associate it with freedom rather than limitation if you realize one simple truth: living below your current means increases your future means.

These little mind-set shifts aren’t magic, but they can help change the feelings you associate with a particular habit or situation.

If you want to take it a step further, you can create a motivation ritual. You simply practice associating your habits with something you enjoy, then you can use that cue whenever you need a bit of motivation. For instance, if you always play the same song before having sex, then you’ll begin to link the music with the act.

Say you want to feel happier in general. Find something that makes you truly happy — like petting your dog or taking a bubble bath — and then create a short routine that you perform every time before you do the thing you love. Maybe you take three deep breaths and smile. Three deep breaths. Smile. Pet the dog. Repeat.

Once established, you can break it out anytime you need to change your emotional state. Stressed at work? Take three deep breaths and smile. Sad about life? Three deep breaths and smile.

Every behavior has a surface level craving and a deeper underlying motive.

Habits are attractive when we associate them with positive feelings and unattractive when we associate them with negative feelings. Create a motivation ritual by doing something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.

PART 4: THE 3RD LAW – Make It Easy

Ch 11: Walk Slowly, but Never Backward

It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change.

As Voltaire once wrote, “ The best is the enemy of the good.”

Motion makes you feel like you’re getting things done.

When preparation becomes a form of procrastination, you need to change something. You don’t want to merely be planning. You want to be practicing.

If you want to master a habit, the key is to start with repetition, not perfection. You don’t need to map out every feature of a new habit. You just need to practice it.

This is the first takeaway of the 3rd Law: you just need to get your reps in.

“Neurons that fire together wire together.”

Repeating a habit leads to clear physical changes in the brain.

Each time you repeat an action, you are activating a particular neural circuit associated with that habit. This means that simply putting in your reps is one of the most critical steps you can take to encoding a new habit.

One of the most common questions I hear is, “How long does it take to build a new habit?” But what people really should be asking is, “How many reps does it take to form a new habit?”

To build a habit, you need to practice it.

Focus on taking action, not being in motion.

Habit formation is the process by which a behavior becomes progressively more automatic through repetition.

Ch 12: The Law of Least Effort

The Law of Least Effort states that when deciding between two similar options, people will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.

This is why it is crucial to make your habits so easy that you’ll do them even when you don’t feel like it. If you can make your good habits more convenient, you’ll be more likely to follow through on them.

Trying to pump up your motivation to stick with a hard habit is like trying to force water through a bent hose. You can do it, but it requires a lot of effort and increases the tension in your life. Meanwhile, making your habits simple and easy is like removing the bend in the hose. Rather than trying to overcome the friction in your life, you reduce it.

One of the most effective ways to reduce the friction associated with your habits is to practice environment design.

Habits are easier to build when they fit into the flow of your life. You are more likely to go to the gym if it is on your way to work because stopping doesn’t add much friction to your lifestyle.

The Japanese companies looked for every point of friction in the manufacturing process and eliminated it. As they subtracted wasted effort, they added customers and revenue.

If you look at the most habit-forming products, you’ll notice that one of the things these goods and services do best is remove little bits of friction from your life.

Meal delivery services reduce the friction of shopping for groceries. Dating apps reduce the friction of making social introductions. Ride-sharing services reduce the friction of getting across town. Text messaging reduces the friction of sending a letter in the mail.

Business is a never-ending quest to deliver the same result in an easier fashion.

Whenever you organize a space for its intended purpose, you are priming it to make the next action easy. For instance, my wife keeps a box of greeting cards that are presorted by occasion — birthday, sympathy, wedding, graduation, and more.

There are many ways to prime your environment so it’s ready for immediate use. If you want to cook a healthy breakfast, place the skillet on the stove, set the cooking spray on the counter, and lay out any plates and utensils you’ll need the night before. When you wake up, making breakfast will be easy.

Want to exercise? Set out your workout clothes, shoes, gym bag, and water bottle ahead of time.

Want to improve your diet? Chop up a ton of fruits and vegetables on weekends and pack them in containers, so you have easy access to healthy, ready-to-eat options during the week.

You can also invert this principle and prime the environment to make bad behaviors difficult.

Unplug the television and take the batteries out of the remote after each use, so it takes an extra ten seconds to turn it back on.

When I hide beer in the back of the fridge where I can’t see it, I drink less.

When I delete social media apps from my phone, it can be weeks before I download them again and log in.

Design a world where it’s easy to do what’s right.

Create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible .

Increase the friction associated with bad behaviors. When friction is high, habits are difficult.

Prime your environment to make future actions easier.

Ch 13: How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the Two-Minute Rule

Doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that you would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in your arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.

40 to 50 percent of our actions on any given day are done out of habit.

Every day, there are a handful of moments that deliver an outsized impact. I refer to these little choices as decisive moments. The moment you decide between ordering takeout or cooking dinner. The moment you choose between driving your car or riding your bike.

The Two-Minute Rule, which states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

Eg. “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.” “Do thirty minutes of yoga” becomes “Take out my yoga mat.” “Study for class” becomes “Open my notes.” “Fold the laundry” becomes “ Fold one pair of socks.” “Run three miles” becomes “Tie my running shoes.”

A new habit should not feel like a challenge. The actions that follow can be challenging, but the first two minutes should be easy. What you want is a “gateway habit” that naturally leads you down a more productive path.

The point is to master the habit of showing up.

Instead of trying to engineer a perfect habit from the start, do the easy thing on a more consistent basis. You have to standardize before you can optimize.

The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things.

The Two-Minute Rule states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”

The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things.

Standardize before you optimize. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist.

Ch 14: How to Make Good Habits Inevitable and Bad Habits Impossible

A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that controls your actions in the future. It is a way to lock in future behavior, bind you to good habits, and restrict you from bad ones.

If you’re feeling motivated to get in shape, schedule a yoga session and pay ahead of time.

Commitment devices increase the odds that you’ll do the right thing in the future by making bad habits difficult in the present.

The best way to break a bad habit is to make it impractical to do. Increase the friction until you don’t even have the option to act.

The brilliance of the cash register was that it automated ethical behavior by making stealing practically impossible. Rather than trying to change the employees, it made the preferred behavior automatic.



  1. Buy a water filter to clean your drinking water.
  2. Use smaller plates to reduce caloric intake .


  1. Buy a good mattress.
  2. Get blackout curtains.
  3. Remove your television from your bedroom .


  1. Unsubscribe from emails.
  2. Turn off notifications and mute group chats.
  3. Set your phone to silent.
  4. Use email filters to clear up your inbox.
  5. Delete games and social media apps on your phone.


  1. Get a dog.
  2. Move to a friendly, social neighborhood.


  1. Enroll in an automatic savings plan.
  2. Set up automatic bill pay.
  3. Cut cable service.
  4. Ask service providers to lower your bills.

Technology can transform actions that were once hard, annoying, and complicated into behaviors that are easy, painless, and simple. It is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behavior.

Medicine: Prescriptions can be automatically refilled.

Personal finance: Employees can save for retirement with an automatic wage deduction.

Cooking: Meal-delivery services can do your grocery shopping.

Productivity: Social media browsing can be cut off with a website blocker.

When you automate as much of your life as possible, you can spend your effort on the tasks machines cannot do yet.

The power of technology can work against us as well.

Instead of pressing a button to advance to the next episode, Netflix or YouTube will autoplay it for you. All you have to do is keep your eyes open.

The downside of automation is that we can find ourselves jumping from easy task to easy task without making time for more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding work.

Every Monday, my assistant would reset the passwords on all my social media accounts, which logged me out on each device. All week I worked without distraction. On Friday, she would send me the new passwords.

When working in your favor, automation can make your good habits inevitable and your bad habits impossible.

A commitment device is a choice you make in the present that locks in better behavior in the future.

The ultimate way to lock in future behavior is to automate your habits.

Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the right behavior.


The 1st Law: Make It Obvious
1.1: Fill out the Habits Scorecard. Write down your current habits to become aware of them.
1.2: Use implementation intentions: “I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].”
1.3: Use habit stacking: “After [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].”
1.4: Design your environment. Make the cues of good habits obvious and visible.

The 2nd Law: Make It Attractive
2.1: Use temptation bundling. Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do.
2.2: Join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.
2.3: Create a motivation ritual. Do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit.

The 3rd Law: Make It Easy
3.1: Reduce friction. Decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits.
3.2: Prime the environment. Prepare your environment to make future actions easier.
3.3: Master the decisive moment. Optimize the small choices that deliver outsized impact.
3.4: Use the Two-Minute Rule. Downscale your habits until they can be done in two minutes or less.
3.5: Automate your habits. Invest in technology and onetime purchases that lock in future behavior.

PART 5: THE 4TH LAW – Make It Satisfying

Ch 15: The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change

We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is satisfying.

The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is rewarded is repeated. What is punished is avoided.

The first three laws of behavior change — make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy — increase the odds that a behavior will be performed this time. The fourth law of behavior change — make it satisfying — increases the odds that a behavior will be repeated next time. It completes the habit loop.

We are looking for immediate satisfaction.

Our bias toward instant gratification causes problems. Eg. lung cancer, obesity, STD’s.

Put another way, the costs of your good habits are in the present. The costs of your bad habits are in the future.

What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.

If you’re willing to wait for the rewards, you’ll face less competition and often get a bigger payoff. As the saying goes, the last mile is always the least crowded.

The best way to do this is to add a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run and a little bit of immediate pain to ones that don’t.

You want the ending of your habit to be satisfying. The best approach is to use reinforcement, which refers to the process of using an immediate reward to increase the rate of a behavior.

Eg. Open a savings account and label it for something you want — maybe “Leather Jacket.” Whenever you pass on a purchase, put the same amount of money in the account. Skip your morning latte => transfer $5. Pass on another month of Netflix => Move $10 over. It’s like creating a loyalty program for yourself. The immediate reward of seeing yourself save money toward the leather jacket feels a lot better than being deprived.

It is worth noting that it is important to select short-term rewards that reinforce your identity rather than ones that conflict with it.

Eventually, as intrinsic rewards like a better mood, more energy, and reduced stress kick in, you’ll become less concerned with chasing the secondary reward. The identity itself becomes the reinforcer.

Immediate reinforcement helps maintain motivation in the short term while you’re waiting for the long-term rewards to arrive.

The 4th Law of Behavior Change is “make it satisfying.”

We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is satisfying.

The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change: What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.

Ch 16: How to Stick with Good Habits Every Day

Making progress is satisfying, and visual measures — like moving paper clips or hairpins or marbles — provide clear evidence of your progress.

Visual measurement comes in many forms: food journals, workout logs, loyalty punch cards, the progress bar on a software download, even the page numbers in a book. But perhaps the best way to measure your progress is with a habit tracker.

A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit. The most basic format is to get a calendar and cross off each day you stick with your routine.

Jerry Seinfeld reportedly uses a habit tracker to stick with his streak of writing jokes. In the documentary Comedian, he explains that his goal is simply to “never break the chain” of writing jokes every day.

“Don’t break the chain” is a powerful mantra.

Benefit #1: Habit tracking is obvious.

Habit tracking also keeps you honest.

Benefit #2: Habit tracking is attractive.

The most effective form of motivation is progress. When we get a signal that we are moving forward, we become more motivated to continue down that path. In this way, habit tracking can have an addictive effect on motivation. Each small win feeds your desire.

Benefit #3: Habit tracking is satisfying.

Tracking can become its own form of reward. It is satisfying to cross an item off your to-do list, to complete an entry in your workout log, or to mark an X on the calendar.

Habit tracking also helps keep your eye on the ball: you’re focused on the process rather than the result.

You’re not fixated on getting six-pack abs, you’re just trying to keep the streak alive and become the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts.

Furthermore, habit tracking provides visual proof that you are casting votes for the type of person you wish to become, which is a delightful form of immediate and intrinsic gratification.

First, whenever possible, measurement should be automated.

Second, manual tracking should be limited to your most important habits.

Finally, record each measurement immediately after the habit occurs. The completion of the behavior is the cue to write it down.

I try to remind myself of a simple rule: never miss twice.

You don’t realize how valuable it is to just show up on your bad (or busy) days. Lost days hurt you more than successful days help you.

It’s about being the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. It’s easy to train when you feel good, but it’s crucial to show up when you don’t feel like it.

If your success is measured by quarterly earnings, you will optimize sales, revenue, and accounting for quarterly earnings.

The human mind wants to “win” whatever game is being played.

This pitfall is evident in many areas of life. We focus on working long hours instead of getting meaningful work done.

In short, we optimize for what we measure. When we choose the wrong measurement, we get the wrong behavior. This is sometimes referred to as Goodhart’s Law.

“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

But just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing. And just because you can’t measure something doesn’t mean it’s not important at all.

One of the most satisfying feelings is the feeling of making progress.

A habit tracker is a simple way to measure whether you did a habit — like marking an X on a calendar.

Habit trackers and other visual forms of measurement can make your habits satisfying by providing clear evidence of your progress.

Don’t break the chain. Try to keep your habit streak alive.

Never miss twice. If you miss one day, try to get back on track as quickly as possible.

Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s the most important thing.

Ch 17: How an Accountability Partner Can Change Everything

Just as we are more likely to repeat an experience when the ending is satisfying, we are also more likely to avoid an experience when the ending is painful.

If you want to prevent bad habits and eliminate unhealthy behaviors, then adding an instant cost to the action is a great way to reduce their odds.

A habit contract is a verbal or written agreement in which you state your commitment to a particular habit and the punishment that will occur if you don’t follow through. Then you find one or two people to act as your accountability partners and sign off on the contract with you.

To make bad habits unsatisfying, your best option is to make them painful in the moment.

The inversion of the 4th Law of Behavior Change is make it unsatisfying.

We are less likely to repeat a bad habit if it is painful or unsatisfying.

An accountability partner can create an immediate cost to inaction. We care deeply about what others think of us, and we do not want others to have a lesser opinion of us.

Knowing that someone else is watching you can be a powerful motivator.

PART 6: ADVANCED TACTICS – How to Go from Being Merely Good to Being Truly Great

Ch 18: The Truth About Talent (When Genes Matter and When They Don’t)

Habits are easier to perform, and more satisfying to stick with, when they align with your natural inclinations and abilities.

In short: genes do not determine your destiny. They determine your areas of opportunity. As physician Gabor Mate notes ,“Genes can predispose, but they don’t predetermine.”

Our habits are not solely determined by our personalities, but there is no doubt that our genes nudge us in a certain direction.

The takeaway is that you should build habits that work for your personality.

There is a version of every habit that can bring you joy and satisfaction. Find it Habits need to be enjoyable if they are going to stick. This is the core idea behind the 4th Law.

Learning to play a game where the odds are in your favor is critical for maintaining motivation and feeling successful.

Pick the right habit and progress is easy. Pick the wrong habit and life is a struggle.

The goal is to try out many possibilities, research a broad range of ideas, and cast a wide net.

After this initial period of exploration, shift your focus to the best solution you’ve found — but keep experimenting occasionally.

Ask: What feels like fun to me, but work to others? What makes me lose track of time? Where do I get greater returns than the average person? What comes naturally to me?

When you can’t win by being better, you can win by being different. By combining your skills, you reduce the level of competition, which makes it easier to stand out. You can shortcut the need for a genetic advantage (or for years of practice) by rewriting the rules.

Specialization is a powerful way to overcome the “accident” of bad genetics. The more you master a specific skill, the harder it becomes for others to compete with you.

Our genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.

Pick the right habit and progress is easy. Pick the wrong habit and life is a struggle.

Habits are easier when they align with your natural abilities. Choose the habits that best suit you.

Play a game that favors your strengths. If you can’t find a game that favors you, create one.

Genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on.

Ch 19: The Goldilocks Rule – How to Stay Motivated in Life and Work

And yet Steve Martin faced this fear every week for eighteen years. In his words, “10 years spent learning, 4 years spent refining, and 4 years as a wild success.”

The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.

In psychology research this is known as the Yerkes–Dodson law, which describes the optimal level of arousal as the midpoint between boredom and anxiety.

A flow state is the experience of being “in the zone” and fully immersed in an activity.

They found that to achieve a state of flow, a task must be roughly 4 percent beyond your current ability.

As a result, many of us get depressed when we lose focus or motivation because we think that successful people have some bottomless reserve of passion.

The difference is that they still find a way to show up despite the feelings of boredom.

Mastery requires practice. But the more you practice something, the more boring and routine it becomes. Once the beginner gains have been made and we learn what to expect, our interest starts to fade.

The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We get bored with habits because they stop delighting us.

In psychology, this is known as a variable reward. Slot machines are the most common real-world example. A gambler hits the jackpot every now and then but not at any predictable interval. The pace of rewards varies. This variance leads to the greatest spike of dopamine, enhances memory recall, and accelerates habit formation.

The sweet spot of desire occurs at a 50/50 split between success and failure. Half of the time you get what you want. Half of the time you don’t. You need just enough “winning” to experience satisfaction and just enough “wanting” to experience desire.

Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way.

You have to fall in love with boredom.

The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities.

The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.

Anyone can work hard when they feel motivated. It’s the ability to keep going when work isn’t exciting that makes the difference.

Professionals stick to the schedule; amateurs let life get in the way.

Ch 20: The Downside of Creating Good Habits

The upside of habits is that we can do things without thinking. The downside of habits is that you get used to doing things a certain way and stop paying attention to little errors.

Habits are necessary, but not sufficient for mastery.

Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery

Eg. Lakers coach Pat Riley asks each player to “improve their output by at least 1 percent over the course of the season.” Pat Riley also tracked ‘unsung hero’ stats that measured effort and impact outside of points/assists/rebounds.

“Sustaining an effort is the most important thing for any enterprise. The way to be successful is to learn how to do things right, then do them the same way every time.”

Reflection and review enables the long-term improvement of all habits because it makes you aware of your mistakes and helps you consider possible paths for improvement.

I know of executives and investors who keep a “decision journal” in which they record the major decisions they make each week, why they made them, and what they expect the outcome to be.

Personally, I employ two primary modes of reflection and review. Each December, I perform an Annual Review. Six months later, when summer rolls around, I conduct an Integrity Report.

Daily habits are powerful because of how they compound, but worrying too much about every daily choice is like looking at yourself in the mirror from an inch away. You can see every imperfection and lose sight of the bigger picture. There is too much feedback.

Periodic reflection and review is like viewing yourself in the mirror from a conversational distance. You can see the important changes you should make without losing sight of the bigger picture.

One solution is to avoid making any single aspect of your identity an overwhelming portion of who you are. In the words of investor Paul Graham, “keep your identity small.”

When you cling too tightly to one identity, you become brittle.

Life is constantly changing, so you need to periodically check in to see if your old habits and beliefs are still serving you.

A lack of self-awareness is poison.

The upside of habits is that we can do things without thinking. The downside is that we stop paying attention to little errors.

Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery

Reflection and review is a process that allows you to remain conscious of your performance over time.

The tighter we cling to an identity, the harder it becomes to grow beyond it.

PART 7: Conclusion The Secret to Results That Last

The holy grail of habit change is not a single 1 percent improvement, but a thousand of them.

Success is not a goal to reach or a finish line to cross. It is a system to improve, an endless process to refine.

With the Four Laws of Behavior Change, you have a set of tools and strategies that you can use to build better systems and shape better habits.

The secret to getting results that last is to never stop making improvements.

That’s the power of atomic habits. Tiny changes. Remarkable results.

Dirty Genes by Ben Lynch

The Big Idea: most chronic health problems are caused by impaired gene expression — which can be fixed by eating and living clean.

  • Epigenetics is the process of turning genes on and off.
  • Our genetic destiny isn’t fixed. Genetic expression is affected by our environment and our lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, sleep, stress, pollution.)
  • Most doctors are trained to treat symptoms, usually by prescribing some medication.
  • Functional medicine doctors aim to understand the root cause of symptoms. Dirty genes are likely at the root of your health problems.
  • Your genetic expression can be disrupted by poor diet, including factory-farmed food, lack of exercise, too much exercise, not enough sleep, environmental toxins, and plain old everyday stress.
  • Your genetic expression can be disrupted by medication. If you’re taking antacids, for example, you’re messing with many major genes, including MTHFR, MAOA, and DAO. If you’re taking metformin, a common medication for diabetes, you’re disrupting the function of your MAOA and DAO. Birth-control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and even bioidentical hormones can strain your MTHFR and COMT.
  • Your genetic expression can be disrupted by environmental toxins: sprays, cleaners, cosmetics, paints, pesticides, herbicides.
  • Most lab test results are expressed in terms of ranges that are based on the “average healthy person” — who is actually not very healthy!
  • There are two types of dirty genes: born-dirty genes (single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) and dirty-acting genes (genetic expression). You can support both types through better lifestyle choices.
  • When you clean up your dirty genes, you start feeling terrific in ways you never even imagined.
  • To clean your genes: eat organic whole foods, avoid refined carbs, filter your water, avoid chemicals, clean up the air you breathe, sleep well, exercise regularly, and reduce your stress.
  • When you support your genes with the right diet, exercise, sleep, protection from chemicals, and stress relief, your born-dirty genes are much more manageable. When your body and/or mind undergoes stress, all your genes get dirty, and your born-dirty genes start to give you trouble.


Seven gene SNPs most likely to have the biggest impact on your health:

  1. MTHFR: the methylation master gene
  2. COMT: help determine whether you’re focused and buoyant, or laid-back and calm
  3. DAO: makes you supersensitive to certain foods and chemicals
  4. MAOA: affects mood swings and carb cravings
  5. GST/GPX: can create detox dilemmas
  6. NOS3: can create heart issues
  7. PEMT: supports your cell membranes and liver


  1. MTHFR: supports methylation, which is critical in countless other pathways; avoid folic acid; ensure consumption of folate from leafy greens; filter your drinking water; get enough B12; get deep restorative sleep.
  2. COMT affects metabolism of dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, affecting your mood; slow COMT means you can’t clear these biochemicals quickly; fast COMT means you clear these biochemicals too quickly; reduce visceral fat; optimize micronutrients; avoid plastic; meditate; have a regular sleep/wake routine; avoid the herbicide Roundup (and non-organic soy); eat organic if possible; avoid sugar and refined carbs; sweat out toxins in a sauna.
  3. DAO affects your body’s response to histamine from food and bacteria, which in turn affects your vulnerability to allergy; avoid old leftovers; gut imbalances can affect gut tight junctions and result in chronic inflammation; eat foods that build a strong gut microbiome; too much histamine in your gut can cause acid reflux and heartburn; DAO needs calcium and copper; optimize sleep and reduce stress; the real problems behind depression are inflammation and stress.
  4. MAOA affects dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, governing your mood, energy level, and ability to sleep; stress reduction belongs at the very top of your list; dirty MAOA sets you up for tremendous mood swings; MAOA needs riboflavin and tryptophan; eat healthy carbs and healthy fats every meal.
  5. GST/GPX enables detoxification; industrial chemical and heavy metals lead to serious chronic disease; glutathione is your body’s chief detox agent; protect your gut microbiome; reduce stress; make sure you are getting riboflavin/B2, selenium, cysteine; low glutathione results in extra body fat and impaired levels of dopamine, serotonin, and nitric oxide; low glutathione puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease and autoimmunity; fiber is good for your gut microbiome; check your home for mold; sweat in the sauna; eat broccoli sprouts.
  6. NOS3 affects circulation, which helps determine your cardiovascular health; low nitric oxide can affect platelets and increase clot formation; low nitric oxide impairs angiogenesis; avoid unhealthy chemicals; low nitric oxide can lead to birth defects; diabetes can impair NOS3; avoid stress, smoke, and pollution; avoid folic acid; leafy greens has lots of folate; get calcium, iron, riboflavin/B2, arginine from natural foods; treat sleep apnea, ideally by losing body fat;
  7. PEMT affects your cell walls, brain, and liver, determining a wide range of health issues; malfunctional PEMT leads to fatty liver; impaired PEMT leads to nutrient deficiency regardless of consumption; PEMT also helps produce choline/acetylcholine; phosphatidylcholine is needed for good bile flow; consume choline through liver, eggs, fish, chicken, red meat; support MTHFR and methylfolate; eat eggs, leafy greens, avocado oil, ghee; avoid refined carbs; limit alcohol and food preservatives.

  • Clean all your genes, all the time. Make it a daily ritual! Find out which born-dirty genes might need some extra support, and give that support to them.
  • Here’s the bottom line: the only way to truly help your dirty genes is by remaining on the Clean Genes Protocol, a lifelong approach to diet and lifestyle.

Fusion by Denise Lee Yohn

The Big Idea: The best companies fuse their (external) brand with their (internal) culture into one.

  • Culture is “the way we do things here.”
  • Brand is “how others feel about us.”
  • Herb Kelleher says that culture is the key competitive advantage of Southwest Airlines.
  • Brand-culture fusion improves employee retention, improves employee motivation and productivity, differentiates you in the marketplace, makes your brand more authentic, and improves customer loyalty.
  • First step is to understand your purpose (why we do what we do).
  • Second step is to understand your core values (how we do things around here.)
  • To align your brand and your culture: 1) communicate, communicate, communicate, 2) remember that actions speak louder than words, 3) engage every leader from bottom to top, and 4) get the right people on the bus.
  • Your tools to implement brand-culture culture are: Organizational Design and Operations.
  • Design your organization to cultivate your desired culture. Do this through Structure (org chart), Standards (company-wide rules), and Roles.
  • Operations is “how you run your organization”. Do this through process and workflow design.
  • Put someone in charge of “Employee Experience” (EX), just like you put someone in charge of “Customer Experience”.
  • Design the Employee Experience by paying attention to environment, tools, and intangibles.
  • Continue to make sure the Employee Experience aligns with your desired culture.
  • Design and nurture Rituals and Artifacts that reinforce your culture, your purpose, and your core values.
  • Make your employee handbook compelling and unique to your culture.
  • To engage employees, consider using videos or letters that highlight your brand and reinforce the brand-culture fusion.
  • If you have a stronger culture than brand, consider building your brand on top of your culture. Examples: Unilever and REI have focused on communicating their core values to customers and thereby, building a culture-first brand.

The Algebra of Happiness by Scott Galloway

The Big Idea: In the end, relationships are all that matters.

  • Balance when establishing your career, in my view, is largely a myth. However, you can still experience a lot of reward while working hard on the way to success.
  • The most important decision you’ll make is not where you work or who you party with, but who you choose to partner with for the rest of your life.
  • Get to a place that’s crowded with success.
  • Money can buy happiness, to a point. But once you reach a certain level of economic security, the correlation flattens.
  • Invest in relationships. The payoff, small at first, is immense much later.
  • The definition of “rich” is having passive income greater than your living expenses. Keep your living expenses low and you can be rich quickly.
  • Consumption of alcohol predicts unhappiness better than any other factor.
  • Invest in experiences over things. Drive a Hyundai and take your wife to St. Barts.
  • Providing comfort for someone you love at the end of their life is deeply satisfying.
  • The happiest people are those in monogamous relationships who have children.
  • Everyone experiences failure and tragedy. The key to success is the ability to mourn and then move on.
  • Talent alone won’t get you within spitting distance of 0.1 percent. Hard work is more important.
  • Passion is overrated. Find something you’re good at and passion will follow.
  • It takes much less money than you think to be a great dad. Don’t let your ego mislead you.
  • Boring is more profitable. I try to avoid investing in anything that sounds remotely cool.
  • Help take care of your parents. Start now.
  • Show up early. Have good manners. Follow up.
  • If you’re good at working at a big firm, then you are likely better off doing just that — and not struggling against the long odds facing a small firm.
  • Entrepreneurship is a sales job with negative commissions until you raise capital, are profitable, or go out of business.
  • You don’t need a Nobel to see the similarities between 1999 and 2019.
  • Recessions are great times to launch a company. People, real estate, and services are all much less expensive.
  • Boom times are better times to develop your career at a big firm, when others are leaving to get rich during the boom times.
  • If you’re an entrepreneur or find yourself sitting on assets that represent a large portion of your wealth, I’m comfortable saying that while a bull market may not be the best time to sell, it’s most certainly not a bad time to sell.
  • I’m 80 percent in cash in 2019, which most reasonable financial managers will tell you is stupid.
  • Your gains and losses in the market are never as good or bad as they seem.
  • Take care of your credit score.
  • I’ve started nine companies: three were wins, four were failures, and two were somewhere in between. Only in America.
  • Reach out to friends on a regular basis.
  • Professional success is the means, not the end. The end is economic security for your family and, more important, meaningful relationships with family and friends.
  • My willingness to endure rejection from universities, peers, investors, and women has been hugely rewarding.
  • Love and relationships are the ends — everything else is just the means.
  • The key decision you’ll make in life is who you have kids with.
  • There is one shortcut to happiness: finding someone who chooses you over everything.
  • Here is the advice on marriage I offer: Don’t keep score. Don’t ever let your wife be cold or hungry. Express affection and desire as often as possible.
  • Nobody has an algorithm for successful parenting.
  • Exercise is the only real youth serum .
  • Marketers hate old people. Old people spend their time and money on things that matter, like healthcare, loved ones, and college funds for their grandkids instead of vintage sneakers, iPhones, and Keurig pods.
  • A house isn’t a much better investment than any other asset class.
  • A better proxy for your life isn’t your first home, but your last. Where you draw your last breath is more meaningful.
  • Where you die, and who is around you at the end, is a strong signal of your success or failure in life.
  • I believe parents want two things: 1. To know their family loves them immensely. 2. To recognize that their love and parenting gave their children the skills and confidence to add value and live rewarding lives.
  • I don’t think we go to an afterworld, but I do believe we can get to heaven while still here on Earth.
  • We are hunter-gatherers and are happiest when in motion and surrounded by others.
  • My life is easy compared to the billions of people who have trouble putting food on the table or who struggle with illness.
  • How can you live to be one hundred? Have good genetics, live a healthy lifestyle, and love others.
  • The successful are often rude and greedy. The super-successful people I know are usually nicer, more generous, and generally better mannered.
  • Gratitude is consistently correlated with greater happiness.
  • Nobody ever says at a funeral, “He was too generous, too kind, and much too loving.”

Bounce by Matthew Syed

The Big Idea: Talent is overrated. Mastery is developed through many years of deliberate practice. Child prodigies are no exception, they just start early and practice more.

Examples mentioned: Wayne Gretzky, Mozart, Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Brazilian futsal, Polgar chess sisters, Enron collapse, growth mind-set, placebo effect,

Contagious by Jonah Berger

The Big Idea: word of mouth relies on six principles: social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical values, and stories.

  • Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20-50 percent of all purchasing decisions.
  • Word of mouth is more effective than advertising because it is more persuasive and more targeted.
  • As widespread as social media is, only 7% of word of mouth happens online.
  • Malcolm Gladwell argues that social epidemics are driven mavens/connectors, but science says that word of mouth happens because shareable messages exhibit certain traits that make them contagious.


Principle 1: Social Currency

  • Knowing about cool things (like a blender that can tear through an iPhone) makes people seem sharp and in the know.
  • Leverage game mechanics to give people ways to achieve and provide visible symbols of status that they can show to others.
  • Examples mentioned: Will It Blend, Snapple Caps, The Blair Witch Project, Foursquare, Rue La La, Disney Vault, McRib, Please Don’t Tell bar.

Principle 2: Triggers

  • Prompt people to think about related things.
  • Design products and ideas that are frequently triggered by the environment and create new triggers by linking our products and ideas to prevalent cues in that environment.
  • Examples mentioned: Cheerios, BzzAgent, Mars Bar, voting in schools, Kit-Kat and coffee, Budweiser’s Wazzup, hot dogs and July 4th, Weekends are made for Michelob, Friday song.

Principle 3: Emotion

  • Craft messages and ideas that make people feel something.
  • Emotional things often get shared.
  • Examples mentioned: The Mysterious Cough, Susan Boyle, Google’s “Parisian Love”.

Principle 4: Public

  • Make products and ideas more public.
  • Design products and initiatives that advertise themselves.
  • Examples: Macbook’s upside down logo, rejected kidney donations, No Shave November, Sent from my iPhone, Livestrong, I Voted stickers, Tiffany and Victoria’s Secret shopping bags,

Principle 5: Practical Value

  • People like to help one another.
  • Highlight the incredible value of what we offer — monetarily and otherwise.
  • Increase value using principles of behavioral economics: smart pricing, limited availability, Rule of 100.
  • Examples mentioned: Ken Craig’s Clean Ears Everytime, Vanguard Funds

Principle 6: Stories

  • People don’t just share information, they tell stories.
  • Make your message so integral to the narrative.
  • Examples mentioned: Trojan Horse, The Three Little Pigs, Jared Fogle and Subway, Barclay Prime’s $100 cheesesteak, Egyptian dairy company Panda, Vietnamese nail salons.


  1. Social Currency: Does talking about your product or idea make people look good? Can you find the inner remarkability? Leverage game mechanics? Make people feel like insiders?
  2. Triggers: Consider the context. What cues make people think about your product or idea? How can you grow the habitat and make it come to mind more often?
  3. Emotion: Focus on feelings. Does talking about your product or idea generate emotion? How can you kindle the fire?
  4. Public: Does your product or idea advertise itself? Can people see when others are using it? If not, how can you make the private public? Can you create behavioral residue that sticks around even after people use it?
  5. Practical Value: Does talking about your product or idea help people help others? How can you highlight incredible value, packaging your knowledge and expertise into useful information others will want to disseminate?
  6. Stories: What is your Trojan Horse? Is your product or idea embedded in a broader narrative that people want to share? Is the story not only viral, but also valuable?

Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Big Idea: The Governator tells his unbelievable life story while making the rest of us feel like losers.

  • Turn your liabilities into assets.
  • When someone tells you no, you should hear yes.
  • Never follow the crowd. Go where it’s empty.
  • No matter what you do in life, selling is part of it.
  • Never let pride get in your way.
  • Don’t overthink.
  • Forget plan B.
  • You can use outrageous humor to settle a score.
  • The day has twenty-four hours.
  • Reps, reps, reps.
  • Don’t blame your parents.
  • Change takes big balls.
  • Take care of your body and your mind.
  • Stay hungry.

Unconventional Medicine by Chris Kresser

The Big Idea: Most chronic disease is preventable, and much of it is reversible, if a comprehensive, individualized approach, called “Functional Medicine,” is followed.

Ch 1: Leo’s Story

Most doctors, and by extension patients and the public, have no idea that mental and behavioral disorders can have physiological causes.

Ch 2: From Band-Aids to True Healing

Book: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

Ch 3: If Not Now, When? If Not You, Who?

Ch 4: Chronic Disease, A Slow-Motion Plague

Our lifespans have increased.

The projected decrease in life expectancy has been attributed mostly to the explosion of chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes in children.

As recently as the 1950s and 1960s, obesity was rare.

One in two Americans now has a chronic disease, and one in four has multiple chronic diseases.

The U.S. spends $3.2 trillion a year on healthcare. This is equivalent to 18% of our GDP.

50 million Americans (one in six) have an autoimmune disease.

Alzheimer’s is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

One in 45 children now has autism spectrum disorder.

Ch 5: Three Reasons U.S. Healthcare Is Destined to Fail

There’s little motivation for insurance companies to embrace treatments that would ultimately shrink spending on health care.

Pharmaceutical company’s work and products may be more focused on making money.

Two-thirds of medical research is sponsored by pharmaceutical companies.

This is not evidence-based medicine, it’s reimbursement-based medicine.

There are three much deeper reasons that healthcare in the U.S. is doomed to fail:

  1. Our modern diet and lifestyle are out of alignment with our genes and biology.
  2. Our medical paradigm is not well-suited to tackle chronic disease.
  3. Our model for delivering care doesn’t support the interventions that would have the biggest impact on preventing and reversing chronic disease.

Human beings lived most of our history eating a hunter-gatherer diet and living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

Our ancestors walked an average of 10,000 steps a day.

Conventional medicine is structured to address trauma, acute infection, and end-of-life care, not to keep people healthy.

Seven of the top ten causes of death are chronic diseases.

Unlike acute problems, chronic diseases are difficult to manage, expensive to treat, and usually last a lifetime.

Another reason that conventional medicine hasn’t been successful is that it focuses on suppressing symptoms rather than addressing the underlying cause of disease.

“The wise physician treats disease before it occurs,” according to the Traditional Medicine proverb.

The average visit with a PCP in the U.S. lasts for just ten to twelve minutes.

Patients get to speak for only twelve seconds on average before being interrupted with advice from their physician.

Ch 6: The Toll, How Conventional Medicine Affects Healthcare Providers

Both doctors and patients feel dissatisfied with how little time gets spent on doctor-patient visits.

After inflation, primary care doctors earn somewhat less today than they did in 1970.

Almost half of physicians are thinking of quitting medicine, cutting back hours, switching to concierge medicine, or taking other steps to limit patient access.

Ch 7: A New Model, The ADAPT Framework

It’s not normal for human beings to develop chronic disease.

A Functional Medicine approach is focused on preventing and reversing, rather than simply managing, chronic disease.

An ancestral diet and lifestyle reflects the recognition that we are evolutionarily mismatched to our environment and that this mismatch is the primary driver of chronic disease.

The ancestral diet and lifestyle — though extremely effective in most cases — was often not enough to completely reverse the patient’s health problems and restore optimal function. So Functional Medicine offers a more comprehensive toolset.

Ch 8: The Paradigm Shift, Functional Medicine as True Healthcare

Conventional medicine is mostly about trying to bail water out of the boat without fixing the leaks.

Functional Medicine seeks to get to the bottom of things. It looks for the underlying cause of disease.

At the core of the model is the relationship between the Exposome, our genes themselves, and the way our genes express themselves over time.

Pathologies are the underlying mechanisms that give rise to diseases and syndromes.

A disease is more clearly defined and characterized than a syndrome because it has specific signs and symptoms and the causes are more clearly defined and understood.

A sign is an objective indication of a disease or syndrome that can be observed during a physical examination or through laboratory testing.

Symptoms are the subjective experiences that the patient might report to the clinician.

After analyzing the Exposome layer, we examine pathology.

Conventional medicine is well-suited for dealing with acute, infectious disease, trauma, and injuries. However, it falters in addressing chronic disease, which is the biggest health problem we face today.

Within conventional medicine, pharmaceuticals are the primary treatment for almost 90 percent of all chronic conditions.

Conventional medicine is not truly healthcare — it’s disease management.

Functional Medicine, on the other hand, is designed to promote health.

A patient’s behavior is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, contributors to chronic disease.

Conventional medicine views the body as a collection of separate parts.

Specialists infrequently consult with each other or acknowledge the important connections between the body’s various parts.

Functional Medicine is often much more affordable than conventional medicine, largely because it seeks to prevent and reverse disease, rather than just manage it.

Although the upfront cost may be higher, Functional Medicine would save an enormous amount of money over this patient’s lifetime, because it would prevent diabetes before it occurred in the first place.

Conventional medicine tends to be more allopathic in its approach, and relies almost exclusively on drugs and surgery. Although most doctors acknowledge the importance of diet and lifestyle, the model isn’t structured to support patient change in those areas.

Drugs and surgery can cause serious side effects and complications, including death.

Medical care is the third leading cause of death in this country.

Cleveland Clinic was the first major organization to recognize the power of Functional Medicine. They tapped Dr. Mark Hyman to create a Center for Functional Medicine within Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Bredesen addresses dementia and Alzheimer’s disease from a holistic—functional—perspective. When a patient comes to see him, he doesn’t simply administer memory tests. He investigates the patient’s gut function. He measures their blood sugar. He examines their diet and their nutrient status. He considers heavy metal toxicity, mold, and biotoxins. He analyzes methylation. He looks at detoxification.

Dr. Terry Wahls was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She wrote The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles.

In Functional Medicine, we start by asking why the couple is having trouble getting pregnant. The possibilities include nutrient deficiency, thyroid problems, sex hormone imbalance, inflammation, insulin resistance and blood.

We almost always start with the foundational layer — diet, lifestyle, and environment. That’s especially true for chronic illnesses.

Ch 9: Realignment, Matching Our Environment With Our Genes

Humans evolved in a vastly different environment than the one we’re living in now.

Our genes are hard-wired for the twenty-four-hour light-dark cycle.

Modern diseases that countless people suffer from today, like heart disease, diabetes, and many autoimmune diseases, are nearly nonexistent in hunter-gatherer populations.

When hunter-gatherer cultures have access to even the most rudimentary form of emergency medical care, like a clinic half-a-day’s hike away, they live lifespans that are roughly equivalent to our own, particularly if they’re living in a relatively secure, peaceful environment.

Epigenetics is probably much more important than the genes themselves, in terms of determining our susceptibility to chronic disease.

For 77,000 generations, the human diet consisted primarily of meat and fish, some wild fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some starchy plants.

Ancestral populations generally got at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

Hunter-gather societies walked an average of 10,000 steps a day.

Ancestral humans lived in close-knit tribal and social groups, with multiple generations.

Ancestral humans generally “worked” about three to four hours a day.

Chronic inflammation is insidious; it often affects multiple tissues. If someone is eating an inflammatory diet and living an inflammatory lifestyle, that could cause a wide range of symptoms.

Ch 10: The 21st Century Practice, A Collaborative Model

The conventional system is buckling under the weight of misaligned incentives, broken payment models, inefficiency and bureaucracy, and a paradigm that is not well-suited to address chronic disease.

Many clinicians are choosing to move to a cash-only or a cash-plus-insurance practice.

Insurers are beginning to recognize the value of telemedicine; video conferencing is now reimbursed in many states, and others are moving in that direction.

One area of dissatisfaction and pushback among doctors is with electronic health records (EHRs). Initially, there was a lot of enthusiasm for EHRs, but the way they’ve been implemented in conventional medical settings has been horrific.

Ch 11: Regarding Evidence

Two-thirds of medical research is funded by pharmaceutical companies.

Abilify, for example, is one of the best-selling drugs in the United States. It was originally developed as an anti-psychotic, and is approved for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and autism spectrum disorders.

The humility to admit when we’ve been wrong is essential to good science. Unfortunately, in the conventional medical paradigm, this willingness and humility have often been replaced by groupthink, arrogance, and a stubborn attachment to the status quo.

What does the research say about Functional Medicine?

The gold standard of conventional research — the randomized clinical trial — isolates just one variable, then tests the effect of that variable; all other elements of the study are kept the same. The randomized clinical trial is practically the antithesis of the philosophy of Functional Medicine, which seeks to tailor layered treatment plans to individual patients.

Attending conferences and continuing education classes can help doctors stay current, but those conferences are often sponsored by a drug company.

Unfortunately, much of the research we’ve formerly relied upon was never replicated.

The latest research often takes time to reach practicing clinicians—and their patients.

Ch 12: ADAPT in Practice, Four Common Conditions

Most commonly prescribed drugs are just palliative — in other words, they offer some relief for symptoms but don’t address the underlying cause.

In a conventional model, the doctor would simply issue his or her recommendations: “Okay, eat better. Exercise more. Do this protocol.” The patient would walk away and then likely struggle or fail to follow through.

Patients need to recognize that the system is set up to support and subsidize drugs.

Ch 13: ADAPT in Practice, The Practitioner’s Experience

Ch 14: ADAPT in Practice, The Patient’s Experience

Although Functional Medicine will almost certainly prove more cost-effective than conventional medicine over time, right now out-of-pocket expenses are higher for Functional Medicine because of the lack of insurance coverage.

It’s worth noting that conventional care can be enormously expensive for patients since it relies heavily on medications, surgery, and other expensive procedures. Insurance provides some relief but doesn’t always cover these expenses — and when that happens the results can be disastrous. One in five Americans struggle to pay medical bills each year. Three in five bankruptcies are due to medical expenses.

Ch 15. The Future of Medicine

The factors that most predict your health are your wealth, education, and lifestyle — not your access to healthcare.

Today, we spend 86 percent of our healthcare dollars on treating chronic disease but just three percent on public health measures.

The launch of Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine has served to open many people’s eyes to the potential of this model.

Dr. Mark Hyman, the clinic director, travels all over the world to educate people about Functional Medicine.

Ch 16: Next Steps: Three Things to Do Now

Ch 17: Resources for Practitioners & Patients

Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM)

Kalish Institute

Paleo f(x)

Revolution Health Radio

The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline

The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles

Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain — for Life

Lead with LUV by Ken Blanchard and Colleen Barrett

The Big Idea: Show your employees love and they will show your customers love.


  • Most people are looking not only for monetary security but also for satisfaction in their work.
  • Southwest’s People have produced an unprecedented and unparalleled record of job security, Customer satisfaction, and Shareholder return.

What Is Leadership?

  • LUV is our symbol on the New York Stock Exchange.
  • “Southwest Airlines, the Someone Else Up There Who LUVs You.”
  • We had a heart on our first signature.
  • You can’t manage a horse to water.
  • We want all our People to realize they have the potential to be a Leader.
  • We try to hire Leaders.
  • All of us can be Leaders, both at work and in our homes and communities.
  • When I think about who influenced my life the most as a Leader, I think of my Mother.

Celebrating Successes

  • We send out thousands of letters every year to our People, celebrating their successes and praising them for their efforts.
  • The Executive Office keeps track of every Employee’s birthday, company anniversary, the birth of children, and other important events.
  • We send out 100,000 cards annually.
  • We just believe in accentuating the positive and celebrating People’s successes.
  • To sustain our Company Culture, we cheer People on all the time.
  • We celebrate everything!
  • Giving People chocolates when something good has happened can make them feel like you’ve given them a million dollars.
  • You are letting them know that you love them for their efforts and you want everybody to celebrate their success.
  • The key to developing people and creating great organizations is to catch people doing things right and accentuate the positive by praising them.
  • Celebrating successes has been a key part of my own leadership for a long time.
  • Don’t praise your People just for showing up; celebrate specific things they have done.
  • Read The One Minute Manager to learn more.
  • People hate waiting until their annual performance review to get all the good news or bad news.
  • “Tough Love” still matters. I had to let a personal staff member go. If she couldn’t find a way to recapture her once-positive attitude and make it work, she needed to leave.
  • Don’t let poor behavior or performance go unnoticed.
  • I prefer praising and celebrating successes to dealing with problems.

Having Mentors

  • As long as you were respectful of others and treated people the way you would like to be treated, you would get that back in kind.
  • My biggest expectation with our People is that they be egalitarian in nature.
  • Everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute to the overall success and well-being of the Company.
  • Our mission at Southwest is “dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.”
  • Lead with your heart.
  • Herb is really brilliant and incredibly visionary. He would see the vision but he wouldn’t have any idea how many steps you had to take to get there; he would just want it done. I was pragmatic and systematic and quite organized. So that’s how our team, or partnership, started.
  • The first word that comes to mind is family.

Servant Leadership Is Love in Action

  • Love isn’t a word that’s used too often in corporate America.
  • It’s loving your mission, it’s loving your customers, it’s loving your people, and it’s loving yourself enough to get out of the way so other people can be magnificent.
  • Nine times out of ten, if we say that we work at Southwest, people have a story about us, and it’s a good one.
  • There are two kinds of leadership involved in Servant Leadership: strategic leadership and operational leadership.
  • Strategic leadership has to do with vision / direction. It’s the leadership part of Servant Leadership.
  • Leadership is about going somewhere — if you and your people don’t know where you are going, your leadership doesn’t matter.
  • We’ve always tried to make sure everyone knows where we are heading. Then, of course, we had to make it all happen.
  • Operational leadership is about: implementation — the “how” of the organization.
  • It includes policies, procedures, systems, and leader behaviors.

The Triple Bottom Line

  • Our entire philosophy of Leadership is quite simple: Treat your People right, and good things will happen.
  • When we talk to our People, we proudly draw a pyramid on the chalkboard and tell them: You are at the top of the pyramid. You are the most important Person to us. You are our most important Customer in terms of priority.
  • Therefore, I am going to spend 80 percent of my time treating People with Golden Rule behavior and trying to make sure that they have an enjoyable work environment where they feel good about what they do, about themselves, and about their position within this Company.
  • But if I do that, what I want in exchange is for you to do the same thing by offering our Passengers — who are our second Customer in terms of priority — the same kind of warmth, caring, and fun spirit.
  • If you do that consistently, our Passengers will recognize how significantly different this is from the behavior they witness at other businesses, and they will come back for more.
  • If they come back often enough and become loyal Customers, they will tell stories about us to their friends. Then we’ll make money, which keeps your job secure and pleases our third Customer in terms of priority, which is our Shareholder — thus a win-win for all concerned.
  • Three bottom lines: being the employer of choice, the provider of choice, and the investment of choice.
  • Profit shouldn’t be the object of a company, but rather a result of good work.
  • Just like a person can’t survive for long without food and water, a company can’t survive without profits — but no one would ever reduce the purpose and significance of human life to only eating and drinking.
  • Servant Leaders know that financial success is a byproduct of how their people and their customers are treated.
  • Profit is the applause you get for creating a motivating environment for your people and taking care of your customers.
  • Today’s workers generally want more than pay. They seek opportunities where they feel that their contributions are valued and rewarded — where they are involved and empowered, can develop skills, can see advancement opportunities, and can believe they are making a difference.
  • Combined voluntary and involuntary turnover has hovered around 5 percent for the past 25 years, and our voluntary turnover rate has always been 3 percent or less.
  • The People of Southwest Airlines are the creators of what we have become.
  • We give our thanks — and our love — to the People of Southwest Airlines for creating a marvelous Family and a wondrous airline!
  • We do think it’s very important to always show a healthy sense of humor. We’ve told new hires the same thing for years — we want them to take our business seriously, but we don’t want them to take themselves too seriously.
  • We often say that other airlines can copy our business plan from top to bottom, but Southwest stands apart from the clones because of our People and how we treat them.
  • Our Culture motivates and sustains us. So, for many of us, being part of our Company is not just a vocation — it’s truly a mission.
  • If you don’t take great care of your customers, somebody else will.
  • We want to create Raving Fans®, not simply satisfied customers.
  • The publicity we get from stories our Raving Fan Customers share about how our Employees treat them is more valuable and revenue-generating than advertising.
  • Our Flight Crews are always thinking of creative ways to make flights interesting and fun for our Passengers.
  • Let’s look at costs first, because in today’s competitive environment, the prize goes to those who can do more with less.
  • Downsizing is an energy drain, and it’s by no means the only way to manage costs. We started with a pared-down, efficient organization and have stayed that way, so downsizing has not been a big issue.
  • Treat your People as your business partners when it comes to managing costs.
  • If you keep your people well informed and let them use their brains, you’ll be amazed at how they can help manage costs.
  • One of our Flight Attendants suggested we take our logo off our trash bags, which had been color printed — this saved us about $ 100,000 a year.
  • Our Flight Attendants also noticed how many fresh lemons were going to waste on every flight because very few Passengers asked for them, so we eliminated lemons and have saved a lot of money that way.
  • Listen to suggestions from Employees.
  • Many revenue-generating ideas including our Early Bird fare, our Bags Fly Free program, our PAWS (Pets Are Welcome on Southwest) program, and our “cashless cabin” policy come from Employees.
  • Our union folks participate in everything we do; their Leaders are involved in all major decision making. As business partners, we are on the same side of the table.

Citizen of Choice

  • We are not only concerned about our People, our Customers, and our financial well-being, but also about how we give back to the community.

A Compelling Vision

  • Having some clarity about a compelling vision is crucial.
  • Three key elements of a compelling vision: 1) Significant purpose — What business are you in? 2) Picture of the future — What will the future look like if you are successful? 3) Clear values — What guides your behavior and decisions on a daily basis?
  • A Compelling Vision Tells You Who You Are (Your Purpose), Where You Are Going (Your Picture of the Future), And What Will Guide Your Journey (Your Values).
  • 1) I think a higher purpose is something that takes precedence over any short-term goal like profit.
  • We’re in the Customer Service business — we just happen to provide airline transportation.
  • 2) The second element of a compelling vision is having a picture of the future.
  • Our picture of the future is that every American has the “Freedom to Fly.”
  • To make that happen, we want to keep our costs low (resulting in low fares) while maintaining an efficient, reliable way to fly. We also want people to enjoy flying, so we want to keep our spirits high (warm, friendly, and fun-spirited Employees), which all amounts to Legendary Customer Service.
  • When we were just starting out, we wanted to “democratize the skies.”
  • Bill Gates wanted to democratize the computer industry!
  • It started with Herb and Colleen . . . and Gary Kelly now — they care for their Employees. They genuinely care for us.
  • 3) The third and final element of a compelling vision: having clear, guiding values.
  • People can’t focus on more than three or four values, if those values are to guide their behavior.
  • We have identified three key values: Warrior Spirit, Servant’s Heart, and Fun-LUVing Attitude.
  • You want to be a winner. People don’t want to work for a loser. You want to win at what you set out to do.
  • So it’s a strong competitive spirit, but not in a warlike way.
  • Work hard and play hard.
  • Our second value: a Servant’s Heart. That’s the core of knowing how to lead with love.
  • People need to have a Servant’s Heart — a passion for serving others.
  • Our People enjoy what they do, and they pass that joy onto our Customers.
  • The way you treat Employees and respect them and the way they trust your word and trust you.
  • Our People know that they can expect us to always treat them with respect.
  • Book: A Life of Servant Leadership by Robert K Greenleaf.
  • Don’t ever ask anyone to do something that you wouldn’t be willing to do right along with them.
  • Herb sat right there with me until four o’clock in the morning, on the floor, licking envelopes and putting stamps on envelopes.
  • We’re all in it together.
  • Pilots come back and help us pick up trash.
  • The first is to give underperformers a loving reprimand for not living up to our expectations.
  • The second step kicks in: career planning. We let underperformers pursue their career someplace else.
  • One of the important things I’ve learned over the years is that behavior is controlled by its consequences.
  • We want to enjoy our work life as much as we do our home life.
  • We have fun, we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we maintain perspective, we celebrate successes, we enjoy work, and we are passionate Team players.
  • Having fun is part of our Culture.
  • We actually test for a sense of humor when we hire People.
  • We sent a rude customer a note that said, ‘We will miss you.’
  • Once you become legendary in your service, your Customers and fans often exaggerate or even fabricate stories.
  • On Halloween, we dress up in crazy outfits and have a lot of fun.
  • Fun means we enjoy and celebrate life and each other in a laid-back, down-to-earth environment that is welcoming, warm, and enjoyable.
  • We celebrate everything.
  • We have a gazillion Employee recognition programs.
  • Early in our history we occasionally flew on “the other guys ” and we saw that there were no smiles, no warmth, and no enjoyment. It was all very robotic.
  • We made a decision that we didn’t have to be stodgy or stuffy to be a successful business. We didn’t even want to use the word professional.
  • Do you have a few well-established values for your organization or department that guide everyone’s behavior?
  • What business you are in (your purpose) and where you are going (your picture of the future).
  • Disney in entertainment, Nordstrom in retail, Chick-fil-A in quick-service restaurants, Ritz-Carlton in hospitality, Wegman’s in the grocery business, WD-40 in the “squeak and clean” business, Synovus in financial services and, of course, Southwest Airlines in the airline business.

What Makes Servant Leadership Work?

  • Vision and direction are the leadership part of Servant Leadership.
  • When it comes to vision, values, and direction, you have to say it over and over and over again until people get it right, right, right!
  • Servant Leaders feel their role is to help people achieve their goals.
  • Leaders serve and are responsive to people’s needs, training and developing them.
  • As a customer, you can always identify a self-serving bureaucracy when you have a problem and are confronted by ducks who quack, “It’s our policy! Quack! Quack! Quack!”
  • We empower our People to use common sense and good judgment. Yes, we have written rules and procedures, and you can go look at them, but I say to our folks every day, “The rules are guidelines. I can’t sit in Dallas, Texas, and write a rule for every single scenario you’re going to run into.
  • Our folks are marvelous about handling all kinds of situations with our Customers.
  • Servant Leadership and empowering your People is not soft management. It is management that not only gets great results but generates great human satisfaction for both our Employees and our Customers.

Defining Love

  • He identifies nine components of love: patience, kindness, generosity, courtesy, humility, unselfishness, good temper, guilelessness, and sincerity.
  • I think when you’re vulnerable, People realize that you, too, are human.
  • I loved the book The Power of Positive Thinking.
  • The second trait that Jim Collins identified to describe great leaders, after will, which we mentioned earlier, was humility.
  • People who are humble feel good about themselves. They have a solid self-esteem.

Maintaining a Strong Culture

  • Our reputation as a family-oriented Company is real.

Freakonomics Discusses Trader Joe’s

NEW YORK – MARCH 17: Shoppers line up inside Trader Joe’s for the grand opening on 14th Street on March 17, 2006 in New York City. Trader Joe’s, a specialty retail grocery store, has more than 200 stores in 19 states. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

Freakonomics did a podcast on Trader Joe’s strategy and company culture.

The Big Idea: ignore competitors and focus on your customers; hire for cultural fit.

How is Trader Joe’s different from competitors?

  • They are a privately held company.
  • They turn down all media requests.
  • They carry no brand names — only private labels.
  • They don’t advertise on TV, radio, internet, or print.
  • They don’t engage in social media.
  • They don’t offer coupons.
  • They don’t have a loyalty program or collect customer data.
  • They don’t offer self-checkout.
  • Their stores are small.
  • They carry 10% the total number of SKUs of competitors.
  • Their prices are lower than the competition.

How is Trader Joe’s doing vs competitors?

  • Their prices are lower than the competition, but…
  • They have 3-4x the sales per square foot of competitors, by a wide margin.
  • They are ranked in the Top 100 Companies to Work For.
  • Customers are loyal fans, with many web sites and FB groups dedicated to Trader Joe’s.

What are the key lessons for companies?

  • Ignore what your competitors are doing and think for yourself.
  • Try out different things and see what works.
  • Trader Joe’s competitive moat isn’t one thing. It’s the combination of culture, employees, values, private label strategy, real estate strategy, pricing strategy, and branding — all supporting each other.
  • Private labels means fewer vendors. Fewer vendors means more purchasing power. More purchasing power means lower COGS.
  • Focus new hire training on culture and values, vs process.
  • Good packaging and copywriting matters. Copywriting requires knowing your customer.
  • Low cost structure (few vendors, private labels, no advertising, cheap rent) gives them the opportunity to invest in the long-term. With the extra margin, they are able to 1) improve packaging and copywriting, 2) offer higher pay and better benefits to retain good employees, 3) spend more on training new hires, 4) hire more cashiers for a better experience — all while keeping prices low.
  • Understand human behavior. “Paradox of choice” means it might be better to have fewer choices. “Scarcity” means it might be better to have products available for a limited time. “Variety” means it might be better to continuously replace old products with new products.