Was Benjamin Franklin right when he wrote, “the early morning has gold in its mouth”? Malcolm Gladwell certainly thought so when he wrote in The Outliers, “No one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.”
The New York Times calls them “performative workaholics”: those who flaunt their ability to jump out of bed at an ungodly hour as proof of their conscientiousness. Just look what is happening while you’re still hitting snooze:
- 3:45am – Tim Cook, CEO of Apple is reading product reviews and checking email before going to the gym by 5:00am.
- 5:00am – Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief, Vogue is hitting the clay with a 5:45 tennis lesson followed by a professional blow-out, because, hair.
- 5:00am – Richard Branson, self-made billionaire and founder of the Virgin Group is playing tennis, walking, running, biking or kitesurfing.
- 5:00am – Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, is sweating in a sauna before plunging into a 3-minute ice bath, followed by an hour of meditation.
- 5:45am – Kevin O’Leary, multimillionaire investor, is checking the Asian and European bond markets, and using an elliptical machine or exercise bike while watching business television.
- 6:02 – 6:20am – Oprah Winfrey, self-made billionaire and founder of Harpo Productions is doing cardio and meditating before a healthy breakfast.
Research by biologist Christoph Randler in Heidelberg, Germany confirms that morning people have an advantage when it comes to business success. Even earlier in life, students who are morning people tend to get better grades, which gets them into better colleges, which leads to better job opportunities. “Morning people also anticipate problems and try to minimize them, my survey showed,” says Randler. “They’re proactive.”
Leadership guru and author of The 5am Club: Own Your Morning, Elevate Your Life, Robin Sharma, goes even further, telling Jo Ellison in The Financial Times, “…there is something truly magical about 5am. That’s why many of the great saints, mystics, writers, artists, etc. rose before sunrise. The mind and heart are more open and pure then. And we can access more of our true power and potential.”
Sharma proposes a routine of rising at 4:45am. An ideal first hour of the day would include 20 minutes of exercise; 20 minutes of meditation; and 20 minutes of listening or reading something inspiring or educational.
Whether or not you find it easy to rise early is a function of your chronotype, which, put simply, is your body’s personal pattern of responding to circadian rhythms. It is possible to shift your chronotype from a more evening bias to an earlier start, although this isn’t easy, given that 50% of a person’s chronotype is determined by genetics. (Thanks to Mom and Dad who were probably binge-watching The Crown on Netflix last night).
However, there is hope with age. One’s chronotype does evolve. “Chronotype typically changes over the course of a person’s life,” says Randler. “Children show a marked increase in eveningness from around age 13 to late adolescence, and, on balance, more people under 30 are evening types. From 30 to 50, the population is about evenly split, but after age 50, most people are morning types.”
If an early start is never going to happen for you, do not despair. Randler’s research also found that “evening people do have some advantages — other studies reveal they tend to be smarter and more creative than morning types, have a better sense of humour, and are more outgoing.” The world needs all types, right?