In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, the Bautis Financial team discusses the first book assignment in their monthly Book Club, Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results by James Clear. Packed with evidence-based self-improvement strategies, the book teaches readers how to make small changes that can transform their habits and deliver remarkable results.
In this episode, we discuss:
- What our team liked most about the book.
- What our team learned from and took away from the book.
- How our team is utilizing the information in their daily life.
- What habit strategies worked (and what didn’t) for our team.
- And more!
This is the first episode in the Bautis Financial book club series. We will share future book club episodes here once they are released.
Disclosure: The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and content. It is not a direct transcription of the full conversation, which can be listened to above.
Welcome back to the Agent of Wealth Podcast, this is your host Marc Bautis. On today’s show, I brought on the entire Bautis Financial team. If you’ve listened to the Agent of Wealth Podcast before, you’ve heard John Williams on a few episodes. But today, we also have Kyra Mackesy — our Content and Community Manager — and Kayla Waller — a paraplanner on the team. Welcome, everyone.
Today is the first installment of our monthly book club. Over the course of the next few months, we will rotate between the four of us, each selecting a book to read and discuss. I picked our first one this month, Atomic Habits by James Clear.
I’ve been fascinated by how our lives are governed by habits since I read the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Atomic Habits was published more recently — in 2018, I believe — and since, it has been included on every best business book list since. A lot of people love it.
The author, James Clear, starts off by talking about the difference between goals and habits. For example, a goal might be to run a marathon, but a habit is a behavior/action that enables you to do it. One of the premises of this book is to focus on those habits over the goals, because that’s where you have control. That’s what really drives change.
So, I’m excited about today’s topic. I’m also excited to hear what everyone else thought about the book. John, we’ll start with you. What did you think of the book?
I got a lot out of it. I echo your sentiments being amazed at human behavior. All day long, we’re doing things that aren’t in our best interest. While we’re doing them, we know we shouldn’t be, but knowing doesn’t always overcome the power of the mind.
James Clear really touches on a lot of those aspects of human behavior. Understanding why we do things helps me take a step back — before the behavior has happened — and prevent it.
Another takeaway from the book was that you have to fall in love with the process, as opposed to the result. An example is if you’re weighing yourself every day during a diet, you’re going to be incredibly disappointed — and probably give up dieting — because there won’t be results every day. Instead, you have to find joy and satisfaction in the process of losing weight. Quite frankly, the results aren’t going to come fast in most aspects of our life.
At a high level, I liked the idea of him saying we need to concentrate on small habits. It’s not that he downplays the idea of goals, but only keeping a goal in mind is not going to get you there.
You mentioned falling in love with the process… Another thing Clear talks about is identity. He uses an interesting example: If your identity is having big biceps, you’ll make sure that you don’t skip a day at the gym.
The other thing I liked about the book is that Clear gives a lot of resources, one of them being a tool on how to identify your existing habits. The majority of the time, we don’t even realize that we’re doing them. Once you identify your various habits, you can classify them as good and bad.
Yes, I did something similar. I spent a day writing down all of my habits as I was doing them. It was helpful to include what I was doing together — pairing together. My biggest takeaway was how much of a time suck a lot of little things can be. As they add up, there’s almost no room for implementing good habits. Things like checking your phone and getting sucked into social media, that time adds up.
That reminds me of a story Clear wrote about in the book. He realized that any free second he had, he’d pick up his phone. To combat the bad habit, he asked his assistant to change his passwords on social media every Monday. He would go the whole week without access to the accounts. Then, every Friday, she tells him what the passwords are and he regains access for the weekend. The same thing happens every week.
So Kyra, what did you think of the book?
I thought this was a fantastic book, I really enjoyed reading it. I would consider it to be a self-help book with clear instructions for how to implement the different topics into your life. I found the charts and graphs great for quick reference, especially for people who are visual learners. Clear does a great job at breaking down scientific topics like human behavior and psychology into easily digestible stories and explanations.
The biggest takeaway for me was what Clear coined the four laws of behavior change:
- Make it obvious.
- Make it attractive.
- Make it easy.
- Make it satisfying
So, in reading this book, I was focusing on how I can use those four laws to streamline my existing habits, making more room in my day for new habit building.
I also loved the focus on identity, which you mentioned, Marc. Clear said, “every action you take is a vote for the type of person you want to be.” That hit home for me when it comes to identity.
I think part of what made the book so popular is the way Clear breaks down information. He had to do a ton of research, and it’s very possible to bore people to death with the specifics. But he made everything very applicable, using stories. People relate to stories and practicability.
I’m a big soccer fan. Right now, the European championship and South American championship are underway. One of the strategies Clear suggests is habit stacking. If you want to develop a new habit, do it before, after or while doing something that you enjoy. So, I want to watch soccer. And I also want to improve my fitness. So to allow myself to watch a soccer game, I made a rule that I can only do so when on the treadmill.
Clear also suggests to start small, right? Don’t start the treadmill at 10 miles an hour. Start at a walking pace, just to get the habit down.
I think if James Clear was here, he would say the first step to building that habit would be as simple as moving the treadmill into the living room.
I don’t know if you remember the part of the book where he’s speaking about the man who wanted to lose a significant amount of weight. The man started by going to the gym for 5 or 10 minutes a day — that’s it. Realistically, you’re not getting much done in the gym for 10 minutes. But, just being there, in that environment, it’s a vote towards your identity.
Yeah. Even look at the title of the book, Atomic Habits. That, to me, means start at the smallest thing.
Kayla, what about you? What’s your take on the book?
I agree with what Kyra said, that it did give me a self-help feeling. I thought it was more about self-reflecting because each chapter had a lesson and take away. I thought the stories made it easy to digest too.
Scientifically, I liked that Clear referenced psychologists in breaking down the four steps of building a habit:
- The cue.
- The craving.
- The response.
- The reward.
From that breakdown, I was able to analyze my habits — which John discussed earlier. The habit scorecard was really helpful to look at.
I love the story aspect of it too. One of my favorite stories was about a stockbroker who was trying to build a better habit of cold-calling prospects, in hopes of getting more sales. What he did was put two jars on his desk: One with 120 paper clips, and one empty. After he makes one call, he takes a paperclip and moves it from the original jar to the empty one/ The goal was to move all 120 paperclips by the end of each day. In doing so, he became a successful stockbroker.
Next, I want to know how you all are going to take what you learned and apply it to your life. John, we’ll start with you.
What I’m going to do is try to better understand some of the daily things I do in my everyday life. For me, one big thing is stress — the stress of being a good husband, a good father, a good coworker, etc. I want to find the connection between those stressors and what I’m doing on a daily basis.It’s a work in progress.
I think one of the misses in this book is that if you have an incredible amount of stress, let’s say, some of the tactics Clear provides — like make it attractive — will fail. I don’t think this is anything against him, maybe he didn’t mean it that way.
Sounds good. And yeah, that’s true.
Alright Kyra, what about you?
I definitely wanted to hit the ground running. Originally, I wanted to create a morning routine that was specific. But one thing that I learned pretty soon — and Clear mentions this — was if you miss the habit on one day, you become far less likely to continue it the following day.
So what I did was create what I called habit variants. Basically, my morning routine/habits on Monday and Wednesday are different from those on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday — because I work in the office on Mon. and Wed. The same goes for Saturday and Sunday, my morning routine is different.
But still, the habits that create the routine are strict. For example, on Monday, I: Wake up, shower, brush my teeth, get ready in business attire, walk and feed my dog, pack lunch and leave for work.
Creating habit variants was far more effective for me, so I am not forcing myself to wake up earlier on a Friday to follow a routine that I don’t need to as closely because I work from home.
Another tool I adopted is habit stacking. Marc, you talked about this a bit with watching soccer while working out. The model that Clear uses is:
After (your current habit), I will (a habit needed).
Or: After (a habit I need), I will (a habit I want).
For me, it was after I cooked dinner (my current habit), I will pack a lunch for the following day (a habit needed). I did this to avoid buying lunch on days I go into work.
Another example is I work out at home on specific days of the week, when I can’t make it to the gym. I have a small workout set up in my basement, right next to my laundry room. I don’t like doing laundry, but I do like working out. Plus, I have created a really strong habit of working out. So, after I work out at home, I put in a load of laundry.
I found stacking habits was super easy for me, especially when paired with a habit that is already strong.
I also wanted to mention that reading this, I had a realization about how many habits I have relating to my Apple Watch, which I wear nearly every single day. Some include:
- Daily habits: Reaching a step goal of 10,000; exercising for 30 minutes or more; burning 600 active calories or more; standing for 12 hours or more.
- Weekly habits: Exercising seven days a week; closing exercise, move and stand rings seven days a week.
- Monthly habits: Each month varies, but Apple proposes a new goal to hit every month.
Yeah, it really is interesting how easy technology makes it to track our habits. Clear talks about Netflix in the book, too. He notes that if you’re watching a Netflix show that ends, it automatically rolls right into the next show. Soon, you’re binge watching a show because breaking the habit is more challenging.
Kayla, what about you?
The biggest thing that I’m taking away from the book is how Clear describes that winners and losers have the same goals. My favorite quote was, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You rise to the level of your system.” That really struck a chord with me because I’m always setting goals — I’m going to work out, I’m going to eat healthier — but I don’t have a system in place to achieve them. Reading this book made me take a deeper dive into systems.
One system that Clear talks about is automation: He’s a big proponent of automating good habits. This relates back to our work as financial advisors, because we frequently advise our clients to automate their savings. Not just financial habits, but any habit can become more possible through automation.
So that was one of my takeaways, thinking about what habits I can automate to allow more focus on building better habits.
Alright, we’re just about out of time. Kyra is selecting next month’s book. Kyra, can you tell us about what book you’ve picked?
Sure. We will be meeting again next month, and the book that I chose is The Infinite Game written by Simon Sinek.
Yeah, definitely looking forward to that. Sinek, I don’t know if it was his first book, but he really became popular after he wrote a book called Start With Why. And then if someone doesn’t like reading the book, he had this TED talk about that book, that was really popular. So I think The Infinite Game is his latest one.
So that’s it for today. John, Kyra and Kayla, thanks for being on. If anyone has any questions about how to improve their financial habits, we’re here to help. You are welcome to set up a complimentary consultation with our advisors. Thank you everyone for listening in today.