In Extreme Ownership, former Navy SEAL/super successful internet guy/best-selling author/super yoked dude Jocko Willink talks about waking up at your alarm's first sound as the first test of the day.
I have three [alarm clocks], as I was taught by one of the most feared and respected instructors in SEAL training: one electric, one battery powered, one windup. That way, there is no excuse for not getting out of bed, especially with all that rests on that decisive moment. The moment the alarm goes off is the first test; it sets the tone for the rest of the day. The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win — you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail. Though it seems small, that weakness translates to more significant decisions. But if you exercise discipline, that too translates to more substantial elements of your life.Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, Extreme Ownership, p. 271
Now, I know there's a lot in there that's not “vibing” with the general tone I try to set here on the blog — instructors who are great and feared, not waking up when you're tired equaling weakness and failure. It's pretty intense.
But a friend once gave me this aphorism to chew on: hard words make soft people, and soft words make hard people. And I think we need folks like Willink once in a while to speak a radically different perspective into our lives. So I like his toughness; in it, there's a clarity I sometimes lack.
The alarm clock is the test. Pass the test, and you get the prize of more time, more agency; fail the test, and you don't get those prizes. That's pretty inarguable.
Lately, I've mostly not passed this test. Of the past ten weekdays, I'd guess I've woken up at my 5:00 or 5:30 am alarm clock maybe half of the days. BUT each of the times I've done it, I really do notice a difference in my thinking, my writing, my teaching, and my general enjoyment of the day. It also makes it easier to fall asleep when I want to later that day.
So, in case it helps you, I wanted to share the thought — Jocko Willink's “first test of the day.”
And what's the first test of a class period? More next time.
The real test might be “did you go to bed on time the night before so you wake up and feel great, maybe even before the alarm?” Good habits make stronger people.
Dave Stuart Jr. says
Right on, Temple K!
Susan Vogt says
His advice was absolutely fascinating even in my retirement. I have set up a self study program for myself.
The earlier I was up the more I can do.
Elizabeth Woo says
Great post. I’d heard something similar before: Catholic saint Josemaría Escrivá called this “the heroic minute”, which I love. You can google it for more context.
Dave Stuart Jr. (@davestuartjr) says
The heroic minute — that is beautiful, Elizabeth, thank you for sharing that!
Dave – I’m still chewing on this: “hard words make soft people, and soft words make hard people.” Would you explain this aphorism in your Dave-way, please?