All or Nothing and Backsliding

A couple of weeks ago I came across a Tweet about a (Silicon Valley?) entrepreneur named Bryan Johnson, who sold his company to PayPal for $800 million, and spent most of 2021 assembling a team to help him design a diet/exercise/sleep/supplement regimen focused on reducing his epigenetic age. He has “open sourced” this regimen and called it The Blueprint. He claims via a variety of measurements to have successfully reduced his epigenetic age by 5.1 years in 7 months.

This went viral, and because of the nature of the diet and supplementation involved, a lot of the reaction was predictably negative.I won’t go into the Blueprint now, other than to say that I found it interesting as I have dabbled in some of the same interventions – albeit with a vanishing fraction of the resources at his disposal.

On his site, he has a video walking through his typical morning routine of diet/supplements/exercise. At 25:43, he talks about the discipline of following his routine:

“It’s such a slippery slope, that if you allow one exception, for any reason, it sort of all falls apart.”

That has really stuck with me, as it describes what I experience.

I’m trying to setup routines in my own life to help me accomplish goals. However, I’m also a world-class rationalizer and procrastinator. I can – and do – talk myself out of sticking to routines with alarming ease. On the one hand, I think that flexibility is a virtue, but I also understand that for me that flexibility is a tool for avoidance and backsliding.

Johnson uses interesting techniques to limit avoidance, including eating the exact same meals for breakfast and lunch.

For me, figuring out how avoidance and backsliding manifest daily is an interesting challenge. The importance of the morning is huge; doing the same things in the same order to start the day is enormously beneficial, but at this early stage in my process is still somewhat aspirational. I am only succeeding about 60% of the time. When I do backslide/rationalize my way out of a routine, the impacts radiate out into the rest of my day.

There are so many easy excuses to not be consistent, and when I am in the moment rationalizing the “why’s” of a particular decision not to stick with a routine, they all seem reasonable. Even though I know in the moment that they are rationalizations.

So while not for everyone, for me, it seems like the discipline of “All or Nothing” is important for me to maintain discipline and meet goals.

Keven Elliff @keven