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What masturbation, booze, and $500 taught me about habits

What if someone offered you a chance to win $500 if you go off alcohol and masturbation for an entire month? Would you take up the offer?

Apparently, it’s a great offer and more than 5000 people responded. The mastermind of this? Tim Ferriss. The gathering place: Lift. The name of the challenge: NOBNOM (No Booze, No Masturbation).

Over the years, I began to view drinking as a must-have in social events or special occasions. Sometimes it seems rude to refuse a drink.

How about masturbation? Probably 99.99% of men has at least done it once if not regularly. Seriously. As Tim says, Any guy who insists he’s never done this should not be trusted.

For a teenager, both booze and masturbation are perhaps a way to access the forbidden fruits and ‘act adult’. For a grown-up, it evolved more as a form of stress relief. Problem is, excessive drinking is bad for health, and studies[1,2] have shown that porn and masturbations are also bad for your mental and physical health.

So I took up the challenge. It seems like a ‘nothing to lose’ situation for me. Best case: win $500 and get a new perspective on drinking and masturbation. Worst case: I still get the latter.

To bring a different angle to this article, I brought on the most popular lady in the group (Yes, there are ladies participating). Natasha Durning, the Canandian girl who single-handedly started a ‘Prop’ craze on Lift and amassed 647 followers. One of the 3 winners of the $500. Not only a winner in the eyes of Tim and Tony, she’s the undisputed people’s champion too. Just ask the NOBNOM community.

Natasha opened her box of secrets and shared with us some of her strategies that won her the challenge.

 Natasha’s Strategy

  • Check in at the start of the day

“I found that the simple act of checking in when starting my day made an impact. Instead of waiting to see if I’d “done it” (by…not doing it haha). I was telling my brain that I had a plan. That I was committed to this choice for the day. No one wants to un-check the box later because they gave in and I was no different.”

  • Give Support

“I gave out a ton of props in the group. There was almost no check-ins missed by me. You could almost call me addicted (and take out the almost). I found this gave me much more access to a larger number of the participants. Not everyone was asking questions so this way I could support more people. Being active in the small part of giving props made me known to many people and in turn I got motivation from motivating them. I also ended up with a lot of people “watching me” and my progress. I didn’t want to let them down along with myself.”

  • Asking and answering questions on Lift

“The group was extremely active during the month of August and there were a lot of questions being put up. I didn’t necessarily ask many but I found great information in reading others. Whether it was just seeing that someone else was experiencing things like myself, or possibly having a much harder time. Seeing them do the simple act of asking helped me, plus reading the answers from others was great insight. Being active in the goal like this was huge for motivation.”


“There are so many things that one can do, so many systems. What you use will always depend on you though. Do you want others to talk to (engaging in Q&A)? Do you work best seeing your own commitment (checking the box)? What worked for me isn’t going to work for everyone but it might for one, maybe two, maybe more.”

My Strategy

Here’s how I stayed the course for the entire 31 days. This is what worked for me and those I coach.

  • Plan in advance

I look ahead and come up with scripts to refuse drinks and turn the situation from awkward to fun. On the first day of the challenge, I had a company gathering where our boss supplied a crate load of alcohol. This is what I said when offered a drink: “No thanks. I’m on a 30-days No Alcohol challenge”. Yes, I skipped over the part about Masturbation 😉

What happened next intrigued me. Instead of being egged on to drink, the conversation flowed even better. Questions about the purpose of this challenge popped up and someone even mentioned that her last drink was a decade ago!

On the other hand, avoid temptations. Take your date out to ice-cream instead of the bar. Delete/lock all your ‘videos’ somewhere else. Set restrictions on your computer so you can’t access those sites. Make it hard for yourself to access them. The extra step often puts us off doing what we originally wanted to do. More on that in future posts.

  • Replacement Strategy

Sometimes, we simply can’t avoid temptations. You can’t just skip a buddy’s bachelor party at the bar right? In this case, I have in mind what alternatives I could have. It could be a good mock-tail, a soda, whatever makes me happy… Importantly, I decide BEFORE going.

When I feel the urge to *ah-hem*, I channel my energy to some other activities. By default, I’ll do push-ups or squats. If still not good enough, I’ll read some business books. Again, I decide what activities to do before I ever feel any urge.

  • Baby Steps – Break the challenge into parts

Don’t reply on willpower. If I did, I would have failed by the first week.

It’s extremely demoralising to see that you are on day 10, suffering withdrawal symptoms and realise that you are only 1/3 through. It just doesn’t seem possible to complete the challenge.

What I did was to break the month-long challenge into weeks. I simply strive to get a perfect week, every week. Technically, it’s the same thing. But mentally and emotionally, it’s a big shift. When I feel like shit on Tuesday of week 2, I simply tell myself that I only have another 5 days to endure and achieve another perfect week. Much easier than seeing another 20 days ahead.

  • Celebrate each victory

Another often neglected part of habit building is celebrating each victories no matter how small it is. Celebrate each perfect week. Celebrate when you get through each day successfully. Celebrate when you successfully channelled your energy elsewhere.

Sounds stupid? It’s actually an easy way to teach your brain to enjoy doing the challenge. Why do people get addicted to drugs? Because it induces a ‘high’ feeling that makes the brain feels good. So the brain wants you to do it again so it can feel good again.

How to celebrate? I do fist pumps and mental high-five. In fact, checking in on Lift is an incredible celebration. Seeing the chain of check-ins grow longer motivates me to keep going.

Chain of check-ins

Chain of check-ins.

Making it stick

The strategies above are tailored for the NOBNOM challenge and is a useful guide for anyone trying the challenge. What about other habits? I used similar strategies to achieve the same habit forming effect. Waking up earlier, Check! Drink more water, Check! Read every day, Check!

It really isn’t that hard to keep any habits for 1-3 days. But it takes a lot more to keep it going. Which is why most New Year resolutions fail within 3 months.

Here are some extra tips to help you make ANY habit stick.


Get others involved. Commit yourself by declaring to someone. A partner, a close friend, family. Or, find an accountability partner that you check in regularly to update your progress. Get someone whom you will feel ashamed to tell them you failed.

Make $$ work for you:

Research tells us that we will work hard to avoid losing money than to gain more money.

Put some money on the line. Make a bet with a co-worker or buddy that if you do not achieve X goal by Y date, you will pay them $Z. Not too much to put a dent to your finances but enough to make you feel the pinch. I recommend 1-2% of your monthly income.

Alternatively, you can use online services like Stickk.com that will actually take money away from you to either a charity, friend/foe, or an anti-charity (an organisation you HATE) if you fail. Choose anti-charity or foe for best effect.

Get a coach:

Often, we are so deep into what we are doing, we don’t see things that are obvious. The best athletes in the world have coaches. Why? It’s not because they need someone to teach them technical skills. It’s because they need someone who had been there to tell them the subtle details they are missing, point out their mistakes, encourage them, and to push them when they are not achieving their potential. Same applies to us.

Lift made it so affordable and easy to get a coach and have someone who had done it before to guide you. Statistics from Lift showed that people with coaches are 4 times more likely to succeed than those without.

Both Natasha and I are Lift coaches. Being on that side of the table helped me see that it really makes a difference to have personal guidance instead of reading tons of articles and keep trying to do it all yourself.

Be a teacher:

It really is difficult to not do what you preach. When you try to teach something you do not believe in or is not doing, it’s extremely uncomfortable. The reverse is true. When you teach others to do something, it is hard to not do it yourself.

Back to you

What habits can you start building today to make a difference to your life?

Want to write a book? Build a writing habit. Writing 500 words a day for a year will give you more than enough words to write TWO books.

Want to get in shape? Build a workout habit. Exercise 10 minutes a day for a year will give you 60 hours of exercise. Enough to make a difference to ANY fitness goals.

Now, get your hands dirty and start committing to a habit that will change your life. Do it now: Choose a goal, put it on Lift, commit.. Let me know how it goes.

A big thank you to Natasha for sharing with us her experience and some tips that we can use. Find out more about her at natashalynnblog.com where she post regularly. You can also hire her as a coach here.

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