Do the Opposite #71

Habit Peaks and Valleys, Survey Results, Routine vs Practice, Getting Ready for Tomorrow

Good News Everyone!

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Habit Peaks & Valleys

Sometimes You Have to Push Through the Valley to Get to the next Peak

I’ve noticed this with my own habits. With any given habit there are periods when it’s very easy to stick to the habit and it doesn’t seem to require any energy to maintain. Other periods are the opposite: it becomes difficult to find motivation to do the absolute basics of the habit, I find myself skipping days and in general having trouble being consistent with it.

I think this is natural to us humans: going through productive periods and periods of rest and mild apathy. I call the productive phase “peak” and the lazy phase “valley”. Knowing that these exist, however, can help us in our quest to change and build great habits.

The next time you find yourself in such a valley (a low period), make it your focus to do at least the absolute minimum needed to maintain the habit and don’t judge yourself too harshly. Don’t expect to hit the same level of effort as you had when you enjoyed being at the peak period. Most importantly, don’t belittle and don’t blame yourself for the decreased effort.

Your mission should be maintaining the consistency, because there is the next peak coming right after. You just need to keep on keeping on until it’s here. If you manage to do that, you will save the progress you’ve made so far and give yourself a chance to take it further in the next peak period.

DTO Survey Results

Thanks to everyone who took part in the Do the Opposite survey I’ve sent out last week. It was eye-opening to find out what themes you want to read and learn about the most.

If you have some time to fill it out - please do it: I’m still gathering data and the more I have the better I understand the needs and wants of the community.

The majority of you said that the main topic of this newsletter should be “How to form habits”. I’m very happy to hear that, as habit formation is my favourite subject to learn and write about, as well as to experiment with in my own life.

This doesn’t mean however that there will not be content on other cool subjects we’ve explored before, like minimalism, personal finance, overcoming creative blocks, and more. These will still find their place in DTO newsletter, though the focus will be on habits.

This also means that I will have a lot more cool stuff to share with the DTO community beyond this newsletter (coming soon!), for example in the Do the Opposite Telegram channel.

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“It’s Not About Routine, but About Practice” by Ryan Holiday

The distinction Ryan makes between routine and practice is important. Routines are habitual actions and action sequences we do that have rigid parameters: waking up at 6 and making breakfast, reading for 20 minutes before going to sleep at night. Due to their rigid nature, these usually break down in times of major life changes (such as starting a new job with a different schedule, having kids, moving to a different city, etc.)

Practice is resilient. It’s a habit that goes beyond the basic parameters of time and place, it’s the essence of habit. Our practice changes with us as our life changes. It’s malleable. A couple of example of a practice: meditation, playing an instrument, writing, coding.

If we find that due to a schedule change we can’t meditate in the morning anymore, we don’t stop meditating altogether: we switch to meditating in the evening. If we get tired/ burnt out of working with a specific programming language or framework, we don’t stop coding altogether: we find some other tech to use in our programming pursuits.

The goal then is to treat the most important (to you) habits as your practice, to strengthen them and make sure you stick to them no matter what happens around you.

“Getting Ready for Tomorrow” by Steven Pressfield

A helpful reminder that even the highly productive & successful among us still battle their inner fears, doubts and self-sabotage every day. We need to develop rituals that get us into the set of mind in which we are able to defeat the Resistance consistently: that’s the only way to make sure we stay on course towards completing our projects.


The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers | Adam Grant

A very fun talk which illuminates how creative people think and why they are often misunderstood and not valued as highly as they deserve to be. Bonus: a short story of an unfortunate investment decision :)

Living on a Self-Sufficient Sailboat for 10 Years | Exploring Alternatives

Here at Do the Opposite we often explore alternative lifestyles: to broaden our horizons, see what other options are available besides the “tunnel vision” of a standard life. Some of these alternatives are a bit extreme for most of us, but that’s not the point.

The point is to keep exploring what’s out there and untie our future from the expected, to truly self-direct our lives. Here’s a great example of a lifestyle that’s a bit too much for many, but worth learning about.

I especially love learning more about the ways people find to be self-sufficient, such as using solar batteries, finding your own food, etc. Hope you enjoy this one too!

Featured Tweet



“I think it’s important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy. [With analogy] we are doing this because it’s like something else that was done, or it is like what other people are doing. [With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths…and then reason up from there.”
— Elon Musk

“Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, ‘I’m never going to write my symphony.’ Instead we say, ‘I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”
— Steven Pressfield

“Going out of your way to find uncomfortable situations isn’t natural, but it’s essential.”
— Seth Godin

Trying out this new thing: If you enjoyed this newsletter, leave a like and/or a comment:

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I’m building an app called ZERNO to help you build & stick to habits ― if you join the waitlist, you’ll be in the limited few to get early access to the app!

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There's also a YouTube channel with weekly videos on the same themes that are covered in this newsletter. Take a look at the channel here and let the ideas influence you into an improved and happier life!

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Do the Opposite has a public Telegram channel. The content there is a little different than in the newsletter: faster to consume, a bit more random ― basically anything weird or interesting that catches my eye: articles, tweets, videos, images, etc. Hope to see you there as well! :)

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Keep doing the opposite,
Alex Kallaway