Building an A-Team

Leaving ego at the door and building a team (of employees, friends, consultants and partners) better than yourself is a sure fire way to increase your success by an order of magnitude.

C-team members will pull you back, B-team will slow you down. But the A-team, they are going to drag you forward. Finding those A-team members is a challenge – one that requires you step up your own game so that you’re A-team worthy.

In a Tim Ferris podcast with Matt Mullenweg of WordPress fame, there was what was practically a throw away comment about how to hire good people (apparently Matt’s superpower) –  This is an effective formula for finding your  own A-team.

[Hire for the things that are unteachable] … “work ethic, taste, integrity, and curiosity”.

In there are values and core motivators that interlink in a special way to create someone A-team worthy.

Remember these with the acronym CWIT (like quit, as in quit working with shit people).


Nothing kills human potential more than that enemy of curiosity; apathy. An interest in a wide range of topics – from the history of sub-Saharan political dynasties, fantastical ideas about faster than light travel to how Kim Kardashian built a multi-million dollar empire – all pique the interest of the curious. A natural curiosity is not focused on just one subject. Curiosity is a desire to break down complex ideas into bite sized chunks. To make the world understandable. It’s insatiable and can usually be found on obscure sub-reddits and Wikipedia’s unusual article list.

It’s always asking the question – why?  (Just like any good 5 year old).

Work Ethic 

A-team’s live their work. Not in the #thegrind sense. There are no awards for being the person who sleeps the least. Work ethic is about not having a distinct barrier between what I do for work and how I live my life.

Life throws too much inspiration your way to ignore it until “work time”. A curiosity about everything enables a work ethic that’s 24/7 while still (hopefully) understanding how to enjoy life.

In the more traditional sense of the word; a discipline is needed that allows A-team members to know when it’s time to crack open the laptop, and when it’s time to kick back and watch a movie.

Work ethic is always asking the question – when?


Doing the right thing because it’s right. An A-team needs integrity – it needs to put being good people, to each other, above all else. At some point in every A-team’s life there will be big worries, big bills, big pressures and hopefully bigger pay-cheques. If those can’t be dealt with in a way that puts the team’s best interests at heart, then don’t even start.

Integrity is always asking the question – who?


The reason I wanted to write this article. It’s because you may think taste is just about knowing which colours go together. Which art piece to hang on the wall. It’s something for the designer to worry about.

Taste is more than that.

Taste is very ability to know what people want, even when they don’t know it themselves. And this ability is what an entrepreneur is. If you can build an A-team of people with taste then your products will define your market.

Taste is the superpower that let’s someone tap in to the zeitgeist of the day. If you have taste you understand what standards are expected by society and then can out perform them.

Taste is knowing when to say – wow.

7 Mind Tricks You’ll Need When You Feel Like Giving Up

When you’re going through hell. Keep Going.
– Winston Churchill (Probably Not)

I’ve felt like quitting a lot recently. In the last few weeks I’ve went incognito multiple times to just escape to the cinema. I watched Risen and London Has Fallen.

I basically swapped one perceived torture for an actual real one.

Quitting good habits that I’ve worked on for months is a ridiculous option.

So I started to reach out to friends with a question: When you feel like quitting but manage to go on anyway, what is it you do in your head thingy?

What do you do to overcome the feeling that says just give up?

This was the most common “wisdom” I got back was that when you feel like quitting just break the challenge down to the smallest first step, and then do that.

I’ve told people this myself.  It sounds wise.

Just Start Small, Is Bullshit.

Here’s why:
SbGLVq8This graph of totally legit data that I made up shows that are two times when doing a thing is at it’s hardest.

1. When you’ve been doing thing for so long that you are so exhausted that you collapse in a ball of giving up.

2. Right at the very very very beginning when you do the very first part of thing.

It’s not running the marathon that is hard. It’s putting on the dam shoes.

So you are going to need some mental tricks in your toolkit to help you on those days when you have massive resistance to following through with your habit building.

(I’ll probably use the gym as my go to habit example from here on out)

The Slippery Slope

Never forget that momentum is a cruel mistress, she can turn on a dime with the smallest mistake.

Once you pop you can’t stop.

It’s why a recovering alcoholic doesn’t take just one sip.

It’s why I stay away from the Cheesecake factory.

The Slippery Slope is to remind yourself (through a little internal talk, or external, if that’s how you roll) that if you skip your session today then tomorrow it’ll be easier to skip it again and even harder to go.

The only way to always go to the gym is to always go.

“Chris, today if you skip the gym then tomorrow you’ll find it even harder to follow through and you’ll of set a precedent that allows you to skip with less guilt. It’ll be easier to skip! Then you’ll eat some cake, then you’ll start on the sugar, then you’ll fall so far back again that going to the gym will feel like such a big challenge that you might never go back. Then you’ll get fat and die young.” The consequences of skipping once are bigger than I thought. Let’s go.

That. Is a dramatic slippery slope. And it works.

The I Love Myself Mantra

Kamal Ravikant was lying in bed, close to death and ready to give up (his startup had exploded I think). Then he started telling himself: “I love myself. I love myself. I love myself.”

Fast forward a few years and he’s a billionaire with a full head of hair. Nah, jokes. But he seems healthy and happy.

It would seem that the I Love Myself Mantra is more difficult for many of us than it should be. Vocalising the words i love myself can feel in-congruent, awkward, false. This could also be a solely British trait. But it also has a power and I’ve been doing it.

Mantras work because they block out enemy number 1. That guy who appears most when you are close to quitting. You.

Repeating the mantra i love myself, on a loop, for minutes at a time, until you can’t stop hearing it like an earworm is a very effective way to block out the negative internal dialogue.

I’ve found that it works most effectively during treadmill runs and the 10th rep of a set. My internal dialogue loves to pop up with: oh, you’ve ran fo 30 minutes, I hate this, it’s boring, ugh my lungs burn, my legs hurt, I’ve done enough, let’s quit … yeah… quit.. let’s stop now.

Over-ride it with a constant mantra. i love myself, i love myself, i love myself.

Review Your Progress

“That which is measured improves.” – Pearson’s Law.

You’ve done awesome getting this far. Remember when you used to be fat? Yeah, that sucked.

Change is a slow process and we tend to forget just how far we’ve come. When you feel like quitting and need an injection of motivation, pull out the results you’ve been recording and review them.

But this is dependent on something: make sure you’re measuring.

Take photos of yourself.
Write down your workout.
Snap a photo of your meals.
Take screenshots of your early website designs.
Keep the first drawings you did.

Track. Track. Track. Then review the progress every so often to feel great and push yourself through any resistance that makes you feel like today was a good day to quit.

Reward Yourself Forward

I’ve talked about this before as a way to avoid self-sabotage. Instead of rewarding yourself with things that push you back: like, a slice of cake after the gym. Reward yourself forward – i.e if I beat my best time I’m going to buy some new running shoes.

New running shoes will make you even better at running and push you forward.

When you feel like quitting, set yourself a new reward that will entice you to get through the feeling of giving up.

Exaggerate Your Why

On a podcast with James Altucher, Charles Duhigg the author of The Power of Habit, talks about exaggerating your why so that a mundane task takes on monumental importance.

It works something like this.

I hate grading students papers. I don’t want to do it.
I want to be working on my research to cure cancer instead.

But wait. I grade papers so the university can run courses, so that students will pay money to be on those courses, so the university will have funds to pay me and fund my research, so that there is money for my cure for cancer research and I do that so that I can save lives.

∴ grading papers = saving lives.

Get American Corny

This might just be me. But when I need that extra boost I turn to the 80s greats. Tony Robbins will do. Throw on a Youtube clip of this man just being alive and I’m ready to walk through walls.

I say American Corny as a compliment. No one quite does pullyourselfupandgofuckingdoit like the Americans.

This video is a particular favourite of millions of people. Make it your alarm clock. Guaranteed to give you the tingles and leave you feeling like Bengal fucking tiger. Rawwwwr.


Do A Reality Check

There are people willingly working (somewhat, it’s debatable) in sweatshops to make money  to build better lives for themselves and their families.

Next time going to the gym feels like, yeah, you know… a little bit hard, have a reality check. Do a quick run through of lucky you were to win the generic lottery and be born with whatever advantages you have.

Quick run down for me: born in first world country, in a society with free health care and social security, to parents who were hard working, at a time when technology was getting super-cool and then given a computer with internet at age 11 AND then have been lucky enough to not die before 30.

Reality check.

My gym has 8 hot tubs, a climbing wall and free bananas for god’s sake. Who am I to not want to go?

ok, it’s gym time.

I guess Ride Along 2 will just have to wait.

How To Build Your Daily Routine And Master Time

I used to take massive pride in my lack of routine. I thought it signified that I had ultimate freedom.

But real freedom comes from discipline. The discipline to not be a slave to your whims and fancies.

Having so many options for when to do things creates a paradox of choice which makes hard to commit and leaves you feeling like there may of been better options when you eventually do commit.

Even worse, not having restrictions on my time meant I could just keep on putting uncomfortable tasks off in to the unknown future. That’s the ultimate form of procrastination.

Why should my days even follow a structured routine?

We know that a task will expand to take up all of the time allocated too it (aka Parkinson’s Law). A routine is the macro equivalent of timeboxing. You can timebox the major parts of daily life.

This makes you consciously aware of whether you are diversifying your life to a degree that will lead to happiness.

It also gives you a great excuse to get out of boring coffee meetups “oops sorry, routine says I should be on my way now…”.

A routine is an artificial demand on your time. We can use this make-belief demand to improve. When you don’t have external demands on your time (no kids eh?) it’s easy for your days to merge in to one long day called itswhataday?

The routine helps you to use time, this forever diminishing resource, more effectively.

It also helps keep you accountable to consistently doing the things in your life that make it better: exercise, socialising, learning, creating.

It removes uncertainty and gives you a basic control over your time. Knowing the exact amount of time you have every day helps you to not over-burden yourself with commitments you can not keep.

Most importantly, if you are trying to build healthy habits, it removes the decision making process (the enemy of habit building!). If the routine says it’s gym time on Thursday at 11am then who am I to argue? Smart Chris made the routine, lazy Chris doesn’t get to make an excuse to follow through.

In other words, and don’t believe me until you try it, but a structured routine will make you a happier person.

Step 1: Understand how much sleep you need to be effective.

Sleeping 4 hours is not a badge of honour to proudly wear if it leads to low effectiveness and eventual burn-out. You are not impressing the adults with that camel-like attitude.

I’m an 8 to 9 hour guy and I factor this in to my routine.

Ultimately there are only two things you can control in your day. What time you wake up and what time you get in to bed. You can’t force yourself to sleep, but you can choose to call an end to the day and get in to bed.

[Struggling to sleep? You might be thinking about it wrong.]

So you start by picking a time you will wake up each morning. Then you work out, depending on how much sleep you need to be the best version of you, what time you would optimally be asleep from.

Then you decide what time you will get in to bed to make this a reality.

  • Work out how much sleep you need.
  • Choose a time to wake up.
  • Decide on a time to be getting in to bed.

You now have a defined amount of time each day in which you can fill with activities.


Step 2: Identify what you want to repeat on a weekly basis.

I knew I wanted to eat breakfast, go to the gym, spend 4 hours per day at the office and I wanted to spend time with my Girlfriend each evening before it was time to sleep.

Your essentials become your core activities and everything else will fit around them.

Maybe you have hobbies or scheduled commitments – no problem – your routine can be built around those.

  • Identify things you want to do on a repeating weekly basis.
  • Identify how much time these things require.

Step 3: Put it in a spreadsheet.

2016-04-03 14_05_39-Routine Template v2 ( - Google Sheets

This was the easiest way I found to quickly build a structured routine. You can use my template on Google Sheets.

Google Sheets app will give you a way to have your routine on your phone.

I break down the day in to 15 minute blocks. I have used different colours for different types of activity. These gives you a great overview.

I easily can see that I have 34 blocks of commuting. That’s 8 and a half hours of commuting per week. What a waste. Can I optimise?

I get to spend around 25.5 hours (102 blocks!) every Monday to Friday with my girlfriend and nearly 22 hours at the office.

So get blocking.

Once you have a routine that meets your commitments and also meets your need, you run with it. And next week you ask yourself “Did it work? Was it too much? Was it too little?”

Version 1.0 of my routine was very structured with after work hobbies and activities that never really materialised. Now after work is just a block of time called “Rest” and I’m free to decide what to fill that time with on the day. You’ll make tweaks like this as you go along.

By being able to visualise my whole week I can easily see if I am allocating reasonable amounts of time to things. It quickly becomes apparent if you are neglecting important parts of your life.

Do you ever break routine?

Most days. Life will get in the way. I understand that there are only two things I can control. When I wake up and when I go to bed. I aim to do everything else in my routine but I don’t beat myself up when life gets in the way.

Over time you learn what works and what doesn’t and then you tweak.

Bonus Step: Let’s get Meta


Morning routines are covered on many productivity blogs. Mine used to be simple: wake up, drink water, wash, dress and leave.

After reading a book called the Miracle Morning I started to experiment with more effective versions of a morning routine.

I wanted my routine to do a few things:

  • Remove that groggy feeling.
  • Help me feel happy.
  • Leave me in state of mind that made me ready to face the day.

Here is all you need to remember: S.A.V.E.R.S

Wake up, drink water, get up. If you can head, out in to the sunlight.

S – Spend the first 5 minutes in Silence. Meditating. I continue to feel unaccomplished in this area so instead I sit in silence and think about happy thoughts and fake smiling. It works and meets one of my morning routine goals.

– Find a sentence you can say to yourself 30 times. An Affirmation. You have to say it out loud. You will feel silly. Just remember that where your thoughts go your energy will flow.

V – Run a movie in your head (Visualise) of the best possible version of the upcoming day. Everything going right and you doing the best you can.

E – Now get up and do 20 jumping jacks, 10 press-ups and 30 seconds of stretching. Get that blood flowing and you’ll feel 100% awake. (I actually do this first, but for the sake of the dam acronym, stick with me).

R – Pull out a non-fiction book and read a few pages. You will learn something every morning if you do this. Pick out one idea from those pages and see how you can apply it today.

S – Lastly, jot down any thoughts in your little notepad. Scribe them down so you don’t forget them. No thoughts? Write a list of 10 things you are grateful for.

The “Too Long, Didn’t Read” Version:

  • Work out how much sleep you need.
  • Work out the important things in your life you want to repeatedly do.
  • Write down your routine (use my spreadsheet template).
  • Get meta and apply a morning routine.

How To Get Shit Done.

The step by step productivity blueprint for spending 4 hours per day at the office.

When I was a kid, working for the family business, they’d call me Kit-Kat. I’d take any opportunity possible to sneak in a break. And I was dam good at it. It’s hard to get fired when you’re the bosses 16 year old son.

I’d spend my stolen break time reading, listening to audio-books and planning my inevitable world domination.


In 2007 when I read a book called The 4 Hour Work Week, I had one thought; “FOUR hours? This guy is a workaholic!”

But as the years went by and my businesses got busier, I felt like I was snowed under — all the time. There was never time for a break. And Kit-Kat loves his breaks.

My list was scribbled down in a paper journal. Every other day I’d be forced to commit list suicide and scribble out a bunch of things I knew I’d never really get to.

Over time I started to experiment with productivity systems. 2 years later and I have a system.

It’s a system that leaves me with a completed to-do list every single day.

Productivity systems are definitely not a one size fits all solution. You’re going to have to tweak. But here is a blueprint you can try on.

Having a productivity system will let you achieve more but more importantly it will make you happier. Not knowing what needs done and how long you need to do it is a quick way to burnout. Uncertainty creates stress.

Goals Of The System

  1. Get me out of the office after 4 hours.
  2. Allow me to end everyday with a completed to-do list.
  3. Trumps my natural procrastination.
  4. Maximise my time on what really matters.

Concepts You Need To Know For This System To Make Sense

The Eisenhower Box

Eisenhower was one hella-productive president and this technique was either invented by him or misattributed to him.

It works like this.

Every task you have falls in to 1 of 4 quadrants.


What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.
Dwight Eisenhower (probably)

Q1 tasks are inevitable but be on the look out for those that repeat. We build systems to minimise them. Q1 is synonymous with putting out fires. Shit went wrong and you got to fix it now.

Q2 are the tasks that build our businesses. Our goal is to spend as much time as possible on Q2 tasks. Like brainstorming, planning and building relationships.

Q3 tasks are also what I call “transactional tasks” — these are the kind of things that if left for too long they will become Q1. Things like paying a bill, chasing up a freelancer, sending out some inquiries via email. We batch Q3 tasks together so they can be done in a chunk of time.

If we can, we delegate them. But most people don’t have assistants or staff. Consider a low cost virtual assistance service like (USA based assistants for $3.33 a task — bargain.)

Q4 tasks are time wasters. Facebook, watching youtube videos and refreshing in the hopes you article just went viral.

Over time you get better at knowing which quadrant a task really falls in to. It’s easy to lie to yourself and label things that are Q3 as important Q1s and Q2s.


Pomodoro Technique

Deep work — that is, work without distractions for a block of time. I achieve this by putting my phone in airplane mode, putting on and using the Pomodoro technique.

This is where you choose work undistracted for a distinct length of time, then have a break for a distinct length of time.

Because I want to be at the office for 4 hours I do it like this:


That’s 3.5 hours of work and 30 minutes of break. A focused 80 minutes of work might be too much in the beginning, so experiment. The traditional Pomodoro interval is 25/5


The amount of time that one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task. — Parkinson’s Law

Apply a fixed length of time to every task on your to-do list. Push yourself to work within that timebox. You’ll no doubt start by being over optimistic at your work rate — but you soon learn what is a realistic time box.

You’re Going To Need a Few Tools

And they are all free.

  1. account
    Trello is your new to-do list(s).
  2. Pomodoro Timer (physical or computer app — but please, not a phone).
    You are going to work in prescribed blocks followed by a prescribed break. Doctor’s orders.
  3. A Stopwatch (I use
    That which is measured, improves. Every task is against the clock. Not to make you go faster but to make you more conscious of the realistic amount of time a task takes. The better you are at this the more likely you can plan your 4 hours of work accurately.
  4. A website blocker like StayFocused
    Ever notice yourself opening a new tab and typing fa then pressing enter to load up Facebook? That’s a habit. We are going to let StayFocused help us from getting distracted during work.

The Trello Setup

Trello has boards and lists. Imagine it like this: a board is a notebook and a list is a page in a notebook.

We have 3 boards, and each board has it’s own lists.

1) The Backlog To-Do

This board is your dumping ground for every task that needs done. Just create a new card on the backlog. At this point they are not prioritised or ordered.

2) The Daily To-Do

This is a daily curated to-do list. Each task is prioritised and timeboxed. Because each task is timeboxed I can fill my Daily To-Do with exactly the right amount of work so that I’m in and out the office in 4 hours.

Everyday this list is 100% completed. Major satisfaction.

3) The Idea Capture

I’m plagued by ideas. Most terrible, some clever. The Idea Capture board is where I dump my ideas so that they are not lost and I can laugh at them later.

Backlog To-Do Explained

On this board we have two lists.

Screenshot is blurred to protect the innocent.


Everything on the backlog list is something I need to do. Those [Q] values and numbers we’ll get to in a bit. For now, just dump everything that needs done on this backlog.

The scheduled list is optional. I use it like a calendar. I add my meetings and phone calls.

Daily To-Do Explained

On this board we have two lists.

To Do and Done. I title my done list with today’s date.


Idea Capture

I create a new list every month.


I just dump ideas in to the list as they pop up. Ideas are distractions. Get them out your brain.

Your New Daily Routine

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. — Abraham Lincoln (probably).

You have filled your backlog with things that need done and your idea list with ideas that are potential distractions.

Now it’s time to assign Q codes and Timebox.

I recommend doing this every morning. Here is how I do it:

  1. Order coffee. You’re going to need it.
  2. Open the backlog and delete every card that no longer needs done (things change and a lot of problems solve themselves).
  3. Now assign a Q code to every card in the backlog. Delete anything that is a Q4.
  4. Now assign a timebox to each card. Your card title will now look something like this:

5. Now sort the list. Q1s at the top. Q3s at the bottom.

6. Every Q1 needs done (that’s the nature of Q1s). So move those to your Daily To-Do list.

7. How long you got left? 2 hours? Awesome. Choose how long you will spend doing Q2 tasks and move that many from backlog to daily to-do. The more time you spend here the better. It’s why we use the Q code system.

8. Lastly, add all the Q3s you can do in the remaining time.

9. Optional: if you have people to delegate to then add a task called Delegation Session [Q2] [XX]

In this session delegate your Q3s away to someone else. Delegating itself is the ultimate Q2 activity because every minute you spend doing it earns you many more minutes in return, which you can then spend on more Q2 tasks.

10. Start your Pomodoro timer and get to work on that daily to-do list.

One of the system’s goals is to trump procrastination and I find the key is remove the decision making process after completing a step. If you have a pre-defined to-do list, in a pre-defined order, for a pre-defined length of time then you don’t give yourself the opportunity to procrastinate over the more boring or difficult tasks.

I Struggle With The Next Step

11. Once it’s done. You’re done. Leave, go home, read a book, be with friends, do a hobby, go to the cinema, do a run: your productivity system is there to make you more effective not just more efficient.

Now that you can get more done in less time go have a kit-kat.

Pro tip: Title your Done list with today’s date and at the end of every day move this list to a Finished board to create a record of your productivity over time.

Additional reading: Why you should move at Average Speed. Also known as James Clear re-writes the Tortoise and the Hare.

2 Steps Forward, Eat Cake, 1 Step Back.

Striving to make progress towards a goal will always require an element of sacrifice.

Build a business: sacrifice leisure time.
Lose wight: sacrifice cake.
Run a 4 minute mile: sacrifice lungs that aren’t burning.

When the willpower is weak and the next decision on the path to your goal is looming we sometimes rely on the “reward” to get us through it.

If I can just run another mile I’ll have some cheesecake tonight.
or we can do the justification (aka the unplanned reward)
I can have some cheesecake, I ran a mile today!

You earned it, right? Burn some calories and it doesn’t hurt too much to much on a handful of Pringles later.

Our bad choice of rewards is a form of self-sabotage that pushes us backwards.

2 steps forward, eat cake, 1 step back.

Instead we can reward ourselves forward, a concept I first read about in Level Up Your Life.

In this version of reality we set our self a reward that forces us closer to our goals.

Beat your best time for a 1km run and you’re working you way towards running a marathon in August? Reward: new running shoes.

The new running shoes are a reward (oooo nice new shoes) that enable us to run more effectively (therefore pushing us closer to the goal).

All Your Problems Solved (Just Do X)

Browsing Amazon’s bestseller list reveals just what type of non-fiction sells: Techniques.

The Miracle Morning
Lean in 15
How Not To Die
The 8-Week Blood Sugar Diet
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying

But the classics are nearly always Frameworks; 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Think and Grow Rich, Awaken the  Giant Within.

Frameworks are principles. Techniques are tricks.

To understand the difference we can look at where the two interact on the Logical Levels of Change (Robert Dilts).


Techniques straddle our behaviour and capabilities. We start off as amateurs “faking it till we make it” and with repeated practice the behaviour becomes a capability.

Frameworks straddle beliefs (“I think it’s best when we find a win/win in a negotiation”) and identity (“I’m the type of person that looks for a win/win in every deal”).

We first believe the principles the framework teaches and through repeated action in alignment with that principle they become part of our identity.

In this sense, new techniques have the power to change behaviours whereas frameworks have the power to change lives.

You can look at the technique as a simple IF-THEN statement. If this works, do this, else, do that.

Frameworks are more powerful. They are more than decision trees. They are principles that guide – they are the syntax of the coding language itself.

Like most people, I gravitate towards the Techniques. It is doing what is easy instead of what is right. But techniques only have value when you integrate what you learn in to your own personal framework.

Your identity and collection of beliefs make up the you. We can make that you better by adding features and removing bugs.

Techniques are features and you get to beta test them before integrating them in to your framework.

Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do was a style without style. It was about testing everything and only keeping what worked. That’s exactly what we can do with ideas. It’s exactly what we do anyway. But you can choose to do it more consciously.

Techniques continue to sell (Just pretend to solve fat, death or ugliness). They are the quick fix people are looking for. But the good ones need integrated into your framework and the bad ones need dropped. Jumping from technique to technique in search of the fix all pill just leaves you exhausted and no further forward.

Author’s who sell books on a technique have a platform to upgrade that to a framework. Use the technique as a back-door in to something bigger. If your book just sells a technique, do the world a favour, make it a blog post.

Right now I am Chris Porter v30.2 1

Let’s see what v31 brings.

The 4 Things I Learned Going From Fat To Normal (aka Losing 47.3% Of My Body Fat)

Fat people don’t really care about being the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. As a recovering fat person I can tell you; fat people just want to look normal. A t-shirt that hangs off my chest instead of my gut … now that’s a mission I can get behind.

I was always skinny growing up. My girlfriend would joke I had the chest of a teen boy-band member; hairless and under-developed.

But then I moved to Thailand.

A funny thing happens when you move to a country where the average income is $400 per month and the national hobby is eating. Suddenly, the most delicious of everything is available to you without price ever being a barrier.

50 cent pad-thai, $1 cheesecake and $2 beers quickly lead from 68kg Chris to a 80kg Chris.

I’m not a tall guy and that 80 did not sit well on my frame. One night, after knocking back a crate of those $2 beers, I came home to an apartment that had detached itself from the laws of physics and was stubbornly rotating. As I lay naked on the floor, begging the universe to intervene, my girlfriend (who found this hilarious) took a picture to commemorate the moment.

The next day, hungover Chris was shown said photo and was disgusted at the fat mess he had allowed himself to become.

Herein lies Rule #1 aka the only rule for making a change in your life:

You’ll only change your behaviour when the pain gets big enough.

Fast forward 6 months and I’ve lost 10kg of fat, added a couple kilograms of lean muscle mass and developed a lifestyle that’ll keep me alive until at least past the national average.

What follows are not rules (see above). There are many ways to get to where you want to be. These are just 4 things I’ve learned on my ongoing journey from fat to normal.

Thing #1 – Goals Are Bullshit. Build Habits.


Habits are safer than rules; you don’t have to watch them. And you don’t have to keep them either. They keep you. – Frank Crane

The enemy of your goal is decision making.

When you have a goal you have to use willpower to make good decisions every single time you do something. When that goal is lose “10kg of fat” and someone offers you a slice of cake you now have to decide if eating the cake is in harmony with your goal.

Obviously in this case, it’s not.

But that cake is still delicious so you have to exert some willpower to make the correct decision.

But what about when you’re tired? hungry? stressed or have low low blood sugar? All of those factors weaken your willpower and make it harder to make a good decision.

Justifications slip in: “I ran 5km this morning, I should treat myself!”.

Being healthy is the long game. You don’t want to be making decisions (which come at you many thousands of times each year) with the outcome being reliant on whatever level your willpower meter happens to be at that time.

Instead, build habits. Habits are automatic behaviours. No decision making required.

For me these habits have been when and where I exercise, when and where I eat and the amount of water I drink.

When I get offered a cheesecake I no longer make a decision, it’s an automatic behaviour. It’s an automatic IF-THEN statement. It works like this:

IF day = saturday: “yes cheesecake thank you”
ELSE “no cheesecake thank you”

Building habits is simple.

We just break down our goal in to a set of behaviours that if we did consistently would force us to reach our desired goal.

You then tie that behaviour (like eating chicken or going for a walk) to a trigger.

Triggers can be things like feeling stressed, just got out of bed, feeling hungry, waiting for my bus, getting in to bed, sitting on the toilet.

When you have triggers that repeat themselves you can start to do positive behaviours after them. Before long you start to do the behaviour without any decision making. It’s now a habit. Thanks Pavlov.

Thing #1 over-rules everything else. Build healthy habits and you’ll reach whatever goal you set, practically on auto-pilot.

TIP: Use the app Rewire to track which days you did the behaviour you want to make in to a habit. Nothing is more painful than clicking that red [X] after 30 days of green [✓].

TIP 2: Here is an example of a positive habit. For dessert eat a piece of delicious ripe fruit instead of cake. Repeat this behaviour after the trigger (which is is finishing your dinner) until every time you eat dinner you crave fruit.

Further reading:
James Clear on Building Habits
Mark Manson on the 6 Core Habits
What actually is a habit?


Good habits are worth being fanatical about – John Irving

Thing #2 – 80% Of Your Results Come From How You Eat.

The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. And that 20% is your diet.

It also turns out that dieting is easy. You just remove the worst things from your current diet to get 80% of the desired results.

Everyone has something in their diet that is causing 80% of the damage. Mine was dessert. Your’s might be beer, soda, mars bars or heroin. Doesn’t matter. Just identify it and remove it.

Here is what I did:

1) Eat Whole Foods.

As a rule of thumb: if it comes wrapped in plastic or cardboard it is probably bad for you.

Instead eat as many whole foods as you need. This just means eat non-processed food. Eat whole grains (e.g. rice, oats, barely not bread, pasta and cereal), nuts, meat, fish, eggs, vegetables.

Eat anything that grows out of the ground, swims in the ocean or runs around on feet.

But once those ingredients are taken and processed in to a different form (and usually wrapped in plastic) like pastry, batter, cake, bread, ice-cream … avoid them. (Disclaimer: I still eat bread, just not as much as I used too).

Not all calories are born equal. No one got fat eating too many avocados. Eat as much WHOLE food as you need.

2) Don’t Add Sugar.

Sugar causes your blood glucose levels to spike and then your liver releases insulin to sort that little problem out. The insulin scoops up all the sugar in your blood and stores it in your fat cells. As a side-effect you feel like shit (sugar coma!) and this starts the sugar-spiral: you feel shit from eating something high in sugar and to alleviate that shit feeling you hunt out another doughnut.

So don’t add sugar to your hot drinks, avoid foods with added sugar (nearly all processed food) and don’t drink your calories (beer and coke).

Thing #3 – Have a Cheat Day


Cheat days are willpower boosters. Once per week be free to do and eat whatever you want. Not only will this help reboost the metabolism (which slows down from dropping calories) but it also means it’s easier to turn down that Thursday night dessert.

I’ve personally found my sacred-holy-cheat-day to be the one thing that has most helped me to effectively build healthy eating habits. It’s Saturday as I write this and I’ve just ate a salad for breakfast. Before you know it, the habits over-rule the cheat days but the cheat-day helps build the habit.

Thing #4 – Join The Best Gym You Can.


Nearly everything I do is focused on building habits and I knew that going to the gym regularly was going to be my heroes challenge. So I joined the best gym I could find. It’s expensive as hell but it’s cheaper than dying young.

For the first couple of weeks I just went and did a little walk on the treadmill, sat in the steam room and then had a Jacuzzi. Because it is such a nice gym I go just to be in the nice environment.

I made it easy on myself so that going to the gym became a habit. Working out is easy once you get there.

Going hard from day 1 is the best way to scare yourself off.

And, You’re Done.

Notice that 2, 3 and 4 are really just about building good #1’s.

Activate Hardcore mode for eager beavers:

1) Take before pictures so you can revel in your after photos.
2) Find an InBody Composition Analyzer to find out your exact fat and muscle mass. Your local hospital may do a DEXA scan.
3) Eat high protein for breakfast (eggs are easy) and coffee during the afternoon (helps take away the hunger pang) 1
4) Intermittent Fasting is easier than it sounds and has very effective fat loss effects.