Recently, I was having a conversation with a small group of fellow Product Managers at a private brunch event. We got onto the topic of things we were excited about tackling / accomplishing in 2017. I told them about the new morning routine I had adopted, and one person in the group stated, “I wish I was naturally a morning person like you”. Other people nodded in agreement. While this was a compliment, it caught me by surprise because I would ever consider myself to be a natural morning person at all!
In this post, I want to break down the lie we commonly tell ourselves that people are successful because they are naturally smart / funny / athletic / etc, how it stunts our growth, and what we can do about it.
Just to be very clear, I love to sleep in. I’ve done this all my life. The perfect morning used to mean getting up as late as possible, running around for 5-10 minutes getting ready, and then rushing out the door. In my mind, this was great because I was efficient and maximized my sleep. More so, I did not have any intention to change this up because, “why fix what’s not broken”, right?
During my commutes to work, I got tired of listening to music and stumbled upon the Tim Ferriss podcast. In case you aren’t familiar, Tim’s goal is to deconstruct greatness because he believes that success leaves clues. His goal is to provide tools and tactics that each of us can try based on what he learns from the super successful people he interviews. Over and over again, he would ask his guests about their morning routines, and I was surprised how thoughtful the majority of guests were about getting their mornings started off the right way.
It forced me consider how my own daily morning rush could be negatively affecting my state of mind, and how this state of mind potentially impacted my performance throughout the day.
Over time, I dabbled with certain elements of what I wanted my morning routine to be. Some were easily incorporated (such as making my bed) while others were quite tricky to consistently do (such as no snoozing, meditating, or journaling).
I experimented with different schedules so I could find the right combination of things that would start my day off the way I wanted it to. After numerous failures, I finally found and committed to the following schedule that works for me.
Morning routine (for weekdays):
Wake up at 6am (no snoozing)
Do three sets of pushups, squats, and planks to get the blood flowing
In between the sets: drink a cup of water; make my bed
Meditate for 10 minutes
Eat 30g of protein (I am currently eating sardines)
Write morning entry into Five Minute Journal
Read for 30 minutes
Check email / social media
So far, it’s worked brilliantly. I’ve kicked my habit of snoozing, am averaging two books per month, and have trained my brain and body to resist checking email / social media first thing in the morning. It’s also helped prime me for the start of the day, and I’ve found that I have better focus and attention at work.
Before you highlight the obvious, that in the grand scheme of things, conquering your morning routine is only one small piece of the much larger puzzle of life, my point is that it’s one step in the right direction.
So, when that group labeled me as “naturally a morning person”, I realized why I left with an uneasy feeling. It was because of how many times I’ve thought or said something similar as an excuse for not taking action to get better.
I thought about the time when my friend Stephanie told me about her awesome reading habits and thought, “if only I was naturally a fast reader like she is”, or when I catch updates on facebook from Harvey as he crushes another ultramarathon and the first thing I think is, “if only I was naturally a good runner like he is”, or when my friend Marshall makes another huge sale for his business and think, “if only I was naturally good at business and sales like he is”.
The list goes on and on of all the things I would be great at, IF only I were naturally talented like my they were.
Don’t be ashamed if you do this too. We all do it. The difference is, now that you are reading this, what are YOU going to do about it? Are you going to continue using it as an excuse, or are you going to make a commitment to start inching your way to become a better reader, runner, or sales person?
The truth is, there is no such thing as being naturally good at anything. What matters the most are the choices we each make each day to either get better, or the choice we make to continue hiding behind excuses we tell ourselves about why we can’t get better.
There is no way you will become a faster reader if you don’t actually commit to read. Similarly, you can’t expect to run ultramarathons if you don’t train. And how can you go toe-to-toe and negotiate deals if you aren’t constantly learning how to craft your pitch?
Don’t take it from me though, I’m much closer to the beginning of my own journey compared to the people truly at the top of their game, like Ray Allen. In case you don’t know him, just know that he won two NBA championships, played 18 seasons, and was one of the best three point shooters to play the game.
Ray Allen wrote a letter to his younger self about what it would take to pursue greatness. My main takeaway is that he made choices on a daily basis that guided him on his pursuit towards greatness. His secret to success is that there is no secret. Success for him were the culmination of boring habits and routines.
So how does this all come back to you?
I strongly encourage you to hit the pause button the next time you catch yourself (or anyone else) say, “they are just naturally ________________". Instead, examine the choices that person is making each and every day, and ask yourself why you can’t do the same?
Okay, maybe adopting every habit and routine that Ray Allen does would be overboard, but what about adding ONE small new habit into your life that moves you into the right direction.
If you want to be become a faster reader, commit to read for just 30 minutes a day. If you can’t do that, what about 15 minutes a day? Too much? Start at 5 minutes a day then. It doesn’t really matter where you start to be perfectly honest. What matters is that you commit to do it and then follow up with consistent action.
If you’re looking for help and guidance to get started, join a 30 day challenge through Tribe of Five. You’ll get to test drive a new habit you've been interested in, but for one reason or another just haven't prioritized yet. We then help you succeed by surrounding you with accountability buddies who are also working on that same habit.
Commit to put in work and see how good it feels when you become a slightly better version of yourself each and every day.