Listening to Balintâ€™s third conversation now about six months after I’ve launched my podcast means a lot to me because I recorded this a long time before. It took a while to get through the editing process. It’s a big milestone for me although you can hear that the microphone back then wasn’t so good. Getting back to Balint, you can hear he planned and analyzed for a long time before I ever talked to him about this, changing this food habit of his but he never actually acted on it and you’ll hear he could have started a long time earlier. This mirrored my experience that analyzing, planning you just go around in circles. The way to do it is just to start doing it and you’ll hear his way of explaining that. He knew that he would like it. He knew that he would enjoy the process, he just didn’t do it. What kinds of things are you thinking of doing that you know that you’ll like but you just aren’t starting? I find it’s much more valuable to start something than to decide to start something.
Joshua: Now you and I have spoken since last time we recorded because you’ve been a big inspiration for podcasting and you’re ahead of me and so you’ve been helping me with technology issues and team issues and things like that. But we have not talked about what I hope we will talk about this time which is that you’ve been eating more vegetarian meals. And can you tell us what was your challenge over the past couple of weeks, months? And are you ready to talk about it?
Balint: Yeah. I’m eating more vegetarian food thanks to my girlfriend. Maybe more thanks to her than thanks to me. So when you know when we talked the last time I said that after the three months of reduced beef that the next logical step could be me cooking more often vegetarian food. So letâ€™s say it was a challenge to do it like you know constantly, consistently every week. So it was a bigger challenge than I would say than the other one, the beef, where I reduce my beef consumption. But yeah. So it was though a good experience.
Joshua: A lot of people listening are like, â€œI don’t want to give up.â€ You know it could be beef, it could be driving their fancy car, it could be flying, it could be whatever, people are like, â€œI like this thing.â€ And they might think, â€œIf I go through this change, I might have a worse life.â€ Are you living worse now or is it thatâ€¦?
Balint: No. No. It had the kind of effect I was expecting in a way. When I started out doing this I was expecting that I would get to experiment, that I would get to try more different things, so vegetarian food more than before. And this is also helping me find new kinds of recipes but also keeping my eyes open in restaurants where new types of food, new vegetarian dishes. So it had a big effect on me. Just what I was talking about kind of at the beginning that my resolution was that I would like to prepare every week vegetarian food myself for me and for others and it was a challenge to really keep it. Let’s say my excuse, if I may say, was that Christmas was around and I got sick you know winter sickness, flu. So with that it’s difficult to keep that going. But yeah, I think even after this call I would like to keep on doing this so preparing vegetarian weekly or bi weekly at least but more often for sure than before.
Joshua: Why are you going to do it? I mean, OK. You’ve discovered new things. Is it that it tastes better? Does it still taste worse but it’s more important to you? Or like I presume that you’re doing it because it makes your life better. That to me that’s why people do things, speaking philosophically.
Balint: Yeah. As I said, I get to try new things, new dishes and also I think you know I just think the world is more colorful this way than just eating meat you know chicken, beef, rabbit. But it definitely makes my life more colorful.
Joshua: So if you can go back in time to before doing this personal challenge with me, with this podcast, would you do it again?
Balint: Yeah, for sure.
Joshua: Would you have done it earlier if you’d known what the outcome would be?
Balint: That’s a good question. I didn’t think about that.
Joshua: I’m trying to make it useful for the listeners because I hope a lot of people listening are thinking to themselves, â€œI want to do this but I’m not quite there yet.â€
Balint: Yeah. I think for sure it would have been good it even earlier but I would say one should not put too much pressure on himself or herself that for example I missed these a couple of weeks when I couldn’t cook or I didn’t cook Christmas and my getting the flu. But I don’t feel very bad about it because I think the problem is if you don’t reach a goal, people sometimes put too much pressure on them and instead they should enjoy the moment, they should enjoy doing things the way their heart dictates it. So I would have done it earlier but also not too strictly. So it just like this that I tried it, I wanted to get the best out of it and I see now how it is. And I would like to you know I tested it how it is for three months. I really like it that this kind of commitment is three months because you got to see what it brings and then keep on doing it or you choose something else, another challenge.
Joshua: My audience is people who would like to change their behavior but haven’t gotten there yet. Or maybe they have started changing their behavior and they want to change it more. So you know if you make a little change and it improves your life, then a big change, in my experience it has been a big change improves my life even more. And I guess this reinforces my strategic decision not to try yet, to try to work with people who are, you know they are like, â€œI just got myself a Humvee. Don’t talk to me about not polluting because it’s not interesting to me.â€ I’m not trying to convince or persuade them. If they want to listen, great. But I think that there’s enoughâ€¦ I think that thereâ€™s probably billions of people who want to change as you put itâ€¦What it was? Not a cultural, worldview?
Joshua: I think there are enough people who are past that. I don’t want to say â€œpastâ€. Who are of the view, â€œI want to changeâ€ but then something’s blocking them, something maybe like, â€œIf I change but no one else does, what’s the point?â€ Or something like that and to try to get them feeling like, â€œOh, once Balint made the change, it was betterâ€ and he wished he’d done it earlier.
Balint: You know I think it’s a good idea to sit down and this is how I also set up goals or let’s say activities that I want to do is that you sit down and you look at the reasons, look at the why, why you want to do it, why you want to change. So if you look at it like very targeted, you can come up with new ideas. You can do you know like a mind map. You can create a mind map and you just put it on this mind map like the branches of a tree the different ideas for the different whyâ€™s, different answers to the why question. So for example with eating vegetarian one the answer could be or some answers could be like yeah, you could find new recipes, you could buy to friends and you can show new types of food to them, you can go to the local grocery, new grocery stores where you talk to more vegetarian people. So you know with this way you create more incentive than just like, â€œOh, maybe I should try vegetarian food because it could be interesting to try.â€œ You know if you bring up many, many reasons, many answers to the why, I think you get more push and whenever you feel a little bit discouraged you can always look at this mind map.
Joshua: That sounds effective. I want to add something to that because I think I did a lot of not necessarily doing mind maps although I strongly I love mind mapping software. I use Freeplane, free download, not just free…. Anyway. People should try a mind mapping software if they haven’t, in my opinion. But back to this. There’s a huge component that for me I wasn’t doing for most of my life which is then to do it and to do it on whatever scale works for you. I had six months of thinking about avoiding packaged food before I actually did it and once I did it, that was two and half weeks, but within the first few days everything changed and all that planning, it was the planning and the analysisâ€¦. At that time I needed to do it before I got to actually doing it but once I did it, it was more effective than a lot of the planning. Of course, it’s not going to work as planned all the time like as you’re saying you know you get sick and can’t do it or you’re at friendsâ€™ places and you can’t do it like that. Like I allowed myself to finish the food that was in my cupboards so I was having food that was packaged, I just hadn’t bought it that week so it kind of worded it in a way that works for me like I’m not going to buy any food. That behavioral component is a big thing. And you are talking about not eating meat of you went out and had to get different things and that part you couldn’t put in the plans like you wanted variety, you got variety but the variety wasâ€¦ You had to experience it.
Balint: Yeah. Yeah. So you can keep thinking about it forever but then in the end you just have to do it.
Joshua: And then when you do it, you get discovery. Oh, man, I’m going to give this quote. I’m sure youâ€™ve heardâ€¦Have I talked about the quoteâ€¦It’s not from Goethe but it’s often attributed to him.
Balint: Whatâ€™s that quote?
Joshua: I’m going to get it out. Here it is: â€œUntil one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans. That the moment when definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meanings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.â€
Balint: That’s a good one.
Joshua: Oh, man. Yeah. It’s like it’s until you experience it, it doesn’t… I don’t know if it rings true but once you do it things happen. I think people want to help you when you are helping yourself and when you’re just talking about it, then people just talk about it.
Balint: I agree. I agree.
Joshua: So you probably found food that you really loved that you would not have expected to have come your way. You couldn’t have planned it. Actually, I am curious aboutâ€¦ Thereâ€™s the experience of food. I want to askâ€¦Your girlfriend came up early on and in my experience how people relate to others is a big piece of this. Sometimes it can be a big inertia, a thing that slows you down but sometimes it can accelerate things. A physicist talking to a physicist about it. Are you thinking about derivatives and secondaryâ€¦? How did things work with the relationship? Did it improve it? Did it hurt it? Did it get in the way? Did it augment it? Did it give you things to talk about?
Balint: As I maybe started to say but I didn’t finish that thought. So one of the answers to the why was that you can give, I could give back more so new food that I knew that I prepared, which we hadn’t thought of before. And she’s been supportive of this and she loved it that she doesn’t have to stay in the kitchen and I take some initiative preparing something new. You know when you eat it’s like you go to a different world, different country especially if you prepare something which is from a different culture. So it’s a really great experience.
Joshua: She was supportive. Was she supportive before it started? Did you ask her about it? I mean you committed to me not to me but to yourself on the podcast without asking her. How did that break into her?
Balint: Yeah, yeah. She was surprised because right after that I said what I committed to because at that time I didn’t think about it what I would commit to next. And yeah, she found it good, surprising but good.
Joshua: What was the surprise? Was it, â€œOh, Balint, itâ€™s meatâ€? [unintelligible]
Balint: Yeah, I do cook but preparing more vegetarian food because I used to love meat.
Joshua: So that sounds like it worked pretty easily. Maybe you’ve known her long enough that you knew that wouldn’t be a problem. Was there anything unforeseen with her that didn’t work out? Were there any problems? Don’t air dirty laundry.
Balint: Yeah. I think you know. It’s just that sometimes I told her that it’s not the right moment to cook and that I feel a little bit frustrated. But even then she was supportive that I should not put too much pressure on me. As I said, one should not be too strict. Of course, when these things are happening you are strict but at least I was strict with myself. But now I mean after that, after some time I realized that you don’t have to be too strict with yourself.
Joshua: The self-forgiving part sounds like a big piece of this for you.
Balint: I’m sorry.
Joshua: The self-forgiving part seems to be a pretty good piece for you.
Joshua: It sounds like it’s interesting, it’s ironic that by relaxing you’re actually getting more than if you had pushed really hard.
Balint: Yeah, yeah. I think the most important thing is you need to have the right mindset. If you have the right mindset, you attract the right things.
Joshua: So the guy, the Balint of ten years ago didn’t have that mindset?
Balint: Not so much. I think Goethe or the person who you cited, it was Goethe, right?
Balint: So I think he maybe didn’t mention it but I think part of it is that when you make the decision you also make the decision to do something, you also make the decision to be in that mindset. So yeah.
Joshua: So now I’m reflecting a bit on myâ€¦I will do this after the show because it’ll take more than that but I mean my choice is not to try to work with people who aren’t in that mindset or with people whoâ€¦People who want to be in that mindsetâ€¦To work with people who do want to be in that mindset, who aren’t there yet or who are partly they are but really want to get them more and not to try to bother with people who are not even there at all. There is no good or bad or right or wrong here. It’s just that’s my audience. And once because I think there’s feelings that it’ll take a long time to exhaust to get them reallyâ€¦ Announcing it to get them. But I think hopefully also a lot of them after making that shift will be like, â€œI want to bring this to othersâ€. That’s the big outcome that I want. One of the big outcomes that I want from this podcast is that people don’t say, â€œYou should change because it’s better for the environmentâ€ although that might be the case but for them to say, â€œMy life is better. Here’s why. If you’re interested, let me know and I can share why because I like making my life better.â€ And like that is clear. Like I can feel my life getting better. I can’t feel me putting less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That’s like abstract.
Balint: Yeah, true.
Joshua: So were there other hurdles? You got sick. There was the relationship. But that didn’t sound like there was a problem at all. Were there other big challenges? I mean before we spoke it sounded like you were like, â€œOh, hurdlesâ€ but now it doesnâ€™t sound like hurdles.
Balint: I think the only hurdle was Christmas and as I mentioned the flu. Other than that, I think it was not a big hurdle because again I felt like this is the right thing to do.
Joshua: What exactly was the issue with Christmas? Was it your family or is it a tradition?
Balint: Yeah, I was pampered at home so it’s difficult to cook when you’re constantly being pampered. So my mom was cooking all the time. And also, meat dishes. So it’s difficult to say no when you’re in that environment, the environment that you grew up in.
Joshua: Yeah, there’s a lot more inertia there.
Balint: Yeah, exactly.
Joshua: And so you just said, â€œAll right, let’s put this thing on holdâ€?
Balint: Yeah. Something like that.
Joshua: Yeah. Itâ€™s funny. I was just with my mom last night having dinner and years ago when I first learned about partially hydrogenated vegetable oil I thought there were saturated fat which is bad for you and unsaturated fat which wasn’t really as bad. I mean caloric but not like artery hardening. And I thought I’d read that partially hydrogenated oil was in between. And then later I found out partially hydrogenated oil is worse than any of them. And these companies like bubbling hydrogen through stuff it’s not likeâ€¦ That’s kind of it’s not that you accidentally do it. You’ve got it bubbling hydrogen through stuff like you got factories and stuff. And why did they do it? Because it’s more profitable. So when I found out that people are making a profit off of my health and telling me that it was less not as unhealthy, I was like I cannot do business with these people. Forget about the health anymore. Like I don’t want to do business with someone who treats me that way.
So my mom makes apple pie and her apple pie is tremendous. It’s really good. Like my sisters and I have talked about this. We simply don’t get apple pie from the best restaurants in New York City, from anywhere because it’s not as good as my mom’s. But part of how she makes the crust is she uses Crisco which is hydrogenated oil. So when they come back I’m like, â€œOh, sorry mom, I can’t eat that.â€ She said, â€œWhat?â€ It was not pleasant. She’s like, â€œJosh, look. The way they did this before it was lard. And I know you are not going to have lard and I am not going to cook it with lard. So if I do it with butter, it comes out like a mushy crust. If I do with the other oils, it doesnâ€™t work. It’s Crisco or nothing.â€ I’m like, â€œWell, I’ll eat the inside of the pie, but I’m not going to eat the crust.â€ She was really not happy about that.
But years later she’s now like she’s worked out how to do it without using hydrogenated oil. And it was like a project not for me but she did it for herself because eventually she decided on her own she didnâ€™t want to use Crisco.
Joshua: Yeah. So I have had an experience that I could be like, â€œMaybe I shouldn’t do this anymore. Maybe at home I’ll just go with the flow.â€ But in the long run it’s worked out. But there’s a lot ofâ€¦ It wasn’t like tears but it was like she wasn’t happy.
Balint: Yeah. Yeah. That’s good. It’s a good and nice challenge. Maybe I mean I will have to do something similar next Christmas.
Joshua: I get an e-mail from you, â€œJosh, this got between me and my mom. Jerk.â€
Balint: I think challenges are great.
Joshua: So actually, talking long term. Are you thinking of what to do next? Are you going to stick with this or are you not going to stick with this?
Balint: I want to start jogging again regularly. So at least two times per week. But I want to ramp it up because I even had like a foot problem recently. So when you have problems that’s when you realize what you should appreciate when you’re healthy. And I do appreciate that I can run. I love running. The effect even during that time and it’s just you know when you set up a program, you have a certain goal with it and I want to keep on, I want to start again doing that because I did a half marathon two years ago and it was a really, really great challenge. It was like five months of preparation because Iâ€™ve never did anything similar before. So I want to do again something like that, half marathon or something similar. I still have to see the options. And it’s also connected to the environment in a way, at least I tend to think so. So I think that could be a challenge.
Joshua: So you have a new challenge. I was actually curious also about the vegetarian stuff and the cooking itself. Is that something you are going to keep up? Is that something you are going to decrease, augment?
Balint: I think I will keep on doing that for sure. So concentrating more on vegetarian food and even cooking it, maybe not so regularly, weekly, but for sure I will cook, prepare more such dishes.
Joshua: So I normally wrap up by asking if you have a message for the listeners. I’ll ask. Do you have any other messages for the listeners?
Balint: I would say this is my message that commit for me it was three months. But you can even choose five-six months. I think it’s a really good idea to have such goals. I don’t believe any more in so much yearly goals because I think the world is changing too fast. I believe in the agile method, agile method so project management which means you commit to something, like let’s say 3-6 months you keep on doing that and if there is something better coming in which improves your life even more, why not taking that on instead of just committing to one year and then working on it blindfoldedly? Because it’s about you know just like agile is about delivering something to the customer you commit to it and it is something good, you can also commit to doing something good to yourself.
The world is more colorful this way. That’s his words. Why would anyone put that off? Well, in all fairness I certainly put things off because of planning and analyzing, that’s the way things happen. But in my experience better to start than to decide to start. As with many successful examples, involving his girlfriend in the process made it collaborative. Leaders look at other people as part of the solution, not part of the problem however difficult they may seem at the beginning. As with my mom and her apple pie, if I had involved her more, it would have been less of a shock although we did work together to make a pie without lard or hydrogenated vegetable oil. He did at one point suggest analyzing, figuring out your whyâ€™s but in the end, he said you really just have to start doing things. As another side, mind mapping software. If you haven’t started using mind mapping software, I highly recommend it. I use Freeplane, F-R-E-E P-L-A-N-E and I recommend looking it up. Life changing software. In the meantime, enjoy your new habits, hopefully inspired by Balint.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees