Minimalism, Success, and the Curious Writing Habit of George R.R. Martin

In 1971, a young writer graduated with his Masters degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. He spent the first 13 years of his career writing professionally and made a living from it, but without major success. In 1983, he released his fourth book, The Armageddon Rag.

Nobody read it—the book was a total flop. In the author’s own words, “It essentially destroyed my career as a novelist at the time.” [1, 2]

But he was determined and so he found ways to keep writing. He landed a job writing a television script for CBS. Soon after, the show was cancelled. He managed to work his way onto another TV series, this time on ABC, but it was cancelled again. In 1991, after nearly a decade of bouncing around, he decided to start writing fiction again.

Two million words later, George R.R. Martin was famous.

Martin is the best-selling author of the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. The first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, has also been turned into a blockbuster television series on HBO. (The first season of the show was nominated for 13 Emmy awards.) [3] The epic 7-part series that hasn’t even been finished (Martin is currently working on the sixth book), but it has already sold more than 25 million copies.

What is most surprising isn’t how good the books are, but how, exactly, Martin writes his best-selling works…
[click to continue reading...]

Hacking the Workout Journal: How to Track Your Workouts in the Simplest, Most Effective Way Possible

Today I’m going to share my system for recording my workouts.

In my opinion, tracking your workouts (whether it be with a workout journal, a fitness app, or something else) should accomplish 3 goals…

  1. It should be quick and easy, so that you can spend your time exercising. Your time should be spent doing the work, not recording it.
  2. It should be useful. Our modern world is overflowing with data and most of it is never acted upon. I prefer a system that records the essential information of what I have done (so I can see my progress), that reduces errors while I am working out (so that I can be more effective with my time), and that helps me make informed decisions about what to do during my next workout.
  3. It should be versatile. I don’t want to have to find a new app or develop a new system every time I want to do a different style of workout. I should be able to adapt my current system to any style of training.

With those goals in mind, here’s the workout journal tracking system that has worked best for me.
[click to continue reading...]

Sisu: How to Develop Mental Toughness in the Face of Adversity

Without warning, Soviet Union planes came roaring over the city of Helsinki, Finland on November 30, 1939. Finland was about to receive a violent shove into World War II.

The Soviets dropped more than 350 bombs during the raid. Innocent civilians died. Entire buildings were turned to dust. And it was just the beginning. Three hours before the air strike, more than 450,000 Soviet soldiers began marching across the Finnish border. The Soviet soldiers outnumbered the Finnish army almost 3-to-1. That wasn’t the worst of it. The Soviets also commanded more than 6,000 armored tanks and almost 4,000 aircraft. Finland, meanwhile, had just 32 tanks and 114 aircraft. [1]

It was the beginning of what became known as the Winter War. For the Finns, there was no question whether some of them would die. The question was whether any of them would survive.
[click to continue reading...]

Warren Buffett’s “2 List” Strategy: How to Maximize Your Focus and Master Your Priorities

With well over 50 billion dollars to his name, Warren Buffett is consistently ranked among the wealthiest people in the world. Out of all the investors in the 20th century, Buffett was the most successful.

Given his success, it stands to reason that Buffett has an excellent understanding of how to spend his time each day. From a monetary perspective, you could say that he manages his time better than anyone else.

And that’s why the story below, which was shared directly from Buffett’s employee to my good friend Scott Dinsmore, caught my attention.

Let’s talk about the simple 3-step productivity strategy that Warren Buffett uses to help his employees determine their priorities and actions.
[click to continue reading...]

Behavior Multipliers: 4 Reasonable Ways to Achieve Overnight Success

Most of the time, I think our constant quest to achieve faster results is a trap.

We get so obsessed on the goal that we forget that the system is what matters. We get so obsessed with the outcome that we overlook the repetitions we need to do to get there. We become so focused on the short-term results that we forget to build the long-term habits that make the real difference.

However, there are a few strategies—four of them at least—that will actually accelerate the results you enjoy without ignoring the importance of building better habits. I call these strategies “Behavior Multipliers” because the multiply and enhance your ability to take the right action on a consistent basis.

Let’s talk about these multipliers and how they work.
[click to continue reading...]

The Theory of Cumulative Stress: How to Recover When Stress Builds Up

It was my first year of graduate school and my professor was standing at the front of the room. He was telling our class about a mistake he made years before.

About a decade earlier, my professor had been one of the senior executives at Sears, Roebuck & Company, the large department store chain. They were in the middle of a massive national campaign and preparing for a major brand launch. My professor was leading the operation.

For almost two months prior to the launch day, he was flying all over the country to strike up buzz with major partners and media companies. While criss-crossing the country on flight after flight, he was also trying to run his department from the road. For weeks on end he would meet with the media and business partners all day, answer emails and phone calls all night, squeeze in 3 or 4 hours of sleep, and wake up to do it all over again.

The week before the big launch day, his body gave out on him. He had to be rushed to the hospital. Major organs had started to fail from the chronic stress. He spent the next eight days lying in a hospital bed, unable to do anything as the launch day came and went.
[click to continue reading...]

Threshold Theory: How Smart Do You Have to Be to Succeed?

How smart do you have to be to succeed?

What about to become a creative genius? Did Picasso and Mozart use superhuman intelligence to create their masterpieces?

And similarly…

  • How intelligent do you need to be to become a successful entrepreneur?
  • How good does your training program need to be to become an elite athlete?
  • How perfect does your weight loss program need to be to burn fat?

These are questions that we don’t often ask ourselves, but they are built into our beliefs and actions about many phases of life. We often think that the reason we aren’t succeeding is because we haven’t found the right strategy or because we weren’t born with the right talents.

Perhaps that is true. Or, perhaps there is an untold side of the story…
[click to continue reading...]

“Email is Where Keystrokes Go to Die.”

Scott Hanselman, a Microsoft employee and productivity expert, was speaking about effectiveness on stage. And he was ready to make a simple, but important point.

“Email is where keystrokes go to die,” he said. “You have a finite number of keystrokes left in your hands before you die.” [1, 2]

His point was clear: Every keystroke you type is one stroke closer to your last. And because every keystroke counts the same, why spend so many of those keystrokes answering emails that 1 person will read and then never look at again, when you could be using those same keystrokes to write an article that will help a thousand people? Or a blog comment that 10 people will read? Or a poem that 25 people will enjoy? [3]

This is one of the primary reasons why I publish my articles every Monday and Thursday. I want some of my keystrokes to be useful for as many people as possible. I believe that when you share your writing, you lead at scale.

And this idea applies to far more than just email and keystrokes…
[click to continue reading...]

Free Download: Mastering Creativity (1st Edition)

I’m excited to release a new guide today! It’s called Mastering Creativity and you can get it for free below.

This guide covers the creative strategies of the greatest artists, musicians, and writers in the world—Pablo Picasso, Franz Kafka, Dr. Seuss and many more. The full guide is packed with 36 pages of information on how creativity works, how to overcome the mental blocks that all artists face, and how to make creative thinking a habit.

Mastering Creativity by James Clear
[click to continue reading...]

How to Uncover Your Creative Talent by Using the “Equal Odds Rule”

Paul Erdos was a strange man. He lived out of two suitcases, never learned how to cook his own meals, worked up to 19 hours per day, took amphetamines daily and washed them down with caffeine, and gave away nearly all of the money that he earned. [1]

Erdos was also the most prolific mathematician of the 20th century. He wrote or co-authored over 1,500 mathematical articles during his career and partnered with over 500 different collaborators. As you would expect, his contributions to mathematics were significant.

Erdos solved a variety of difficult problems. He worked out a proof for the prime number theorem. He led the development of Ramsey theory. He discovered the proof for a difficult mathematical riddle known as Bertrand’s postulate. Long story short, Erdos was good. He worked his tail off and advanced the field of mathematics because of it.

And yet, do you know what became of the vast majority of his 1,500 articles and papers?

Nothing. They are long gone. Forgotten. Tucked away in the archives of an old research journal or filed into a box at the bottom of some math lover’s closet. And that is why the story of Paul Erdos is perhaps the best example of what is known as the Equal Odds Rule.

Let’s talk about what this rule means and how it can help you uncover your creative talent.
[click to continue reading...]