The Zenster: The Leo Babauta Interview
The surest way to create meaningful content is to be sincere and informed. Lived experience and good intentions always shine out and out. The best teachers are the committed seekers.
And that’s why we good ‘n truly love Leo Babauta’s daily ZenHabits. He’s a normal guy who committed to the Essential Things and made space for the best of life to fill his days – one good habit at a time.
And there’s more heartening news, Zenhabits has 68,200 subscribers. (I’m one of them.) May the world go Zen.
Leo, you’ve made some big, life-affirming changes in a fairly short amount of time. What inspired you to make so many new choices?
I started by quitting smoking, and the success I had there transformed me, woke me up to the possibilities of changing my habits and through my habits my life. I then started running, then waking earlier, then eating healthier, then eliminating my debt…and with each successive success, I was inspired to do more. The process hasn’t stopped—it’s been one transformation after another, each inspiring the next.
How do you know when you’re inspired?
When you can’t sit still, and you just have to take action or talk to somebody or read as much as you can or start writing.
How do you get things done?
One thing at a time. Simplify your to-do list to 3 things a day, focus on just the most important things, and get them done by focusing on one at a time.
What are the tools of your trade?
I work almost entirely online. My tools are Firefox, Gmail, WordPress, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Delicious bookmarks, most recently Twitter. The desktop apps I use most are TextEdit (for off-line writing) and Quicksilver, because it’s awesome. Other than that, I use a Moleskine notebook for jotting things down and making lists.
What do you collect, or have a lot of?
Nothing. I don’t collect things anymore—I’ve gotten rid of so many things. The exception might be books, but even then I continually prune my library and donate used books to charities or used book stores. The only thing I try to collect is love, and I’m surrounded by it.
[Photo left, surrounded by love. Clearly, Leo also collects kids...he and his wife made six of them!]
What books, movies, or CDs have been most helpful or inspiring to you?
Boy oh boy. I could write a whole book just on the books I love. Non-fiction books include: The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama, Living the Simple Life by Elaine St. James, Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Getting Things Done by David Allen, Gandhi’s autobiography, Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, and The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss.
[Check out Leo's 50 Amazing and Essential Novels to Enrich Your Library]
What would you like to revolutionize?
The way people see themselves. Many people feel powerless to change their lives, but I’ve discovered and I’ve proven that it’s possible to take control, to change your habits one at a time, to simplify your life, and to find happiness. Many people see the negatives in themselves, but if they learned to see the positives, they’d be transformed. Many people think that they have no control over the outside world, but if they realize that other things—from negative people to corporations to governments—only have power over them if they concede that power, they will realize that all power resides in them.
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