Over the next few days, I want to present something that I have been working on for a while, and subsequently practicing with great results. I call it Living to Code, and it has had a profound enough effect on my life that I’ve decided to share it with you. Of course, everybody lives differently. I don’t expect (or want) everyone to live like I do. That’s why I’ve sterilized MY code into a framework that you can use to create YOUR code. Living to Code is less about deciding how to live, and more about the motivation to accomplish and maintain those decisions. This introduction will serve to present the idea of The Code. Part II will define the framework of The Code, and Part III will present MY code as an example of this in action.

Get fed up, change EVERYTHING at once, burn out, repeat…

In our daily lives, we set and give up on many goals. Some go away as quickly as they are dreamt up. In moments of great motivation, we set very complicated, rigid, and all encompassing guidelines designed to make drastic changes in how we live. Here’s a common scenario; We decide we are not “healthy” enough. All at once we cut ALL bad food from our diet, we start eating ALL healthy things that we don’t even like, and we make a plan to workout incessantly. We’ve decided that we are suffering, so we make a big plan for big change. The enormity of that change will inadvertently cause us to suffer even more, because it’s “torture”, as though it were punishment for “letting ourselves go”.  Owing to this “torturous” plan, it’s usually something we put off to a tomorrow that never comes. The small changes seem too inconsequential to have any real, lasting, positive effect, and the big changes are so overwhelming as to render us feeling incapable of achieving them. We torture ourselves at both ends of the spectrum.

Living to Code is an idea that has the potential to challenge these notions. There is no change too small to be worthless, and BIG change is nothing more than a series of smaller changes. It’s only when we look at all of the little changes as one huge effort that we get overwhelmed. To paraphrase some old adages; the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, and all long journeys begin with a single step. Even after that first single step, subsequent steps are simply one at a time. If we break our goals into manageable pieces, they cease to overwhelm us. It does not matter how small we make the pieces. As long as they are manageable, we will see success, which breeds more success. We have to stop thinking of progress from a “Point A to Point B” mentality. We too often make “point B” a faraway and final goal, and calling it “A to B” makes it seem like it is to be accomplished in a single step. What if we called it “A to Z”? Set Z as the lofty goal, and realize there are 25 smaller steps in between. It’s a purely mental game, but isn’t everything?

Sometimes we get lucky. We set a goal, we put a plan in action, and we begin to see results. These results drive us to keep working for even more results. But often, either or both of two things happens; 1. We experience setbacks. In these moments, all of our progress seems for nought. We feel defeated, we get derailed, and we give up. Or 2. Our progress plateaus, so our efforts seem to have a reduced reward. While the initial changes had a marked effect on our lives and attitudes, the later change seems to come slowly or not at all. We can go for a while with what seems like zero results. We begin to question our approach and our motivation for change in the first place. Eventually, we decide that we have failed, or that it’s just pointless to try, so why bother.

What is Living to Code?

To be clear, Living to Code is NOT a system of achieving goals. It is a way of designing how we want to live, and a means to keep living that way. If we do it with diligence, attaining goals is the natural result. The Code is a set of guidelines that dictate how we navigate our lives. It is a code that we create for ourselves. What I have come up with is merely a framework to use as a starting point. I will walk you through the framework, and use my own Code as an example, but your Code may be drastically different. This is not me telling you how you should live, this is you telling yourself how you want to live, or perhaps how you need to live. I hope you take these ideas and run with them, and I really hope you share your Code and your results so that others can do the same.

Where did Living to Code come from?

Huge inspiration and some of The Codes basic ideas come from the Tom Sachs’ short film, “10 Bullets”. Tom Sachs is an artist, and working in his studio requires a certain level of work ethic that is laid out in this short film. The film is part of series called “Working to Code”. The film discusses 10 bullet points that, if explicitly adhered to, are conducive to a highly functional work environment. I was moved by the simple, yet full featured approach. I wanted to apply a similar philosophy to my own life, but his code is designed for a group of people sharing a workspace. For the arena of a personal life, it had to be torn down and rebuilt, while retaining the spirit and a few core tenets of it’s predecessor. I highly encourage you to watch the film (and others in the series) to understand the genesis of this idea.

So, how about this Code already?

Here is the basic framework for The Code. To reiterate; though your code will certainly be different from mine, your whole framework might be as well. These are merely suggestions. I took the ideas that are working for me, and boiled them down to their essence here. I will share my personal code in Part III as an example. Below is a very basic outline to hopefully whet your appetite. I will expand on these in Part II (which is available now):

1. Live to Code – The act of consistently living by the code you set forth.

2. The Temple – Controlling and taking care of the spaces you occupy.

3. Be a Good Citizen – Work/social ethics.

4. Work, Work, Work – Get busy, stay busy, don’t leave tasks half done.

5. Self Care – Diet, exercise, hygiene, mental health, etc…

6. Be Curious and Playful – What is living without fun?

7. Keep a List –  Productivity tools.

8. Accountability – Take responsibility, and stop playing the victim.

9. Spirituality – The big (bigger/biggest) picture.

10. Persistence – Don’t give up.


  1. Thank you Shawn,a lot of food for thought.Will keep on watching and learning

  2. Shawn you’ve got me ready for more I’ll be excited to see part II and III for sure.

  3. Very profound, Shawn, you’re an amazing writer. Love you. Looking forward t reading more.

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