For the past four years, I’ve gotten up at 5:00 am on most work days. For the past week, my wake-up call has been closer to 4:00 am.
Am I crazy? Why do I do this?
No, I’m not crazy. The only reason I can do this consistently is because I go to bed at 9:00 pm every night. I’m not a night owl and I hate being out late.
I’m also not getting too many extra hours of productivity in during the day, so this isn’t hustle culture advice. Someone who wakes up at 8:00 am and works until midnight every night has the same amount of working hours that I do.
So…increased productivity isn’t the point.
I do it because there’s no better way to conquer my inner demons than by waking up at an ungodly hour and saying, “I won today.” I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true.
I like how Jocko Willink famously put it: “Discipline equals freedom.”
When I wake up early, I have the freedom to choose what to work on, what to read, and who I want to become. I have the freedom to make myself 1% every day between the hours of 5:00 am and 7:00 am.
Starting my day off with a win makes the rest of the day suck less. No matter how tedious the project I’m working on is or how much Resistance is fighting me from writing or filming a video, nothing compares to how hard it is to get out of a warm bed (especially if your dog is cuddled up next to you). Doing so everyday gives me enough confidence to create, put myself out there, and say, “I can do this.”
Though productivity isn’t the main factor, it is a factor. Getting two solid hours of work in before 7:00 am makes me feel like I rule the world. It also shifts the spectrum of how bad a day can get towards the positive end. No matter what goes on in a day, if I get two hours of writing, reading, or video editing done in the morning, the worst my day is going to be is just okay.
I’ve found the hardest part about this is having enough patience to let the results of one morning compound into two and three and four and 365 mornings that all build off of each other.
If I’m working on a big project, I often won’t see “results” for a month or two. After a few weeks of chipping away at a big goal and not feeling any progress, it becomes much harder to convince myself to jump out of bed and get to work.
The trick to dealing with this is making sure there are enough small wins or “level ups” throughout the journey. Often this can be sharing what I’m doing on Twitter and sparking a conversation, or just reflecting back on where I was before I started to put some perspective on what I’ve accomplished.
On the really hard days, I remind myself of this Chinese proverb:
No man who rises before dawn 365 days a year fails to make his family rich.
Rich financially, sure, but also rich mentally and physically. When I wake up early to read, write, and workout, I’m my best self. Being in that position allows me to be my best self for my family, friends, and everyone else.