The Airbnb System: Setting Goals That Don’t Check Out Early
How to create unshakable commitment and avoid waiting for the next New Year’s Day to start again.
Hey, I’m Reuben and welcome to my weekly newsletter. Each week I dig into the goals, habits, routines, and strategies behind the Elite Operators in the sports industry. All so you can accelerate your career and make an impact in sport.
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“Sweet potato fries were a hit. More seriously it was great meeting new people as well as touching base with other professionals I've met.” - Brant Hubber, AFL
I’m coming up to 34 consecutive months of reviewing my goals. But I wasn’t always like this. For 26 years, I would set goals on Jan 1 and forget them by Jan 14. I had the motivation but failed with consistency. A frustrating cycle that led to plenty of self-criticism. So on the 1st of January 2021, I decided this year was going to be different…
Instead of focusing on my goals, I focused on how I reviewed my goals and created ‘The Airbnb System’.
A change that meant almost 3 years later, I’m now consistent with checking my progress and adapting. A small change that has led to compounding results in health, career, and relationships. Since implementing ‘The Airbnb System’ I’ve been able to:
Live my dream of working whilst travelling the world
Grow the SportsGrad Community to 700+ members
Grown my LinkedIn profile to reach 4M+ people
Create a course licensed by Unis in Canada and Australia
Run a PB Half Marathon time of 1:22 which I once thought was beyond my limits
In a wonderful relationship with my partner Chloe
Surprisingly, to go from ‘forget-goals-in-2-weeks-Reuben’ to ‘33-month-streak-Reuben’ was actually quite simple, anyone can do it. All it took was a solid system with the right incentives. To help me create it, I called on the king of personal systems, James Clear.
“You don’t rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” - James Clear
I’ll explain how it works in a sec, but for context, before I created The Airbnb System or completed my first monthly review, I wrote a note to myself as a reminder of the long game. This still sits at the top of my RWOS (the digital home where I organise my life).
”Your goal is to live intentionally. That means creating the life you want to live. No matter how farfetched. To achieve this, you will follow a plan over the next 10 years to achieve the vision you have for your life. These 10 year goals will be broken down into 5 year goals, as well as yearly goals. To achieve the yearly goals, you will set 30 day goals. At the end of each 30 days, you will conduct a review. It will follow the process of conferring with oneself for a night in an Airbnb. By booking in this time, you will be forced to complete the review. Your budget is $200 a night per month. Over the course of 10 years, 1.51% of your total income will be dedicated towards the time and space to monitor your life. The actual % will ideally be less than this if you achieve your goal and make 2x the forecasted annual income.”
I’m not a very good investor when it comes to stocks. But I do understand the value of investing in yourself. Right now my livelihood is tied to the success of SportsGrad. When you’re a Founder, you’re in total control of the success of your company. I believed wholeheartedly from day one I could make SportsGrad ‘work’, so I was prepared to put money towards any activity that would help me help it grow and trust I’ll get a return beyond what I could get elsewhere.
In short, I see ‘The Airbnb System’ as an investment in my future in the form of forced reflection time.
“But couldn’t you have just done this at home?”
Well yeah, but it wouldn’t have been as fun. Let me explain…
In James Clear’s bestseller ‘Atomic Habits’, he talks about the 4 laws of behaviour change.
Make it attractive
Make it easy
Make it satisfying
Make it obvious
Here’s how I applied them to create The Airbnb System around my goals.
Typical Airbnb review: “Reuben was very quiet and kept to himself. Welcome back any time”
Make it attractive
What’s more enticing than going away for the weekend? Staying in an Airbnb to do my monthly review gave me something to look forward to (attractive), it also meant I was financially invested, if I backed out of it I would lose money (unattractive). It also gave me an excuse to travel within Australia and see places I might not have otherwise ventured to - i.e. what I’d do for fun regardless.
Make it satisfying
On the day of a monthly review, I would get enormous satisfaction from packing the car and driving to a country town, knowing I was about to learn new things about myself and make changes that would take me closer to my goals. This act in itself is satisfying because it reinforces the identity I hold of ‘I’m the kind of guy who goes after his goals’. It felt good to know I was living up to my own expectations. To make it even sweeter, I made a ritual out of rewarding myself with a Parma (if I was in Australia) at the local pub once I’ve completed my review. But really, the most satisfying part is always finishing the review, fuelled with new insight and motivation for the next month.
Make it easy
From the beginning I wanted my review to run as smoothly as possible. My night away wasn’t meant to feel like work. So to make it easy I set myself an agenda. Today, 80% of it is the same as when I began. It was a bit of work up front, but it meant when I arrived at the first Airbnb System destination, Gruyere (a wine region in Victoria), I didn’t have to think about where to begin. Having systems within systems is key for my solo getaway to be straightforward, and effective, and to get to my Parma and pot at the pub before the kitchen closes.
Make it obvious
In the example of creating a new running habit, ‘make it obvious’ is putting your shoes out the night before you wke up to run. For my Airbnb System, ‘making it obvious’ is booking it in the calendar immediately. When I arrive at an Airbnb ready to tackle my review, I start with the most important agenda item: Book the next Airbnb. If there’s no Airbnb booked, my review is at risk, and my goals and habits are at risk of going astray. If it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t exist. So if I know my next review is locked in for Birregurra next month, it’s obvious to me that Birregurra is where I’ll be on that day (yes, I visit some rogue places). Once this is locked in, I know my goals are safe, and much more likely to get completed.
In the first 2 years of using the Airbnb System, as I learned what was worth pursuing, the types of goals and habits I set constantly changed. It wasn’t until January 2023 that I finally felt I had landed on a set criteria (more on that here). When I arrived at what ‘routine Reuben’ looks like, things started to flow and results came with it. But the reason I reached this point is because I gave myself 24 opportunities to iterate.
Of course, there are still times when I fade and need to regather myself. In those moments I’m reminded by serial systems engineer, Jerry Seinfeld, that “The brain is a stupid, little dog that is easily trained.” By creating the right system around you, you can get back on the horse quickly.
So, before you define your goals, think about how important it might be to plan how you review them first.
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