A 15 min read…
Okay, I confess. I broke my promise. In my previous blog, I had said I’d first talk about Ikigai. My wife is so keen on reading it that she carries it with her to the office and hence, I do not have access to the book. So I decided while I am waiting to get my hands back on Ikigai, I’d write about ‘The 5am club‘. I’d take a brief moment and thank my good mates Siraj for churning out some captive designs (used in this blog) in a short notice and Prachu for proof-reading all my blogs with tenacity. I owe you lads a big one.
I heard of The 5am Club through my friend Pradeep. He suggested this book on our first meeting and mentioned more than once in our brief coffee-chat about waking up early in the morning and how it helped him. My mom is an early bird too. She usually wakes up at 4 and has often cited the multiple positive effects that this habit beholds. There’s even a term: Brahmamuhurtham – a period of 1 hour and 36 minutes before sunrise. Many claim that this timeframe holds great significance and is the best phase to have some ME time to read, meditate, pray, plan and introspect. Also, my brother and I had the habit of waking up at 4 for our exam preparations and I got to admit it is effective. So, I was intrigued and duly read the book like a sincere student.
The 5am Club is written by Robin Sharma. If you haven’t heard of him, you might have heard of his most famous book – The monk who sold his Ferrari. The 5am club’s tagline reads: “Winning starts at your beginning. And your first hours are where the great heroes are made. Own your mornings and you’ll master your life.” You would have inferred by now. The book is about how waking up at 5am (when most of the world would be sleeping) would impact your entire life. That is the core of this 250-page self-help guide. While the author talks mostly about this one concept, he also delves into topics like the 66-day habit formation technique, the importance of sleep and the influence of sufficient rest (relaxation).
Every book offers us at least one takeaway and this book – despite an unrelatable narrative – promises more than one. I believe Robin Sharma could have delivered this message in around 30 pages (instead of 250) and made the same impact. However, he had some amazing quality content. There are lots of good messages conveyed and we’ll see them in the following order:
- What is the book about?
- 4-focuses of history makers
- Habit formation
- The 20/20/20 formula
- Importance of sleep
- Importance of rest
- Your personal GPS
1. WHAT IS THE BOOK ABOUT?
We were all heroes when we were children. We stared at stars with delight, ran around and felt alive. As we grew up, we forgot to be loving and wildly alive. We accepted being ordinary. But, we are all destined to be great. A legend is not always born, one could also be made through good habits and practice. 5am is called The Victory Hour. It could be the keystone habit that would help us change every other habit for good. By having a better awareness of ourselves and our surroundings, we could make better choices which would then yield better results.
All change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.
2. 4-FOCUSES OF HISTORY MAKERS
We have been made to believe that people are born with talents. But its not always the case. Yes, Michael Phelps was indeed born with a long torso and short legs, thus making him an apt swimmer. But, despite his brilliance and giftedness, he had the dedication and discipline to become the most decorated Olympian of all time. Great people are not always born with talent. They nurture talent.
The “learned victimhood” phenomenon – We become complacent as we tend to leave youth. We settle for ordinary and constantly believe in settling for what is familiar rather than expanding our horizons. We accept mediocrity. We feed this into our subconscious mind and this becomes our identity. The secret is to break the shackles every single time we are in the victim mode. When you raise your self-respect and vote for your superior self rather than your weaker side, the gifts that you were born with will grow.
2. Freedom from distraction:
An addiction to distraction is the death of our creative production.
Though our intellect realizes a distraction, our emotions give in. Technology well used is a phenomenal thing. The misuse of it is dangerous. Most of us suffer from broken focus syndrome due to many gadgets, interruptions, and cyber noise. So, we must stop managing time and start managing focus. Being busy does not mean being productive.
Our ancient brain’s default behavior is to look out for danger. This is what saved us from threats, starvation, temperatures and other predators when life was brutal. But in today’s world, we do not meet these fears often, yet the brain still has this negativity bias. Whenever you get out of your comfort zone, Amygdala – grey matter in your brain, responsible for experiencing emotions – fires up, sending a range of emotions (majorly fear). You’d be scared of the unknown ahead and begin to lose focus. At this juncture, you are highly vulnerable to distraction. But by being aware of this fact, you can channel your inner potential and overcome these temporary distractions. When you are in the flow and begin to experience fear, continue. Do not stop what you are doing, do not get distracted.
3. Personal mastery practice:
We have all been taught that by improving our minds, we improve our lives. It’s true your beliefs drive your behavior. But, a superb mind without a pure heart amounts to nothing. Heartset is your emotional life. Keep your heart devoid of anger, guilt, fear & resentment. Ensure your dark emotions from the past are cleared out. Replace negative emotions with healthy ones.
Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and they will come forth later in uglier ways.
After our mindset and heartset would come the healthset & soulset. Healthset refers to our fitness. The secret to legendary is longevity. With regular exercise, we stay healthy, and our physical health would result in cognitive benefits. Finally, soulset refers to our spirituality. To feel the spirit inside us and to grow compassion and courage, spend some time in solitude every day and meditate.
4. Day stacking:
We focus a lot on our future and long-term goals that sometimes we tend to forget that each day matters. When we do small, seemingly insignificant things consistently over a long period of time, it translates to success. These are called micro-wins. Be it a routine, business skill, or relationships; with only 1% improvement daily, the days will become weeks, weeks will become months, and years.
Consistency is the DNA of mastery
3. HABIT FORMATION
Scientific studies prove every habit follows a similar repetitive loop: TRIGGER -> RITUAL -> REWARD. There’s always a trigger. Once we get the trigger, we follow a routine/ritual. After the routine, we get a reward. This happens repeatedly until the habit loop is formed. This is explained better in The power of habit by Charles Duhigg. He calls it the “cue-routine-reward” loop. This habit loop is then stored in our subconscious memory and reused whenever needed so that our active brain does not need to spend its energy.
I’d dive deeper into this when I talk about The Power of Habit in a separate blog. It is one of my favorite books. I found it far more interesting, with excellent examples and stunning results of scientific studies.
4. THE 20/20/20 FORMULA
This is the core of the book. This is where the author actually shares what he wishes for us to do in the victory hour. He splits the 60 minutes into 3 pockets. I’ve designed a much-simplified version of the actual model.
This morning routine is not a hard-and-fast rule. Customize it to your preferences to suit your lifestyle.
Pocket #1: MOVE
Do some sweaty exercise early in the morning. Exercise could mean anything – burpees, jumping jacks, Yoga, skipping. Do what you like. When we exercise, dopamine is secreted and our metabolism improves. It increases our productivity and fuels energy.
Peak health is true wealth
Pocket #2: REFLECT
Meditate and pray for a few minutes. This is a period of deep peace. Contemplate what you are at present and who you wish to become. Reflect upon yourself. After meditation, use the remaining time to visualize & dream. Write a daily diary. You could even create a TO-DO list of the things you’d like to achieve through the course of the day.
By being aware, your serenity expands and you are grateful for the things and people around you. Your positivity and creativity increase and you feel tranquil.
Pocket #3 GROW
Learn something new. Read a book, listen to audiobooks or watch an educational video on finances, relationships or anything productive. When you stop learning, you stop growing. When you learn, your knowledge deepens and perspective widens.
5. IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP
“To achieve premium results, not only the calibration of the first hour of the day is important, but also the last hour of our evening ritual.”
Science now confirms that we bring early death by not sleeping enough. We are in the midst of a global sleep recession due to the increasing use of the internet and social media. Research claims that the blue light emitted from our electronic gadgets decreases the melatonin in us. Melatonin is a chemical that lets you know when your body needs sleep. It is not only the quantity but also the quality of sleep that determines your brain’s optimum condition.
HGH (Human Growth Hormone) – produced in the pituitary gland of the brain – is necessary for important tissues in your body, strong metabolism, and a long lifespan. HGH would raise your moods and energy levels. 75% of our HGH is produced when we sleep. The author also claims scientific studies now prove that the optimum sleep time is between 7.5 and 9 hours.
By 8 pm, try and finish your last meal of the day. Stay away from the gadgets for the rest of the night. Talk to your loved ones, read or listen to podcasts. Also, try writing a gratitude journal. Then, prepare to sleep in a cool, dark, technology-free bedroom. The secret is to switch-off gracefully.
6. IMPORTANCE OF REST
Longevity is the key to legendary.
We need to learn how to balance intense work routine with deep rest and recovery so we can refresh, replenish and sustain longer. Many athletes suffer from hyperextension of knees and never play again. So, it is paramount to learn the concept of supercompensation. A muscle tears to the edge of its capacity during the training and grows further when you rest and recover. Similarly, after pushing your skills to its limit, you’d need to wait for a period of regeneration. This is also called the work-rest ratio. We have to oscillate between periods of focused, potent work and blocks of time set for refueling and relaxing.
Your growth happens when you are resting.
Self-care is essential. Working day and night doesn’t make you efficient, it only makes you cranky. So, it is important you rest. Nourish yourself. Bike, sleep, swim, read, chill. The idea is to have fun and take time off work. When you rest well and return to work, you often come back inspired, on fire and alive.
7. YOUR PERSONAL GPS
“Be around people who fuel your joy. Perform pursuits that feed your bliss. Be in places that make you feel alive.”
Bonus: Not an early riser? Often feel groggy when you wake up from sleep? Do not worry. You are not alone. Science backs you. By knowing what happens to your body when you wake up, you could overcome the struggle:
“When we wake up from sleep, our brain takes a while to kick back into gear. The blood starts flowing slowly to the brain stem and thalamus, and then to the pre-frontal cortex – this is where our consciousness and sense of being is reestablished. This takes a few minutes. So, use this brief gap and jump out of bed as soon as the morning alarm goes off. This way, even before your conscious self tells you to hit the snooze button, you are already out of bed.”
As Robin Sharma reiterates time and again, the models he suggests throughout this book are not carved in stone. Try them, play around and feel free to customize to suit your preferences. The whole idea is to use the first hour of your day to its fullest potential.
What did you like the most about this book? How useful was this write-up? Please comment on your feedback or leave me a personal message. It would help me write better. See you soon in another episode of The Book Talk. Cheers.
Icon credits (used to design):
- Flaticon – Freepik
- Flaticon – Smashicons
- Flaticon – Gregor Cresnar
- Flaticon – Nikita Golubev
- Flaticon – Monkik
- Flaticon – Becris