The running water in North Idaho is always cold, but especially in Winter. I hesitated this morning, as I usually do – then I stepped in.
Just over a year ago, I decided to start taking straight cold showers every day. Inspired by a close friend and encouraged by some YouTube videos of Wim “The Iceman” Hoff, I jumped in.
It was rough.
For over a decade now I’ve ended nearly all of my showers on cold water. It’s good for your circulation and takes away the cold feeling you often get otherwise when you step out of the shower (I know, it seems ironic, but it works).
Starting on cold and staying cold is a whole different story, though. There’s something about cold water in the morning that just isn’t the same as a nice hot shower.
My secret for the first few months was deep breathing. I loosely followed the Wim Hoff method and practiced several rounds of breathing in the morning before I took the shower. That made a noticeable difference in my tests. Deep breathing charges the body with oxygen and, for some reason, takes the edge off the cold.
After awhile, though, I adjusted.
I still do deep breathing every day, but often not right before the shower (the affect of blocking cold wears off within minutes). And as the water gets colder here in Winter, I face that daily question.. “Hey Jonathan, are you sure you want to do this?”
Beyond the question, though, I don’t really think about it anymore. This week marks an entire year of taking a cold shower every day. It’s a well engrained habit that I don’t plan to change.
So, why not? Why would I do this to myself?
Well, a few reasons.
It’s good for me. Call it a placebo or not, I don’t get sick as much as I used to. (Here’s an article on Healthline that lists some of the benefits of cold water)
Even more than that, though.. in a world where the luxury of hot water is often readily available, a cold shower is a choice, a self-imposed obstacle. And by choosing to embrace that obstacle, especially at the start of the day, I’m giving myself the gift of a sense of accomplishment. On some days, it’s no big deal. On other days, though, especially difficult ones, knowing that I can get up and do something and that even if the day is falling apart I can complete my tiny habits, is just what I’ve needed to keep momentum going.
It’s still not easy, cold water is cold water. But I’ve grown to love it.
If you want to try it for yourself, I suggest you either start by ending on cold for awhile while you get used to the idea (that’s a great first habit!). If you want to jump in, start with Wim Hoff’s breathing technique. You’ll get the benefits of better breathing and a cold shower together!
P.S. The first edition of the Tiny Habits book is in print and ready to order! Buy your copy today for $10 (with free shipping!) and I’ll send you a personally autographed copy. I’ll also send you a free digital copy as well!
I’m excited! 400 days ago I decided that I would do at least 4 sets of pushups a day. And I’ve done it! I haven’t missed a single day since.
I’ve also gone from being able to barely complete a total of 4 pushups per day (1 pushup for each “set”) to, starting last week, a minimum of 100 pushups per day.
If that’s all that I’d done, I’d be happy.. but it turned out that pushups were just the beginning.
As I shared in my tiny habits story, pushups became a catalyst for a wide range of habit experiments that, today, culminate in more than 20 different habits I track.
For example, today was day 324 of taking a cold shower.
It’s also (work) day 54 of spending 5 minutes or more processing Slack.
That’s great. There’s more, though. I’ve experienced a benefit I didn’t expect.
See, I had a difficult week last week. I had some strong “down” moments where I really didn’t feel like doing much of anything. There were good things happening, but it just wasn’t clicking for me.
I wanted to stay in bed, do nothing.
I felt overwhelmed on multiple fronts and I was feeling “all done”.
So I turned to my habits.
See, they’re all tiny, ridiculously so.
On one particularly difficult day last week I decided to embrace how I was feeling. I made myself a deal. “Just finish off the habits left on your list and you can call it a day.”
So I got to work, spending 5 minutes here, 2 minutes there, working through my list.
Two things happened:
I got through the list and felt accomplished.
I spent more time on several of the items that I needed to, and didn’t mind.
Whereas in the past I might have just called the day a loss or fumbled awkwardly (and unproductively) through it I was able to use tiny habits to propel me towards progress and maintain momentum, without relying on feeling motivated to do so.
And that’s all!
Oh, today is also day 33 of working on my Tiny Habits book! If you’d like to get a copy when it ships in December, pre-order today.
I’d been struggling with my exercise routine for awhile now. The problem with my routine was that it didn’t exist. My hours in front of a computer each day were broken up by the occasional walk to the bathroom or kitchen. I’d long been convinced of the benefits of consistent exercise, but being convinced just wasn’t enough.
During a flight home I sat next to a woman who appeared to be in her mid to late forties. Over the course of our conversation the topic of health came up. She was older than she looked and seemed healthier than most folks far younger, myself included. We talked about exercise and the importance of doing something, which was much better than doing nothing.
That conversation stuck with me.
A few days later, I came across several “30 Day Pushup Challenge” videos on YouTube based on the idea of doing 100 pushups per day. I felt inspired to try the challenge – after all, I could see results in as early as 30 days!
There was a problem, though. I could barely complete a single pushup. 100 per day wasn’t going to happen.
I was still inspired, though, so I decided I’d try something else. I decided I would do 4 sets of pushups per day, starting with just 1 pushup at a time.
And so I began.
I used an app called Productive to track my progress and got to work. I set reminders on my phone and completed my 4 sets throughout the day.
I started on October 2, 2017. I haven’t missed a single day since.
In the beginning, my friends laughed. After all, what difference would 4 pushups a day make?
After a few weeks, though, the number of pushups per set began to increase. Soon, I was at 3, then 5.
As of this writing, over a year later, I’m averaging 100+ pushups per day.
This story would have been a great personal success if that’s all that had happened. But it turned out pushups were just the beginning.
Inspired by the progress I’d made after a few weeks I started to experiment with different habits. At first, I tried too hard. I chose habits like “Write for an hour a day” that I just wasn’t able to keep up. Then I reminded myself why the pushup habit had worked – I had started ridiculously small. I stopped the habits that weren’t working and tried smaller ones.
Over time, I expanded and refined my list of habits to over 20, moving beyond health to family, work, and personal growth.
While some habits made a big difference quickly, most changes were imperceptibly small. It’s only as I look back months and years later that I notice the compounded effects
I’ve learned that tiny habits, laughably or even embarrassingly tiny habits, can make a big difference over time.
Now, every chance I get I encourage the folks I meet to start a tiny habit. Tiny habits have made a big difference in my life and I know they can in yours too.
If you’re ready for an exercise habit, start with pushups! Download the Productive app, and add four habits: “Pushup set #1″, “Pushup set #2″, “Pushup set #3″, and “Pushup set #4″. Here’s a link to the video I used to learn pushups form.
It was the last night in Cabo. There I was, sitting on the patio after dinner, breathing in cigar smoke, listening to snippets of a conversation, then jumping into another, laughing hard with the group as we shared stories, enjoying drinks, and just taking it all in. It felt surreal and perfect. It was clear that we’d all had an incredible experience.
I had added my name to the CaboPress waiting list just the week before. It turns out I had stumbled into perfect timing. Chris Lema sent me an email – there had just been a cancellation and he had an extra room. He invited me to join and I booked my flights. I’d heard good things from former attendees, but I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve never been to Mexico and the idea of sessions held in a pool was intriguing, but it seemed like it could also be terrible.
It was perfect.
Reflecting back on the past few days, a few highlights stand out to me.
A great host makes a big difference
13 years in WordPress and this was actually my first time meeting Chris. I’d heard good things and had positive expectations, but I didn’t know what to actually expect. I’m a bit of an introvert and being in a new environment where I don’t know folks well is a stressor.
On Monday evening, Chris called us together in the lobby to welcome us. As we pressed in to the group, I fought with my fears.. “Wow, I don’t know most of these people.. Do I really belong here? Do I have anything to offer?” After a few moments of light introductions, Chris cut right to the chase. He encouraged us clearly and directly – “You all belong here.” He reminded us that we each have much to offer and that we’re all here to learn and grow together.
I felt comfortable again and as Chris explained how the next few days would play out my fears transformed into excitement.
A great host makes a big difference. Chris Lema is a great host.
The benefits of “different”
Chris designed CaboPress to be inherently different. On Tuesday morning, we kicked off the first session on “High Value Courses”. By itself, it would have been a great session. Jennifer Bourne set the stage and then lead us into a focused discussion covering a range of strategies and tactics for thinking about and offering high value courses to our customers.
But having that session in a pool, introduced an entirely new dynamic. With no laptops, no presentation, and each of us in our swimming suits with various degrees of sunscreen applied, it was clear to our brains that this was different.
The environment made it hard to not be relaxed and engaged. As a result, I found the sessions more memorable and more impactful. When I think back on Allison’s session on writing a book or Brennan’s session on personalization, I have a whole additional range of senses and context that deepen the message’s resonance.
In a world with increasingly strong pulls at our time and attention, it was great to go to event that required less time (only two sessions a day) and gave more because it chose to be different.
The benefits of giving
Chris had set the stage for us on the opening night. He reminded us that we were each invited because we have something of unique value to give. Our hosts, each extraordinary and remarkable in their own right, were there to lead discussions, not lecture. Accordingly, we would each get out of the sessions what we put in.
I took the message to heart and focused my energies on leaning in, on listening, and on looking for ways that I could contribute my own experience and expertise.
As I did so, I discovered new questions to ask myself and began seeing the answers to questions I didn’t know I’d been asking. There is incredible inherent benefit to giving and the context and environment of CaboPress provides rich opportunity to do so.
What I received
On a personal level, I made new friends. Over lunches, dinners, and pool side chats, I got to know new people and deepen my context / relationship with folks I’d already known. Life is so much better with friends and I look forward to growing friendships with the folks I met in the months and years to come.
On a professional level, over the sessions and through personal and group conversations I developed a broader perspective, a deeper context, and a richer appreciation for the diversity of our open web ecosystem. I love WordPress even more : ).
I look forward to developing partnerships and creating new opportunities around the values we’ve identified individually and collectively.
CaboPress 2018 was excellent. Chris has created an extraordinary experience that will stick with me for years to come. If I get the privilege of being invited back I look forward to returning and if I don’t (Chris tries to keep alumni to less than 50%) I look forward to hearing the experiences of the new folks!