Day 7

The first live Q&A with Ryan Holiday is TODAY at 2 PM (CT)! To join, just click this link at 2 PM (CT) and enter passcode 989474. If you can’t attend the live Q&A, it will be recorded and made available to watch at your convenience. We will share the link to the recording in the Discord channel as soon as it is available, as well as in upcoming emails!

“On those mornings you struggle with getting up, keep this thought in mind — I am awakening to the work of a human being. Why then am I annoyed that I am going to do what I’m made for, the very things for which I was put into this world? Or was I made for this, to snuggle under the covers and keep warm? It’s so pleasurable. Were you then made for pleasure? In short, to be coddled or to exert yourself?” — Marcus Aurelius

In one of his letters, Seneca mentions a man named Antipodes. His is a cautionary tale. “He has never seen the sun rise or set,” Seneca writes. “Do you think that these men know how to live, if they do not know when to live? Do these men fear death, if they have buried themselves alive? They are as weird as the birds of night.” We were made to follow the rhythm of the sun, Seneca continues. We are at our best when we are getting up and winding down with the sun. “So let us lengthen our lives; for the duty and the proof of life consist in action. Cut short the night: use some of it for the day’s business.”

That’s what people who want to start getting up early often miss, as obvious as it is. How do you get up earlier? You go to bed earlier. You cut short the night, as Seneca puts it.

That’s why your challenge today is to go to bed two hours earlier tonight so that you can wake up two hours earlier tomorrow.

You might be thinking: But what does the time I go to bed and wake up have to do with being my best?

The answer is: Everything.

One of the guest speakers in the Daily Stoic Leadership Challenge is Major General Dan Caine, the Director of Special Programs at the Pentagon. After Maj. Gen. Caine talked about the morning ritual that he says is the key to his ability to get a lot done, the question came up: what is your advice to people who struggle to wake up early? “It’s just about asking thoughtful questions that allow you to get to that logical conclusion on your own,” he said.

Questions like…

…what do you think is going to make you most effective?
…when do you think you are at your best?
…are you more productive earlier or later in the day?
…when do you do your best work?

“Inevitably,” Caine said, “asking those really thoughtful questions leads to that self-realization that, ‘I have to change my daily rhythm to be as effective as possible.’”

You want to execute at your maximum potential? Well, what are the chances that you do your best work after you respond to emails and make phone calls and run errands all morning? What are the chances you are at your best at four in the afternoon?

Zero.

And even if you are most creative, productive, energetic at 4pm — you’ve frittered away at least eight waking hours getting there! 8am to 4pm is a full workday, gone. Seneca didn’t have the mountains of research that we have today. But he was right: it doesn’t matter whether you know how to live if you don’t know when to live.

The author Dan Pink has a great book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. “One of the most important insights from the science of timing,” he says, “is that our cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of the day. They change — in predictable and sometimes extreme ways.” Again, there’s mountains of scientific evidence supporting the benefits of waking up earlier. It produces:

  • Lower risk of depression: Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital studied how sleep and waking preferences affected the wellbeing of 32,470 participants. The study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, found that “late risers” were more likely to become depressed than those who woke up earlier each day.
  • Greater positivity and proactivity: Biologist Christoph Randler conducted a study of 367 college students to assess the correlation of sleep schedule and proactivity — a trait he previosusly linked to better job performance, greater career success, and higher wages. He found that morning people are more energetic and able to take action to change a situation to their advantage. “The fascinating thing about our findings,” Randler said, “is that duration of sleep has nothing to do with the increased proactivity and morning alertness that we see among morning people…The timing of sleep does.”
  • Healthier eating habits and increased health: A random trial of 2,000 people conducted by researchers from The Obesity Society compared “morning types” and “evening types” and found that morning types eat a more balanced diet, make better food choices, stick to regular meal times, and eat less often — all contributing to lower rates of obesity, lower risk of heart disease, and lower risk of diabetes.

If you want to make positive changes in your life, if you want to start executing at a higher level, if you want to be ready — really ready — for everything that life can throw at you day in and day out, then you have to get in the habit of getting up earlier. You have to change your daily rhythm. You have to come to the realization that you are at your best when the day is young. When there are fewer distractions, when the emails haven’t come in yet, when the phone hasn’t started ringing, when the kids aren’t fighting or whining or demanding your attention, when you aren’t chasing the sun.

Indeed, take all those things you typically cram into the last two hours at the end of the night, but tackle them first thing tomorrow morning, and watch how much easier they are to complete, how much quicker you get them done.

We can see in his notebooks that Leonardo da Vinci himself came to this realization around the age of thirty. It was then that he transcribed this passage from Dante’s Inferno:

“Put off this sloth,” the master said, “for shame!
Sitting on feather-pillows, lying reclined
Beneath the blanket is no way to fame —
Fame, without which man’s life wastes out of mind,
Leaving on earth no more memorial
Than foam in water or smoke upon the wind.”

Lie beneath the blanket — but get in and out of them early today. Cut the night short. See the sun up. Get your daily rhythm right and you, like Seneca and Maj. Gen. Caine and da Vinci, will leave something more lasting than smoke upon the wind.

Watch: What Marcus Aurelius told himself when he had trouble getting out of bed

P.S. Again, the first live Q&A with Ryan Holiday is TODAY at 2 PM (CT)! To join, just click this link at 2 PM (CT) and enter passcode 989474. We can’t wait to see you then!

Additional Resources:

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