Why you need to become a morning person

December 12, 2017 in Focus, Life, Mindset

I’ve written about morning routines, quite frankly, more than anyone should. That’s because I believe waking up early is about the most life changing thing you can do.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the people I consider successful and happy, get up early and follow some type of morning routine. I challenge you to think about this too. Look at well known people, colleagues and friends. I bet you come to the same conclusion.

But, I’m just not a morning person” you say. “I do my best work later in the day”.

I’m not buying it. For 99.9% of us, it’s much better to become a morning person.

Why? I think it boils down to these 3 things:

  • Getting up early sets a tone for the day. It builds positive momentum from the get go, which then flows into the rest of the day. When I get up early and do things that are important to me (without distractions), the rest of the day usually goes well. I feel satisfied at the end of the day. When I get up late, I almost always drift into bad habits and have a bad day. I know I didn’t make the best use of my time and wasn’t the person I wanted to be.
  • It allows you to make consistent progress on things that are important to you — whether that is exercise, writing, working on a personal project, reading etc. Morning routines build consistency, largely because of the lack of distractions (everyone else is asleep). Over time, that establishes habits.
  • Getting up early builds a certain strength in character and mindset. You start to feel stronger and more disciplined than others. That breeds confidence and influences how you attack the day. It’s hard to beat the feeling of watching others come into work, knowing you’ve already exercised, worked on a personal project, got ahead of your email and done a block of focused work. Not only are you ahead on output, you’re ahead on mindset.

Jocko Willink, sums it up more succinctly than me:

“Discipline equals freedom, and that discipline begins every morning when my alarm goes off, well before the sun rises.” Jocko Willink.

And for proof, he posts one of these every day:

If you’re not waking up early, how do you start?

Simple and small.

Go to bed a little earlier. Get up a little bit earlier (i.e. 30 mins), and do one or two things. Meditate for 5 mins and take a short walk. Read or work on a personal project. Whatever is important to you. Keep it simple, easy and small for at least 30 days.

Once you get to 30 days, extend the time and perhaps add something else in. The biggest mistake you can make is to go from simple, easy and small — to complicated, hard and big. And I guarantee, you will make that mistake. Learn from it. Go back to simple, easy and small and then layer in a little bit more for the next 30 days.

It sounds unambitious, but it’s the best and fastest path to a longer, more impressive morning routine. By starting simple, easy and small — you establish the habit of getting up early and doing important things. And that’s the key to it all.

I just switched up my morning routine (part of what inspired this post). Here’s what it looks like:

  • 04.30 — 05.15: GMB Elements
  • 05.15 — 05.30: read a chapter from ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’
  • 05.30 — 06.30: write
  • 06.30 — 07.00: plan day

I’ve only done it a couple of times, and it’s feeling really good. It’s a good mix of exercise, working on myself, working on a skill and setting myself up for an awesome day. I should also note, I go to bed before 10PM so I can get up that early.

If you’re not waking up early — try it. I’m confident you won’t go back.

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Being self critical: My biggest strength and weakness

July 9, 2017 in Mindset

It took a recent crossfit session to remind me of my biggest strength, but also my biggest weakness — being self critical.

We had to pick two movements that we hated and sucked at. I went with thrusters and kipping pull ups. We practiced them throughout the session and used them in the workout at the end.

6 thrusters, followed by 6 kipping pull ups — repeated for as many reps as possible in 20 mins.

Pretty tough. I found the movements awkward throughout. As I was driving home after the workout, here’s what played through my head:

Thrusters felt super awkward:

  • Picking the bar from the floor isn’t so bad. But, getting the bar into the front squat position is hard on my wrists. I can’t get my elbows higher enough either. Need to work on wrist flexibility in general.<li>
  • The front squat part of the movement is OK, but the transition from top of the squat to overhead press is super awkward. Hard and painful on the wrists. Wrist flexibility again.
  • Overhead press is OK. I got pretty good strength there
  • Transition from bringing the bar down from the press into a front squat is horrible. I have to reset the bar on my shoulders to avoid too much wrist pain. Then I have to adjust my grip before I squat. Pretty painful. Wrist strength and flexibility again.
  • Overall, quite a few awkward bits in the movement. The transition from front squat to press, and back to front squat, was awkward and jerky.
  • I was using 35KG. Not heavy enough. I want to be using 50KG in wods.

Kipping pull ups felt even more awkward:

  • I need to get momentum with the swing (hollow body hold to superman) before I start the kipping pull ups. This slows me down in a workout. Some of that is because it allows me to make the first rep a good one. And that gives me more chance of getting the second and third rep right. Some of it is habit. I need to force myself to jump onto the bar and go straight into a kipping pull up. Need to work on that.
  • The pull up part of the movement is actually OK. But, I struggle to fall into the right position, that then lets me flow into another pull up. So, I tend to be able to pull off a second rep, but hardly ever a third. Unless I get the falling motion right, I won’t be able to pull off 5+ reps and use them in workouts.
  • I got tired super quick. The first few rounds I could get 3 + 2 + 1. But, after 4 or 5 rounds, I was pretty much doing 2 + 2 + 2 and then finally 2 + 2 + 1 + 1.
  • I keep ripping skin on the palm of my hands. Super annoying.

On top of the above, there was a girl next to me focusing on the same two movements. She was nailing 50KG thrusters and sets of 8 or 10 kipping pull ups. It made me realise how far I have to go.

The above was running through my head the whole way home. I started plotting priorities for how I can get better, stronger thrusters and kipping pull ups. I started to feel overwhelmed and a bit annoyed that I was so weak and behind the curve.

And then, something clicked and I got another perspective.

Six weeks ago, I couldn’t even go to crossfit. I had to take two months off because of tendonitis in my foot. That was super annoying and I was very frustrated.

Here I am actually able to go to crossfit and push myself. This wasn’t possible six weeks ago. I’m doing thrusters and kipping pull ups in a WOD. I’m pushing myself hard. I made some good improvement in the thruster transitions. I also made progress with the kipping pull ups falling movement. I’m absolutely better at those movements from when I walked into the gym an hour before. I’m clearer on the one or two things I need to focus on to be better at them.

That’s actually a good position to be in.

Yet, I beat myself up for all the small things I could be doing better. I beat myself up for being behind the curve compared to other people. I completely lose sight of appreciating that I AM moving forward and getting better — one step at a time.

It’s just one example of how being self critical on myself stops me appreciating the progress I’m making. I do this at work and almost every category of my life by default.

Being self critical and beating myself up like this might be my biggest strength. It drives me to get better and improve. But, it often means I don’t appreciate the progress I am making. It stops me being happy with where I am, and appreciating the present moment.

The key takeaway I have is I need to be OK with the self critical behaviour. It’s a strength, but I need to keep perspective too. Let it happen, but pull back from it and focus on the few things I can do to move forward — and just do them. And to then spend time on appreciating the progress I’ve made and where I am today. Be OK with where I am. Relax and appreciate the present moment a bit more.

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When No One is Looking

May 7, 2017 in Mindset

This is embarrassing, but here it goes. I have a massive man crush on Mat Fraser.

It started when I watched Fittest on Earth 2015. Mat placed second and stood out as an incredible athlete. He made a few mistakes and wasn’t quite the all rounder Ben Smith was.

Recently I watched Fittest on Earth: A Decade of Fitness (Crossfit Games 2016). Mat blew through the competition (including Ben Smith) to finish first. It was awesome to see Mat dominate the competition, including beating last years winner. But, I figured, sometimes it happens like that. You see the same thing with football teams. No matter the odds, sometimes you get an upset. Maybe he should have won in 2015? Or maybe 2016 was a fluke?

Today I stumbled on the ‘Mat Fraser — Making a Champion’ documentary series. And it all made sense. Mat is an absolute machine and he has the most amazing attitude and work ethic.

Placing second in 2015 was obviously painful for him. In his own words:

I look at my medal from 2015. I hate that fucking medal. Because I didn’t do it right, you know? That’s like second place. I got second place in 2015. I should be proud of that result. I was the second fittest man in the world. But I just look at that and I’m like…. I fucking hate that year, because I’m not proud of the effort I put in. I’m not proud of the corners I cut.

He went about 2016 completely different. He looked at everything he was weak in and did whatever it took to get better. This is a great example:

Alright, I suck at rowing. So I got a rower. And I rowed between 4K and 5K a day for a whole year.

Every day, he just put the work in. He kept stacking the days, with the faith it would make him stronger for next year’s competition. It’s pure discipline. Another good quote from Mat that sums up his attitude:

I’m gonna do today what other people aren’t willing to. So I can do tomorrow, what other people can’t.

This one really resonated with me. It can be hard to stay motivated to consistently take small, uncomfortable steps. Particularly when many of those steps don’t give you immediate results. But as Mat says, the consistent daily efforts = long term success. It’s the moments when no one is looking that count.

I’m going to put that last quote at the top of my planning documents to remind myself of this. And when I get an urge to procrastinate or cut a corner, I am going to remember Mat and his 2016.

I actually did this today. I had planned to go on a long bike ride. A few hours before I was due to set off, I started trying to persuade myself it would be ok to skip it. I’d done enough this week already, it was a bit too hot etc. I put the talk to one side and went out on the bike. And when I hit some steep hills, I had some shitty self talk about taking a rest and walking for a bit. I pushed through it and did the whole trip non stop — something I had never done before. And I felt great afterwards!

I encourage everyone to watch the Making a Champion videos. It doesn’t matter whether you are into fitness or not. Mat’s mindset is super impressive and inspiring.

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