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Peter Vu, Founder of Habitify, on Reading and Meta-Habits That Improved His Life

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Peter Vu is the founder of Habitify, a popular habit-tracking app.

Back in 2016, Peter Vu realized the 9-5 life isn’t what he wanted, and so he decided to quit his job. During unemployment months, an idea lit up in his mind thanks to a comment made by his mother who got fed up with her only son being a couch potato.

Habitify was born based on the principle that “the world only gets better as each person gets better”. Peter spent the next months building this iOS-first app that helps people form good habits, track them and analyse their progress.

In the first months after its release, a vast majority of the revenue was donated to African children in need of water: “As one gets better in their daily routine, they are also making other lives better”. Peter’s business model received a lot of public attention. Unfortunately, the store’s policy doesn’t allow donations from within the app, so the feature had to be removed and Peter redirected his focus.

Now, Habitify focuses on becoming the most useful habit tracker and helping people save their time and focus on getting better each day. Since its launch, Habitify helped 400,000 people create more than one million habits. An Android version will soon be released (you can sign-up for Beta).

From our interview with Peter you’ll learn more about his own habits, how waking up early changed his life, how he integrated reading into his daily routine and organized his book-notes, and also the books that had an impact on him and kept him going while being depressed.

P.S. thanks to Cody McLain for introducing us!

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

– I don’t know if people would regard this as “business”, but I love Rich Dad, Poor Dad a lot. It has shaped my business mindset from “saving” to “investing” and spending on “assets” rather than “liabilities”.

– My non-business book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I have learned a lot of lessons that I often use to reflect today. The book is easy to read, which is an important plus for me as I’m quite busy.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

During my time as CEO of Unstatic, I felt depressed many times, either because the app experienced some downturns and thus affected my company financially, or because everything in my company just went out of control altogether. At that time, I remember the quote from The Alchemist: “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

I know, it’s nothing compared to motivational speeches on TED Talk or inspiring stories of Steve Jobs. But at the time, it was the only thing that I clang onto to keep going. I believed that if I pour all my heart and soul into something that I love, I will meet success at the end of the day (I just don’t know exactly what “day” that will be haha).

After the first 2 years of establishment, my app – Habitify – has gained momentum and started to receive a lot of attention from the public. I got a better revenue stream. My people are happy. I have everything planned out and under control.

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What books would you recommend to young people interested in starting their own business & why?

I’d say Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The reason is simple.

Nowadays we can easily find all the technical knowledge, the so-called “Tips”, “Tricks” to growth hack the business, to manage and influence people. They are available at no cost and so I believe I won’t need to recommend any books of the like.

Yet, there are few books like Rich Dad, Poor Dad that can powerfully shape the mind of first-time-reader (or so I believe). I believe having a good mindset and the motivation to stick to our business is the most important when kicking off a business. Youngsters have energy and ideas, but they burn out just as quickly as when they found their company, both mentally and physically. At that time, the only thing that will, and can, keep them going is their mindset, their belief.

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? What format do you prefer? How do you make time for reading?

I have tried integrating reading in my tight schedule, and yep, failed many times. I think the most optimal time to read for me is around 5-6 A.M., when my brain is fresh and I’m not distracted by social media (and the crying of my neighbor’s kids)

I read every day. I set a goal to read at least 10 pages per day to form this habit gradually. Sometimes I exceed the goal and sometimes I underperform, but I always mark “reading” done in Habitify because I think the “exceeding” days will make up for other days (don’t judge me, it’s just a way for me to keep the streaks going).

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information and learning from the books you read?

Yes of course. Previously, I only read and read and I didn’t store anything at all. And you know what, I find myself extremely useless after a year of reading around 50 books, of which I couldn’t recall anything.

After reading this article, I completely changed my way of reading (why didn’t he publish this sooner???). As I’m always on my laptop, I choose Evernote to record what I’ve found interesting/valuable. As a (joyful) result, I can use what I’ve learned to talk with my friends and apply to my business.

[NOTE from The CEO Library Team: Peter sent us a screenshot of how he organizes the book-notes in Evernote, you can see it here]

How do you choose what books to read next? Do you prioritize books recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?

I often choose books that relate to what I’m doing. For non-business books, I always ask my best friend who happens to be a bookworm and is very trustworthy. She’s the one that I’d definitely consider a book-recommendations guru.

What book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I’m learning UX design, so I chose The Design of Everyday Things. I only expect to gain fundamental knowledge from it, because as many other experts have suggested, this book is for beginners.

What are some habits that you built in the past years that made the biggest difference in your life?

I’d say waking up early. It contributes significantly to my better health, a happier mood and improved productivity throughout the day.

Waking up early allows me to work on my personal projects. This is extremely valuable for me as my company’s work takes up the whole day of mine (sometimes even night). After some time practicing this habit, I feel that I have achieved so much more than what I’ve achieved in last year (yes!).

This good habit (sorry for oversharing…) sets off a series of other good habits like drinking more water, regular exercises and reading books (because they are all arranged as a logical sequence in my morning routine. I will not leave the house unless I have completed all of them).

[NOTE from The CEO Library Team: You can learn more about Habitify’s story here, or follow their Twitter updates. An Android edition is coming soon – you can sign-up for the Beta version.]

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