Changing Habits can Change The World

The Failure of the Last Mile


in Exercise, Productivity

[Note: I just realized that this phrase, the Failure of the Last Mile, was first <a href=””>coined by my brother</a>. We use it in conversation so often, I didn’t realize it wasn’t a common phrase. Sorry Ramit!]

On Friday, I woke up with an intense urge to run.

As soon as my eyes opened, all I could think about was how much I wanted to feel the open air, the liberation that I only experience when I run through hills in the early morning.

Yet, by 4pm, I hadn’t even gone outside. What the hell happened?

The answer was clear: I had created small barriers that made it difficult to run. I was staying in a hostel room, and wasn’t sure where my exercise clothes were. I didn’t want to make a lot of noise looking for my running clothes.

Even though I had good intentions, I didn’t succeed. I had succeeded in developing the habit, but I still failed. I call this “the failure of the last mile.”

But today, I woke up and immediately got to exercising. I drank a liter of water, began exercising, and cooked a great breakfast, all before 7am.

What was the difference? One simple change

<strong>I went to sleep in my exercise clothes. I planned out the night before that I would exercise in the morning, so I removed every barrier to making that happen.</strong>

By removing all barriers, and simply getting up and going, I was able to get all my exercise in before anyone else in the hostel even woke up.

When building new habits, it’s extremely important to make them as easy as possible. You don’t start a new diet while leaving cake out on the counter. You load your house with only healthy food, to make it <i>difficult to fail</i>.

So, what are you trying to achieve? Tell me in the comments: what goal/habit do you want to achieve? What obstacles prevent you from doing it—and how can you remove that obstacle by preparation?

I’m currently in Medellin, Colombia, after a long weekend of horseback riding and wine-sipping in the coffee region of Colombia. <a href=””>Here is a video of my film editor and me</a> standing up on the back of a jeep while riding at 40mph through winding roads in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Photo by <a href=””></a>


Chris April 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Gain 25lbs of muscle and lose 25lbs of fat. I’m using principles from ‘The Four Hour Body’ by Tim Ferriss.


Steve April 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm

I have found when setting goals that its easy to fall off the wagon. Little things creep up and its always easier to make excuses than to make the “hard choice” and stay on board.

What I find is best is self awareness and self forgiveness. Recognize when you have fallen off the wagon and laugh about it. “haha. I really should not have done (not on course action). Oops.” dont beat yourself up. Dont get down on yourself. Recognize that your goals will take time and that the path to success has pitfalls. Next time you are in a similar situation remember what tripped you up and try to not make that mistake again.

Most importantly, dont let one minor deviation derail the whole process. Keep after your goals and never give up.


gypsi April 10, 2012 at 8:11 am

One of my big goals is to be able to test into Calculus 1 and familiarize myself with basic physics by next fall. It seems simple enough and it’s something I should have been doing these past 2 semesters but my self sabotaging and procrastination has forced me to re-think my summer plans. I’m still optimistic, although that might hurt more than help in the end.


Austin April 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I love your solution to go to sleep in your exercise clothes. I came up with a similar solution to a problem in high school. I had just gotten my braces off and was having trouble wearing my retainer every night. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, just that I wouldn’t remember until 10 minutes after I had gotten into bed, at which point there was no way I was emerging from the warm sheets. My solution was to stop storing them in the bathroom and instead keep them right next to my bed. In doing this I was able to remove the barrier that was previously keeping me from following through with the habit I wanted to form.


Dilanka April 9, 2012 at 11:59 am

“..I went to sleep in my exercise clothes…” — I hope they were clean. 🙂

I don’t know about the “failure of a last mile” – in the end, people who really want to do X or Y will figure out a way to do it, regardless of silly little obstacles. So, it all comes down to how much you want to achieve a certain goal – and guess what? the only way to prove your desire for that goal is to partake in the long and arduous (..and often self-correcting) “action” stage. One thing will remain constant though: mathematically, most who partake will veer off, drop off or flat out fail and only a few will emerge victorious. The shit’s messy, but that’ s just the way it is. One way to increase your chances of approaching the proverbial “finish line” is to model your actions after specific predecessors. In the end though, the results are pretty binary and if you fail – no amount of words will convince anyone.



Sid April 9, 2012 at 10:12 am

I am afraid of creating a bucket list of my wildest dreams. I know I do not start to create a list because I worry about not completing the steps to get what I want and asking for help along the way. I think my preparation just has to be willing to make more mistakes during the day to get to the things I want..and be ok about it.


Michal Palczewski April 9, 2012 at 7:54 am

I’ve achieved six pack abs. I used the leangains protocol. I set calorie goals and I hit them. I wish you guys luck. This is one those goals you feel really good about.


Jamie April 9, 2012 at 7:35 am

Hey Maneesh,
I’m trying to achieve 6-pack abs in the next 60 days. My problem is not following through. My problem is that everyone tells you something different about how to achieve it. What are some good habits I can start on to achieve this goal that actually work?


maneesh April 9, 2012 at 7:37 am

I’m doing exactly the same habit. I just sent you an email. Let’s make it happen.


Johnathan April 9, 2012 at 8:04 am

Six pack habit? I don’t want to be left out!

I read you’re trying out Paleo. I’ve found the best way to for me is to batch cook. I’m too lazy otherwise.


Liz April 9, 2012 at 11:32 am

That’s exactly what I do. I’ve found with Paleo that my slow cooker is my best friend! Otherwise, it’s just way too easy for me to fall off the wagon.


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