For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For matter there is anti-matter. And for keystone habits, there are anti-keystone habits. As part of your 2021 planning, you should remove anti-keystone habit, the bad one that adversely affects so many areas of your life.
In his book the Power of Habits, Charles Duhigg introduced a concept called keystone habits, those habits that impact so many other habits. Improve one and countless other consequences arise. They don’t necessarily have to be good or bad, but he primarily identified good ones. He used the way in which Paul O’Neill transformed Alcoa Company. That was a surprisingly interesting vignette in the book. Watch O’Neill on youtube. He’s not exactly a charismatic speaker, but he knows what matters.
When O’Neill was hired at Alcoa in the early 1980’s, he told shareholders that he was going to focus on one thing and one thing alone: worker safety. Huh? What about profits? What about expansion? Business plans? Some shareholders immediately sold, thinking he was just a “do gooder” who would drive the company into the ground, but that’s not what happened.
That one focus: worker safety, led to so many good things. First obviously, the workers felt like they mattered, leading to greater focus. Secondly, the company also lowered down direct costs like worker’s compensation and health insurance costs. Thirdly, with workers not being injured, they were on the job, meaning more experienced workers producing more. Four to avoid injuries, workers were encouraged to report upwards to management safety concerns. In turn their bosses, were encouraged to listen to those concerns promoting communications up and down the line. To avoid injuries, they also needed detailed plans that the company implemented effectively. Each failure led to corrections. Of course, those same communication channels also included discussions about productivity and other easy to increase ways of cooperation.
I admit that this success story has a little of the after the fact success story that plague so many business books, but don’t get hung upon that. I am more interested in it as a compelling illustration of the ways in which improving one habit leads to so many other positive results.
They got me to thinking.
What are my good keystone habits, and more importantly what are my bad ones?
Duhigg doesn’t necessarily claim that keystones have to be good or bad ones, but I like thinking about the anti-keystone habits to apply to bad ones. I thought about what to call them. Trainwreck habits? Didn’t quite fit. We will see. For now, I am calling them Anti-Keystone Habits, those singular bad habits that lead to countless other bad consequences.
Alcohol is clearly an Anti-Keystone. About seven years, ago, I drank a couple glasses (or four) a night. Didn’t seem that bad, but there’s so many bad consequences. Don’t sleep as well, meaning deep rem sleep is lost. Lack of deep sleep makes us more tired the next day, meaning we aren’t as productive at work. It also makes you gain weight, meaning you have to go to a doctor more because you are significantly increasing likelihood of multiple health conditions. It costs a lot in multiple ways, the cost of buying it, which carries no nutritional value. That’s money that you could be spending on assets, giving you more money or reducing. That’s not to mention all of the other countless ways that it can dramatically impact your life in countless ways when you’re on the road. Fortunately, I was never tempted to do that after having a few.
In recalibrating life, I think it is easiest to subtract bad habits rather than add new ones. Take money for instance, much easier to reduce unnecessary expenses than to make more money. It is also another reason why I think that fasting is so effective. It is much easier just changing the timing of when you eat rather than adding new foods to the diet.
So for me, I am going to remove one anti-keystone habit. I am going to remove my once a week alcohol consumption and save it for the occasional IPA after a long bike ride, and some summer events. It’s just too anti-keystone.
Tomorrow, I am going to return to the fasting topic. Friends, I have been reading so much on all of the various diets, the traditional, the keto, the paleo, the carnivore, the vegan, and I will not resolve any of the debates, but these diet debates and their complexity just underscore to me why fasting just makes so much sense.
It is simple.
We’ll explore why that simplicity works so well for our primitive emotion laden brains. We’ll explore the ice picks through the brain, Johan Lehrer, and my favorite Malcolm Gladwell video on Spaghetti sauce.
Hope you’re all having a strong start to your week!