Healthy Habits & Universe Food

Joining the gig economy means I can make my own time, which is both a blessing and a curse. I quickly found that being a productive freelance copywriter is about developing and maintaining healthy habits.

Bad habits include starting the day late (because I can) and then finishing late. After all, late finishes are one of the reasons I left advertising. How ironic that I found myself arriving home past 9 pm given my newfound freedom.

After struggling for a short period, I found the universe suddenly raining information on habit formation.

My wife pointed out a habits book she’d bought me a while ago that I hadn’t yet read. A copywriting podcast I listen to featured a habits expert that week. Blog posts popped up talking about habits. While researching for a ghostwriting project I came across industry leaders who attributed their success to their habits. E-mails reminded me that Ryan Holiday, one of my favourite thinkers and authors, has an entire newsletter about habits: Writing Routines.

(Side note - it’s not the first time in my life something like this has happened. I once went through a period of family illness and general personal turmoil, and the world kept feeding my information about stoic philosophy. It always seems to be willing to offer you the food you need, you just have to be willing to eat it.)

Be Better Than Before

I picked up the book on the shelf and found it was Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before (was wifey giving me a hint that I need to improve?) It’s highly personal but informative and it’s full of ideas. Out of them, I picked out a few key tips:

  • Form the habit first. Start super small. If you want to read every day, or write every day, start with a sentence. Get the ball rolling.

  • Don’t break the chain. Really. Ever.

  • Recognise how best you keep habits. Is it with accountability? Is it by really understanding how well the benefit would help you?

  • Make it as easy as possible for yourself. Remove every obstacle and possible excuse. Add in cues.

  • Have a trigger for each habit if possible. Such as always reading when you get home from work, or on the train and have a reward in place.

There’s No Such Thing As Willpower

It was also interesting to discover that people with ‘strong willpower’ don’t exist. They are just the result of ingrained habits and the fact they have removed temptation as much as possible. They know how to put themselves in situations where all obstacles are removed and where all they can do is work.

Sometimes we might think of ourselves as not having that ‘strength’, when really it’s about knowing yourself and putting in the effort to limit your exposure to things you know are bad for you. Studies show too much temptation leads to eventual moral exhaustion, which leads to relapse.

Zadie Smith, one of my favourite authors, has spoken about how she can’t write with an internet connection, so she uses the Freedom app to shut it off or goes on writers retreats. In fact, many writers do. Someone once said that “No great work of art was ever produced by someone with a great internet connection.” The temptation for distraction is too strong. Willpower doesn’t come into it - its very existence exhausts the mind.

The Power of a Power Hour

One of the best things I picked up from Gretchen’s book was the idea of the ‘Power Hour’.

This is a time I mark out in my day where I do nothing but work. No internet, no phone messages, nothing. When it’s over, I reward myself with a break - possibly a guilty bit of YouTube, whatever. It’s amazing what I can get done, and I’m now marking out multiple power hours per day.

These new habit-making skills have also meant I’m working on my own personal writing projects for the first time in years. All by starting small and making myself accountable. I downloaded a simple app that’s really helped (I use Loop - Habit Tracker on the Android Store). Every day I just ‘tick’ that I wrote something, even if it’s just a sentence, and I make sure I don’t break the chain.

The First Step Leads into a Run

Like all the habits I’ve tried to instill, I’ve learned that starting small doesn’t mean accomplishing small things. It turns out that as soon as I write one sentence, I’m engaged and willing to write more. Or as soon as I read a paragraph, I read more. Starting is more than half the battle. And when you’re committed to just starting every day, you’re well on your way to whatever it is you want to do.

We’re living in an age where it’s never been more difficult to sit down, concentrate and produce something of worth. We’re constantly being pulled in a thousand directions by things designed to give us instant gratification and steal our attention away. So digging into the world of habits and arming ourselves with some knowledge can only be a good idea.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”


Cheese Checks In // Sep

What I've Been Doing:

I spent 7 wonderful days at a 4A's working on insurance briefs. Yes, insurance can be wonderful. Who knew.

My team (fantastic French and Japanese creatives) did some good work together. And it was nice to be back in the agency environment, cracking ideas, writing manifestos and breaking my three months without caffeine by drinking a ton.

Also, the ECD was for real. I'm sure he's going to be a huge success there.

What I've Been Listening to:

The Story Grid podcast. Shawn Coyne is a New York-based editor with decades of publishing experience, and he breaks down what it takes to write a story that works. This guy knows his stuff, and his co-host is someone trying to make it as a writer, which makes for a great combo.

What I've Been Reading:

I haven't been very good at this lately, owing to work. But I'm still in the middle of Rich Dad, Poor Dad. For someone who grew up in a working class background where money is something you spend, it has salient advice on money management.

What I've Been Cooking:

Continuing our theme of New York, I made New York-style dan dan noodles. Cooking the beef is interesting: you put the mince in a dry pan, no oil. (The last time I did that, the Head Chef screamed at me and I spent 2 hours cutting burnt bits off meat with scissors).

As I was saying, you put it in on a high heat and you keep it moving around until eventually it’s brown and crispy. Paired with fresh egg noodles from the wet market, some bok choi and freshly ground szechuan peppers, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce… fogeddaboutit. (Adapted from Jamie’s America cookboook.)

3 Amazing Ads that Show How Thailand are Killing it

Imagine a world where ads are so rich and enjoyable people want to watch them over and over again and they carve out a special place in their memory for decades to come.

Wouldn’t every brand want to create advertisements like that?

Well, we don’t have to imagine that world – because it’s Thailand. And it's the reason Thai advertising is the envy of Asia.

Honestly, they’re putting the rest of us to shame. And I use the word shame because they’re doing advertising how we all know it should be done. And it’s simple really: you take a single benefit and push it to its logical extreme.

In the relationship between agency and client in Hong Kong and China, we have lost that understanding – if we ever had it.

The result for Thailand is world class advertising that I'm sure is reaping world-class results. 

Here are three recent ads that show how Thailand are absolutely killing it.


Tiny Doll

Pete (AKA Thasorn Boonyanate) is a former colleague of mine who struggled with restrictions at BBDO Shanghai, moved to JWT Thailand and on his first project, won Lions (whoops, BBDO).

This video is a beaut. From the storytelling to the Inarritu-esque camerawork.

Pete & Thailand, you are killing it.



A real crowd pleaser at Cannes, coming straight outta GreynJ United Bangkok – this plays out like a hit offbeat indie comedy.

It has charm, perfect pacing and brilliantly understated lead performances – all building up to a benefit that’s hammered home with comedic effect.

GreynJ and Thailand, you are killing it.



It’s easy to forget how arresting it is, as a viewer, to not understand what the hell is going on. It keeps us engaged until we can figure out what the deal is. This ad plays that masterfully.

Surprising, hilarious and socially relevant (for Thais anyway) – this video sure is a ride. 

Kudos to McCann worldgroup for the brilliant copywriting and simple, pared back execution.

McCann Thailand, you are killing it.



The Thai Golden Age of advertising shows no signs of stopping. And long may it continue. 


From business to personal, here’s my most frequently-asked-questions.

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