Environment Design For Your Habits

How important is your environment to sticking to good habits?

James Clear argues that it’s the most important factor, even more than willpower. I’ve posted about willpower before. Willpower, like a muscle, gets tired – over the course of making decisions and exerting self-control, your willpower depletes. After that happens, you are more likely to make decisions based on your environment. So what does this mean? You can design your environment to help you make better choices and stick to habits. Here are some examples:

Let’s say you want to limit your snoozing in the morning. If you put your alarm across the room so you have too actually get out of bed, that will definitely help. Then also set the delay brew on your coffee maker to start making coffee right before you wake up, so you arise to the smell of a fresh pot of coffee. If you are already out of bed, and have a pot of coffee hot and ready in the kitchen, do you think that could help you not hit the snooze?

Let’s say you want to watch less TV. Well, you can do what I did in 2008 and just get rid of your TV all together. Or for a less drastic option, maybe just get rid of the TV in your bedroom so you can read before going to bed instead of watching late night TV. Or maybe put the remote control away in a drawer, so if you want to watch TV, you actually have to walk into a different room to grab it and turn on the TV.

I wanted to start a habit of taking my vitamins everyday. What made it difficult was that I had a lot of different vitamins so it was a process to take out 1 multivitamin, 1 fish oil, 1 probiotic, 1 vitamin C, 1 turmeric, and 1 Protandim every morning, so I would just skip it. But once my mom gave me one of those super dorky vitamin holders that has a compartment for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc, it was way easier to take my vitamins. Now I take them almost every day. (Thanks mom!)

Here is an awesome article about 10 easy ways to design healthier eating habits: http://jamesclear.com/eat-healthy-without-thinking

Here are links to a couple other articles written by James Clear on this topic:




Don’t Fail Your New Year’s Resolutions Just Yet

It’s been 2 weeks since the new year, and based on statistics, if you’re like most people, you’ve already failed your resolutions.
Yes, it’s sad, I know.
There are many different ways to approach goals that can all be successful. I’ve written about many of the processes on this blog:
  1. SMART goals – if your goals meet these 5 criteria: specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and timely- you will accomplish them. This one is so good we built the app around it.
  2. Set process goals, not outcome goals. I think this is THE BEST goal setting advice I read about and wrote about all year. An outcome goal is “I want to lose 20 lbs.” A process goal would be “I want to stick to the Slow Carb diet for 90 days” or “I want to go to the gym 4 times per week.” Action, the process, and the system are FAR MORE IMPORTANT than the outcome. The outcome gets you nowhere.
  3. Set theme goals and focus goals. Instead of coming up with a list of 10 New Years resolutions that sound sexy but contradict each other, limit the number of goals you set (have a few “focus goals”) and make sure they revolve around a singular theme, for example: discipline, or forgiveness, or adventure.
  4. Make a goal poster and put it where you will see it everyday. A goal poster is a visual reminder of your goals and daily motivation.
  5. Set monthly goals like Gretchen Rubin in the Happiness Project.
  6. Make a bucket list, and make sure to actually write it down.
  7. And we don’t have to get fancy… Most people don’t even set goals at all, let alone write them down. Just set a goal and go.
But here’s what I think…
Whatever method you chose, it doesn’t really matter as much as one other thing…
Action. Go do something. Put in the work. Grind it out. Forget the goal posters and apps and SMART acronyms, and just go DO something right now.
Here is why I think you’re NOT going to accomplish your New Year’s resolutions:
  1. Because you won’t put in the work (aka you’re lazy).
  2. Because you have no self disipline.
  3. Because you don’t really care.
  4. Because you make excuses. Your excuses rule you.
  5. Because the process is messy, and the grind is difficult, and you can’t hang. You’re going to give up.
The Smart Goals app is just a place to start and track. Setting process goals is a great approach, but it’s just an approach. The goals poster will look really cool on your wall. You don’t get a participation trophy for writing down your goals, or making your goal poster. And you definitely won’t get any instant gratification like you’re used to. So after setting a goal, putting the steps in your app, etc… what’s next?
The grind. The messy middle. The work. The shit. The process. And after that?
Everything. Everything you want. The person you want to be. Achievement. Victory. Right?
Want the grind. Love the process. Become who you want to be in the messy middle, in the shit. That’s where it all happens.
After you realize that, everything changes.

The One-A-Month Program (with 3 examples)

One of the biggest mistakes in goal setting is setting too many goals at once. It’s actually #2 on Michael Hyatt’s list of the Top 10 Biggest MIstakes People Make in Setting Goals. So you can do what everyone else does this time of year and set a bunch of New Years Resolutions just to fail all of them… Or you can try a different approach: the one-a-month program. Achieving your goals requires focus. Try setting one goal or habit or theme for January, and a different one in February, and March, and so on. Here are some examples of this:
1. Earlier this year I read and wrote about The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen had a theme for each month of the year that would contribute to her being happier. For January, her theme was vitality, and the chapter was about boosting energy. March had a work theme, and was called aim higher. The theme of October was mindfulness, and was about paying attention. Because she only focused on one main theme per month, she didn’t get bored or lose steam, like what happens with most New Year’s resolutions.

2. A Simple Year course – this is a year long course about simplifying your life in order to focus on what really matters. Each month, a different author will teach you about simplifying a certain area of your life.

A Simple Year Course

3. 12 Changes for 2014 by ZenHabits – Leo from ZenHabits recommends 12 changes to focus on for 2014. One change a month equals 12 positive changes for the year. Here is an excerpt from Leo’s article:

You can take the usual approach and make a bunch of New Year’s resolutions, and fail at pretty much all of them. Or you can focus on one habit a month, and use proven techniques to make them stick.

At the end of a year, you’ll have 12 new habits. Even if only half of those habits managed to stick, your life would be greatly changed.

May I make a few suggestions?

  • Aim for long-term changes that will have compound interest over the years.
  • Make one change at a time for maximum effectiveness.
  • Find accountability to help yourself stick to the changes.
  • One per month means 12 changes for the year.

Here are the 12 changes I suggest for 2014:

  1. All-Day Mindfulness – in January we’re having a Month of Mindfulness in the Sea Change Program, focusing on
  2. Unprocrastination
  3. Exercise
  4. Meditation
  5. Self-compassion
  6. Wake early
  7. Declutter
  8. Let go of expectations
  9. Simple living
  10. Productivity
  11. Improve relationships
  12. Contentment

Hopefully this approach leads you to much more success and positive change than just another New Year’s resolution that you fail again.

What is your focus or theme for January? And February? I’d love to know!

My New Year’s Resolutions Always Involve Health, Travel, and Business

This is by far the most exciting time of the year for goal-setters like us. A new year is the prefect opportunity to make positive changes in your life and set goals. I wanted to share some resources I have used to help me accomplish my goals and New Year’s resolutions in my top 3 categories: health, travel, and business.

1. Health

The Quantified Diet Project

The most common New Year’s resolution is “I want to lose weight.” Well, I have something awesome that can help you with that. Lift just launched on January 1st The Quantified Diet Project. With advice from professors from UC Berkeley and Stanford, they organized this project to help you lose weight and get healthier, and to find out what diets really work the best. Once you join, you can chose from one of 10 popular diets – Paleo, Slow-Carb (I saw great success with this diet from Tim Ferriss, also see his book The Four Hour Body for more on this one), Vegetarian, Whole Foods, Gluten-free, no sweets, DASH, calorie-counting, Sleep More, and Mindful Eating. Each one of these diets is also advised by a coach so you can do it the right way and actually stick to it.

And the cool thing about this project is that it isn’t just to help millions of people stick to diets and improve their health and well-being, but its larger purpose is to measure the results of all the diets on a large scale, to compare and figure out what diets actually do work the best.

2. Travel

Screen shot 2014-01-02 at 9.08.18 AM

I have one main tip of advice for you: LEARN TO TRAVEL HACK. Travel hacking is learning how to use credit card sign-up bonuses and airline and hotel loyalty programs and branded credit cards to get free flights and hotels. I can write for days and days on this topic, but for now I will just provide you with a few places to start.

Join the Travel Hacking Cartel. You will be updated with all things travel hacking… best current credit card sign up bonuses and promotions, different other ways to earn and use points, and news that maters related to travel hacking and airline and hotel loyalty programs. And the best part, they guarantee that you will earn 4 free flights for every year you are a member! Definitely worth the small fee.

Get a credit card that is best for travel rewards. This is a great article from The Points Guy that shows you the top 5, and why they are the best credit cards for travel rewards based on their sign-up bonuses, annual benefits, and point/mile conversions.

Follow the blogs! Blogs like The Points Guy, Million Mile Secrets, The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guilebeau, and Nomadic Matt can help you become a travel hacking pro.

3. Business

Screen shot 2014-01-02 at 9.05.11 AM

If you want to start a company, side business, microbusiness, side hustle, or just start something that you really care about, but you don’t know where to start, then my advice for you is: Take a course. AppSumo has a great course called How To Make a $1000/month Business. You get to chose the business you want to start, either  digital project, physical project, consulting business, or self-branding. Then you get started, and the coaching and instruction are entirely interactive. I like courses because they provide coaching, and more importantly, accountability. My brother took this course last year and recommends it if you want to “kill your inner wantrepreneur” and actually start that business you’ve been wanting to start.

My goals include much more than just health, travel, and business… such as relationships, giving back, happiness, productivity, etc. But health, travel, and business are definitely my top 3.

I hope this article was helpful and actionable. Any other tips for health, travel, and business goals? Feel free to leave comments!

An Epic 2013 Annual Review – by Jordan Ramos: How Losing His Dream Job Turned Into A Round-The-World Adventure

Inspired by Chris Guillebeau and his Annual Review, below is a truly epic and inspiring year-in-review from my brother Jordan. After a great start to the year, he was thrown a curveball in April when he was laid off from his job that he loved. After the shock, and embarrassment, and devastation of losing his dream job, he decided to hit the road with a one-way ticket, to travel the world in true vagabond and travel hacker style.

[Enter Jordan]

I’ve read a couple “end of the year reviews” from the blogs I follow and it got me motivated to take a break to reflect and do one myself. I looked back on all my photos of 2013 on my iPhone and all the memories (good and bad) came back to me.

What went well in 2013:


Bought a season pass to Lake Tahoe for the 2013 season and scored multiple weekends of powder with some of my best friends and brother.IMG_2027IMG_1155

Surf trip to Los Cabos, Mexico, with 2 days at Nikki Beach Cabo.

Spent 2 months in Indonesia, chasing and scoring waves with a bunch of good friends._MG_0810IMG_3527Best Party ever! at Single Fin, Bali.

IMG_3589Watched the final two days of the Oakley Pro surf competition in Bali.

Went out to dinner and shot some pool with a good friend in Thailand (Bangkok).

Spent almost 2 weeks in London with some of my close friends with the best weather of the year. Highlights – Box Park, Yellow brick road, Shoreditch, portobello market, brick lane, and chelsea. Saw Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe, Vampire Weekend, and Ben Howard with one of my best high school friends at the Gentlemen of the Road Festival in London.IMG_3869

Spent 12 days in Croatia, and 7 days of it was on a catamaran for Yacht Week Croatia.IMG_4115 IMG_4160

Spent 3 days in a Small Village in Italy called Cinque Terre.

Explored and went on a gondola ride with one of my best friends through the canals of Venice, Italy.

Ate the best pizza I’ve ever had (Gusto Pizza) on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence with some of my good friends.IMG_4372

Spent 10 days with my brother traveling through Portugal (Peniche, Lisbon, Lagos).

Went to Way Out West Music Festival, Sweden’s best music festival in Gothenburg. I spent 4 more days just exploring the city.IMG_4756

Spent 5 days in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is one of my favorite cites in Europe. Some highlights – Copenhagen Downtown Hostel, Nyhavn, Christiana, Vesterbro, and Norrebro. IMG_5044

6 days in Paris. Everything about Paris is amazing! Rock En Seine music festival,  and partied on La Seine.IMG_5269IMG_5276

3 Weeks in Hossegor/Biarritz. Scored perfect waves, went to Europe’s biggest latin festival, and stayed with the nicest locals.IMG_5642IMG_5656

Spent almost another two weeks in Portugal with a girl a had the biggest crush on! We also stayed at 5 star hotels using my SPG points.IMG_5987

Spent a weekend in Boston.

Moved To Brooklyn, NY.

Spent a weekend in Montauk.


It was challenging traveling for 7 months of the year to stay in shape and eat healthy, but I feel like I did it.IMG_5992

On St. Patrick’s Day participated in the 3rd annual Adler Paddler in Naples, Long Beach which is a 6mi stand up paddle.

Rode my bike for work every single day (10-25mi daily).

Stand up paddle boarded the coastline of Cinque Terre 3 days in a row.

10 bikram yoga classes in October.

Long Beach Turkey Trot 10k.

Ran the Frozen Bonsai Half Marathon in NYC.

Over the course of the year ran over 300 miles!! Click to see my MapMyRun profile: http://bit.ly/runprofile


My number one favorite thing to do. I love spending my free time surfing with friends, getting photos and going to different surf spots.

Surfed the biggest waves I’ve ever surfed at Ocean Beach. They were calling MLK weekend “the best Ocean Beach has been in 20 years.” I was in great physical shape and put 6 hours a day in the water 3 days in a row.IMG_1034

Surfed under the Golden Gate Bridge in SF.

Got a ten second + barrel in Indonesia!

Career/Work/Pursue Learning

As a reward for having my best month in sales since being at MOGL, I got to attend the Crunchie Awards (this is like the Oscars for tech start ups) with one of my favorite entrepreneurs Jon Carder. IMG_1218

Wrapping up my memories from MOGL, it was the best out-of-college experience I could ask for. The people were the best, the product is great, and I felt like the people there went out of their way to make sure everyone was having fun, making money, and learning.

GOT LAID OFF FROM ONE OF THE BEST JOBS EVER ON A RANDOM MONDAY MORNING. One of the most humbling experiences ever.

Got a great opportunity to work at Bitly (one of NYC’s best tech start ups) and help them sell their premium product. I’m really excited to work for another tech start up under some great leadership.

Saw the Minimalists speak in NYC. New favorite blog- http://www.theminimalists.com/

Book list this year: Autobiography of Steve Jobs, $100 start up, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Without Their Permission, David and Goliath, Into Thin Air, Catching the Wolf of Wall Street.


Started 2013 with NO DEBIT! This is huge for me because i spent most of college with maxed out credit cards and my goal for 2012 was to not have any debt.

Hit my financial year savings goal in April (I set this goal back in January 2013. $20,000).

12 free flights from travel hacking.


I was introduced to a new app called Tinder toward the end of January. I ended up having a crazy night with a girl who is now my girlfriend.IMG_6503

Constantly had friends come visit and stay with me while I was living in SF.IMG_1635IMG_0797

 Spent Thanksgiving with my family after completing my first around-the-world trip. Then I visited my roommates in SF and best friends when I came back home from my trip.

4th year in a row to Coachella music festival with a bunch of my friends.IMG_2637

Went and saw my favorite band in the world with my brother, The Rolling Stones.

Went to the first ever Bottle Rock Festival in Napa Valley.IMG_3081

Donated my half of my clothes to locals in West Sumbawa.IMG_3227

Went to 6 concerts in NYC.

Won a pumpkin carving contest in NYC for Halloween.

Handmade every piece of furniture in my room.

Spent a day walking around 5pointz in Queens.IMG_7511

Have been cooking a lot of homemade meals.

Donated $100 dollars to the Waves for Water charity for the yyphoon in the Philippines.

No parking tickets and no traffic violations.

Where I fell short

Didn’t make it to Australia. This has been a goal of mine for a very long time. I even had flights booked for January and ended up canceling them last minute.

Didn’t start a blog or even start writing, which is something I wanted to do while traveling.

I bought AppSumo’s “Build a $1000/month Business” and stopped after the validation process.

Spent well over $1000 in excess bags and airport fees this year. Ouch!

Looking forward to 2014

Enjoy what New York has to offer. Go to lots of concerts, cooking classes, bars, restaurants, and meet some like-minded people.

Have a healthy relationship with my girlfriend.

Save $20,000.

Be the top person at work in the 1st quarter out of my training class.

Go on at least one vacation this year.

Start a business on the side.

Why 2013 Was The Best Year Ever, and 2014 Will Be Even Better

I say this every year, but 2013 has been the best year of my life. It’s fun to conduct your Annual Review at the end of the year, and remember all the fun, the accomplishments, the new places visited, the people I’ve met, and the things I’m proud of from the last year. I even like to reflect on where I fell short, and the things I didn’t accomplish, knowing that I still have a few more weeks in 2013, and the new goals I will set for 2014.

Chris Guillebeau posts every December about the Annual Review. Here is a screenshot, and if you click it you can go to Chris’s site and download his Annual Review Template for free.

annual review

Here are some things that went well in 2013:

  • I kicked off the New Year in Dublin, Ireland, my favorite country in the world!
  • My top accomplishment has to be that I bought and now own the business that I have been working in the last 6 years. I started working at College Works as an intern in 2008, and this year took over from my mentor Brian.
  • I went on 2 surf trips this year, Cabo in May and Portugal in August! Here’s a pic from Portugal:portugal
  • Snowboarded for the 1st time in 3 seasons! Heavenly, Lake Tahoe Heavenly, lake tahoe
  • Bought a year pass to the Muir Woods, visited around 10 times, and spent much more time in nature in 2013 than previous years, hiking Angel Island, Fallen Leaf Lake and Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe, and a few other places in California.Muir Woods
  • Launched a completely new version of the Smart Goals app, with a new concept and new design. As I studied goals, and worked towards accomplishing my own, I realized that setting SMART Goals with milestones and deadlines should be set and managed differently than bucket list dreams, and that both have their benefits. I also realized the benefit of setting and tracking day to day, week to week habits. The newest version of Smart Goals helps users set, track, and accomplish all their goals, dreams, and habits in one app!
  • I saw the Rolling Stones, my all time favorite band, in concert for the second time. And the best surprise of the show was Tom Waits performing Little Red Rooster with them, check out the clip below. The show was epic! I am also currently finishing the epic autobiography of Keith Richards, Life. 
  • I did the Tough Mudder San Diego! 10.5 miles, and if the insane hills weren’t obstacles enough, some other obstacles included having to run through live electric wires and swim through ice water.
  • I visited Ireland, Portugal, Cabo x2, Cancun, London, Vegas, Boston, and Wisconsin! And I’m leaving tomorrow for my last trip of the year, New York for 5 days, Puerto Rico for 5 days, and St. Maarten and St. Barths for a few days. Can’t wait!
  • I read more books than I could even keep track of, and I’m loving my Audible account I’m sharing with my brother. Learning is one of my passions, and I love listening to audiobooks.
  • I started tracking a gratitude habit. I make sure that each morning, or while I drive to work, I pause and think of something I am grateful for. And by tracking my stats in the Smart Goals habit feature, I was pretty consistent with this habit, and accomplished it almost every single day.

Here are some things that didn’t go well:

  • I didn’t accomplish my goal of getting out of debt, which was my main financial goal for the year.
  • My company did 35% less revenue than we wanted this year.
  • My exercise habit was off and on this year. I had some really good months, and some really bad months.
  • I had a goal to write my first e-book/info-product, and COMPLETELY failed that. I got an outline down, and thats about it.
  • My travel goal is to hit 30 countries by 30. I planned a trip to St. Maarten and St. Barths this winter thinking that would be 2 more countries added to the list and boost me into the twenties, only to find out later those are territories that belong to the Netherlands and don’t count! Haha. I’m still super stoked on the trip. And I still have a lot of world to discover:countries ive visited
  • Besides for a few random donations here and there to the Philippines and Movember, I definitely could haven given a lot more this past year.

Click on Chris Guillabeau’s post about the Annual Review, read about it, and conduct your own review of 2013. After getting your reflections down, what went well and what didn’t, you can start looking forward to the future and start setting some goals for 2014.

In a upcoming post, I’ll share some of my personal goals for 2014.