No one likes getting up in the morning. When that alarm clock goes off, the absolute last thing you want to do is crawl out from under your cosy duvet.
But: no more. Because the morning is where the day is won or lost, and you need to start it right my friend. Get a good start and everything else falls into place.
So how exactly to kick off your daily proceedings? Well, we asked ten successful men for their early morning secrets; read on and we guarantee that you, too will be successful in everything you do. Or, if you’re not, at least you’ll get into Thelonious Monk’s back catalogue.
“Swim a mile”
Jeff Kofman, CEO of Trint, an online transcription service
Nothing invigorates me more than an early-morning swim at my local pool. I’m in there by 6.45am. It’s me and the taxi drivers. In a way, they’ve become part of my routine. It’s the same cabbies every day and overhearing their conversations is fun – it’s always about their taxis or fares or traffic routes or how much they hate Uber. But mostly, it’s fun to eavesdrop on them because they tease each other constantly. There are other characters, too. Like the thin, elderly guy who blocks the second- fastest lane – the one I use. We call him ‘Walk-walk-swim’ because every time he gets to the end he walks two paces before swimming and holds up everybody behind him. Then he gets incredibly offended if anybody asks, “Excuse me, may I pass you?” It’s a funny subculture, the early-morning swimmers.
I swim about a mile, which gives me time to get my brain in gear. I tend to free-associate while I swim, my mind bouncing from some pressing issue at our startup to some dirt on the bottom of the pool. By the time I get home for breakfast, the grogginess of sleep is ancient history. I’m ready to take on the day.
Breakfast: Sugar-free granola, assorted fruits and nuts with almond milk. Coffee, of course.
“Make a five-point list”
Richard Baker, MD of Wattbike, the indoor power trainer
My mind gets busy as soon as I wake up at 6am, so I take five minutes to meditate, acknowledging my thoughts and letting them go. I then put pen to paper while enjoying a rooibos tea and jot down the first three to five thoughts I have for the day. Typically, I’ll write these thoughts in my notebook or on a scrap of paper and then transfer them on to my laptop to keep me focused. If I don’t follow this routine – by nature, I get drawn into trying to do lots and achieving very little, so I keep it timely.
Breakfast: Almond butter on spelt and rice crackers, or sometimes porridge or scrambled eggs with avocado.
“Listen to fast jazz”
Noel Lee, Founder AND CEO of audio electronics mega-firm Monster
What I really like in the morning is to listen to musicians who can improv quickly and very fast. I enjoy this early in the morning because you want to think quickly to get the day started. Musicians like Oscar Peterson on the piano, Art Tatum and even Thelonious Monk. Music that is very dissident and obtuse; out of the ordinary. They all provide different perspectives. I also like Dave Brubeck. He’s good for relaxing and thinking and for coming up with ideas – that’s when I listen to Brubeck. I listen to music that is uplifting and happy. I do listen to house and other genres – anything with a good rhythm, beat and bassline. There are a lot of really good new artists these days and I use Spotify to discover new talent.”
Breakfast: Chinese dumplings and oxtail soup.
“Down some apple cider vinegar”
Rich Goldsmith, founder of cold-press juice company Moju
There’s nothing like a good wince to get you going in the morning. That’s why I down a shot of apple cider vinegar. For me, the shock is invigorating and wakes me right up. It’s also a prebiotic, which means it feeds the bacteria in your gut and is said to be good for immunity.
Breakfast: A plant-based protein smoothie – homemade.
“Take a cold shower”
Joe De Sena, CEO of spartan race, the global obstacle course race
I start every day with a blitzing cold shower. It’s not fun, but stepping outside your comfort zone just a little bit every day will help you break through the obstacles you encounter in life. It also improves circulation.
Breakfast: Porridge with lots of chia and flax seeds, and berries.
Benedict Allen, explorer, writer and documentarian
In the remote Papua New Guinea jungle, you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. You go to sleep in dry clothes and wake up at dawn, soaking wet. By 8.30am, it’s unbearably hot. So you need to eat and make headway quickly. That’s where sago grubs come in. Just scrape off some bark from the sago palm tree, grab a couple of handfuls of the maggot-like creatures squirming around, and you have your breakfast.
They’re surprisingly filling and packed full of protein – the jungle equivalent of eggs benedict. Locals like to eat them raw, I prefer to fry them over a campfire. That, and I add a dash of Tabasco sauce to make it more palatable. They’re not great to eat – they can wriggle out of your throat mid-swallow – but chowing them down really helps you get in the right frame of mind for a day of swamp trekking.
Breakfast: When it’s not grubs, it’s two slices of toast and marmalade.
Benedict Allen’s UK tour, ‘Ultimate Explorer’, begins September; benedictallen.com
“Drink lemon juice”
Justin Theroux – actor, producer and screenwriter
I squeeze a lemon into water and take a probiotic. I read in some dumb magazine that lemon helps wash toxins out of your body and improves your mood or something. Having said that, I’ve definitely drank my lemon juice and still had a crappy day.
Mute is on Netflix now
“Don’t read the news”
Rutger Bregman, historian, author and professional thinker
It’s not so much what I do that defines my mornings, but what I don’t do. And I don’t read, watch or listen to the news. I gave it up some years ago and I genuinely believe it’s made me a better person. The news, you see, is all about exceptions. It’s about the things that go wrong, about corruption, violence. And if you watch too much of it, you’ll become misguided about human nature, because you’ll come to think the exceptions are the rules. So instead I spend the first 20 minutes of my day reading, always non-fiction, usually history. History helps you to start to understand the world with perspective and context.
Breakfast: Yoghurt with (sometimes homemade) granola.
Bregman’s latest book Utopia For Realists is out now (Bloomsbury)
“Jot down weird ideas”
James Kirkham, Head of sports channel Copa90
The final chapter in my increasingly bizarre dawn ritual is free-form writing. I switch to the back of my notebook and scrawl whatever comes to mind. Getting thoughts down as quickly as possible apparently allows ideas to emerge naturally without constraint. It’s a chance to ignore the cynical side of your brain. Since starting these free-form scrawls, I swear it has helped the creative process full-stop. I feel more able to bring ideas to the table during client conversations.
Breakfast: A pot of scrambled eggs, with a load of pepper, at my desk around 9am.
“Watch an Al Pacino movie speech”
Joe Fournier, millionaire nightclub mogul turned professional boxer
We all wake up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes. When you wake up and think, “Argh, I just can’t be bothered working today.” When I get that feeling, I turn to Al Pacino. Specifically, his speech in the 1999 film Any Given Sunday, about a struggling American football team. I’m up at 6.30am,
I hook up my Xbox to the TV and watch the speech on YouTube. I must have watched it about 10,000 times and it still sends tingles down my spine. It just gives me an energy to go into work, to inspire my CEOs and MDs of my companies, like Pacino does to the players he’s talking to in the film.
It’s half-time in a game and the team is getting destroyed. Pacino launches into a pep talk to end all pep talks. It reminds me of the lowest point in life, when my career as a professional basketball player was ended by injury in my early twenties. I went from captain of the England team to drinking every day, with no mates or money. It was the biggest personal battle of my life. I had to say to myself, “You can either spend the rest of your basketball money and then go on the dole, or you can do something.” So I started a fitness company, then moved into the nightclub business, and then boxing.
That’s what Pacino’s speech is about: being at your lowest and picking yourself up and taking yourself to a more powerful place. For me, the competition is with myself every day. And I want to win.
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs (using only the whites) with smoked salmon and a bowl of porridge.
Follow Joe on Instagram: @joefournierclub
(Images: Artem Verbo/Rex/Victor van Werkhooven)