Why you’re approaching your habits all wrong — a look at Justin Kan's latest app

Published on
June 22nd, 2021
Category
Interviews
Justin Kan, Omar Jalalzada, and team have just launched Kin, a social habit tracking app. Here’s why their approach to Kin is based on community, tiny changes, and self-acceptance.
Justin Kan wants you to be kind to yourself. The Twitch cofounder has been on a personal growth journey for the last decade and as one of the internet’s most recognized content creators, has been using his platform to help others too.
I met Kan and his colleague Omar Jalalzada virtually to learn about the launch of their new social habit app, Kin. Jalalzada is a product designer who has worked to get deep into the psychology of habit formation, initially driven by a different project on medication adherence for a prescriptions delivery company, Alto Pharmacy. That’s where Jalalzada met Kan, who was an investor in the company, and his brother, Damien Kan, an engineer who the team says thoughtfully built much of Kin while keeping everyone focused on building the most impactful experience.
Beyond Justin Kan, Damien Kan, and Omar Jalalzada, the Kin founding team includes Amitt Mahajan, the serial entrepreneur who founded Toro, an app-marketing software acquired by Google, and MyMiniLife, a social gaming company acquired by Zynga. Among other things, Mahajan brings to the table a strong understanding of app building and gamification.
Merging their expertise and passion for healthier living, Kin is launching with all the ingredients for a recipe to help others with one of the hardest actions felt universally – forming healthy habits.

How do you manage each day?

Kin combines the best and most delightful experiences Jalalzada, Kan, and team have had while working to form habits in their own lives and careers. They have also been working within their respective communities over the past year to layer in knowledge from friends and experts, and dove into education around habits, running the gamut from spiritual inspiration to anthropological insight around human behavior.
For Kan, that included looking to Buddhism and the concept of merit, a fundamental practice in Buddhist discipline that treats self-improvement as a community practice, rather than an individual one (more commonly seen in the West). Investing in yourself is good for the community. That’s part of where the importance of Kin being a social app stems from.
Kan explained that several years ago, he had hit a rock bottom moment. To cope, he started to work on himself through meditation and though he tried timers and apps, he lacked accountability, so he went to Twitter.
“When I got to ten days, I knew I couldn’t stop. If I announce it on Twitter, I couldn’t be a hypocrite.”
The principle reflects similarly to building in public, which is another way of looking at what Kin enables: working on your Self in public.
Jalalzada looks at the space differently than Kan does. “[Justin’s] very self-disciplined,” he joked. “I’m not.”
Jalalzada told us that Kin is the hardest product he’s ever worked on, largely because it approaches people’s behaviors outside of the app — the goal is to use a digital app to influence someone’s non-digital life.
As a designer, breaking down the behavioral psychology of habit formation is fascinating to Jalalzada. It involves breaking down big goals into smaller pieces. Creating habits, he explained, is very much about the emotions behind what we do, not the action itself. Yet that’s not how many of us think about it; we forget why we’re doing something in the first place.
Jalalzada and Kan also shared some of the reading that has also influenced how they built Kin. James Lear’s “Atomic Habits” gets to the core of the breakdown effect. Tiny changes over time compound into large transformations. Prior to reading it, Kan didn’t actually think that people could change.
“Tiny Habits” by BJ Fog taps into positive emotions to create a happier and healthier life. One of the things the book essentially explains is that remembering what motivates your habits may help you stick with them.
However, relying on your motivation can also be a tall order. Human beings, they explained, evolved to rely on their instincts and our ancestral instincts are to conserve energy. Translation = don’t be so hard on yourself.
“No one is that strong and can fight that hard” to just transform their natural instincts overnight. Start small, remember what motivates you, and maintain accountability through social proofing. That’s Kin in a nutshell.

Building your self infrastructure

It seems that once we realize that self-actualization is a journey, not a destination, there are two ways to approach it. As a never-ending race or a never-ending opportunity.
Kan explained that in his own life, he realized getting across a hurdle was never enough.
“It never goes away. There’s always another milestone to work on.”
Now it sounds like Kan and Jalalzada approach it as the latter.
“I think of habit formation as filling a bucket one drop at a time. Building that infrastructure, rather than building yourself up.”
You can track any type of habit in Kin, take courses to learn about forming habits, and improve existing ones.
In the coming weeks, Jalalzada will also share three-part blog series breaking down the 3 most common objections the Kin team hears about building habits, and how to approach them. Make sure you’re opted into the Daily Digest to catch them when they’re posted.
Published on
June 22nd, 2021
Category
Interviews
Comments (2)
Senior Business Analyst @Uber
There should be a feature where you can add strangers or fellow Kins to a small group chat. I don't have any friends on the app yet and not being able to use the accountability feature is sad!
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