Environmental hacking: My life’s most reliable “life-hack” is also the easiest to use (or neglect).

Three years ago, after 25 years, I traded Arizona’s sun for Utah’s mountains, upgrading my home from a plentiful 4,400 square feet to a sprawling 13,000. The game-changer? There were several, from an indoor basketball court to a home theater to the most important of all: a home gym.

At last, I could exercise in peace!

There were no more teenagers glued to their smartphones while “working out,” no more meatheads glaring at me for using the leg press, and no more scantily clad fitness influencers parading around like they were on a modeling runway.

Finally, it was just me, my workout, and the freedom to exercise shirtless without an audience. I could also blast my music as loud as I wanted.

Environmental Hacking: Negative!

As you can expect, my workouts became more consistent. I no longer had to commute to a gym, so working out was as simple as walking downstairs. It was the first time I had not had a gym membership in 30 years.

But something interesting happened.

While my frequency of workouts increased, the intensity and duration suffered.

It was easier to quit, to cut a workout short, or just wander upstairs and go back to work, fire up a protein shake, or just flake out.

Yes, I still made gains, but I hit a plateau pretty quick.

Then, a twist: a new gym opened just 12 minutes away in an area that desperately needed one. While I had no interest in rejoining the crowds of teenagers and camera-ready fitness YouTubers, this gym boasted a red-light therapy machine, a lap pool (sorry, I won’t be Wim-Hoffing in my own pool in the winter) and a dry sauna.


Those three features— a red-light machine, a blazing hot sauna and a year-round pool—turned me from a skeptic into a buyer on the spot.

Quick refresher: Any feature or benefit that flips a switch for potential buyers, transforming curiosity into commitment, is a value skew. And the more value skews you present to potential customers, the more buyers you get.

MJ DeMarco, The Great Rat Race Escape

What skew can you add to your business to attract more buyers? Please don’t confuse “value skew” with “throw more money into unlimited features” but high leverage activities that can change buyer perceptions.

While this newsletter isn’t about value skew (keep reading) it is worth repeating—more value skew = more buyers.

Here is a sample list of value skews you can leverage in your business. Remember, the more “value skews” you put into the competition, the more runners you can get to cross the value threshold. (This concept is not discussed in my first two books, but in my 3rd book, The Great Rat Race Escape )

  • Better marketing
  • Better user experience
  • Better pricing
  • Better ingredients
  • Better packaging
  • Better customer service
  • Better features
  • Better convenience
  • Better ordering options
  • Better shipping options
  • Better color combos
  • Better amenities (spa, pool!)
MJ DeMarco's value skew

Anyhow, back to my gym story…

After joining my new gym, I went every day, even to stretch or jump rope.

Then, something amazing happened—my workout intensity and duration went from 5s and 6s to 9s and 10s.

I got over my plateau and leveled up, becoming stronger and fitter.


Environmental hacking: 
I altered my environment.

While I wouldn’t say I like crowds, being surrounded by highly fit people, both men and women, elevated my intensity and motivated me.

What if your desk was next to your favorite entrepreneur or business mogul? What if I sat next to you?

Wouldn’t you do better work? And have better productivity?

This is the ultimate life hack for transformative change: Shift your environment.

If you ever watched “My 600lb Life,” where morbidly obese people try to lose weight and fail, you’ll notice one commonality: They fail to change their environment.

After consulting with Dr. Now, people return home to a dietary shitshow enabled by family members. You cannot lose weight when your dinner options are donuts, pancakes, and buckets of fried chicken.

In other words, don’t expect to cure your alcoholism while owning a tavern.

So, if you’re feeling stuck and your motivation is gone, overhaul your environment!

My leap from Chicago to Arizona, to selling a company that no longer inspired me, to stepping back into a gym after two years away testify to this principle’s power.

But don’t think you must upend your life with a cross-country move.

It’s the more minor shifts that can pack the biggest punch. Try reorganizing your desk, changing your work location, or simply tidying up. Whenever I write, I clean up my workspace; a cleaner workspace = cleaner writing.

Consider switching jobs or even roles within your current job. Maybe it’s time to embrace significant personal changes, like starting or ending a relationship.

Change a living situation.

It could be as simple as biking to work, writing by the sea, or swapping the gym for home workouts. Yes, you might do better working out in solitude versus a crowded gym.

YouTuber Casey Niestat’s goal of running a marathon in under three hours, chronicled in a compelling video, vividly illustrates this principle. Despite the video’s main message of perseverance and incremental progress, a crucial turning point came through an environmental shift.

After years of stagnation, Casey broke his plateau by teaming up with an Olympic marathon runner. Transitioning from solo training to mentorship transformed his performance.

Check out the video—it’s an inspiring watch.

So, what’s the takeaway?

Manipulate your environment to fuel your success—it is one of the simplest and most potent life hacks you can use.

  • How can you alter your surroundings to accelerate your growth?
  • What aspects of your environment are holding you back?
  • What can you modify, shift, or remove?
  • What’s stopping you from these changes?
  • What’s the best environment and worse?

Know thyself— then change your environment and change your life.

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MJ DeMarco, Author / Entrepreneur

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