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Atomic Habits for Freelancers: Growing Your Snowball

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If you build healthy habits and routines in your life, you will always win over someone who waits around for motivation to get things done. 

Atomic Habits is one of our all-time favorite books, so we dedicated this episode to discussing some of our favorite takeaways from the book and how it all applies to someone who is freelancing.

Listen now to learn about building healthy habits, eliminating unhealthy habits, and how something called a “Systems Snowball” can help along the way.

In this episode you’ll discover:

  • How Brian and Chris make the most of their reading experience
  • The pros and cons of Kindle
  • Why habits are such an important part of our day to day lives
  • Why small habits matter the most
  • How to build your systems snowball
  • What to do if you aren’t a goal-oriented person
  • How to view lagging vs. leading indicators of your habits
  • How systems have shaped humanity
  • Why it’s important to forge ahead even when you can’t see progress

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“Systems make habits easier to do.” – Chris Graham


“Not a fun fact. That’s a trash fact.” – Brian Hood

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The Six Figure Creative Podcast



Atomic Habits by James Clear

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

My Life & Work – An Autobiography of Henry Ford



Jimmy Buffett

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

Brian: [00:00:00] Welcome back to another episode of the six-figure creative podcast. I am your host Brian Hood. I'm here with my big bald beautiful black shirt, Dakota. You stopped wearing purple shirts. So I can't even do the

Chris: I'm working

Chris: on it.

Brian: Christopher J. Graham. This is our co-host today. How are you doing today?

Brian: My dude.

Chris: I'm doing great, man. You know I got a lot going on. We talked about this a little bit on the last episode. I've been hanging out down at the state house and working on changing laws and I got it.

Brian: dude. Okay. Important stuff, not going to gloss over all the stuff, but we have talked about in the podcast and you also, by the way, for anyone who hasn't listened to the creativity and mental health podcast, Chris talks to that entire saga on that podcast ago, download, subscribe to that podcast. But where my heart is right in this moment is this little precious bundle of joy sitting behind you right

Brian: now, introduce him to the, to the world, watching on YouTube.

Brian: And by the way, if you're white, if you're listening to this podcast, an audio form right now, this is your chance to actually get onto YouTube. So go to six-figure creative.com/youtube, and actually watch this video if you're on YouTube. [00:01:00] So you can see Buster. This is Chris's new dog Buster, and I love him because he's not a cat.

Brian: That's the best feature.

Chris: a sweetie. He so crazy story Buster is this article. You know, this thing we brought up before it came out on a. Online first and I'll like read it. And it was a lot of feelings. And then I accidentally locked myself out of my apartment building

Brian: When it rains, it pours, dude.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. So when it rains border, so I'm sitting there with my kids and we were like waiting for someone to open the door and my kids are like, dude, there's a dog in there.

Chris: And the jar is just sitting on the stairs, staring at us, which is weird. Cause the dog by itself, like in the hallway of apartment buildings, not normal. And if someone lets us in and we like go and see the dog, and it's like, love at first sight. And I'm thinking like, okay, there's a lot going on in my life right now.

Chris: Sometimes I've heard these stories about how a dog, oh, he's rubbing his junk on the floor.

Brian: I see

Chris: Good old dog. But, [00:02:00]

Brian: Love him. Buster guy, boss, boss.

Chris: Dog finds you. So I've heard So I'm hanging out with this dog. We figured out who its owner is and they get in the conversation with the owner and the owner's like, yeah, you know, my wife is allergic to it since she had kids.

Chris: It was the weirdest thing. Start having kids. And it's, you know, she can't touch him anymore. She breaks out. so I'm like a kid I'll take it. And it was awesome, man. Like, it's been really cool and he has really helped me. Form good habits in the morning because if I don't like do the right things, have the right habits in the morning, I get some poopoo on my floor and

Brian: forcing function.

Chris: Yeah. So that's been a really interesting experience to start to develop more of a routine than I've had in the past to be like, Hey, did you okay? You can ready to go to bed. Probably take the dog out. Okay. Just woke up. Probably take the dog out. You're watching TV, probably call the dogs that he'll snuggle with you while you watch TV.

Chris: Like.

Brian: I love that you just find a [00:03:00] dog and an apartment hallway, which I'm glad you found the owner. Cause I was like, Chris, did you just take a dog from the apartment and call it your own and not talk to anybody? Cause it was probably somebody's dog, but I love that you found the owner and then. The owners like, yeah, it does sound like.

Brian: So that's why I was worried when he started telling the owners the link, listen to this podcast and is going to Sue you now. No, but I love you to talk to them and they're just Like.

Brian: oh, It just so happens that this dogs in the free market, do you want it? Like, we can no longer own this dog because of allergies.

Brian: That's.

Chris: It was wild man. So they went upstairs, got the dog, brought it downstairs and they like walked up to me and Buster just like runs up to me and he sits by my foot and leans on my.

Brian: That's adorable. That's the best. That's the first true love at first sight story I've ever heard? I don't believe it. I don't believe in love at first sight with humans, but with pets. Absolutely. I believe that,

Chris: I used to believe in it.

Brian: So for, for those who don't, aren't watching the video for some stupid reason. And you're still listening to the audio of this.

Brian: The dog looks like an older wishbone. If anyone watched a wishbone back in the day, the [00:04:00] little children's program, you know, lagging,

Chris: I'm so much older than you apparent.

Brian: you don't remember

Chris: No.

Brian: Oh dude, you are like, you're you're at midlife crisis mode right now. Like you're

Brian: almost

Chris: I am in the middle of a midlife crisis right now. And it's an epic midlife crisis. We don't, we don't do things small here.

Brian: No we don't none of the six figure home

Brian: studio,

Chris: way.

Brian: We do things big here in

Chris: Yeah. Change the laws front page. Yeah. That's how I, that's how I midlife crisis. Let's go. Come at me.

Brian: You've got the dog and this is the reason that Meg and I have not gotten a dog is because we love to travel, which is where we're at right now. Today we're in Malaga, Spain, Southern tip of Spain on the coast. We're like on this Hilltop. Hotel. Cause we'd like to, at the very end of our trips, we like to kind of relax at a nice place.

Brian: We're not really as in adventure mode. So we want somewhere, we can kind of lounge overlooking the ocean's beautiful here. But the problem with this trip is We are so far removed from our routine. Like, you know how I am. I'm like, I'm big on habit, big on routine. And you, before we even [00:05:00] started doing this episode, you started talking about kind of your habits and your routines and the stuff you're going through right now.

Brian: And then we started talking about atomic habits, which is an incredible book that I read probably months, six months ago, maybe seven months ago. And then I, I would like to think that I'm the one that got you to read it eventually,

Chris: It was on my list and you pushed me over the edge.

Brian: Yes. And with, with everything that's going on in your life, especially right now, habits and routines are incredibly important for you to still function and get anything done in your life right now.

Brian: And for me, it's actually effecting my work on this vacation. And I'll talk about more of this in a video. I have prepared in the future for the YouTube channel, when I get broken out of my routine and the habits I've built, am I like my real life, home life and Nashville. It ruins my productivity.

Brian: And so I'm just seeing firsthand. I knew it was going to be this way on this trip. Like I knew when I booked this, that it, my productivity would go down and I'm okay with that. I wanted to venture to see a little bit of a world and not be stuck at damn home all day. Like everyone has including myself for the last year and a half due to COVID.

Brian: This book and the principles from this book are crucial for what you're going through in your life. And [00:06:00] me. When I get back into my life in Nashville next week, I'm trying to get back into my habits routines. So in this episode, we had this idea of Chris is going to go through the highlights from his book, atomic habits, which we highly recommend.

Brian: If you go to six figure creative.com/atomic habits, that will just forward you to the link to buy that book on. But we both love the book. We both have preached this from the highest hill we can for this book. But we're gonna talk through some of the concept from this book that we both either that Chris has in his highlights on his Kindle right now.

Brian: And actually Chris, before we even do this, I'd like for you to talk through your process for taking notes and Kendall, cause I'm a, I'm more of a physical. Highlighter. Like I always buy the physical book. If it's a business book, I always underline and highlight actually under I'm an underliner, I'm not a highlighter.

Brian: I underline in book and write in the margins, like any notes I have. And then if it's something I particularly keen on, I will dog ear the page to go back and re review, like on a yearly review. A few people I've heard that do that. I love that, that, that sort of process where you're going back and reviewing the notes from these books to kind of [00:07:00] get refreshed, stay top of mind.

Brian: And so talk through your process and your.

Chris: Well, I have two processes. I have, I have a physical process for physical books. And these are, I'm not this isn't off the top of my head. This is something I've been doing for years. I don't think we've ever talked about on the podcast, but sometimes I read a physical book. I love the physical book and I think physical books are one of the most beautiful thing in the world.

Chris: Beautiful things in the world. I've got tons and tons and tons of them. And when I'm reading a physical book, if that's what I'm in the mood for, I'll have a pen. It's usually a Fisher bullet pin, which is like one of those space pens they can write in zero gravity love those things. And I'll, I'll

Brian: I think you've, I vaguely remember you mentioning that specific pen at one point on this podcast, but that's,

Brian: that's a bizarre, specific thing.

Chris: I have a brass one and so it's got some patina,

Brian: How much.

Chris: like 17.

Brian: Oh, that's not that bad. I thought I saw you. You you're the type of person that would spend like a hundred to $200 on a pen. So I was expecting a higher price point.

Chris: I am that type of [00:08:00] person, but I didn't like these are, these are awesome. This was, it was so weird. So there's a story about the pen. I'll tell another time. Well now I'm going to tell it. So I was producing record in Nashville and I was at the sound Emporium awesome classic studio. This is years ago and I picked up one of these pens and the engineer that was engineering while I was producing was.

Chris: Amen. That's oh, what's his name? What is Dan away again? That's Jimmy Buffett's pen. Jimmy buffet left that pen here and I was like, cool, can I keep it? And he's like, yeah. And I got addicted to him.

Brian: You have Jimmy Buffett's pen or that one ran out eventually. And

Chris: lost it. I lost Jimmy Buffett's pan and I bought many more replacements, but Jimmy Buffett apparently has excellent tasting. And so when I read your book, I use that pan. I like how it feels. I like how portable it is. It like becomes half size when you, when you fold it down. And I do what everybody else does.

Chris: I underline and I take margins in the notes. If something is underlined 100% of the time I dog ear the top corner. If what I underlined is crazy, [00:09:00] life-changing advice. I put lines on either side of the left and the right of what I underlined and I dog ear the bottom corner. The bottom corner is reserved only for the most bad-ass of pieces of information.

Chris: And then what I like to do is maybe later that year or 10 years later, I pick up that book. And if I'm in a hurry, I go through just my bottom dog ears. If I really want to go all out, I go through all of my dogs.

Brian: Which, which I've seen your books before, and I feel like you dog you're damn near every page.

Chris: It takes a lot of time to go back through it. But, you know, I could probably do it in like 30 minutes on an average business book, Kendall, I'm trying to force myself to use Kendall. And this has been like a ten-year process. Kendall. It's not as sexy as a physical book, a physical book that you can hold in your hands.

Chris: It's just wonderful. But there are some benefits of. If you use the Kindle on your iPhone, you have multiple highlighter colors that you can use to highlight things. And [00:10:00] I believe those colors are. Yeah. Yeah. They are yellow, pink, blue, and orange. And my system is yellow is, Hey, that's cool. Pink is ah, that's that's that's really, really, really, really cool.

Chris: That would get a bottom dog year Blue is sort of a catchall. Like I don't use blue that often. And then orange means I need to talk to somebody else about this. I read this and I need to discuss this with somebody else. And you can do, doggier like in a Kendall, like you can put a bookmark to me.

Chris: That's not terribly useful in a Kindle, but what is, so what a candle is, you get cloud sync. So if I'm reading on my iPad pro or my actual Kindle, or my iPhone, everything stays sinked across all devices. And if I'm at like a dentist office, And they're running 10 minutes late. I pick up my phone and I can jump right back into the book of where I'm at.

Chris: The other thing that's so awesome is that my entire library will stay with me for the rest of my life on Kindle, unless there is like a nuclear war that vaporizes the entire surface of the planet. My [00:11:00] highlights are permanent because they're stored in millions of different places. I don't know, millions, lots of different places all over the world.

Chris: And what's cool is I can be hanging out and be like, man, I really love. With so-and-so said in such and such book, hold on, let me look that up. And I've opened my Kindle app and I searched for a keyword in the quote that I can remember. And then bam, it's right there. And it is so cool to be able to have my entire library in my pocket.

Chris: And so at one point when business started to go really, really well and like maybe 20 12, 20 13, I started having free time cause I had systemized so much of my business. So I went back to my physical book. And I would go through them page at a time, find my highlights by the Kindle version and do the same and, and transfer those highlights into my Kendall.

Brian: That sounds like a process to outsource.

Chris: Well, yes, and I was originally planning to outsource it, but I found the process of doing it actually helped me get back into that book and retain more than information and get more clarity.

Brian: It's like a review.

Chris: [00:12:00] exactly. Initially I was going to have an intern. And then I, I, I started to do it to get my process down and I was like, no, no, no, I need to do this for all of my books.

Chris: I don't think I did it for all of them, but I did it for a lot of them. And when you're reading a book, this sort of process allows you to retain it. Books are great. If you can retain it. And if you apply what you learn, but if you didn't retain it, you're not gonna be.

Brian: And that's kind of the reason we are doing this episode is for anyone who's already read atomic habits. It's a big, a great refresher for anyone who has not read atomic habits. This'll be.

Brian: a lot of good little tidbits from the book. There'll be both helpful for you, but also hopefully push you to go buy the book.

Brian: Now, not that we have anything in it for, for our, there's no gain from us, for you buying the book

Chris: Yeah, there's no affiliate link.

Brian: Yeah there other than actually the link that I just said will probably be like,

Chris: Okay. That's fine.

Brian: but you can also just search Amazon and buy it without an affiliate link. But other than the affiliate link, there's no benefit.

Brian: The whole reason why we're pushing this book so hard is because You're going through such a time right now, Chris, and again, Chris, Dell's into [00:13:00] all the details of this in his other podcast, creativity, mental health. So we're not gonna go into the details of that, but it's, this is such a time to have healthy habits and routines in your life to get you through those tough times.

Brian: And so to go through this book right now is just very, it's very apt for the situation that you're in right now. and I want to, before we go into this, these book highlights, we're going to talk through, I do want to mention a third benefit and there's actually many more benefit to Kendall and that is lower, no light readings.

Brian: So like being able to lay in your bed with no lights on

Chris: Oh, yeah, I forgot about.

Brian: huge benefit. Like that's I read my Kindle every night before bed. I never read business books on it. I only, I only read fantasy novels. And so right now I'm reading the storyline archived by Brandon Sanderson is like a four or five book series.

Brian: They're like a thousand pages each. And that's just, it takes me like three months to go through one of those books. But it's just the way I unwind at night. It takes me, it turns my brain off. It chills me out, pushed me to sleep. I'm usually I can read maybe 10, 20 minutes tops before I start to eyes get heavy.

Brian: But the low light reading where I didn't have a backlight is very various on the dumbest setting. Allows me to read in the dark without having a lamp on. [00:14:00] And so I loved that, that thing as well. So anyways, let's go into the notes, Chris, you have some notes, you're going to pull from it. And I wish that if I were home right now, it definitely pulled my copy of atomic habits out.

Brian: And I would go through my underlines for you to talk through your thoughts on those as well, Chris, cause I would love to hear like have some collaboration here on both sides, but this is all going to be your highlights and notes from the book. And we'll just talk through it. We didn't, we have not prepared any of this, so this could be awful, but who knows?

Brian: Let's go.

Chris: Okay. So atomic habits. The first thing I highlighted in here, as he talks about what does he mean by atomic habits? And he says, atomic means an extremely small amount of the thing, the single irreducible unit of a larger system. The big idea in this book is that small habit changes can have enormous changes for you in every area of your life.

Chris: And he goes on and page 15, he says, if you can get 1% better each day, For one year you'll end up 37 times better. By the time you got.

Brian: Yeah, I love that stat. And this is the first thing that you and I, before we did the [00:15:00] episode, you brought up that line. And I was like, I don't know if I agree with that. Like, statistically, it makes sense. Like 1% that every day it's 30 times, 37 times better at the end of a year, but it's never like that.

Brian: Like, and the reality of it is it's never like 1% better every day. Slog through a month and there's no progress. And then like all of a sudden you look back and, oh, I am a little bit better than I was before I am a little fit, little trimmer. I do have a little more muscle mass, but you never see the changes.

Brian: 1% is in perceivable in most cases. And then all of a sudden you might have a massive gain followed by a long three month plateau. So it's really hard to quantify and go by that true 1% thing. But the point of it is it's like compound interest. It starts off so small. And so. Negligible difference from the day-to-day perspective, but once you zoom out to the larger perspective of a year or even 10 years, it is an incredible difference that you have.

Brian: That's why, if you look at like retirement portfolios over a 30 to 40 year horizon, you can, you can amass millions in wealth with a relatively small amount of investment.[00:16:00] That's the same for habit, just a small amount of investment everyday and an atomic amount of investment into whatever habit or routine or thing that you're trying to build.

Brian: Doing that every single day compounds every single time that you do it. and that's the, that's kind of the point here in Nicholas.

Chris: Yeah, totally well, and this book has been really cool for me because I'm working in a coaching program right now. The working name is faster freelancer, which I stole from you. Producer. I'm the faster freelancer and where we talk about systems. We talk about systemizing people's businesses. And the big idea here is to build a systems snowball and assist them.

Chris: Snowball is when you're working on your business, instead of for it, you find a way to be 1% better morph. Exactly what James clear is talking about in this book to get slightly better incrementally so that eventually you're massively better.

Brian: Can you give us an example of what that looks like?

Chris: I can. Yeah. So when you're building a system snowball, when I'm teaching people right now in this coaching program that I'm building is your first thing that you should build is [00:17:00] a system that will save you enough time to build a second system.

Chris: And the purpose of your second system is to save you a enough time to build your third system. As you build more and more systems that make your work more efficient. Eventually that begins to roll downhill. And Brian, you hit the nail on the head

Brian: This reminds me. And I know you stole this from,

Chris: a hundred percent,

Brian: Yeah, the the

Brian: debt

Chris: got baby steps and everything.

Brian: Yeah. Okay. I got that. I get that. So that's the 1% better thing. So like, again, if you were to take this to the debt conversation, which I think a lot of people can understand because many people in our community are in debt is you pay off the smallest, the smallest debt you have.

Brian: And that way, now that payment from the smallest debt is going towards the next smallest debt. And you're just kind of snowballing your debt payoff until you're completely out of.

Chris: Well, and not only that, there's a psychological benefit when you go, when you try to structure this around momentum. Rather than goal oriented. And James, Claire goes into this a lot in the book about how goals are overrated, because they don't create [00:18:00] transformational change. You meet your goal. And then you're like, okay, what do I do next?

Chris: And like, I even struggled with that with debt. When I did the, did the Dave Ramsey thing, I got out of debt at one point. And then I was like, oh, well now what I was having a good time kicking my debt's ass.

Brian: It, he does. He has other steps. Chris will like pay down your mortgage is like the final thing. But yeah,

Brian: I

Brian: I I get the goal thing cause I do struggle with goals myself. Like I am actually not a goal oriented person. I'm more about the journey, which is weird to say and think, cause once I hit a goal, I'm like, all right, what's what's next?

Brian: Like I'll always have like one foot in the thing that.

Brian: I'm finishing and the other foot already likes finding the next place I'm going to go. Like, let's just how naturally how I am. Goals don't really motivate me. So I, I, I don't know what that means or how that applies to this conversation, but that's just how I.

Chris: Well, I think that that's a fascinating part of this conversation. I think that goals are only useful when the product of the goal becomes a lever that helps you create a better system, that more [00:19:00] transformation, more change, faster. And the capability of better goals. So case in point, not, not to like take this down the depressing story of my life,

Brian: Right

Brian: now

Brian: Yeah.

Brian: Not

Brian: your entire life.

Chris: This, article came out where I came forward as a, as a survivor. And I was able to leverage that into political action here in the state of Ohio. There's already one bill in the Senate. There's going to be another one in the house here pretty soon, but I was only able to do that. Through getting to a certain threshold where that article actually came out in the front page, in the newspaper.

Chris: So when you have a goal, I think that goal shouldn't be a vanity goal. It should be a leverage.

Brian: I see what you're saying. The goal should be like, once I complete this thing, once I hit this goal, what am I going to do now that I've reached this goal to get to the next level? So I like that a lot, cause that that fits your, your system snowball that fits the debt snowball. It's like my, my tiny goal is to pay off this little credit card debt.

Brian: But when am I going to do with that money? That the freeze up now that I don't have. Now that my payment has freed up on the [00:20:00] minimum payment on that small credit card. What does that money go towards? It should go towards the next credit card and so on and so forth until it's paid off. And I am out of debt with the systems.

Brian: It's the same thing. So have we talked about the, the 1% better thing enough or is there anything else we need to discuss in this, like 1% better over a

Brian: year?

Chris: there's another Highland on page 16. That I'm obsessed with. And he says, habits are the compound interest of self-improvement the same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effect of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make a little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be.

Chris: It is only when looking back to five or perhaps 10 years later, that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.

Brian: It actually reminds me a lot of the book, the compound effect by Darren Hardy, where he has a story in their recess. Like the person who eats an extra like hundred calories a day. For a year and the person who eats extra or [00:21:00] takes a hundred calories off their diet for one year at the end of the year, there's like a 30 pound difference between those two people.

Brian: It is like, it is like an insanely big difference in weight from a really small amount of calories once you've multiply that over a year's time. So it's just those small, tiny changes compounded over a year can be incredibly beneficial or incredibly detrimental, whether they're a good habit or a bad habit.

Brian: that's kinda the whole premise of this book. This is how important habits. And you can have good habits or you can have bad habits. How do we get rid of the bad habits and how do we double down on those good habits? And if you have the good habits in place, when everything falls apart in your life, you have some sort of foundation in place in your life to keep moving forward in a positive way.

Brian: Even when all hope is lost, even when all things look like they have no, no bright side, you have something that, you know, will help put you on the right path towards progress. And I think you could probably resonate to that a little bit right now,

Chris: So much, man. Yeah. You know, it's been wild as I've been trying to rebuild my life. It's [00:22:00] been so much I don't want to use the word easier. But it's been nice to be like, oh, I've done this before. Like I've built stuff from the ground up. I've built systems that have enabled me to achieve far more than I'm capable of without these systems.

Chris: And that's the same thing right now of trying to figure out what is a new normal. My story has changed. And let me, let me jump back into this book because there's, there's two quotes I want to read that are really on par with what we're talking about right now. That you should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results and read that again.

Chris: You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results. Meaning where you're going is more important than where you are.

Brian: I can resonate with that. Okay. So I'm going to, there's going to be a bunch of times in this, in this conversation. We have Chris where I'm not talking about business and that's.

Chris: Yes.

Brian: Surprise. This is personal development. It's far more than visits. This is your personal life. The ski could apply this [00:23:00] to dating.

Brian: You'd apply this to farming. You could apply this to fitness. You could apply this to anything. So like, I'm going to just talk about the things that I, that I immediately come to my head with this stuff. So you can look at this with fitness. Like I can look at my current weights. I'm I'm bench pressing or squatting or whatever, and say, this is pitiful.

Brian: This is sad. I should be doing way more than this. Why is my chest so weak? Especially compared to my squad or my deadlift,

Chris: It's a question I've wondered about you many times, Brian.

Brian: I appreciate that wondering Chris, but then you look at the progress you say, oh, I've actually gone up 20, 25% over the last month or 30% over the last year or something like that.

Brian: And that's the trajectory that I'm on. I'm actually increasing considerable amount month to month or year to year. So I should be focusing more on the trajectory of those positive trends of my weight numbers and not the current place that I'm in right now. Is that essentially what that book.

Chris: Yeah.

Brian: Okay. So same with your business then, like, so no matter where you're at with the habits, you're building, look at the trajectory of how are you constantly adding new habits to your life, or [00:24:00] are you like you don't have to look at, look at yourself and say, man, I have no habits in my life.

Brian: At least you're taking steps towards at least you're reading a book called atomic habits and maybe implementing some of the stuff from the book. Same, same in business. Same in marketing sent me, he'll put this in so many different ways. I hate how broad this is because it could apply to so many things.

Chris: Yeah, but it's also without this information, I think what makes this information so cool is I cannot help, but think about the story of humanity. How have we gone from monkeys to like a literal, like force of nature on this planet? And the answer is. And systems are just habits they systems make habits easier to do.

Chris: And you look at, I mean, I look around my office here, my toilet it's fantastic technology. It, it removes the poopoo from the room. It's a system. When I turn on the faucet, water comes out that I can drink to stay alive. That's a system. The thermostat makes sure [00:25:00] that it's 70 degrees, 72 degrees in this office, generally at all times.

Chris: That's a system when I flipped the lights. Even if it's dark outside, it's now like daylight on the inside of my office. All of these are systems that humans have developed and shared, and it's how we've moved forward as a species. And let me, let me come back to this, this idea of your current trajectory.

Chris: We can think about humanity in regards to current trajectory and things look pretty good. We're doing all right. If we think about trajectory, not about where we see we are currently at, but Brian, I think this is going to be your favorite quote. This is from later on in that. He says your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits.

Chris: Your net worth is a legging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. Your clutter is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits. You get what you.

Brian: I have to stay one important thing for anyone [00:26:00] who's not from the. Legging is lagging is what he's trying to say. A lagging indicator for us says lagging indicator. And so anyone who's confused, he just talking about L these are lagging indicators of like you have cluttered in your life because of your habits.

Brian: Right? That's essentially what he's saying. It's like, these are the lagging indicators, basically, basically. It's the things that are the result of your bad habits in life. So what, what's the opposite of that? What are the leading, does he talk about the leading indicators? What are the things that will show?

Brian: What will.

Chris: Well, one of the things he talks about in this in regard to this, and this is the same page, like where w all of these quotes are from one page so far,

Brian: Dude. I, again, I, that book, I just remember having more underlines and highlights and doggy ears on the first, like two chapters than any other book I've ever read.

Chris: he's a prophet man. I mean, he, he really is like, I don't understand how, how, why is he is, and here's the fun fact. Do you know a town James clearly. Columbus Ohio.

Brian: Not a fun fact. That's a, that's a trash fact. Continue on your [00:27:00] story, Chris. Get to the.

Chris: Okay. So he says time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits. Make time your ally bad habits make time your enemy.

Brian: I mean, okay. So let's talk through this again. So you mentioned like systems a lot and, and that's just. Really heavy handed agenda that he has a coaching program coming out

Brian: that is about systems. And

Chris: not, well, like it's, it's limited.

Brian: but I loved your point that like the progress of humanity, the trajectory that we're on right now is because of the systems we built out, like the, the light that you mentioned, the toy, this, you mentioned, all those things are incredibly powerful and helpful for all of humanity.

Brian: And it allows us to do things like focus on bigger picture stuff instead of the small tedious crap about literally getting crap out of our houses. Like. A pain. If we didn't have things like plumbing, it'd be hard to get water from the well to our house. If we didn't have plumbing going straight to us.

Brian: So I get that. it's like those things are eliminating the TDM of life so that we are able to focus on big picture. Amazing.

Chris: [00:28:00] So toilets, lights, sinks, all of that stuff, bringing water from the well, versus just turning your faucet on all of those things are convenient, but where they become magical is an opportunity cost.

Chris: What did you do instead of going to the get. What did you do instead of walking out into your backyard and two feet of snow to take a crap in the outhouse versus using your toilet?

Chris: What you do is you build a better life. What you do is you build other systems. Humanity is in the side of a systems snowball. Every time we do something, Amazon. do you remember the world before Amazon prime or you couldn't get on your phone and literally have like 175 options for what toothbrush holder you were going to have, and it costs way less than in any store when you were in.

Chris: That was built because on the, on the back of all these other systems, there would've been no time to build Amazon prime. If Jeff [00:29:00] Bezos was crapping in and outhouse, we are in the midst of a system snowball, and we have reinvested the time and the energy that our systems have saved us into other things because systems make habits ease.

Brian: So let's actually, let's bring this back to the, to the conversation that creatives have right now, because how does this, how does this apply to us as creatives? And so there's a little bit of pushback I have to give because there is a lot to. A habit in your life. That is where every let's just remember back into your day, Chris, when you were still building the studio business, you were still trying to get the.

Brian: You're trying to eat out as much profit as possible from that mastering business you were, you had not even quite cracked six figures yet for your first, for the first time. And I believe you were like every wind you had started doing it every Wednesday. You would work on your business, working on systems.

Brian: That was a routine that you put into place in your business. the routine is every Wednesday. So at a certain time, I will spend the three hours in the afternoon or certain number of hours in the afternoon [00:30:00] on Wednesday. To work on my cyst on my business building systems out that allows you to actually finally break six figures and go beyond, and then eventually launch other businesses because you had so many systems put into place that you could actually split your time.

Brian: So when Chris is there, is there ever a point where you need to work on anything but systems, should you just work on systems rest of your life? What about the actual work you have to do in your business as a freelancer? Cause like there's so much we have to do where we're stuck in the muck of actually working on.

Brian: When do we work on systems? And when do we work on like our day-to-day stuff?

Chris: I'm going to answer that with a quote from James clear, he said, habits often appear, make no difference until you cross a critical threshold. A new level of performance in the early and middle stages of any quest. There's often a valley of disappointment. You expect to make progress in a linear fashion.

Chris: And it's frustrating how ineffective changes can seem during the first days, weeks, and even months. It doesn't feel like you were going anywhere. That is the hallmark of compounding interest. The [00:31:00] most powerful outcomes are delayed. Now, what I'm what I mean by this? What, the reason I bring this up is that you can't just stop running your busy.

Chris: If you have no time, if you live in a constant state of overwhelm, because you have so many projects going on, you have so many clients, but you're not making enough money to really have any time off or maybe to not even hire an assistant you're stuck. And so your only way out, I think this is probably one of my favorite topics we've ever discussed on the podcast. The only way out is to take a little bit of time and take a small pay. Where you get two or three hours a week that you work on your business instead of for it. And when you have that two or three hours, you spend that two or three hours building a system.

Chris: It saves you enough time to build a second system, which the second system's goal is to save enough time to have a third system. And all of a sudden, you start to create margin. You start to create time in your schedule, where you have more time to work on your business. And this is exactly what happened to me.

Chris: This is a transformation I went.

Brian: Well, let's, [00:32:00] let's, let's talk about this and cause, cause you, you are talking in theory right now. What specifically do we work on as that first thing to clear up more time? So we can then work on the second thing that clears up more times than we can work on a third thing again, it makes sense in theory, but what is the, what are the things, what are the things that we built?

Brian: What systems do you build out to save time?

Chris: So case in point when my business began to grow faster than I could stand it, I would master all day long. And then I would go upstairs. I'd have dinner with my family and then I'd come back downstairs and I would begin to bounce export and send the masters. I'd worked on that.

Brian: And for those who don't know the audio world, as well as like most of our audience is audio related. So they know what that means, but that just means where you're like going into the program, you're having to highlight stuff and then export it. And basically it's just this tedious process of doing the same thing over and over and over and over.

Brian: Waiting for things to load and then doing it again and waiting for things to load and then doing it again. It's just, it's just, it's tedious and crappy. So that's like an end of day task that you.

Chris: Yeah. And so I would end up like eating dinner, going, I'm going to go set [00:33:00] up another bounce and I'm going to come back up and I'm need dessert and okay, I'm gonna go back down and we'll have another balance and I'm going to, you know, put my kid to bed and I'm going to run downstairs and then I'm going to set up another balance.

Chris: It was this awful process and I recognized. How expensive. It was not just from a time standpoint, but from a, how it was affecting my life. I was affecting my family. And so I read four-hour workweek have mentioned this in the podcast before I read chapter five. And because I didn't have time to read the whole book.

Chris: And in chapter five, he talks about the 80 20 principle. And I realized that if I could learn to build systems, if I could become a systems, Nick. that was the biggest lever I had access to that I could dramatically change my life if I became assistance ninja. So I figured that all this effort that I'm putting in, if I apply some of that effort towards becoming a systems ninja, then it will, there'll be a compound

Brian: What the hell does that

Brian: even mean? What is this you're being so cryptic? What does a systems and engine, how did this save your.

Chris: you've heard the phrase necessity is the mother of invention. Overwhelm [00:34:00] is the mother of system. If you're constantly overwhelmed by the work that you're doing, your only choice is to schedule time, to work on your business and not for it. And to find a system that you can build that will reduce your overwhelm.

Chris: Usually that's going to start with your time. You need to reduce the time that you're working. So you have more time to reduce more overwhelm for me in my own business. What that looked like at the end of my day, I had this task in audio. It's called. And I would have to, at least a dozen times sit in front of my computer, basically print a page that was a piece of digital audio and it would take about four minutes and then, then I would set up the next one and the next one and the next one.

Chris: And I realized if I was a systems ninja, I think I could automate this. And I built a system where I could be like, Hey, I caught it bounced. And I called this little script that I made, Hey, bounce Butler. I've got these 12 songs. Could you do all the export thing and label them all properly while I go do other stuff?

Chris: And then you text me when you're done. And [00:35:00] it took a long time. And eventually I finished the system and I will never, ever, ever forget. As long as I live walking upstairs and knowing my system was doing my work for me while I sat an eight day. With my family. It was unbelievable. And back to your point earlier about how sometimes you work and you work and you work and you don't see any results, and it's frustrating, James clear addresses this as well.

Chris: He says, imagine that you have an ice cube sitting on the table in front of you, the room is cold and you can see your breath is currently 25 degrees Fahrenheit, which for those of you that are Celsius, 25 degrees is seven degrees below.

Brian: Just.

Chris: Yeah, ever so slowly, the room begins to heat up 26 degrees, 27 degrees, 28 degrees.

Chris: The ice cube is still sitting on the table in front of you. 29 degrees, 30, 31, nothing has happened. [00:36:00] Then 32 degrees, the ice begins to melt a one degree shift seemingly no different than the temperature increases before it has. A huge change. Come on. Cheese clear preach at me brother. That is so often what systems development looks like.

Brian: let's take this back to you. So you were doing this like D nightly bouncing routine and, and whatever your dog. And then you said I'm going to automate this. And so you spent a bunch of time figuring out programming and building these scripts out, being super nerdy. And just to clarify, this is not what we're talking about for everybody.

Brian: Like

Brian: some, like there are way simpler ways of doing this like this, but the whole point though was during this time, 25 degrees, 26 degrees. You're learning programming in 27 degrees. You're starting to build some prototypes, 28 degrees, 29 degrees. You're you feel like you're wasting your time at this point, but then you hit the 32 to 33 degree point in temperature or for those in Celsius, the negative one or zero to one degree point [00:37:00] where now the ice starts to melt.

Brian: Now you're seeing the actual product. Of all the work you've put into this to get the temperature up to this point. And the result of that was like actually freeing up tons of your time and getting a huge return on the investment that you spent developing this app, learning this programming stuff, which eventually turned into its own software.

Chris: Yeah, which is one of the greatest feelings in the entire world when you cross that threshold and all of a sudden, you really like, you might be getting 1% better, but you're not experiencing that 1% at all. And then all of a sudden you cross a threshold. And for me, that first. I was walking up the basement stairs, walking to the kitchen table and sitting down and taking a deep breath and being fully present with my family.

Chris: It was mind blowing. It was the craziest experience and it was addicting, but there was a problem with what I was doing. There was no one to teach me how to do this. I scour the internet. I read manuals on different coding languages. And at the time [00:38:00] there was no information about. So 90% of the time that I spent trying to learn how to do this, ended up being wasted.

Chris: I would learn and I'd learn. I learned about I don't need that process. Okay. Crap. I just wasted three days I would learn and I'd learn and I'd learn it like, oh, I, I, I learned one thing. That's essential to the move forward, but I learn 10 other things that I can throw away. And I spent all this time trying to learn stuff that didn't really help me.

Chris: And it drove me nuts. Like I've, I feel ridiculous saying this, but I just wish that somebody would make a damn coaching program to teach me how to systemize my business. I had to teach myself, I had to spend all this time hitting my head against a wall, and I would go on these forums. There's all these forums that you can go on to learn how to code.

Chris: And at the time, like I thought code was the answer at this point, most of my business doesn't run on any code and I much prefer it that way. And that's much of what I'm trying to teach people when I'm doing coaching now. I would go into these forums and I would try to find the answer to some esoteric question and there'd be [00:39:00] 12 people, 12 like nerds that would give the wrong answer, just so they'd feel smart and you'd have to go through their entire solution and, and experiment with it and try it in the real world and be like, this is dumb.

Chris: This is obsolete. This is for F for software that no longer exists or they posted this, you get down, you'd read through the form and you get to the bottom and they'd be like, oh, I never actually tested. Script that I posted in the forum. You'd be like, oh, this is so frustrating, but I have to do it. So I think one of the best habits that you can get in is not doing that stupid that I did where you're trying to learn something by yourself that no one's ever done before.

Chris: The only reason I was able to do that is because I was not a healthy person. I had so much PTSD. I had so much repressed. And I would just like, okay, if I'm, if I'm working on systems, I can distract myself. I don't have to consider uh, all of the things that I'm feeling. And my hope is that, like, I can turn some of this trauma that I've been [00:40:00] into, I've been through, into something that can help other people.

Chris: That's why I'm trying to change the laws. That's why I'm trying to help people build systems. That's why we started the podcast in the first place was like, okay, I have all this leftover stuff, all this leftover knowledge. I don't know why I read these books. Like my life depended on. It turns out because I thought my life did depend on.

Chris: But how do I serve people in this? How can I make the worst thing that's ever happened to me? The best thing that's ever happened to me, it's by helping people. And I think that's one of the cool things about habits and building systems is right now, you only have enough margin to help yourself. If you can begin to build systems, if you can begin to build habits, if you can begin to tame the insanity, that is your life, then you can begin to help other people.

Brian: So how can people.

Brian: join the coaching program? Chris, I'm going to tee you up cause you didn't do a call to action.

Chris: Well, that's a good question,

Brian: this is Brian Hood coaching. Chris Graham. right? now. He's got

Chris: right? I don't have any idea what I'm doing.

Brian: he

Brian: nailed it out of the park, right there from his heart. None of this was pre-prepared by the way, this is just Chris talking [00:41:00] about something he's passionate about. And then this is, this is coach Brian Hood saying, Okay. Chris, You teach yourself up. You knocked out the park. You didn't tell people what to do If, they also want to be coached by you, Chris. So what should people do if they want to be coached by you for systems, Chris?

Chris: Okay. if if you are interested in being a part of this coaching program, there's a couple of. You need to have a business that's already functional. If you are looking to start a business, don't take my course. Don't take my coaching. If you are looking to start a business from scratch and you've never done it before, do not take my coaching program yet.

Chris: If you are living in a constant state of overwhelm and you desperately need to find a way to be more efficient so that you can not hate your life, that your dream job can be your dream job. Then you can talk about applying to this coaching program. And if you want to do that, go to Chris Graham, coaching.com.

Chris: There's a link at the top. Graham is G R a H a M, just like the cracker. There's a link at the top to join the coaching program or to, well, there's a link at the top to apply to be in the coaching program. At this point. It's not anybody that wants. It can [00:42:00] be a part of this it's people who are a perfect fit who have a significant amount of overwhelming pain in their life that they need to address by building system.

Chris: Now here's one of the things I'll say there's two types of systems. There are systems that make you faster, and there are systems that allow you to delegate what you're doing to somebody else, because it makes the thing you're delegating easier for someone else to do. One of the problems of having an assistant in any business, not just creative businesses is the tasks that you need help with are hard and you're better at them than everybody else.

Chris: That's why you're a successful business. It's hard to bring in somebody else and just say, Hey be as smart as me as experienced as me as wise as me and as knowledgeable as me and do all these things as well as I can doesn't work that way. You have to build a system to simplify at least some of these processes so that you can delegate it.

Brian: and we talked about that on last week's episode, on episode 167. But yeah, that's, that is another way, like, and this is what I was alluding to earlier when I kind of pushed back on you, Chris is like, [00:43:00] it's not all this, isn't all about. Programs and an automating things like you can actually just build a checklist for some other human being to follow.

Brian: Like if I were talking to Chris Graham for 15 years ago, I would've said, Chris, talk me through this bouncing process. What does it look like? What do you need these things to be named by? I would've put a checklist together and then hired any, any idiot that can, that can open the door and follow instructions for 10 bucks an hour.

Brian: And they would have nailed it out of the park. I'm sure of it by following your checklist. No. There's plenty of reasons why that wasn't the best move for you at the time. I'm just saying there are simpler ways to do it.

Chris: Nor could I afford it? I couldn't afford an assistant back.

Brian: Well, this brings another point up. This is really important is you, you said there's only one, one way, one way to do things. If you're overwhelmed, there's actually two. The second way is to just raise your damn prices. So less people hire you, but you make the same amount of money with less work.

Chris: Totally to be honest, this is painful. Cause I'm, I'm pivoting right now. I am finding that my niche is helping people [00:44:00] systemize their business. That's a way that I can leverage whatever the hell is wrong with me in good ways. And I was not mature enough or healthy enough to be able to deal with the fear of raising my prices.

Chris: And some people, they get in a position where they don't have enough customers, or they're only working with repeat customers. And if they go to raise their prices and they do it in properly, they do it too fast or they don't present it well to the customers. They can lose too many customers.

Brian: Bye. Bye.

Chris: Yeah. That gets really dangerous.

Chris: That gets really scary. I think that the way forward is to do all of these things. It's to raise your prices if the market allows for it. And if you are getting enough new customers, because new customers are significantly easier to raise your prices on typically and to systemize at the same time, one of the best parts about systemizing and raising your prices at the same time is it gives you time to find new customers.

Chris: I think that's where most people start to really get into the death spiral. Is, they are working [00:45:00] so much and so inefficiently that they don't have time to find new customers. So they aren't able to raise their prices.

Brian: Yeah. so Yeah. This is.

Brian: a, this was a fun kind of ramp back into the, the old pre 150, a hundred 50th episode where you and I would just do episodes together.

Chris: Yeah. This is.

Brian: Yeah,

Brian: but this is kind of the end of my trip here on my workation with my wife through Europe. And uh, it was just hard to get guests . Scheduled where it's such a weird time difference between all three people.

Brian: So we just wanted to do this week's episode with Chris and I here. And anything else you want to leave off on in the, in the conversation around habits, routines, systems, anything. Cause usually you have A nice little eloquent thing to end on. the Chris Graham mic drop.

Brian: I always put you on the spot for this.

Chris: A lot of the impetus for this. What, what ruined me? What made me obsessed with becoming a systems ninja? And I've mentioned this on the podcast before was Henry Ford. I read Henry Ford's autobiography. I think he wrote it in 1922, unbelievably significant for the modern era uh, [00:46:00] still relevant. And one of the things he talked about in there, and I'm paraphrasing it mightily here, we talked about when you have a task that you do again and again, in.

Chris: If that task is 10% less efficient than it could be. If you systemized or automated parts of that process, then every time you do that process, you will pay a tax in either time, money, or energy. Let me say that again, when you're doing something inefficiently again and again, and again, you will pay a tax and either time, money, or.

Chris: When you work on your business instead of for it and begin to build systems that make habits easy to build, you don't have to pay that tax anymore. And you can reinvest that, save time, energy, and money into new and exciting things. They might be things for your business, or they might be things for your personal life. One of the highlights for me of taking these systems and beginning. The lean into this and to share it with other people. I heard a story on her Facebook group the other day, about a [00:47:00] guy who, long story short, this isn't a pitch for bounce Butler, but I made this piece of software with one of my systems and began to like sell it to people online and they pay a subscription and they can bounce as many files as they want.

Chris: And they don't have to do it in a text them when they're done. It's pretty cool. It's the exact same system I built for my business. And I heard a story in the Facebook group the other day. A guy who had told a friend of his, about bounce Butler who had to bounce all these stems. He had just hours and hours and hours and hours of work that he had to do manually.

Chris: And he tried the app and he called his friend back in tears because he had just taken his baby to the beach while his system was doing some of the work for him. And what he got in exchange for using a system that saved him time was he was able to reinvest it into his personal. My personal life is a wreck right now.

Chris: I'm trying to figure out all this trauma that I've gone through. I'm trying to figure out how it's affected on my I've lost friendships. I've lost relationships over this. I've made new ones too, but I'm trying to sort this all out and to land on [00:48:00] my feet after coming forward with something as horrific as what happened to me and building great system.

Chris: It's the way I'm going to do that. Building great habits where I know that I can be healthy every day and lean into that and get healthier and healthier and healthier because my trajectory looks pretty damn good. Right now. We're on currently at man a change a lot if I could, but my trajectory is good because I'm building systems that orientate me where I want to go.

Chris: And I think for most of us, we get to know where we want to. We're going to imagine what that world is going to be like, that we want to live in. And then we got to figure out how to build the systems to get there. They might be marketing systems. It might be systems that help you be more efficient.

Chris: It might be systems that allow you to delegate things that were impossible to train someone else on how to do and are now pretty easy because it's a, B, C, and D they're following the checklist. And there's tutorial videos built into the. And even if you have to bring in a brand new uh, assistant at the last minute, the system can train the assistant, which is what happened with [00:49:00] Kyle.

Chris: When I brought Kyle in, I handed him my system and he rocked on it and made the system way better. I think one more like sort of Juul wisdom nugget here is I think when you begin to build a system snowball, that system snowball eventually should become smart enough that other people can help you build your systems snowball.

Chris: Other people can not just have work delegated to them, but they can find a hole in your system and say what we need to fix this. And they build a system that plugs into your other systems. That's what's happened with Kyle. My system snowball started going nuts once it was big enough for me to bring someone like Kyle in so that he could begin to enhance it, even when I wasn't there.

Chris: So even when I'm asleep, my system snowball is getting better. Even when I'm dealing with health issues, my system snowballs. I think this is a vision for all of us, not just as creatives, but this is the way of humanity. And our advantage as creatives is that building systems to [00:50:00] make habits easier is a creative pursuit.

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