Unlearning Bad Habits

If you’ve read these blog posts for any length of time, you know that I’m a massive Toronto Maple Leafs fan.  For those of you who don’t know, the Leafs are a professional ice hockey team based in Toronto and are the largest, wealthiest and most well-followed team in the world.

Unfortunately, they’ve not won a championship in my lifetime.  Being a Leafs fan tests you on so many levels – the levels of ineptitude this glorious franchise has been plagued by over the last forty years is diabolical.

But nearly three years ago things changed.  The right management was brought in, they put a plan together and then hired Mike Babcock, the best coach in the world eighteen months ago.  Last season the club finished in last place, but there was hope.  The club was sticking with its rebuilding plan and was rewarded with the top pick in the amateur draft lottery.

This season we’re at the 20% point and the club has performed better in the standings, but the youth movement is producing results with exceptional young talent which is even more hopeful for the future.

That’s all well and good, but I love the way the Leafs coach explains what they do and what their plan is.  I think it encapsulates my philosophies about business perfectly.

He says that the primary objective is for everyone on the team to be a total professional and commit themselves to “doing things right”.  Part of being a good professional is getting up every day, even when you don’t want to, going to work and trying to get better.

The coaching staff outlines a structured way of playing and the players execute that plan.

That easily applies to business and you can see how these ideas often come across in the things that I talk about in my daily emails, but more importantly in the Casual Marketer Monthly Newsletter.  I often say that you need to have a plan for your business and focus on executing it to the highest level you can.  These emails and posts regularly talk about the importance of incremental improvements creating monumental change.  And most of all, I talk about the importance of just putting the work in – you can have a great plan and all the skill in the world, but you have to put the work in!

But there was a Babcock-ism that I picked up on today that resonated with me.  He was given a question by a reporter about what he does to work with all the young guys on the team to help them correct mistakes in their game.

He started off his response with his typical answer of getting people to do things the right way and that players have to be willing to do the hard work to get better.

Then he veered off script.

He said that some young players just have bad habits.  That most of the guys in the NHL have grown up being the best players in their age group and that their talent allowed them to have bad habits and be lazy in ways that other elite NHL players could exploit.

So the secret that Babcock talked about was helping these guys unlearn bad habits.  It wasn’t enough to teach them good habits, they had to actively unlearn the bad habits to achieve maximum results.

It’s so true in business as well.

I bet you could probably name two or three habits that you have that are holding you back and you need to retrain your brain not to have those bad habits any more.

For me, the big bad habit is being on social media, particularly Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong, I get a ton of ideas from Facebook for my daily emails and paid newsletter, but in the idea of being fair and balanced, I sometimes spend too much time on Facebook which means I have less time for other things.  It’s a bad habit I’ve developed and I need to fix it.

“Unlearning” though is a bit deeper than that.  I need to figure out why I have this bad habit, what it’s compensating for and come up with an idea not just to crush this problem with willpower alone, but to help retrain my brain to not need or want the Facebook dopamine drip.

The key to all of this though, both personally and in business is to have a level of self-awareness.  To successfully unlearn the habits you need to realize when they are happening and what you can do to get past them.  If you can figure that out then you’re totally on your way to regaining control of yourself and your business.

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