High performers, such as Elon Musk and Richard Branson, are incredibly talented. They have unique qualities and abilities that many of us don’t have.
But, here’s the thing: we all have unique talents.
What most of us lack, though, is the ability to create routines to focus and make the best of our natural talents.
The Habits of History’s High Performers
STEVE JOBS changed the world by asking himself one question every day. “If today was the last day of my life would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”
When the answer was negative for too many days in a row, he knew something needed to change.
Steve Job’s 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech:
Remembering I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to make the big choices in life. Because almost everything, all external expectations, all pride, fear of embarrassment and failure, all these things just fade away in the face of death. Remembering you’re still here for a reason is the best way to avoid wasting your time or your life on things that don’t really matter.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN started and ended his day with one simple question.
“What good shall I do today?”
Ben Franklin’s morning routine stretched from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. One of America’s Founding Fathers would work from 8 to 11 a.m., and then again from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. His routine had one focus only: doing the most ‘good’ each day.
At the end of the day, he’d ask himself again “What good have I done today?” and would measure how much ‘good’ he had done during the day.
BEETHOVEN created music with a routine that started at dawn.
He would wake up at dawn, have a cup of coffee and work till 3 p.m. He’d usually take a small break for lunch, followed by a midday walk.
Beethoven’s mornings were focused on his most important work – creating music.
The genius had a tendency to take frequent, well-timed breaks – a common trait among most great achievers. He knew how to pace himself to avoid fatigue and possible burnout.
Beethoven spent winter evenings at home and devoted them to serious reading. He never composed music in the evenings and made sure he went to bed at 10 p.m. at the very latest.
The Power of Rituals
High performers take consistent action which over time is the key to achieving real results.
Routines build efficiency and effectiveness. High performers aren’t as disciplined as we believe them to be. Over time, they simply developed some key habits and repeated them until they became rituals.
At the age of 27, when I was battling burnout, I realized that most people would misguide me. Sometimes it’s not what we DON’T know that is the real problem. It’s what we know that just isn’t so. Everyone was telling me that I was doing too many things, when, in fact, there were too many things that I was NOT doing.
It was then, more than 30 years ago, I began to create daily rituals to make sure I never lost balance again. One key-ritual I developed was waking up at 5:00 a.m. But, to do that, I first made a habit out of going to bed at 9:00 p.m.
I have since changed my waking time to 4:30 a.m. – not necessarily because I am a disciplined person, but rather because it’s part of my “morning ritual”. Waking up that early allows me to exercise, read, learn a new language, pray, meditate, write, shave, brush and floss my teeth, shower, eat breakfast, prepare my gym bag, and drive to work – all before 8 a.m. All these simple rituals ensure my balance.
All of them are very easy to do, but, as I realized during my burnout, even easier NOT to do.
Related: PRIORITIES are the Big Rocks
Another Example of the Power of One
Are you ready to try it, yourself? If changing your current bedtime seems too extreme, just try modifying a minute a day. In just 2 months you will both go to sleep and wake up an hour earlier.
If 20 push-ups are beyond your limit, start with 10 and add 1% each day. In 70 days, you will be doing 20. Getting started and staying motivated was never this easy.
Start small and keep adding 1.
High Performers Have Some Things in Common
1. They stay focused on their cause or life purpose
High performers not only do they respect the cause they’re loyal to, but they see showing up, doing a good job and helping others as their holy duty.
Just like the 3 men building a cathedral anecdote. When asked what they were doing, the first man replied with boredom that he’s putting brick over brick, over brick, over brick; the second answered that he’s building a wall before going back to his family; and the third man said he’s building the greatest cathedral ever seen, so that people could come and find peace.
Now, which one of the three men do you think was most productive?
2. They are masters of eliminating distractions
High performers are aware that long-term success is about execution, consistency, and talent. They are also masters of eliminating distractions that may take them away from their main focus.
3. They are early risers
High performers are usually early risers making the most of the first few hours of their day.We tend to lose track of the fact that we were created such way that we’d show most productivity in the morning. The fact that someone tilted the Earth at exactly 35 degrees always fascinated me.
With the Earth’s rotation, that exact tilt determines day and night successions; specifically, when and how much light we benefit from. Relatedly, scientists have identified patterns within our physiological processes; patterns we call circadian rhythms. These rhythms tend to synchronize with light and dark cycles.
There’s a gland in our brain, right behind the eyes, calibrating the amount of light it receives. As in the figure below, when there’s less light, around 9 p.m., it releases melatonin – the sleep hormone, letting the brain know that it’s time to rest. Oppositely, in the morning, more light inhibits melatonin release, informing the brain that it’s time to start working.
4. Most of them practice some sort of daily physical exercise
When exercising, our body deals with two main chemicals: cortisol and endorphins.
Under great pressure, such as anger or fear, our body produces cortisol. The stress hormone damages our organs, but exercising burns is, thus improving health.
Endorphins, on the other side, are hormones that park on pain-signaling receptors in the brain, reducing our perception of pain. Also, similar to morphine, they induce a positive feeling.
Exercising stimulates the brain to release more endorphins, thus making us happier.
5. They discovered and have implemented the power of rituals
We all function and perform based on patterns. Therefore, change and becoming a high performer starts from there – making sure we have the best habits in place to express and make use of our talents.
Do you want to devote the rest of your life to a meaningful pursuit that leaves the world in better shape than you found it?
You can definitely have a huge impact on the world.
Just like Steve Jobs or any of the other high performers, you have enormous, untapped potential. You just have to work out how to tap into that potential.
A great way to start is by developing a routine that minimizes distractions and keeps you focused on your one thing – your purpose. You need to focus on turning your talents into skills through a consistent routine and deliver them to the world in a way that makes a massive impact.
“Sometimes it’s not what we DON’T know that is the real problem. It’s what we know that just isn’t so.” – Ben Kubassek
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