So, before I get into the details of the mechanisms of the system, a little bit more about what it does.
The results I achieved were not remarkable. Diets work. Everyone loses weight. Well certainly a lot of people do. That's not why you should listen to me.
No, it's much more than that. The reason you should listen to me is that HOW I achieved the results is insane. It makes no sense in society's current paradigm of food, eating and health.
This system takes nothing more than the resources of the average person to operate and generates extraordinary results.
The populist paradigm for success is something like this:
Results = Great Resources x Focus x Time
If you have great resources, and can remain focused for a long period of time, then you can achieve what you want.
I'm calling this the Blue Pill System.
Of course it works and it works well…
…if you just so happen to be an individual with great resources: intelligence, wealth, talent, willpower, etc. Fantastic.
However, it's a bit elitist. What about those of us who have average resources, and the willpower of a wolf in a butcher's shop?
Well, that's the genius of this system: It assumes nothing more than average resources as a prerequisite ingredient. The system ITSELF does all the heavy grunt work. The system supplies both the focus and the time.
I'm calling this the Red Pill System.
So, you've now got two choices:
1. The Blue Pill.
You need to get better, you need to change. You need to get more skill, more talent, more willpower, more resources at your disposal to make it happen. Then you just keep going until it all comes together for you.
2. The Red Pill.
You're good enough already. Right now. Good enough to start… All you have to do is to follow the system - it will take care of everything. The system, when you stick to it, will gradually increase your resources way beyond your current capacity until the great results you desire become inevitable.
Now, this is the kicker:
The 'you' that achieves the results will still be just as good in both scenarios. It has to be.
You can't cheat the universe.
But the Red Pill involves minimum willpower. The Blue Pill involves maximum willpower.
Now, you can do either of these. It's up to you.
But what's going to be easier for you;
to become an individual with skill, with talent, with ambition, with willpower, with self-discipline?
or to stay exactly as you are right now and use a system that does it all for you?
So, more about the Red Pill system. What it is, how it works, and why it works for almost anyone:
I read a book by Frank Bettger in 1994, called ’How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling' and it blew me away. Not because of the content, which was great, and not because of his style, which was highly engaging. No, it was simply an approach he threw into the mix as he was wrapping up the book, on how to actually implemented the ideas he'd written about.
He recounted the story of Benjamin Franklin, the great statesman and polymath, and Franklin’s personal self-mastery system, that he employed in his early twenties until his deathbed. For those of you who are unaware of Franklin’s contribution, I suggest you google 'Franklin 13' and see what you find.
The short version goes something like this:
The young Ben Franklin was a bit rough around the edges, prone to vehemently arguing his case in all matters and alienating colleagues.
Luckily he was self-aware enough to realise this, and decided to work on developing more positive character traits. He failed to improve after many attempts and decided that despite having many things to work on, it would be far more efficacious to focus on just one thing at a time. Franklin hypothesised that this singular approach would avoid overwhelm and consequently would be a manageable strategy to implement.
So he selected 13 character traits that he wanted to master and focused on just one of them for a week at a time, leaving all others to their natural chance. The following week he moved to the next trait and he continued thus until he had covered all character traits. Since there were 13 traits, this took 13 weeks to complete. At this point, Franklin just went back to the first week's focus point and started repeating the cycle. Since 13 x 4 is 52, it meant that 4 cycles fitted perfectly into the year. He chose ’virtues’ that would be critical to acquire for lifelong success such as Humility, Order, Temperance etc.
Franklin achieved many wonderful things in his life, and is respected for his business, political and scientific acumen to this day, both in his native US and across the pond in the UK and France, despite the early war of US independence raging about him.
Yet, notwithstanding all these laudable accomplishments, he noted in his autobiography that he felt his greatest contribution to posterity, and the one that he wished most fervently his progeny would heed, was his system for self-mastery.
Very interesting. His wikipedia entry runs like this:
Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass 'armonica'. He facilitated many civic organizations, including a fire department and a university.
Forget that he was also a hugely successful businessman, social genius, founding father, signatory of the constitution…
'Forget all that dudes, just use my system for mastering stuff by focusing on only one thing at a time. Job done.'
In fact his words were a tad more statesmanly:
'It may be well my posterity should be informed that to this little artifice, with the blessing of God, their ancestor ow'd the constant felicity of his life, down to his 79th year, in which this is written.'
So, in his book, Bettger goes on to say that the only way to implement his own great ideas for improving sales skills is by creating a 'Franklin 13' but for sales. Bettger's particular contribution to the field of self-mastery was to customise Franklin's system and adapt it to the sales environment.
Bettger also went on to remark that, despite having met many people who knew of the Franklin 13, he'd never met a single person who'd actually implemented Franklin's programme in their life.
Bettger stated that the entirety of his great success in sales was due to his adoption of the customised Franklin 13 programme.
I was immediately bowled over by the simplicity and I bought the concept hook, line and sinker. Yes, of course. This is it. With something as flexible as this, you can literally do anything. (I also admit that, as a contrarian, I was perhaps influenced by the idea of doing something that most people had not done.)
I was teaching at the time, in a school in Windsor, England. I decided right away to apply this to my tutor group. I chose 10 virtues that I was trying to inculcate in my 11 year old students, (10 instead of 13 since we only had around 40 weeks in the school year), and we focused on these virtues as a whole class, one week at a time. On Friday afternoons we reviewed the week's progress towards acquiring these characteristics and I dished out several chocolate snack bars (yes, forgive my ignorance, please!) to anyone who I'd seen that week making an attempt to adopt the week's virtue.
These were just pretty simple things like 'Smile', 'Be Considerate', 'TEAM:me', etc. Basic things that you want children to do, nothing fancy, but it worked really well. The kids loved it, their parents loved it and crucially, because it had been 'gamified', it got great results.
That was 1995. I then pretty much forgot about it for 15 years!
Skip forward to 2008 and I'm leading a distributed sales team, across several countries and working how to unify them and keep them consistent.
Sales has a very particular dynamic. It's quite up and down and it can be frustrating for a sales manager due to the inconsistency of your good people.
Bad people you can just get rid of, it's the good ones you worry about. The best sales people have peaks and troughs and for some of them the troughs can be pretty long. While this happens in most industries, the performance-related pay component of sales can hugely amplify this problem. Consequently, sales managers are always looking at ways to motivate their best people so they can be more consistent.
I suddenly had an epiphany:
What if I created my own 13 point programme around Bettger's book?
His ideas were about how to be awesome at selling and most of them were pretty sound. What if I updated them a little for the modern age, adapted them to the particular industry I was working in, and used the programme for my team?
It worked incredibly well. Just like you'd expect. There was a weekly focus, the only aspect of sales that people had to think about that week, and we went through 13 areas per cycle. The company performance went through the roof. We went from nowhere to being the 5th largest organisation by sales volume in our industry in the UK - in less than 12 months.
The focus points were useful things like: Energy, Keeping Records, Listening, Asking Good Questions, etc. and it worked a treat.
It was in that moment that I realised how powerful this system could be and I've been working my tail off with it ever since.
I've created a whole teaching framework around it, I've applied it to career development and I've begun to create systems for mastering the principles contained within classic personal development texts.
I've created systems for getting better at playing musical instruments, ways to get along with other people better and even ways to learn a language more effectively.
And they all work ridiculously well. At the time of writing this book there are well over one hundred thousand people following the various programmes from all around the world.
I'm just going to digress for a moment to let you know why I believe that what we're doing is far better than the current, populist way of acquiring a new habit: the 30 day plan.
Out of sheer artistic laziness I'm going to call this the 'do-it-for-30-days-and-it-becomes-a-habit' plan.
This is a very noble idea and there's nothing in principle wrong with this approach.
Except that, for most people, it doesn't work.
Because it requires too much willpower.
But the most insidious thing is...
It doesn't SEEM like it's going to require too much willpower. So, when we fail to stick to it, we've just created a golden opportunity for our internal scripts to give us a real beating.
Let me explain...
We've all done it. We've all got excited at the prospect of doing something every day for 30 days and acquiring a new, life-changing habit.
We want to get that book written, so we hatch a plan to do nothing more than write 1000 words per day and we can have a book completed in a month.
We are finally a little bit concerned about our lack of exercise, so we decide to go for a walk every day to improve our fitness.
We want to learn a new language so we decide to do 20 minutes of podcast french lessons every day.
These plans are all fine and very noble. But what happens?
1. We get to Day 13 and due to circumstances beyond our control, we end up missing a day. We then wake up on Day 14 and think:
'Bs! I've missed a day. I've got to reset the counter. Back to Day One. Damn. I'm never going to do this…'
That little voice in your head starts popping up really useful thoughts like:
'Right, here we go. Another thing you've tried and failed at.'
'Uh-oh. Just what I expected pal. You can't do this. You're just not able to stick at anything.'
'Never mind. It wasn't that important anyway. You didn't really want to be good at the trumpet. Otherwise you'd have stuck at it right? Maybe you should try mandolin?'
2. Or after skipping a day, you carry on regardless, reasoning that it can't really be THAT important to do it every single day after all, it's the habit we're interesting in acquiring, the satisfaction of completing the 30-day challenge is secondary.
Unfortunately this subtly erodes the value of the plan. After a while, the challenge itself no longer has the same allure and you've got very little reason to make sure you don't skip another day, since as far as your sub-conscious mind is concerned, you've already 'failed' anyway.
3. You complete the new series of activities every day for 30 days at some cost, sure, but you do it. You get it done. Now what?
Is it really, totally ingrained in your psyche, your daily routine, your modus operandum? Will you now continue to do this new thing every single day without any further willpower, or does it need constant maintenance?
Look, let's be straight here. The 30-day challenge is good. I'm not knocking it. It does work. Some people use it very successfully. But for most of us it fails because of just one thing:
It's just not reasonable.
On this topic of forcing yourself to do something new every single day until you've completed your goal/acquired the new habit etc., I just want to mention the Jerry Seinfeld syndrome.
The story goes that long before he became famous he struck upon a very powerful system called 'Never Break The Chain'.
Essentially, Jerry was a struggling comic who needed to find a way to create more material, more regularly.
So he got a huge yearly wall planner, one showing every single day of the year and a big fat red marker.
Every day he wrote 1000 words of material, he put a big X on that day.
Every day he didn't write was left blank.
After a few successful days you create a highly visible chain of big red X's.
Your only goal is then to never break the chain.
That sounds pretty good and I've tried it myself. It does work. For some people it works incredibly well.
The only problem is that you become a slave to it. It creates one hell of a lot of pressure for the average person. You, a supremely intelligent, advanced specimen of life, have now created a system that totally owns you.
And you know the best/worst thing about it? It becomes a monster.
Let's say you've gone 12 days in a row before you skip one. No problem, it's a bit of a pain, you'll be deflated, but you can start again pretty easily.
What about if you've gone 273 days without breaking the chain?
This is brilliant in a way because your system has grown far more powerful: you will do so much more to keep the chain going.
However, life is not totally under your control.
The stuff that happens to you is occasionally beyond your control.
How would you feel if somehow, life conspired to force you to miss a day. Totally against your will.
Something rare, something unusually dramatic. A relationship falls apart, you have to go on a long flight and your power adapter fails. You are in the middle of a world blogging trip and your bag gets stolen.
You know, life has a way of meddling with your plans. If your system has no flexibility to deal with that, it is not a good system.
If your system collapses due to circumstances beyond your control, it is not a good system.
My aim in life is to help people to both feel good AND do stuff.
If I encourage them to use a system that controls them and makes them MORE of a slave to their environment rather than less, then I don't think I'm doing a good job.
The last thing we want to be doing is a Dr Frankenstein here. You don't want to create a monster, you want to create a loyal, humble, willing friend, a supportive partner, a lifelong personal assistant, a mentor, a coach, a gentle, kind, courteous and accepting companion. Something that makes you feel fantastic every time you interact with it. Something like a dog. There's a reason we call dogs 'man's best friend'.
However, for some people, the Jerry Seinfeld system could be the way to go.
I suggest that if you're reading this and think - wow, that sounds cool - then try the 'Never Break The Chain' approach by all means.
Try the 30-day challenge approach too. Try them all. Life should be an experiment. In my experience, for most people, the path of least resistance is the 13x4.
Anyway, you've had a bit of an overview of the 13x4 system, you've got some things in your life that you want to achieve regarding food and eating. Let me ask you a question before I wrap up this section:
What's going to be easier for you to do?
To believe that you too, can follow the system that thousands of people across the world are now using to improve their lives?
Or, to believe that somehow you're special. That there's something deep down inside you, at a core level, that makes you incapable of doing this?
btw a quick caveat:
1. This is a minimum WILL system, not a minimum WORK system. There's a huge difference between the two. Let me explain.
You're still going to have to do the work.
It's just that it's not going to feel that much like work, because you're not going to have to use that much willpower to make it happen. The only reason things seem like work is when we're going overboard on the amount of willpower we're putting into them. Like piano practice or weight training…
Or going to work!
When we don't have to use willpower to get ourselves to do something - it doesn't feel like work.
2. It's a MINIMUM will system, not a ZERO will system.
I've made this system as easy as possible, but no easier.
If you have ZERO willpower, it won't work. Not for you, not for anyone. But that's OK, because no-one has zero willpower. They really don't.