Leo shares some advice on his writing process, what keeps him motivated, and how to create your own good habits in the near year and beyond.
Helen: Congratulations on being super close to finishing your book! How does it feel? How did it feel when you began?
Leo: You have no idea what kind of journey this has been. I set out to write this at the beginning of the year, with the idea that this would be my “best book ever”. That ended up being too high a bar to meet — who has the ability to create perfection? I’ve struggled with that ever since.
But in lots of ways this has been an incredible learning experience. I wrote the first version of this book for a group of 10 alpha testers, sending them each chapter as it was written, having them put it into action, and then journal … and I’d read and respond to their journals. So it was a great way to get feedback on my book, and see where I needed to make improvements, based on real-world testing.
I then rewrote the whole book, and then scrapped that version because I wasn’t happy with it, and recently re-wrote the entire thing again. And now I’m happy. What a journey! It’s been amazing, and I can’t wait for people to read it.
Helen: What's been the biggest challenge in taking on such a big project?
Leo: I had to cut out everything else to focus on this, including killing two projects! I was enjoying working on a lot. And because it is such a daunting project, I’ve agonized over this book for months, which is a lot of struggle. And fun!
One of the biggest challenges, actually, is the self-doubt that comes with publishing your own book, especially in a new way like this. I’ve been in doubt the entire way… but the big lesson for me is that I can be in doubt, and still move forward. I can be uncertain, and still be OK. Being uncertain doesn’t mean I can’t act.
Helen: What's been your biggest motivation in the last year?
Leo: When I talk to people who are really struggling in their lives — with unhappiness, with themselves, with relationship problems, with addictions, with the inability to change habits — I really want to find a way to help. I don’t always have the answers of course, but if I can help people deal with their struggles, this is an amazingly meaningful way to work. I hope what I’ve been doing is helpful, but I never know. That’s OK too … even if I don’t help people the way I’d like, I think just having the right intention is meaningful. You can’t control how your work is used by others.
Helen: Any advice for someone looking to break a habit? Start a good one?
Leo: Yes, I’ve written a whole book on it! But in brief:
- Start with one habit at a time — the rest will come in time.
- Start with the smallest version of that habit as you can.
- Fully commit yourself to your habit change — if you bet $10,000 that you’d succeed, would you even consider failure? Be all in.
- Build support and accountability by making your habit social and doing it with others or having friends hold you accountable.
- Learn to watch but not follow your urges. Delay!
- Be mindful as you do the habit, and find things to appreciate and enjoy, so that the habit itself is the reward.
- Learn as you go — if you mess up, just figure out what went wrong, and adjust. Let your habit plan evolve as you learn what your obstacles are.
Helen: When you have an off day, week, or month, how do you get back on track?
Leo: I have these off days and weeks all the time. It usually comes when I’m tired from travel or lack of sleep, or if I get stuck with something and don’t know how to overcome the struggle. For the first problem, I just try to be compassionate with myself and let myself take a bit of a break, and get more sleep. But the second is tougher: I try to find a new way out by tackling the problem from a different angle, or talk to friends about it, or break it into a really easy task, or get some accountability by creating a public challenge around it. Whatever it takes to overcome the struggle — and what I’ve found is that I can always overcome it, and learn something along the way.
Helen: What's next?
Leo: I’m focused right now in wrapping up the book and getting it into people’s hands. I’m also creating a couple bonus guides on procrastination/effectiveness, and mindfulness, for people who back this book. And I’m going to add in a manifesto on how to create a movement of change in the world! I think this can be an exciting movement — change yourself, and change the world.
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Love to write?
Every month we select at few writers to help us explore what it means to live a life of reflection and intention. Reach out to Jennifer, our Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
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