There is no single ingredient to anything. To be a good leader, you need humility, confidence, perspective – and many more. To be good at sports, you need training, proper nutrition, good rest – and many more. To build a successful business, you need resilience, a lot of hard work, a good team to compliment your weak spots – and many more. Every aspect of reality comprises of multitude of factors, many of which we may never truly realize. That’s just the way things are. There’s no silver bullet to help you achieve greatness in whatever you pursue.
Except there is one.
With barely any fails, I wake up no later than 4:40AM every morning. Whether it’s weekend or not, whatever the season of the year, whatever mood I am in. I do it when travelling in business, when on holidays, whatever the time zone is. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Porto, Wroclaw or Hong Kong. The alarm goes off and I get up.
And if you now think that early rising is my silver bullet, you’re wrong. Yes, many successful people are known for it. Yes, it can be justified in a very reasonable way. Yes, Benjamin Franklin did famously quote the proverb “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” in his Poor Richard’s Almanac. On the other hand, Mark Twain, a writer of enormous wit, was spot on to suggest to “put no trust in the benefits to accrue from early rising, as set forth by the infatuated Franklin…”.
Which is irrelevant, as it’s not early rising. Let’s get back to how my daily schedule.
Then, without fail, I get my cup of coffee. As I drink it, I launch my command centre – aggregated view of my calendars, my Kanban, my daily to-do list. I plan the highlights of my day.
While you might now expect this planning exercise to be the silver bullet, sorry, it just isn’t. It makes all the sense in the world to do it, but that’s not the point.
Then there’s time for some physical activity. It might be a trip to the gym, if I have time to spare. It can be a quick run around the neighbourhood, if weather allows – and only sub-zero temperatures or intense smog can stop me. At the very least, when in hotel at world’s end, it can be just twenty minutes of body weight exercises.
Ha! And now you got it! It’s the physical exercise! After all, many of the most successful people do it. Exercises are clearly beneficial to your body and your mind.
Sorry, that’s not it. Move on.
Then there’s shower, followed by breakfast spent kick-starting the day over emails, instant messages, all other external communications. If it’s a workday, I have a quick sync – whether over phone or Messenger – with my operations manager, agreeing details of the day. However the day unveils, I always secure at least one hour to write. Finally, in the evening, I review my command centre and read a bit.
Do you know what’s the silver bullet now? It’s the routine, perfected over several iterations and endlessly evolving. A good plan, followed by good realization, reviewed and modified as reality changes and unfolds. We are creatures of habits, so if we pay some time to consciously design them, the success is inevitable.
Believe it or not, again, that’s not the damn point.
Let’s give my days some thought.
Do you think it was easy for me to start getting up that early? Do you think I even liked it? Hell no. I HATED IT. It took me over a month to get used to it.
Do you think I liked starting my day with planning? Why on Earth would anyone want that? It’s easier to indulge in social networks, favourite forums, or, if someone is completely useless, celebrity gossips. Also, I always had rough idea of what I should do, so where’s the point? Tick, another month gone.
And does it make any sense to start the day with some intensive physical activity? Now, unless it’s done with someone else in bed, that’s just stupid. Why would anyone want to start the very long day by exhausting oneself? Yet, somehow, I do. Even though I had a rough time getting to it.
Can you see the silver bullet now?
It’s self-discipline. Nothing else. That’s the attitude allowing you to force yourself to do things that are not easy, likeable, or comfortable. It pushes you upward the hard path, which will be more beneficial than all the other ones – but at a price.
Self-discipline gives you currency to pay that damn price.
And you know what’s the best part? Achieving this mountain-moving mindset is not really hard. Even better. It’s ridiculously easy. Would you like to know how to do it?
If you want to be disciplined, be fucking disciplined. Don’t think it over for months, don’t talk it over with friends, don’t refer to web forums looking for consensus, opinion, or any kind of external acceptance.
That’s all it takes. I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t try that myself.
Decide, commit, act.
Now, get going. It’s Monday morning, time to conquer the world.
Opinions are my own and not the views of my employers, customers, or clients.