Often when I travel, I find myself in an airport bookstore wandering the aisles. While I am an avid user of eBooks and other technological innovations, I do enjoy seeing what is currently being published and pushed to the mass markets. The blaring headline of “Ten Quick Steps to Success” or “Become a Real Estate Millionaire with Nothing Down!” usually upset my stomach, as little more than thinly veiled scams. Ugghhh!
Students, alumni and others in business frequently ask me about personal and professional success, and while this is not a topic that I have done any amount of research on, I do believe that there are certain things that any person can do which usually has very positive results. In fact, I can say that among most successful people I know, they often share one thing in common more than anything else. It is not the status of your university, a specific field of study, grade point average, gender, socio-economic background, geographical location, career path or any of the “usual suspects.” It is something much simpler and much more accessible and attainable by anyone.
We have all heard the famous quotation of Benjamin Franklin “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Perhaps our parents or grandparents recited this short proverb to us, and anyone who was raised in a farm community knows that this is near gospel to those populations. But the philosophical foundations of this traditional wisdom run much deeper, for Aristotle wrote “It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.” In many religions the spiritual value of the early morning is at least one area in which we find much agreement. This time has been called “the heroic minute” and it is likely that Jesus often went early to find solitude to pray, think and meditate.
My students and peers at least appear to be surprised when I tell them I was a slothful and unmotivated youth, a poor student and with little life direction. At the age of seventeen, my own body clock altered, and four years in the military only reinforced this discipline. For nearly forty years, I have been a notorious early riser (you should read some of the comments I receive from people who notice the time stamps of some of my early morning emails!) I find this to be a superb time of reading, writing, thinking, praying and looking ahead to my day. The great value in having several hours of absolutely uninterrupted time cannot be overstated. Ben Franklin offered another bit of wisdom of well: “The early morning has gold in its mouth.” My own experience is that while this may not be literally true, the early morning does give one a great competitive advantage, a head start to the day in productivity which most others cannot catch up to through the rest of the day.
Recently, I have met with several young professionals, each in very different fields and all in the mid to later twenties. Without any prompting, all told me that they are rising earlier and found much of what I wrote above to be true. I have great confidence in each of them achieving their own level of success. My advice to you? Save your money on the slick airport books, lectures or other systems of success. Simply set the alarm clock, brew some coffee, and start your day!