My Story

BY LEO BABAUTA

So you’re reading some of my posts on how to achieve your goals, and how to save money or exercise or wake up early, and you’re wondering … what exactly are my qualifications?

My answer is that I have no formal qualifications. I am not an expert, or a doctor, or a coach. I haven’t made millions of dollars and I’m not the world’s greatest athlete.

All I am is a regular guy, a father of six kids, a husband, a writer from Guam (moved to San Francisco in 2010, now living in Davis, California). But I have accomplished a lot over the last couple of years (and failed a lot) and along the way, I have learned a lot.

Here’s what I’ve done since December 2005, when I began to make changes in my life (this is going to sound like bragging, so forgive me, please):

  • Quit smoking (on Nov. 18, 2005). Really the change that set all the other changes in motion. Quitting smoking taught me a lot about changing habits and accomplishing goals, and all the elements needed to make this successful. I had tried and failed to quit smoking before, and when I was successful this time, I analyzed it and learned from it and was inspired by my success. Success can breed success, if you take advantage of it.
  • Became a runner. In order to relieve stress without smoking, I took up running. I started out by running about half a mile, heavily winded after doing so. I slowly built up my distance and within a month was running my first 5K. Soon after, I was so into running that I decided to run my first marathon.
  • Ran several marathons. About a year after I started running, I completed my first marathon. I didn’t do it very fast, but I did it. It had always been one of my lifetime goals, and completing it was one of the very best things I’ve ever done. Since then I’ve done two others, including the Honolulu marathon
  • Began waking early. In order to get my running in, I decided to start waking early. I did it slowly, and once I began waking early, I began to discover the joys of the quiet morning hours. I get so much more done in the morning — not work, but working on my goals.
  • Became organized. In early 2006, I decided to create simple systems for organizing. I learned how to keep my files in order, how to stay on top of my paperwork, to be organized at home and work. I’m not perfect, but I’m much, much improved over how I was before.
  • Began eating healthy. As a runner, and someone with the goal of losing weight, I decided I needed to eat healthier. I began cutting back on unhealthy things like fried and salty and sweet foods. I ate leaner poultry and fish, more fruits and veggies, more whole grains. It felt great!
  • Became a vegetarian. In August 2006, I decided to become vegetarian. I first cut out meat, and then slowly transitioned to a 99% vegan diet (now fully vegan). I don’t drink milk or eat eggs. I am eating healthier than ever before.
  • Tripled my income. I was only working as a free-lancer for most of 2005, and wasn’t making enough to support my family, looking back on it. I got a job and continued free-lancing and effectively doubled my take-home by working two jobs (while still having time for exercise and my family). Now I make much more than that working for myself.
  • Wrote a novel. I participated in NaNoWriMo 2006, and completed 50,000 words in November 2006 for my novel. Actually, I still need to finish the ending and revise it, but achieving my goal of 50,000 words was awesome.
  • Completed NaNoWriMo for the 2nd time, writing 108,000 words in a novel in 30 days in November 2009.
  • Took control of my finances. This is related to doubling my income, of course, but I stopped living paycheck-to-paycheck and learned how to stick to my budget, spend less, save and pay off debts.
  • Saved a sizable emergency fund. One of the smartest financial moves I’ve ever made. If you don’t have one, start today! My emergency fund is now very comfortable, but it wasn’t very large at first. I couldn’t have gotten out of debt without it.
  • Completely eliminated my debt. I started with some smaller bills in 2006, and paid off every single debt by the end of the 2007. It was amazing! I now live debt-free.
  • Simplified my life. I have become fairly frugal, and have reduced a lot of clutter in my life. A little at a time, gradually getting better, but I’m pretty happy with the simplicity of my house and the rest of my life.
  • Cleared my inbox and desk and kept them that way. My inbox is always clear, and so is my desk. It is lovely!
  • Lost weight. I’ve lost about 65 pounds and am fitter than ever.
  • Trained and completed a couple short triathlons. I did it for fun, not competition, and it was a blast.
  • Began commuting to work by bike. I just started this a few weeks ago, and only do it once or twice a week, but I hope to gradually increase to doing it 4-5 times a week. I am saving gas, helping the environment, being frugal, simplifying my life and getting great exercise all in one move!
  • Started Zen Habits and made it a top blog within a year. Today, Zen Habits has over 200K subscribers and has twice been named one of the Top 25 blogs by Time Magazine.
  • Started a second blog, Write To Done, for writers and bloggers. It now has more than 20K subscribers and is one of the Top 10 blogs for writers. (Note: I no longer own this blog — I gave it away a few years ago.)
  • Wrote a best-selling productivity ebook, Zen To Done at the end of 2007. Has been bought and downloaded by hundreds of thousands of readers.
  • Wrote an Amazon best-selling print book, The Power of Less. See it here.
  • Started a third blog, mnmlist, about minimalism.
  • Gave up my car in the summer of 2010. These days my family walks or takes mass transit, and we’re also starting to take up bicycling.
  • Moved to San Francisco in summer 2010. This allowed my family to give up our car, live vegan more easily, and enjoy city life with beautiful nature activities nearby.
  • Completed the Goruck Challenge in 2011. Super tough physical fitness team challenge, running and hiking and carrying heavy things and doing pushups and crabwalks and more, for 13+ hours … with 50+ lbs. of bricks on your back.
  • Created the Sea Change Program in 2012. This is my habit membership program, and it helps a couple thousand people a month change their habits.
  • Became fully vegan. After being mostly vegan for several years, in October 2012 I decided to go fully vegan. One of the best decisions of my life.
  • Created more: The 7-Day Vegan Challenge, a handful of ebooks, the Simple Fitness Habit course and more.
  • Ran a 50-mile ultramarathon in December 2013. One of the hardest accomplishments of my life.

That sounds like a lot, and looking back on it, it is. But I didn’t tackle it all at once, and by building on and learning from each previous success, I was able to achieve each new challenge I set before myself. And I had a blast doing it (and still do).

Now, I have no claims to perfection. I fail all the time, on a daily basis. But I don’t let it stop me. Maybe I didn’t run today. But that doesn’t mean I won’t run tomorrow, and over the long run, I’ve made incredible progress.

How have I done all this? No magic tricks, no special amount of determination or dedication. Simple methods, the stuff I talk about on this site, and stuff that I’m still learning to perfect and probably never will.

It is a journey, with no destination, that we are on, my friends. Join me. Together, we’ll accomplish a lot and have fun along the way.

A version of this post was previously published on zenhabits.net and is republished here with permission from the author.

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Photo credit: istockphoto