I thought to myself as I was reflecting on the last year. My birthday is coming up this week, so I was taking some time to see what went well, where I made mistakes, and what lessons I learned in the process...then I had a sudden realization.
From the moment I first discovered the science of willpower over 5 years ago, I've been acting as my own "willpower guinea pig."
Behind the scenes, I am constantly testing new willpower strategies to improve my writing, improve my fitness, improve my success with Willpowered, and simply improve my life.
Meanwhile, I’ve also received hundreds of emails from subscribers who were curious about how I apply the material in my life, so they could get a better understanding of how to apply it in theirs.
But as I was going through my notes, experiments, and lessons over the last year; I realized that of the 337 articles I've written on this site, less than 5% were about how I actually apply all this material! (Not to mention they were some of my most successful.)
I didn't share much because I believed you would be more interested in reading about people like J.K. Rowling, Warren Buffett, or Kobe Bryant. Writers, entrepreneurs, and athletes who have achieved success–not ones like me who are still struggling to reach it.
But with hundreds of questions, and 5 years worth of data to answer them, I'm finally starting a series of posts where I write exclusively about my personal experiments, my best strategies, and how I apply them in writing, entrepreneurship, and daily-life.
As I continue to write, I will get more detailed, but I will start with the most successful high-level willpower strategies that I have implemented thus far.
1. A GREAT PURPOSE
I’ve been an entrepreneur since graduating from college.
Before discovering the science of willpower, I was a part several startups–including one I cofounded with a brilliant team, and all the "right pieces" we needed to be one of the startups to actually make it.
Things started off great. We were learning, growing, and even winning start up competitions. However, after about 2.5 years, we were running dangerously low on cash…it was do or die time.
When we hit that moment, I chose to die.
Not that I completely gave up. In fact, I believed that I chose to “do” but I didn’t really give it all I had. I worked hard, sure, but when it was time to truly prioritize saving the company by venturing outside of my comfort zone—I came up with excuses why it wasn't necessary.
In September of last year I hit, that same “do or die” moment with Willpowered. And that’s when I truly understood what it meant to “do.”
Words cannot express how much I love my work. I love researching new concepts, seeing how they apply through experiments, telling the stories of incredible people, and making connections with subscribers.
I simply could not imagine a world where I lost that.
So I pushed my mind, I pushed my body, and I pushed I my comfort zone with every ounce of willpower I could to ensure that didn’t happen. And in the end, the company was saved.
The power of my purpose was the difference between using a lot of willpower, and discovering a whole new level of willpower that I didn’t even know I was capable of.
Your purpose informs your perspective. To me, it wasn’t that hard of a decision to dedicate myself 24/7 to saving Willpowered, because it was worth it. It would require a whole lot more willpower for me to work a 9-5 job that didn’t leave me fulfilled.
It is not what you are doing that drains your willpower, it is why you are doing it. 
2. FIND YOUR “FROG”...AND EAT IT FIRST THING
By far the best strategy that I’ve used to progress as a writer is dedicating myself to writing a set number of words every day.
When I began my journey with Willpowered, I was terrible. And I realized that in order to make it, I was going to have to improve—a lot. So when I began, I dedicated myself to writing 1000 words every day.
This forced me to improve my writing skills, while also building an audience who could rely on my consistency. My daily traffic numbers slowly but surely started to grow, and I began to learn what topics people actually wanted to read about.
Any success I've had thus far is all founded on this practice…but this was far from easy.
They were plenty of days that I sat down at my desk, opened up a Word Document and stared blankly at the “blink… blink… blink” of the cursor. I didn’t have a clue about what to write. And my mind was doing everything it could to procrastinate.
These important, yet difficult and boring, tasks are what Mark Twain called “frogs.”
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain
These are things that you want to procrastinate more than anything, but if you can summon the willpower to accomplish them, you feel great. You feel like a weight has been lifted, and every other task throughout the day feels easy by comparison.
That’s why I committed to writing first thing in the morning.
I learned early on that the only way I was going to get it done is if I got it done right away. If I ever put it off until later in the day, I found I had no ideas, no motivation, and no willpower to sit down and write.
So find ONE practice that will ensure that you make progress every day–and commit to doing it first thing in the morning.
3. WRITE TERRIBLE FIRST DRAFTS
One of the biggest reasons why we procrastinate is because it doesn’t feel like the right time. This rings especially true for struggling writers. It can feel like we’re not at our “creative best,” so we wait for a time for inspiration to strike. 
I felt this every time I sat down blankly staring at that dreaded blink...blink…blink of the cursor.
My first draft can look like a five-year-old wrote it and no one will ever know!
Once I understood that, I let go of the pressure to turn a blank word doc into something brilliant. And the goal simply became about getting my ideas on paper. Then I could come back, add structure to those ideas, and make the article flow on the second, third, or fourth draft. 
This concept doesn't just work for writing, it applies to almost everything:
- You don’t need to have a perfect gym session, you just need to go.
- You don’t need to be perfectly organized, you just need to spend 15 minutes organizing what you can.
- You don’t need to achieve perfection, you just need to get started.
Almost every time I want to procrastinate something because the timing doesn’t feel right, I simply set a timer and spend the next 25 minutes working on it.
I won't lie, the first 10 minutes are usually a struggle–as my mind tries to procrastinate–but after that, I’m usually fully focused and immersed in the task.
This is not a perfect strategy. There are some times when I still don't feel right and give up after the timer goes off. But even then, I am still 25 minutes better off than when I started.
4. NO RETREAT
One of the big questions that writers and entrepreneurs face is, “when do I quit my day job?”
It’s not easy to know when the right time is–especially if you have people who depend on you. It makes sense to run a venture part-time until you grow your customers / audience to a point where you can afford to commit full-time.
Sometimes I wish I had taken this path, but I have always been a "walk before you crawl" person...literally. According to my parents, I started walking before I knew how to crawl when I was an infant.
So I chose to make the leap with 6 months of savings, and no other choice but to succeed or fail. This forced me to learn, grow, and push my comfort zone when it was do or die time–because I had to. That's why I'm still writing to you 18 months later.
This concept of no retreat does not just apply to starting your own business, it applies to any goal.
One of the best ways to ensure I did my long 16-mile runs was to run 8 miles away from home. Because then I had no choice but to run back! There is no way I would be able to run 16 miles with the ease of simply hitting “stop” on the treadmill available.
One of my best strategies to overcome my introverted nature, is to force myself to attend networking events, give speeches, etc. I dread almost every minute leading up to the event, but once I'm immersed in it, everything is fine.
People are capable of incredible things when they have to sink or swim. Like in my first story, I found a level of willpower I didn’t even know I had when I had no other choice but to use it.
However, no retreat comes at a price. Because I didn't learn how to crawl as a baby, I didn't learn how to put out my hands when I fell. I didn't have the buffer between my head and the floor, so when I fell, I fell hard.
Entrepreneurs inevitably make mistakes. That's part of the process. Just like falling is a part of learning how to walk. By starting before I was ready, those mistakes have made a bigger impact–both financially and personally.
Leaving yourself no retreat is not fun. It’s frustrating, painful, and honestly disheartening to consistently push your comfort zone and open yourself up for failure. Being in that position is not for everybody.
So when leaving no retreat, whether you're pursuing dreams, or running 5 miles away from home, you have to ask yourself if the prize is worth the pain.
5. LEARNING HOW TO HANDLE FAILURE
Now let's talk about some of those mistakes I've made with Willpowered.
I've written articles that have made people furious...
I've fallen short on some promises that I wasn't able to keep...
I've made some really bad business decisions that wasted a ton of money...
These failures have been painful. It's hard receiving genuinely angry emails from subscribers. It's hard giving people bad news and realizing that I let them down. And it's hard realizing that my limited time and money were wasted on an idea that didn't work out.
Whenever we make mistakes like these, our minds are hardwired to turn negative.
This is because our brains are built to find solutions to problems. If I receive an angry email, my brain wants to find the solution to whatever mistake caused that angry email. So it will fixate on that negative whether I like it or not. 
However, what we choose to do with that negative feeling is up to us. Speaking personally, I usually do one of these three things:
1. BEAT MYSELF UP ABOUT IT
Beating myself up is the easy way to handle failure, but it doesn't help anything. Feeling guilty lowers your willpower, prevents you from learning from your mistakes, and bouncing back effectively. 
We know all of this rationally. We all know that beating yourself up will only make things worse. But this isn't a rational reaction, it's an emotional one. Which is why some of the time I choose to...
2. IGNORE IT
Another direction that my mind will take when confronting failure is to simply ignore it.
This way I don't need to deal with the pain of guilt, the loss of my pride, and the feeling that I'm a failure. It's very easy to justify doing this as well. There will always be something you can blame for your failure–luck, circumstances, genetics, etc.
This is a much less painful way to handle failure, but few would argue for it as a useful strategy. Because it doesn't allow you to learn from your mistakes and make sure they don't happen again.
3. UNDERSTAND IT
As you probably know well, learning from your mistakes is an incredibly valuable, but it is much easier said than done. Usually, learning from failure involves facing things that you don't necessarily want to confront.
Trying to understand why I got an angry email from someone reading an article, forces me to confront the fact that there may be flaws in my writing process.
Trying to understand why I made a bad investment, forces me to confront the fact that I may not be cut out to be an entrepreneur.
If I beat myself up, or just ignore it, then it's an isolated mistake and I don't need to confront any questions that I may not want the answer to.
This, of course, makes little sense. If there is a bigger issue, then I should want to learn what it is so I can fix it. But failure is emotional. It hurts. Which means our primitive brain takes over.
And the primitive brain isn't wired for rational self-awareness, it's wired for emotional self-justification. So it will naturally go down the irrational path of beating ourselves up, placing blame on others, and making us fear vulnerability so we don't feel the pain again.
There's no silver bullet solution to this problem. Training my mind through meditation, taking a moment for self-awareness, and focusing on the objective consequences, have all helped me handle failure more effectively.
However, learning how to handle failure is like learning how to overcome a fear of public speaking–you can't get it from a textbook (and surely not from a blog post). The only way you learn is to leave your comfort zone, experience failure, and realize it's not the end of the world. 
I've failed a lot, and I'll fail again (sorry in advance). But failing is a part of learning how to succeed, just like falling is a part of learning how to walk.
These are my best high-level willpower strategies. This is a very subjective list and I'm only going off my experience.
My journey is full of risk, and these are the strategies that help me handle that risk. There may be other strategies that work better for your journey, your priorities, and the destination you want to get to.
So I'd love to know what willpower strategies are at the top of your list? Did any of mine make the cut? Comment below and let me know!