The Miracle of Mornings

Opportunities are like sunrises – if you wait too long, you miss them. – William Arthur Ward

So, 38 year old me walks into a coffee shop, and sits down with 23 year old me. 38 year old me has a pep in his step and seems to be brimming with energy. 25 year old me is slouched in his faux-Swedish chair, and holding onto his large coffee like its the holy grail. He looks like he had a rough night. 

38 year old me: “Hey man – looks like you had a late night.”

23 year old me: <grunts>

38 year old me: “I’ve got a tee time for 11am – the wife has the kid for the day – feel like shooting a round?”

23 year old me: “Nah – I feel like ass. Once I wake up a little, I have stuff to do – pay some bills, maybe workout if I don’t yak, and then knock out some stuff around the apartment.”

38 year old me: “That bites – I got my shit done hours ago.”

23 year old me: “Dude – eff that noise – you’re nuts. That means you got up at like 7.”

38 year old me: “Close – try 5.”

23 year old me: “I think I fell asleep around 4 – after the bar, I played some Madden then went to sleep. It was awesome.”

38 year old me: “Way to strive for greatness. How’s that working out for you now?”

23 year old me: <grunts>

38 year old me: “I woke up, had some coffee, paid bills, restocked some stuff on Amazon Prime…”

23 year old me: “….wait…uh…Amazon prime whaaaa…?”

38 year old me: “…fed the baby, knocked out a workout, updated a post, responded to some emails, made the dog’s food, and cut the grass. And dude – you reek of stale beer. Did you even shower before coming here?”

23 year old me: “Lick my bal…..”

38 year old me: “I know where that is going.”

23 year old me: “…..lzzzzzzzzz.”

38 year old me: “I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but if you stopped acting like an idiot and staying out until crazy hours of the night, you could get up before 10:59 am, and actually get something out of your day.”

23 year old me: “Whatever man – I’m fine. I’ll never get up at 5am – that’s stupid.”

38 year old me: “I guess you are too hungover to understand how paradoxical that statement is.”

23 year old me: <bites his muffin> “Ass.”

38 year old me: “I gotta go. Have fun not throwing up. By the way, do yourself a favor and stop accumulating credit card debt, STOP EATING THAT MUFFIN, and buy some stock in a company called Google. You haven’t heard of them yet. And – take that job in Maryland – it will be the best decision you ever make in your life. Oh, and when the 2017 football season starts, bet your life savings on the Eagles winning the Superbowl.”

23 year old me: “Dude – we just signed T.O. – we’ll win the Superbowl this year.”

38 year old me grimaces and chuckles somewhat sadly, shakes his head, picks up his coffee, and leaves 23 year old me at the coffee shop.

Okay – that is a little melodramatic, but, a great piece of advice I could give younger me is seize your day earlier in the morning. Not only do you have the ability to get more stuff done, but it also has a complimentary effect on your decisions the night before. If you plan on having an early morning, you are probably a lot less likely to stay out until 2am, and have that extra pitcher of beer.

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If you research habits of successful people (entrepreneurs, military folks, etc…), you’d find that a majority of them share the trait of waking up early.  This article in the Huffington Post gives a sample of wake up times for people we’d probably call “successful…”

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In a podcast interview with Tim Ferriss, former marine Jocko Willink details his morning routine which starts around 4:30 am – on a late day! Jocko’s wisdom of, “…discipline equals freedom…,” can permeate our lives in any way we want. But, specific to mornings, it just means making a commitment to do it. That means setting the alarm, making smart decisions the night prior, and then just doing it. AND, when you actually do it, just accomplish one simple task to get the momentum of success going. In his book, “Make Your Bed,” which is based off of a commencement speech he gave, Admiral William H. McRaven offers a very simple idea – MAKE YOUR BED. Literally, just make your bed. The sense of completing a simple task frames your perception for the day. It will encourage you to do another task, and another, etc. Basically, success begets more success.

For at least the past 7 years, I’ve committed to this idea of getting up early. I set the alarm for 5am, and resolve to start my day. I’m to the point now where my body clock will often wake me up before my alarm. Pretty cool. I like it so much, I even do it on the weekends. I’ll turn the alarm off, but I’m still usually up by 5am. Sleeping in for me is about 6am on a Saturday or Sunday! True this limits how late I’ll stay up the night before, but, I really don’t miss or regret the late nights. I still can have plenty of fun before calling it a night. Rather than push the limits of midnight or beyond to have an extra drink or two, I relish the many hours of productivity I have while other people are still asleep.

This approach really helps me stay on top of things during the work week. I usually report to work around 8:30 am (which means I’m on the road by 8am), so that gives me about 3 hours to “seize the morning.” So, I’ll wake up at 5am (the wife and kid are still asleep), and do the following:

  • Brew coffee
  • Let the dogs out
  • Take probiotic pill and Vitamin D supplement

Those three things are clock work.

Once the coffee is in the mug, then I scan around for other miscellaneous odds/ends – does the dishwasher need emptying? Do dishes need to rotate into the dishwasher? Do I need to make the dog’s food today? This is all happening with Fox News and/or ESPN in the background, and the first cup of coffee isn’t even completed.

It’s probably 5:20 am by now. Once the kitchen is under control, the next 30-40 minutes is me taking care of “adult” stuff on the computer (respond to email, pay bills, update the budget, etc…). If that is done, I’ll continue researching stuff for an article I’m working on, or, if its Wednesday, I’ll be designing the Wednesday morning Garage Workout (on these days, I need to be at the parking garage by 7am). If I’m working out at home, I’ll resolve to be in the basement and started between 6:00am and 6:30 am (depending on what type of session I’m doing that day). Bottom line is I’m back up in the kitchen making my Butter Coffee by 7:10 am – 7:40 am, and in the shower and ready to leave by 8:00am.

Each day – like clock work.

When my son was born, I wondered how much of this routine would be altered – you know – since kids need lots of time and attention.

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As it turns out, The only real variable to date has been feeding him around 6:30 am. If the wife needs to leave for work, I’ll take care of that before doing my workout. If he is awake enough, he’ll come and sit in his chair while I work out (he is usually cranky with about 10 minutes to go, but is pretty enthralled up to that point), or, if he is showing signs of being tired, I’ll swaddle him, and put him back in his crib while watching him remotely in the basement on the baby monitor. Aside from that, he is usually sleeping while I’m knocking out a majority of my morning.

Overall, I feel that my commitment to having productive mornings and the routine of it all has made me pretty unflappable with the addition of the child. I will say that the first couple of weeks when he was home were challenging from a tiredness standpoint. However, I did find a lot of comfort in taking care of my “basic 3” in the morning. It really felt like it gave me control, and a chance to hit a big fat reset button. When we were in the hospital for the baby’s birth, even with the uncertainty of the night time sleeping schedule (or lack of sleeping schedule), I still had to come home every morning (granted, this time a little later), and take care of the dogs.

Guess what I did first…

  • Brew coffee
  • Let the dogs out
  • Take probiotic pill and Vitamin D supplement

Just….like….clockwork.

If you feel like you need to make a change, or need a little more control over your life, I’d recommend starting simple, getting up early, and starting a routine. Start with a single simple task. You might end up loving it.

 

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4 comments

  1. I love this, dude! I used to get up at 6am to meet Kyle at the J. Since I’ve moved my workouts to the lunch hour, I’ve missed out on all of my morning productivity. I think I have, in my mind, used the excuse of having a 7 week old and being “too tired.” Reading your post made me realize that she’s likely sleeping between 5:30-7, which could be time I get things done around the house. I think I’ll rewrite the script for tomorrow morning and let you know how it goes!

    1. Thank you for checking out the post! The kid thing is no doubt a huge variable (a variable that is AMAZING), but I do think having the baseline routine can provide structure. And, don’t forget, you and Kyle are always welcome to join the Wednesday garage workouts too (if you want to mix up your routine a little bit :)) I’m excited to see what you think about re-energizing your mornings.

  2. I really enjoyed this particular post. Our lives couldn’t be more opposite at age 23. I was already a mom at 22 and my conversation with myself would have been very different. I would have told myself to work on more balance in my life. I gave my all to raising my kids and being a good wife, so much so that I never took care of me and never put myself first….ever! Every mom needs to make themselves a priority at times. I wish I had known that. Now that I have moved to KC and have no children living at home, I am making ME a priority for the first time in a long time. I would love to hear the advice others would give their 23 year old selves if they had a chance to sit down and have a conversation. Loving your blog. Can’t wait to hear more.

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