Willpower and skillpower

I very much enjoyed Disease-Proof: The remarkable truth about what makes us well by Dr David L. Katz and Stacey Colino. Despite the terrible title!

One of the many terrific points in the book is that it's never enough to rely on willpower to achieve something important. They explain:

"where there's a will, there's really just a will. It's an important first step, but it's not enough. You also need a way, one that you can identify and consistently be able to follow."

The "way" is skillpower. It consists of "skills, strategies, resources, and tools that... empower you [and] overcome the obstacles you face".

As well as being necessary to achieve big outcomes, skillpower also makes the task easier. They explain that "Having the right skillpower makes a task easier, thereby reducing the amount of willpower you will need to get the job done". 

As an example:

"You wouldn't blame yourself for failing to reach the summit of Mount Everest without having mountaineering skills. In the absence of such skills, you'd have no business even trying!"

This is clearly applicable to nutrition and living a healthy life. If you don't know what you should be eating and doing, then the best intentions in the world won't help you. 

As well as introducing the broad concept of "feet, forks, and fingers", the authors introduce a number of "rules of external discipline", including:

  1. Avoiding fast food
  2. Drinking water
  3. Eating salad
  4. Getting some amount of exercise daily
  5. Prioritising sleep
  6. Plan your eating and only eat when it is the primary activity
  7. Eating food (rather than "edible food-like substances", as Michael Pollan would say).

Of course, the insight doesn't just apply to health and wellbeing.

It applies to our financial lives, our social lives, and even our internal lives. If we want to achieve important things, the desire is important. But the skills, strategies, resources, and tools - the skillpower - are essential too. 


Sonnie Bailey

Sonnie is the founder and principal of Fairhaven Wealth.

Before founding Fairhaven Wealth, Sonnie worked in the legal and financial services industries for over a decade.

Sonnie first became involved with financial advice as a specialist financial services lawyer. For many years, he was an “adviser of advisers”, reviewing thousands of advice files prepared by hundreds of financial advisers, and providing feedback in relation to the quality and appropriateness of advice; industry best practice; risk management; and regulatory compliance. He has published work in industry publications and spoken at various financial advice conferences.

Sonnie has also worked with banks, investment management firms, insurers, and derivatives providers.

Sonnie has worked as a private client lawyer, focusing on succession, estate planning and trusts. He ran his own legal firm in Australia before relocating to New Zealand. He has also acted in independent trustee and company director positions.

Sonnie is passionate about helping people achieve their goals and manage the risks to which they are exposed.

He has written extensively on his blog, New Zealand Wealth and Risk, which can be found at www.wealthandrisk.nz.

Sonnie is married to his wonderful wife Chrissy, and has two young children, Ben and Anna.