The popular phrase “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” can be found in literature, in some form, as far back as 1496. Benjamin Franklin included the saying in his book “Poor Richard’s Almanac” in 1735 and was an early riser himself — and not because that bolt of lightning ruined his ability to get a good night’s rest. We all want more time in the day to accomplish goals or to explore hobbies outside of work. But the idea of laying down to rest after a long day of work only to set your alarm for 5:00 AM sounds miserable. However, many great men and women throughout history beat the sun every morning and have been all the better for it.
Here are three examples of leaders from different walks of life that make an early-morning routine seem infinitely more valuable than that extra hour or two of shuteye:
1. President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt
Many presidents are known as early risers, but none did as much with their time as Roosevelt. Throughout his lifetime, he worked tirelessly to better himself physically and mentally. He was in incredible physical shape from his teenage years and time at Harvard.
To allow himself the time to work on himself and other interests, Roosevelt studied in the early hours of every morning so he could pursue other activities in the evening. He continued a similar routine throughout what he called a “strenuous life.”
“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life,” Roosevelt said, “the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.”
For you and me, success might not look like being a rancher, author, explorer, and President of the United States but giving yourself extra hours each day, EARLY in the day, allows you the freedom to pursue passions you otherwise can’t fit in.
2. Robert “Bob” Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company
Disney is much more than a mouse with a funny voice and princesses. No one knows that better than Iger. It is a behemoth in the entertainment industry: employing over 180,000 (as of 2014) and raking in over $52 Billion in revenues (2015).
To run a company of Disney’s magnitude, Iger knows his day must start the right way. He get’s out of bed at 4:30 AM every morning, regardless of the day, to enjoy some quiet, exercise, and good old-fashioned alone time.
For those of you with hectic work days with non-stop meeting, emails, and phone calls, a few hours every morning to yourself are priceless. Not only are you taking care of yourself, you’re already accomplishing goals before the sun peeks into your windows.
3. Richard Branson, Investor & Founder of the Virgin Group
Branson is a notorious early riser, and he doesn’t do it to brush his glorious hair.
By waking up at 5:00 AM every morning, Branson finds time for himself, his family, and routine tasks to make business hours less of a drain.
“Founding a business comes with a lot of responsibility, and one of the most important things I can be is accessible,” Branson wrote in 2014. “Getting up and at it early gives me time to get on top of things, and chart my day effectively…”
“I find the period of quiet, before most of the world logs on, to be a great time to catch up on news and reply to emails. These early hours give me the opportunity to start each day with a fresh and organized slate.”
Branson, who was knighted at Buckingham Palace in 2000, understands not every person loves the wee hours of the morning, but the benefits of an extra hour or three are undeniable.
“Being an early riser isn’t about trumpeting how hard you work,” he said. “It’s about doing everything within your power to help your business achieve success; and if that means you have to get up at an hour not known to most, then you might as well enjoy the sunrise.”
The expectation isn’t for you to turn back the alarm two hours to instantly turn yourself into a legendary president, major CEO, or billionaire investor.
However, explore the benefits and decide if it’s worth it to utilize the early hours for yourself, your work and your family. Maybe that change could make your goals more obtainable and family life more fulfilling.
It works for them. It might just work for you, too.
Just make sure to stock up on coffee.