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070: How To Permanently Change Your Habits with Maneesh Sethi

Maneesh is the founder of Pavlok and Shock Clock, products designed to help people change their habits for good. In 2008 Maneesh took a 2 year break from studying at Stanford to travel and start, a travel blog about credit card hacking/digital nomads. In 2012 his article, titled “Why I Hired A Girl On Craigslist to Slap Me In The Face — And How It Quadrupled My Productivity” on HTS went viral.

Naturally in 2013 he took that slapping idea to start a company that has earned almost 8 figures in revenue, building devices that use psychology and sensory stimuli to help you change habits and wake up early.


Places to Find Maneesh:

Pavlok website

Follow on Facebook at Maneesh Sethi

Instagram @Pavlok


Show Notes:

[2:30] minute: Set the stage for us, what was life like for you growing up and what beliefs around money and success were ingrained in you early on?

  • Grew up in suburb of Sacramento with immigrant parents.
  • Entrepreneurial at a very young age with multiple businesses during his school years.
  • Tells the story of his idol telling him a person his age could never write a programming book and then Maneesh going out writing a bestseller.
  • “Make money but don’t worry about having stuff”

[6:30] minute: What did you take from your hero telling you something like that, that had to build some self-confidence, has that served you well?

  • How we respond to negative criticism.
  • Negative reinforcement vs positive reinforcement.
  • Examples of why people respond to different cues.

[9:45] minute: I think the accountability piece is so crucial there. Take me back to when you wrote this article about hiring a girl on craigslist to slap you, how did you get that idea and what was that like?

  • Previously wrote a blog called where he wrote about experiments he was doing on himself to try to create habits.
  • Would ask followers to pick a random thing for him to go figure out how to do, and this turned into an interest in biohacking.
  • Went viral for a blog about him paying someone off of craigslists to hold him accountable for writing all day long.
  • Using the app RescueTime his productivity score went from 38% productive to 98% productive.
  • Became famous for a 3 day news cycle. Decided he should try something else interesting, so he built a shock collar for himself to help form new habits, and that turned into his business, Pavlok.

[15:20] minute: Dorothy tells the story of her first interaction with Pavlok.

[16:00] minute: What is the psychology behind Pavlok that makes it work so well in breaking these bad habits?

  • Behavioral training device that can vibrate for positive reinforcement, beep for warnings, and zap for negative reinforcements.
  • Three areas they work in: breaking bad habits, creating good habits, and helping people wake up in the morning.

[17:00] minute: Walk me through breaking bad habits.

  • Aversion therapy explanation, history, and benefits.
  • Explanation of one of the biggest aversion therapy experiments conducted on heavy cigarette smokers.
  • Tested their product on cigarette smokers first to large success.

[21:45] minute: How does the component of self policing play into it? How do you make sure people stay accountable to themselves and zap themselves?

  • Everyone goes through a course that is training your brain. It’s a 5 day course, and the success rate for those who do the full course are very high.

[24:15] minute: Eliminating bad habits with Pavlok makes a lot of sense so talk to me now about creating good habits, does there have to be the negative reinforcement involved there too?

  • Pavlok is world class when it comes to stopping bad habits, but is not a magic pill for creating good habits.
  • Negative reinforcement can help you start to form a good habit, but positive reinforcement is what will solidify that habit.
  • Secrets to habits is the variable of consistency.
  • Explainer of Pavlok habit creating apps and products.
  • How the alarm clock works and the science behind it.

[31:30] minute: Want to change course to the impact you are having outside of your business, could you tell us a little about your journey in giving back?

  • First felt the power of giving back when he was teaching others to program when he was young.
  • Shares a story of a large school related project in India while running his NGO.

[33:00] minute: How has your success with Pavlok has impacted your ability to give back?

  • Pavlok is a big way to give back. Helping others change habits is what he was put here to do.

[34:25] minute: Who has been the most impactful person in your journey to do well and achieve financial success?

[34:45] minute: Who has been teh most impactful person in feeding your drive to do good and have a meaningful impact?

  • His parents.

[35:00] minute: When you are having a bad day what do you do to get out of the funk? Any regular habits or morning routines that really work for you?

  • It is almost always because he hasn’t slept enough, meditated, eaten correctly, and talking to someone he likes.

[35:45] minute: That reminds me, your Facebook post about drinking some water really worked on me yesterday.

  • Importance of water and how many of us don’t get nearly enough.

[36:30] minute: What book do you find yourself recommending to people most often?

  • Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
  • Brief synopsis of the book.
  • Second one would be Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

[38:45] minute: What is the best piece of advice related to happiness you would give our listeners?

  • Make sure you are following the big six habits: Sleeping enough, drinking water, eating healthy, exercising three times a week, meditating, conversing with people you like.
  • “If you create a solid morning routine you can naturally create habits as a byproduct.”


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About the author, Dorothy

Dorothy Illson is the founder of Needle's Eye Media, a full-service Facebook advertising agency. She's also the host of Do Well & Do Good, a podcast dedicated to telling the stories of people who have created financial success and leveraged it to increase their positive impact on the world.

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