002C. An Interview with Mike Dee on the Best Daily Routines for a Healthy Life

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Key Quote

“It’s those small habits that you implement into your life – if you do that every single day, it will change your life.” – Mike Dee

Episode Summary

· Mike left behind the safety of a 9-5 job despite a huge pay raise that was offered to him – and ultimately, it was the second best decision he ever made.
· He established a habit of dedicating two to three hours each day to his side hustle, which ultimately helped him break free from the shackles of monotony.
· Mike talks about how society defines success and how money isn’t everything.
· Mike preaches the importance of both balance and flow, and what that looks like for him.
· Mike talks about reframing failure.
· Mike shares his morning and evening routines.

Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Wesley Jackson: Can you relate to this? Picture yourself at a new 9-5 job, and it’s your first week and you already absolutely hate it. You find yourself with nothing else to look forward to now, besides the weekend. You tell yourself that you’ll just stick with it for another three to six months, and then you’ll leave.

But, how do you know what to do in order to turn this dream into a reality? In today’s self-help podcast episode, you’ll find this out through a story from Mike Davidson, creator of the productivity YouTube channel originally known as Project Elon, with over 1 million subscribers. You’ll learn about the best daily routines for a healthy life, how they relate to habits, and how these two powerful forces influence our lives.

Welcome to Surviving Humanity: A Self-Help Podcast, where we shift your perspectives to help you overcome the obstacles in your life. We are Wesley Jackson and Andrew Gilley, and we hope to foster a sense of connection and community over our common struggles while providing you with tools to overcome them.

As always, our FacebookSubreddit, and Twitter are the best places to go for community, connection, and support. Links to these are in the show notes.

Let’s get started.

Mike, do you have any stories that you’d like to share that are related to daily routines for a healthy life?

[00:01:20] Mike Dee: After I graduated from university, pretty much everyone thought that I would go full-time with my business, but I didn’t. I went to work in finance, I moved to Amsterdam and I worked the 9-5 job, and I remember I was telling some of my friends, ” I’m just gonna do it for three months or six months. I’m just gonna try it because I don’t want to go my whole life with not knowing what it’s like to have a 9-5 job, because I’d never had one before.

And they were like, “Mike, no, don’t do it because it’s so easy to get stuck. It’s so easy to get trapped in that kind of life. And I was like, “It’s fine. I’m gonna leave. I’m gonna leave in about six months. It’s fine.” And I remember within the first week, I absolutely hated it.

I remember I was cycling home one night in the rain and I remember telling my girlfriend at the time, ” I can’t wait for the weekend. I really can’t wait for the weekend.”

And she said, “Mike, what do you mean?”

Because she’d never heard me say that before. We’d been together for six years prior to that, and she’d never heard me say that. And as Gary Vaynerchuk says, if you’re living for the weekend, then your life is broken basically.

So, I knew at that point that I wanted to leave straight away, and so I put in a habit into my day – every day I would work the 9-5, I would come home, then at six o’clock sharp, I would be working on my YouTube channel. I actually had two businesses at that time, so every day, two hours on my YouTube channel, then one hour on my second business.

And I made that into a habit, and what I realized was that once you do it for a week, it’s quite difficult, right? You’ve gotta build that habit up. It takes a lot of self-discipline, but after about three or four weeks, it gets so much easier and it’s like waking up in the morning and you don’t have to ask yourself, “Should I brush my teeth?”

You just do it, because it’s a habit, and that’s how I realized how powerful habits were in that it’s just automating tasks that are normally quite difficult, but you do them automatically, so you don’t even need to think about it. So, as soon as I got home, literally six o’clock, I would start working.

Like I said, the first few weeks were quite difficult, but after that, it got so much easier. And then six months later, I was able to leave because of that one habit of working on my side hustle, two to three hours a night.

[00:03:31] Wesley Jackson: So, what were you seeing and hearing and feeling and thinking when you were going through all of this whole experience leading up to that?

[00:03:42] Mike Dee: I was very depressed and I don’t get depressed often, that’s very out of character for me. But, in some ways I’m so glad that I was – I feel like if I wasn’t feeling bad, then I would have no motivation to make that habit and really kinda put pressure on myself to work and make my side hustle work because it was like, you have two options:

You can continue being depressed and working your 9-5, or, you can put a habit in place every night and actually make that 9-5 work. But, it was also difficult because when I told my manager that I’m leaving, she gave me a 45% pay rise, and I was already getting decent pay anyway.

And I remember thinking ” That was a really difficult decision.”

Because I was thinking, “Should I stay?”

Because a 45% pay raise is a big pay raise – or, should I go with my side hustle, which was my YouTube channel at the time – and I would take a massive pay cut. Bear it in mind I was living in Amsterdam and I remember my rent was one thousand euros a month. I would be struggling financially for that whole year, and I knew that.

I decided to leave, and that was the second best decision I’ve ever made in my life. And ironically, the first best decision of my life was leaving a job at Tesco stacking shelves at a supermarket.

So you can see a pattern here that for me: leaving somewhere that is making me depressed and going with a job that maybe is paid a bit less, but it’s on my own terms. I look back now and I’m so grateful that I made those decisions.

[00:05:09] Wesley Jackson: No climbing the corporate ladder for you, you instead took huge leaps, huh?

[00:05:14] Mike Dee: Yeah, but it was very difficult. If I had kids or if my expenses were a bit higher, or if I had a mortgage, then I absolutely would still be working there 10 years later.

It’s the daily routine and the habits that were really the savior, if you like, of getting me out of that rut. Because I was automating those behaviors of getting home every night, just doing two to three hours. And also it eased the depression as well, because I’m doing something about it.

I’m not just sitting there, knowing that I’m gonna be working the 9-5 for the rest of my life, I’m actually doing something about it, and that helps me feel a lot better.

[00:05:48] Wesley Jackson: So, besides what you just mentioned already, how exactly would you say you found a way through all of this? You mentioned the two hours of working on your YouTube channel starting at 6:00 PM every day.

Was there anything else?

[00:06:02] Mike Dee: For me, it was about really understanding that money isn’t everything, and that’s a really difficult concept to understand, because society kind of conditions us to the idea of success. If someone asks if you’re successful, they usually mean, ” Have you got a well paid job? Have you got a high status job like a lawyer or a doctor?”

That’s how society defines success, but I think as a society we really need to step back and redefine success. For me, success is having health, wealth, love, and happiness in check like those four pillars. And wealth is still there, but it’s just 25% of the equation.

And it was one, once I realized that just because this job was. Paying me a lot and like in my parents’ eyes, I was successful because I was earning a lot of money, but in my eyes, I was depressed, I absolutely was not successful.

So, it was really just redefining this idea of success and realizing that you don’t have to go down the well-trodden path just because everyone else is I have friends in back in the uk.

And they haven’t, the nine to five, they have a mortgage, they have kids, and there’s nothing wrong with that life. Like I’m happy for them and more power to of them, but for me personally, that’s just not a life for me. And so it was, yeah, it’s just really understanding that success doesn’t just mean money.

[00:07:17] Wesley Jackson: Yeah, it’s funny how perspectives and perceptions work, right? Speaking of which: in addition to what you already mentioned about this kind of “mindshift” around success, how else would you say that this whole experience changed your perspective?

[00:07:33] Mike Dee: So firstly, honestly, I don’t really care too much about money. I’ve realized that a lack of money makes us unhappy, I think that’s clear – if we don’t have enough money to pay the bills, or we’re stressed every time we open our pay slips, of course that’s gonna make us unhappy.

But, I feel like once you get to a certain level, whether it’s $2,000 a month, $3,000 a month, $4,000 a month, whatever, it’s different for everyone, and it’s different for every economy, but once you reach a certain level, you get diminishing returns on your level of happiness, meaning that if you’re paid an extra $500, it doesn’t necessarily make you happier.

For me, it’s about finding that optimal balance of paying yourself just enough to make yourself kind of on the top of the curve. And then knowing that anything above that, it’s not necessarily going to make you happier.

Especially living in Vietnam – like right now, I have a nice apartment. I have pretty much everything I want. We can go on holidays. So, it doesn’t make sense to pay myself an extra $500 more a month or a thousand dollars more a month. I might as well invest that money because it doesn’t make sense to pay myself more. And it’s really understanding that – it’s understanding that once you reach a certain level, increasing your pay won’t make you happier.

[00:08:45] Wesley Jackson: Sounds like you really have a handle on your discipline, so that’s good. And, you touched on it earlier, but how do you think this story is related to larger problems throughout society, and why do you think that’s important?

[00:08:59] Mike Dee: I think the thing is we’re kind of pressured now into grinding and working, and 12 hour days, 13 hour days, 14 hour days, especially in the kind of entrepreneur space, is very common.

I think it’s too common and I think that especially in the productivity space, we need to start focusing more on sustainable productivity as opposed to just working 14 hours a day, because of course you’re going to burn out. Of course you’re going to have in the future, mental health problems, physical health problems. Of course you’re going to drop other areas of your life, maybe like relationships or your happiness pillars, right?

So, I think that we need to start focusing more on working efficiently, but working fewer hours. I’m really making an effort to just work nine hours a day. When I was in Amsterdam, I told you I worked the 9-5, and then on top of that I worked an extra three hours.

I had no social life. And people ask me, ‘it must have been amazing, working in Amsterdam?” For a lot of people, especially in the UK, they dream of doing that. But, for me, it was a miserable time, because I had no social life. I really didn’t balance my life.

I’m glad I did it, because it was only for a short period of time, it was about seven or eight months that I did that for. But, I certainly encourage people to live like that.

I like the idea of working in sprints. It was Steven Bartlett from The Diary of a CEO that I heard this from. It’s where if you have a business project, you set a predetermined period of time. So, it’s maybe one month, two months, three months. And then you put all of your resources, all of your time, into that three-month period to give that business project the best chance of success.

So, we just launched the productivity algorithm, which is a four-week live cohort course, and it took us three months to make it, but we went all out in that three months, I was working 11, 12 hours a day.

However, it was a sprint, meaning that after that three months, I then took a step back and I have the weekends off now, and sometimes I go and have staycations or I go on holiday. So, I like the idea of working full on for three months to get things done, but then maybe taking a month stepping back, or two months stepping back, and I think that’s more of a sustainable way of being productive.

The main idea here is why don’t you work more efficiently but just work eight hours a day, sleep eight hours, and go to the gym for an hour in the morning and hang out with your friends for 30 minutes on an evening. So why not do all of that? I think society needs to focus more on that: on living healthier as opposed to just grinding.

[00:11:31] Wesley Jackson: Wouldn’t you say though that everything has kind of a cost, right? So in this case, back in the day, for you, it was a sacrifice of your time in order to make that first leap.

So, would you say that’s always a necessity?

[00:11:43] Mike Dee: Most of the time, yeah. Most of the decisions that I’ve made in my life, they have come from places where I felt very uncertain of making that decision. But then I’m glad that I did. Like I say I quit Tesco, so the best decision in my life was when I was working night shifts at Tesco, I was like 20, 21 years old, and it was like three in the morning, and I was like, ” what am I doing here? I’m young, I have no responsibility. I have no pets. I have no mortgage. I live with my parents. I’ve got a bit of money saved up. What am I doing here, wasting my life?” Then, completely out of character, I booked a flight to Bangkok and that completely changed the course of my life.

So, it’s making those decisions that at the time feel quite uncertain, but, you look back and it’s those decisions that really change where you are. Because if I didn’t make that decision back 10 years ago, 12 years ago, I wouldn’t be with the business that I have now, I would probably have a nine to five and live a pretty mundane life.

And that’s a bit of a waste, really.

[00:12:40] Wesley Jackson: Yeah, someone just told me today actually that if you’re not a little bit afraid of the decision that you’re making, then it’s not a big enough one. Would you agree with that?

[00:12:48] Mike Dee: I like the, yeah. I like the idea of failing, right? It sucks, right?

Look, no one likes to fail, but I look over the last 12 months or so, I’ve failed a lot. We’ve had so many business projects that didn’t go the way we planned. We had this that went wrong. We had that, that went wrong. But, I look back and every single failure is a learning curve, right?

Chris Do, from The Futur, said something like “Don’t waste a good failure.”

I love that because he rephrases it, he says it’s a good failure. Like failure is a good thing and it is a good thing! Of course it is. And I think ironically, if you’re not failing enough or if you’re not failing at all, that in of itself is a failure, because it probably means that you’re not pushing yourself to what you could be.

So yeah, we fail all the time, and like I say, it sucks at the time, but looking back, we wouldn’t be where we are if we didn’t have those failures.

[00:13:36] Wesley Jackson: Yeah, it’s just a part of the process. So, what would you say then, at the end of the day, what is the moral of this entire story?

What can we all do to become better humans in response to all of this?

[00:13:50] Mike Dee: I think going back to the issue where we shouldn’t all be chasing money, we really shouldn’t be. I feel like money is an element to success, right? But there’s so many different things that also contribute to success. There’s so many people, there’s so many billionaires that would give up all of their money to get their health back.

If you’ve got cancer, you would do anything to get your health back, right? You would give up 10 billion, 20 billion, 30 billion, and it’s really easy to take our lives for granted because we have our health right now. But, it’s only when we don’t have it that we realize how important it is.

And I think we need to be more grateful, just as a society, I think we need to be far more grateful for what we have. And we also need to reprioritize what we do. So, for example, just basic things like eating right? It’s not a difficult thing, but a lot of us don’t do it.

Drinking two or three liters of water a day, it’s such a basic thing, but society doesn’t really teach us that it’s important. It teaches us that we need to get a very good job. It teaches us that we need to be earning X amount. It teaches us that we need to have a brand new car in the front of our driveway, so I think we need to reprioritize.

But at the same time, not completely forgetting about wealth as well, but just realigning what we prioritize. For example, some months I prioritize wealth. I go all out with my business and I’ll be working 11, 12 hours a day, but then the next month, I’ll prioritize exercise and boxing and MMA and going to the gym and socializing.

Then the next month I’ll prioritize relationships, and networking, and things like that. So, I think we need to just realign how we spend our lives and be more strategic and not just get tunnel visioned on earning as much money as we can.

[00:15:29] Wesley Jackson: Yeah, the saying goes: “Health is wealth.”

So, what other daily routines then do you do nowadays? Maybe run me through your morning routine, how about that?

[00:15:38] Mike Dee: I’ll run you through my morning routine, but I’ll also really quickly run you through my routine in Amsterdam, because it was a massive failure.

But, as with every failure as we discussed, we learned from it, right? So, when I was in Amsterdam, I knew how important morning routines were. So, I crammed everything that I could. As soon as I wake up, I learned Dutch for 15 minutes. I did yoga for 15 minutes. I went up to the balcony and I did meditation for 15 minutes and I was doing like all of these things.

But then after about an hour and a half of this morning routine, this like massive, the world’s longest morning routine, it was too much. Because I was trying to do so many things, I was doing all of them not very well. So, now I keep it simple. For me, deep focus is a big thing.

I like working in my biological prime time. In the morning is when I’m at my most productive. Then, in the afternoon, my energy dips, and then in the evening, my energy goes back up to it’s peak. So, in the morning, the first four hours, I protect that four hours, so, I don’t go to the office. My team know that I’m not gonna be in the office in the morning. This is usually about 6:30, 7:00 in the morning, and I go straight to a coffee shop and I put my active noise cancellation headphones in, and I get four hours of deep, focused work. And, it’s interesting because in that four hours I can get more done than the rest of the day, even if I’m working 12 hours even if I’m working 14 hours, right?

In that four hours, I get way more done than the rest of the day. So, I really protect that time. And that’s pretty much my morning routine.

Another habit’s learning Vietnamese for 20 minutes a day. It’s not a lot, it’s a compounding effect essentially, where if you do it every day, then the effects should add up. So my habits, I keep them very minimal. I keep them as few as I can, but I’m very strategic with them.

Meaning that the things that I do, the habits that I do, they move the needle more than anything else. For example, learning Vietnamese. If I can learn Vietnamese on a conversational level, that would change my life so much. As opposed to, let’s say, when I was living in Amsterdam and doing 15 minutes of yoga.

That wouldn’t necessarily be life-changing for me. Now, I’ve tried it, and yoga of course is very beneficial, but for me personally, it’s not a life-changing exercise, and that’s why I don’t do it. So, it’s about being very strategic, not having 10, 15, 20 daily habits, but just maybe having two or three. But those two or three are very cleverly chosen.

[00:17:56] Wesley Jackson: Controversial opinion alert to all the yogis out there.

[00:17:59] Mike Dee: I did put a disclaimer in there because I realized that it was a bit controversial, but I did put a disclaimer that yoga is very healthy.

[00:18:07] Wesley Jackson: I get what you mean. There is something for everybody.

So, it sounded like in the past you were more thinking of it in terms of clockwork kind of fashion, and then now you’re talking more about this deep focus or kind of a flow aspect to your day. What does that look like at the end of the day? How do you close out?

[00:18:23] Mike Dee: So, at the end of the day, I do an hour of the gym, and then I do an hour of boxing, and then I finish boxing about 8:00 PM. Sometimes I won’t go to the gym, so I go to the gym maybe four days a week, and then sometimes I’ll go and hang out with friends, or I’ll go out with my wife, we’ll go out to eat or something like that.

Just before bed. I used to – and I was terrible for this – just scrolling through social media, and I’ve stopped that and it’s been so beneficial. For me, reading or listening to a podcast is not necessarily as interesting or as engaging as social media or as YouTube. YouTube is terrible for me. If I’m watching a YouTube video or scrolling through YouTube and just watching video after video, I won’t be able to sleep.

But, if I do something like reading a book on my Kindle, that’s not as engaging, it’s not as exciting, it doesn’t get me pumped up, but at the same time, it’s relaxing, it’s educational, it helps me in terms of self-development. So, that has been a real game changer. And I wish, I really wish that I started doing that three years ago, four years ago, because I fall asleep a lot faster now.

I’m no longer lying in bed, just watching YouTube videos for one hour, two hours, because what a waste of time.

[00:19:29] Wesley Jackson: True that. So, before we go then, Mike, if you had to choose, what would be your number one tip for surviving humanity?

[00:19:38] Mike Dee: For surviving humanity? Oof. I would say self-education. Self-education has completely changed my life.

I talk a lot about productivity and personal development on my YouTube channel, right? I think that YouTube and Google, they’re such amazing inventions. I don’t think that we really give them credit. The fact that we can literally Google or YouTube any question and get so much content for free.

And because it’s for free, we don’t really value it because it’s perceived value is zero. But I think that if you can utilize that, you can literally become an expert in any field you want. And we’ve never had that. We are the first generation where we’ve been able to do that.

We really have no excuse. Like any problem that you have in your life, you can literally just Google it and find the answer. So, I think self-education. And also using the 1% rule when it comes to self-education. So, if you pick a topic, whatever topic you wanna become an expert in, whether it’s productivity, going to the gym, boxing, whatever.

Just consuming educational content every single day and making it a habit. Meaning that when you sit down to eat, you don’t turn on Netflix and watch, I don’t know, keeping up with the Kardashians, but instead you watch a documentary, right? Or you watch an educational YouTube video, and it’s those small habits that you implement and infuse into your life every single day…

It will change your life. I really do believe that, and so self-education is my number one kind of personal development strategy because essentially, it’s unlimited, right?

[00:21:03] Wesley Jackson: Thank you to our guest, Mike Dee.

Mike works full-time producing content for his YouTube channel and online courses, which can be found on Udemy, Skillshare, and Kajabi. He focuses on productivity and helping other people significantly increase their output. You can find his latest work on projectelon.com.

I found his productivity algorithm on there to be really thorough, we highly encourage you to check him out if you’re interested in learning more about how to supercharge your productivity to build a more successful life.

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