James Clear is the best selling author of Atomic Habits. The book has sold nearly one million copies worldwide since being released October 2018. This is a rare and outstanding feat! James has been writing his blog since 2012. He wrote two articles per week, gaining 200,000 subscribers in just two years.

As an author and blogger, I am both inspired and awed. I admit it. I have bit of a professional crush on Mr. Clear.

I have even sent him a few emails thanking him for his awesome articles. I nearly fell off my seat when I got a reply! A famous person was answering my email. #socool #suchafangirl

When CEO of Thought Leaders Business School Peter Cook told me James was coming to Australia to speak with us at our quarterly immersion, I was bug-eyed with excitement. James Clear was coming to Australia and I was going to meet him in person. OMG.

When he walked upon stage I was beaming from ear to ear. My thought leader hero live and in the flesh. He was eloquent and gracious. He was generous with his sharing. He was as good as I had imagined, if not better.

My favourite insights from his talk and his book are:

  • Habits can help you overcome any circumstances to achieve potential. James learned to walk again after his head was smashed with a baseball bat in an accident.
  • Success is an aggregation of marginal gains. Little things really do matter.
  • The greatest returns are delayed. The blogs you write week after week payoff, eventually. Eating well day after day transforms your body, eventually.
  • We don’t rise to the level of our goals; we fall to the level of our systems. Develop better behaviour systems.
  • Life feels reactive, but it is actually predictive. What we repeatedly do and think creates the programming for our choices.
  • Master the art of showing up. Get good at getting to the starting line. The next step is easier after that.
  • Habits cast a vote for the type of person you want to be. A good food choice is a vote for being a healthy person. Saying thank you is a vote for being a gracious person. Conversely, skipping a workout without good reason is a vote for being someone who doesn’t honour commitments. Being rude to someone is a vote for being a hateful person. Choose carefully.

When it came to the book signing and the chance to meet him in person, I was first out the door. Lining up, my heart pounded. My chance to meet the man behind the work, a chance to make a good impression.

As I stepped up to shake his hand, I realised I had nothing to say.

This is what came out:

“Hi I’m Zoe.” No look of recognition. “I sent you an email.”

He smiled kindly with an expectant look.

My inside voice said: “Really? That’s all you’ve got? ‘I sent you an email’? You sound like an idiot. Get out of there now. Abort! Abort!”

I bumbled through the photo, and got the hell away. I was mortified that in my big chance to connect I was completely star-struck.

It turns out he was staying for dinner. Here was my chance to redeem myself. When the seat beside him became empty, off I went. What followed was a wonderful conversation about the business of authorship. He was curious about my books and generous with advice.

Here is what I learned about James Clear:

He is in service to his work. He believes passionately that we can live extraordinary lives. He believes the secret to doing so is a methodical commitment to a system of success built on science and proven results. He says,

“I know there are two ways to earn extraordinary results:

  1. Luck
  2. Obsession.”

But it’s obsession with these two things:

  1. Knowing what game you’re playing, and
  2. Caring deeply about your chosen focus.

James Clear cares. He is also very humble. He works hard on his work – sometimes 20 hours on a single article. Sometimes an article gets 200 or more edits. This is commitment to his craft.

As far as being star-struck, this is what I’ve discovered.

We can be awed by the results someone creates. If we focus only on the outcome, we can be overwhelmed and intimidated. If we focus instead on the qualities it takes to take on a process, a system, to create those results, then we give ourselves the chance to be inspired, to be encouraged to choose the extraordinary for ourselves too.

From James dear I choose this inspiration:

  • To be in service to the work. To be in service to my work, the work that fills my soul in service to leaders worldwide.
  • To show up every day, choosing my identity and proving it to myself with small wins.
  • To treat others with compassion, be curious, and smile with kind eyes.

Thank you James.


james clear 1.jpg

James reassuring me as my brain goes to custard and I mumble something ridiculous about emails.

james clear 2.jpg

Fan girl beaming with her Authorship Hero, James Clear.

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  • Zoë Routh

    Australia's Leadership Expert, Author of Book of the Year "People Stuff" l Speaker l Mentor l Strategist

    Zoë Routh is one of Australia’s leading experts on people stuff - the stuff that gets in our way of producing results, and the stuff that lights us up. She works with the growers, makers, builders to make people stuff fun and practical.

    Zoë is the author of four books: Composure - How centered leaders make the biggest impact,  Moments - Leadership when it matters most, Loyalty - Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and build lifelong advocates, and People Stuff - Beyond Personalities: An advanced handbook for leadership. People Stuff was awarded Book of the Year 2020 by the Smart WFM Australian Business Book Awards.

    Zoë is also the producer of The Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast.