Just One Percent Better

The window is wide and rectangular with horizontal blinds cutting across a humble view of the apartment complex’s lush green landscaping. There are trees with trunks as thin as fingers and big spiky pom poms on the ends. There’s a eucalyptus tree scabbing and peeling, looking like someone’s gnarled knee. Green iron railings surround the balconies. The window’s blinds are tan and when they are drawn up from inside you can see the pretty windowsill. A yellow-leafed plant in a red ornate pot, a sewn white duck, a pink handmade plate warped and wavy around the edges. Smooth and rough stones placed thoughtfully in a row. Last, there’s a miniature giraffe carved out of wood with its neck craned. Sometimes on the sill, there’s an incense going, a white wisp of smoke arcing and twirling from the quick burning stick, but that’s only if I’m inside and mostly at night time. From the streaked window, I can see bushes, spiderwebs, tiny trees and fat brave squirrels clutching onto them. Directly across from me, an academic family, a husband, a wife, and two baby girls, share a one-bedroom apartment. Their balcony carries pink tricycles and turquoise chairs.

I know this window very well and spend a lot of time looking out of it. One writer’s blog I read said there should always be a window. I agree and find it to be a constant source of inspiration and amusement providing the opportunity to observe from afar. Most of the time, it’s my observing old men with long faces and caps pulled down to their eyebrows letting frantic little dogs piss, dig and roam in the brush. They stand thin-lipped with hands in their pockets and look like they’re weighing a heavy regret, a chance long gone. Sometimes I see a girl in plaid pajama pants and a top knot wildly talking with her hands with an ear pressed into the phone. She looks at her feet then up again, frowning in concentration.

Today I woke up to a soft white light filtering in through this window, fighting its way through the blinds. I woke up three hours after my alarm was set, which was fine because I had nowhere to be and any time wasted was my own time to waste (a terrible mentality to have, by the way). But I rolled out of bed and opened my blinds satisfied with the cool wet Los Angeles morning. The muted white sky gave all the plants’ green more fervor and I decided to go for a run.

I haven’t been running much because I prefer to bike but with the air so fresh and forgiving, I felt inspired to be outdoors and feel the ground beneath my feet. So I ran, arms swinging, each bent at the elbow at 90 degrees, legs kicking back, straight-backed, not too much bounce in my step. On my best days, it’s easy to get into it, the flow state. Today was one of my best days. I flew, ducked under low-hanging trees, tip-toed around puddles of mud and sped across wet sunken dirt paths. I’d made it a good distance around the park when my brother called and asked how I was doing. He shared words of encouragement. We’re both on the job hunt right now, the difference being that Donovan has a lot more experience in the corporate world than I, and a more specific vision of what he wants out of life. He offered up book suggestions and reminded me to follow up with a company I’d interviewed with last week. It’s really nice having this support system. I forget this is what I came back for, and I’m very grateful for it.

Let’s pivot here, because I really want to talk about this new podcast I discovered today called Disrupt Yourself with Whitney Johnson. If you know me, you know I am a sucker for a good podcast, informational or anecdotal. I found this while deep in the internet searching potential jobs. It’s titled Just One Percent Better and in it Author James Clear “advocates that the way to build habits is to try and get just one percent better each day—something that sounds almost too easy to do, and yet builds a firm foundation for continual improvement.” And this struck me because if you read my last post, I am trying to build this habit of writing every single day. I totally fell off the wagon since two weeks ago where I promised I would write 200 words a day and share those words. I have been writing but nothing I’m proud of enough to share. I struggle with inhibiting myself, with proofreading and censoring each sentence before I get the thought out onto the page. I am doing that as we speak! It’s nuts! Anyhow, I took notes and I want to share some here for prosperity.

  1. Take out a yoga mat. Write one sentence. Read one page. If you have a final goal, shrink it down to what can be accomplished in two minutes because at that point, you’re just practicing the art of showing up. Writing one sentence may lead to writing another—maybe it won’t. But if you do write one sentence then you have something on the page that you have accomplished.

  2. Specificity! Specificity! Specificity! James talks about how planning the when, the where, and the route you take to get there has helped increase voter turnout. What if we treated our own goals with the kind of planning, intensity and follow through it takes to show up and vote? When will I write? I will write at 8PM. Where? At Semi Tropic. How will I get there? I will spend too much time on the 101. You get the picture. Having a specific place and time for achieving those goals helps hold you accountable for achieving them.

  3. Habit tracking. Did you do the thing? Mark an X on your calendar. Seeing a row of X’s after completing the task consistently for a week will feel great. On the flip side, skipping a day will make you feel kinda trashy so you will be less likely to break your streak of good habit-doing. Oh, and never miss twice.

  4. Every action you take is a like a vote for the person you want to become.

That’s right. I bolded it and made it a larger font. Every little positive step you take gets you closer to that goal of becoming the you you envision. Do you know the person you want to become? I want the skill of Eudora Welty and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with Nicole Krauss baked into me. But that doesn’t happen overnight so I read the work from these great women and let their words marinate like the best beef stew.

(sidebar: Diane von Furstenburg says in this podcast that her advice for young women is, “Think about the woman you want to be, and then be her.” Simple et efficace.)

I hope this helps you all get one percent better, so you can realize 100% of your potential!