My Story

Me and my family

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

Many of my new readers (welcome new readers!) have been wondering, after reading some of my posts on how to achieve your goals, and how to save money or exercise or wake up early … 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. 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 a marathon. 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. I hope to run many more, and recommend it to everyone.
  • 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 discovered GTD. It was like waking up after a long sleep. 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 vegan. In August 2006, I decided to become vegan. I first cut out meat, and then slowly transitioned to a 99% vegan diet. I don’t drink milk or eat eggs. Now, I am vegan most days, with some days when I have little choice but to eat cheese or something with traces of milk products. I hope to be 100% by the end of this year. I am eating healthier than ever before.
  • Doubled 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Began eliminating my debt. I started with some smaller bills at the beginning of last year, and paid off several of them by the end of the year. This year, I am doing even better, and plan to pay off my credit card by summer and car by the end of 2007.
  • Began saving an emergency fund. One of the smartest financial moves I’ve ever made. If you don’t have one, start today! My emergency fund is still smaller than I’d like, but at least it’s something. I continue to contribute to it each payday and within a few months it will be fairly healthy and I can begin to save for other things.
  • 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. I credit this to learning the principles of GTD. My inbox is always clear, and so is my desk. It is lovely!
  • Lost weight. I’ve lost about 30 pounds so far, and would like to lose another 20-30. My goal is to have a flat stomach by the end of 2007.
  • Began training for a triathlon. My goal this year is to complete an Olympic-distance triathlon. To that end, I have been taking swimming lessons and have started to learn to ride a bike.
  • 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!
  • Began the habit of clean-as-you-go, keeping my house clean all the time. I clean my kitchen sink every time I use it, and keep the counters and table clean. I clean my bathroom sink and toilet and shower every time I use it. I pick up after the kids as I go. I make sure the house is clean before I leave, and before I go to bed, so it’s clean when I wake up. It’s a simple way of keeping your house clean, and I recommend it heartily.
  • Added: Started Zen Habits and made it a top blog within a year. Today, Zen Habits has over 100K subscribers and was named one of the Top 25 blogs by Time Magazine.
  • Added: Started a second blog, Write To Done, for writers and bloggers. It now has more than 10K subscribers and is one of the Top 10 blogs for writers.
  • Added:Wrote the No. 1 best-selling productivity ebook, Zen To Done. Has been bought and downloaded by tens of thousands of readers.
  • Added: Wrote a best-selling print book, The Power of Less. My book made the best-selling list on Amazon.com, and is in bookstores around the country.
  • Added: Started a third blog, mnmlist, about minimalism. Has well over 6,000 subscribers already.
  • Completed NaNoWriMo for the 2nd time, writing 108,000 words in a novel in 30 days in November 2009.

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 it won’t stop me from achieving my goal. And there’s still a lot of things I’d like to achieve, habits I’d like to change, and hope to change this year and in the coming years. But so far, I’m pretty happy with myself.

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.