Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has got a fantastic series of posts on time. I hope you take time to read them as each of them is a gem and worthy of a couple of minutes of your time.
I’d like to pick out a couple of paragraphs from my favorite post – sponge traits off others.
In the past two years, by coincidence, several of my close friends have become fitness maniacs. My co-founder in an Internet startup just finished an Iron Man competition. Another friend looks like a fitness cover model. Another takes one of the most grueling fitness classes at my gym, and then she takes the one after it too. Two of my friends want me to buy a better bike and join them on their 60-mile weekend rides. I find the situation quite humbling.
On the plus side, my association with these extra-fit people seems to be rubbing off. I’m in the best physical shape of my life, by far. My estimate is that at least half of that improvement is because of the peer influence. It didn’t take any extra willpower. I didn’t set any particular fitness goals. It feels as if it just sort of happened…
..My observation over a lifetime is that you can program yourself for different traits by managing your personal associations. If you want to be more fit, spend time with friends who make it look easy. If you want more ambition, find some friends who already have it. If you want to avoid being a pessimistic sink hole, avoid the people who give off that vibe. And if you can’t find the right kind of people locally, consider moving.
We humans have a natural tendency to see ourselves as special. That’s probably a useful instinct up to a point. But consider the possibility that your DNA provides only a platform for your personality whereas the details of your traits are programmed by your associations. Once you understand your body as a trait sponge, you can take control of your own programming. And that’s when the fun starts.
I’ve found this to be very true. Until this year, I had great difficulty keeping up a steady exercise routine. There were times my fitness was pretty good and other times when it wasn’t great. It depended largely on whether I found a regular weekly football group wherever I was and the results were inconsistent.
So, I appointed a friend to be my fitness coach. This guy managed exercise every day of the week with ease and keeps himself very fit. I realized the power of this habit on an intense one week program. I woke up earlier than the rest of the group on a day when we all had had barely 4 hours to sleep and he was up doing his push ups as a part of his daily work out(!).
I’ve been reporting my weekly fitness to him every week, hearing his thoughts on what I could do, and keeping myself inspired. My progress is below. As you might notice, the habit is beginning to kick in pretty regularly off late. Since my wedding, aside from a week when I was ill and a week when I was on holiday, I’ve hit my target every week. This was definitely not the case in the beginning of the year (my wife will deservedly take a big part of the credit for this improvement :)).
Hitting my weekly exercise target was my most important goal for the new year and I’m glad that I’m getting close to where I’d like to be. It’s not an accident – association has played a huge part in this.
Sponge traits off others – great learning.