Not a “Morning Person”? Why That’s Simply a Lie You’re Telling Yourself

by | BiggerPockets.com

“I’m not a morning person — and there is no way I am getting up at [X:XX a.m.] because that time just doesn’t work for me.”

Does this sound familiar? I was chatting with my dad about this in the past week, over shooting clays on a cold but beautiful New Year’s Day. We were having wonderful father and son time together, talking about life, kids, and business. I started to explain to him I had drastically changed my morning routine for about three weeks. I told him I’d been getting up THREE HOURS earlier than I had been. He looked at me stunned, like I’d just developed a second nose on my bearded face.

“THREE HOURS EARLY? SERIOUSLY? You are NOT a morning person, let alone someone able to get up at 5:00 a.m. everyday.”

My dad even brought up the mug my parents bought me (which still sits in my cupboard) that says, “I’m allergic to mornings.” For decades now, I’ve been telling myself I’m not a morning person, unable to begin my days at a consistent — and especially not early — time of the day.

Guess what? It’s all a lie. Every bit of it. And the sad part is, I hadn’t recognized the fact that each time I allowed my body and mind to believe something, it was true. “Not a morning person” — nope, definitely not. “Not good a leading people, too overbearing” — YEP. “Horrible at leading and managing people; someone else needs to do it.” “I’m not a numbers guy.” And so on and so forth.

I read this back over as I am writing it, and it’s a visceral punch in the gut. Why would I decide to tell myself these crazy lies? And give in to such stupid thought processes and self talk? This kind of conversation is unproductive and useless, self-limiting and disastrous. It’s time to write and tell a different story.

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The Epiphany Moment

I like to read books, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, anything that makes me think. A month or so ago while on a road trip, I was listening to the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod in the car, taking his story in.  If you haven’t read this book yet or listened to the audio, you should. His story is incredible. The life and business he has lived (and continues to live) is extraordinary and well-explained in his book.

There are a lot of nuggets in the book, but the one I want to focus on today is his morning routine. He was at one of the pivotal moments in his life and had gone to a friend seeking advice. They told him to get up and go for a run first thing in the morning. So the next day, he went out, got a run in, and had a productive morning. And then, day after day, he started getting up a little bit earlier, incorporating these 6 components to the start of his day:

  1. Silence
  2. Affirmations
  3. Visualizations
  4. Exercise
  5. Reading
  6. Writing

As you may expect, the first part of the entire “miracle morning” involved doing something I didn’t do, getting up early. But the longer I listened to the book and the more I allowed myself to dive into my own conscience, I realized I was just putting up my own road blocks to something I didn’t want to do.

Related: 5 Habits and Methods to Supercharge Your Productivity

And that was it. I finally realized I was telling myself a lie, and that lie had to end. I wasn’t sure what time would be good to get up, but as I discovered these self-limiting ideas, I decided to destroy them one by one.

“You are where you are because of who you were, but where you go depends entirely on who you choose to be.” — Hal Elrod

I’m Not an Early Riser

I’m not. Seriously, I hate getting up in the morning. I have to remember to set the alarm clock. And then my clothes, do I need to pick them out before bed? And what the heck do people do before the sun is up? I need more sleep because I like to stay up later.

After reading Hal’s book, I decided I would make myself do a two-week trial of getting up earlier. Previously, I had no scheduled time I would wake up. I just woke up at whatever time. This is a great plan — if you like not having a plan. I’d be out of bed around 8:00 a.m., give or take 30-60 minutes. Then I’d have a rushed cup of coffee, figure out whatever chaos I had missed in my inbox the night before, attempt to eat some breakfast, and immediately start working. Without going into great detail, as you may have already gathered, this was NOT a good plan. What if I woke up later than expected? Or I felt tired? Or didn’t get the start on what I needed to because I hadn’t controlled the time I was starting or what I was starting my day with? I was immediately in a bad position mentally and physically — unprepared for everyone else around me.

In Hal’s book, he talks about first getting up one hour earlier, and then eventually most people have such a change of experience, they start waking up two hours earlier. I figured since I had been such a slacker with the time I was up, I would go to three hours earlier, and I set my alarm clock the first day for 5:00 a.m.

Five a.m., as expected, came too fast, and the alarm clock, away from my bed, got me out quickly to shut it off. I jumped in the shower, brushed my teeth, grabbed a cup of freshly made coffee, and sat down with a book. It was around 5:20 a.m. I read, did push-ups, and spent time in gratitude for my children, my wife, my parents, my brother and sister, my business, and our people. I visualized our year end of 2016 and what 2017 would look like.

To say this one thing has been a life-changer is an understatement. Not only do I enjoy getting up at 5:00 a.m. after these several weeks of doing it, I am more calm, more productive, and often have written or read a book for an hour, before 6:30 a.m. I go to bed reminding myself that tomorrow morning will be awesome. That doesn’t mean I’m not a little sleepy or haven’t had a hard time a few mornings getting out of bed with the 10 degree weather and snow on the ground. But my morning now starts with purpose.

“Those who only do what they feel like don’t do much. To be successful at anything, you must take action even when you don’t feel like it, knowing that the action itself will produce the motivation you need to follow through.” — Hal Elrod

real-estate-negotiation

I’m Not a Good Leader of People

In our business, as much as it has grown, developed, and become something pretty amazing in the last 12 months, there was something lacking. I was always out in the field or on the phone, looking for deals and buying houses. Being in the real estate business, that is obviously important. But I was seldom in the office, and I didn’t have a pulse on the operations side of our business. For years, I’ve struggled with leading people — or at least I felt that way. There are several experiences that I held (too) close and still had a vivid memory of failing as a leader.

Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to be a good leader. I just felt like I couldn’t. That it wasn’t in my wheelhouse. For years, I’ve been into reading books like Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink, Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman, The Millionaire Real Estate Investor by Gary Keller — all of these are awesome books. They were all preparing me for life, real estate investing, managing, or leading. But I had set up the mental block that I wasn’t capable of leading my team, and so I hadn’t.

One day, I was chatting with my partner, David, and just that day, I had the epiphany moment about our business, our team, and our leadership within in it. I told him I had led successful bands and traveled doing mass choirs and playing shows for years. Musicians are some of the wildest, most hard-headed people I know (and I would know, having played professional music for more than a decade). And I could go anywhere, meet any musician, and just about always help bring cohesion to the band. I could understand who and want we needed to get the groove and feel we were looking for.

All the sudden it hit me — I just had to “lead the band.”

On one hand, I felt completely sick. Had I been telling myself this lie all along? How had I missed this opportunity? How had I let my team and my partner down? And then, how would I take the reins within my business as the leader, with non-militant dictator-type approach?

Guess what? Being up earlier, I started getting to the office earlier. Then, I was there to help answer questions people had and understand problems we had in the office. I could coach them on how to speak in negotiations with contractors, with problem tenants, or on rehabs that were not going quite as planned. A trust develops as people know you are going to be there for them. I now know what the problems are and what to fix — because I am there.

I am a leader of people. I just had to forget my negative self talk and ignore the past failures. I had to just “lead the band.” Although we still have issues in the office, in just 2-3 weeks, the vibe and operations in the office have already fundamentally changed, and we can see where we are going and how to get there as a team.

“Every goal we have is preceded by a process. The secret to success is to be committed to the daily process, without being emotionally attached to your results. You should absolutely be emotionally engaged in your goals, but not emotionally attached. What’s the difference? When you are emotionally engaged, you create excitement and enthusiasm for the possibility of achieving your goals, but when you are emotionally attached, you create fear and pain that you might not.” — Hal Elrod

Related: 6 Words That Will Forever Change How You Wake Up in the Morning

I’m Not A Good Numbers Guy

Did you know, I’ve never felt like I had a good grasp on my finances, investments, or income. When I was working in the non-profit world, I had a very base level salary, and our income and finances were week-by-week, money in and money out. It was weeks and weeks of the same struggle to just get by and pay our bills. I’m not suggesting it has anything to do with the non-profit or church world I was working in; this is only to set the stage for what I was making income-wise.

After leaving the church leading services as a worship leader, I went off on my own with our real estate business. Soon, not only did we have a few real estate deals going, but in just over a year, we had built a multi-million dollar organization with employees, books, an accountant, and an attorney on retainer. The cost just to keep our “lights on” and employees paid was all the sudden more a month than I had ever made in a year. Still, I had no idea what was really going on in my personal finances, with barely an understanding of what the actual financials looked like.

This, again, was all a lie to myself.

But because I recognized it, I knew I could change it. On the business side, I started working through reading our balance sheet and P&L statements, learning to understand what everything was. I was blessed to have a business partner who loved working with complex, detailed spreadsheets. He could also help with analysis and help teach and explain things to me. Now I know how much we invest per dollar we make on average, what kind of average priced deals we have, and how long they’ve taken to rehab and sell.

mint-software

On our personal finance side, I had always sat in my office for weeks on end for tax season, pouring over months and months of old statements, with receipts everywhere, creating a giant mess during tax time. As the years have gone on, my taxes have become more and more complicated, with more and more detail required. In the middle of this past year, I decided I was no longer going to endure this painful process of throwing everything together last minute.

I went and hired a VA who is has a U.S. Masters Degree in Accounting and who started sifting through, statement by statement, line by line, and putting together my first ever personal household balance sheet and P&L. No matter what income level you have, no matter how simple or complicated your finances are, this change will lead you to understand where your money is going, what your net worth is, and what you are spending on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. There will be discoveries within these numbers and pages you don’t like, and you will then have the opportunity to make better choices next time.

Numbers and details have not been a strength of mine or something I like to deal with. However, there will no longer be an excuse of not knowing what something is or how to read what is going on in my personal or business financials. And, in the cases where I struggle to put something together, I will find people who can help me, teach me, and get the information I need to be in the know. I no longer make excuses to not understand or control my own destiny.

I will own what it is, fix my owner personal thought process around it, learn and obsess over it, and make it mine. I am and will be whatever I believe and tell myself I can be.

“You are always exactly where you are supposed to be, experiencing what you need to experience, to learn what you must learn, in order to become the person you need to be to create the life you truly want. Always.” — Hal Elrod

Are you a “morning person”? What area do you struggle with that you plan on tackling this year?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Nathan Brooks

Nathan Brooks is a dad, husband, worship leader, and real estate investor in the Kansas City market. Foodie. Coffee addict. Crossfit junkie.

38 Comments

  1. Tim Puffer

    It’s definitely a big transition to start waking up early. I’ve been waking up at 4:53 for the past year now – it definitely was a battle to get to that point. It’s very easy to get conditioned to wake up as late as you can to leave just enough time to get ready in the morning and then – off you go! I love being able to have working out, coffee, breakfast, meditating done before most people even brush their teeth. It’s like you already beat 95% of everyone just by waking up!!
    I hope you are able to keep it going long term – it really is beneficial!

  2. John C.

    Agree completely. We are what we put our minds to. If we tell ourselves that we are slackers then that is what we will do. If we tell ourselves that waking up early is “not for me,” then we allow our own made up idea to control us.

    each of us controls our own destinies, and can accomplish anything we put our minds to. For the most part.

    • Nathan Brooks

      This is on point. We have/do whatever we can envision, and are willing to put in the work. I realize that being a professional basketball player who is 5 feet tall (and many other super specific super high net worth positions) are out there … but the concept is true, and does make all the difference with what we tell ourselves.

  3. John C.

    My FIL has not been “a morning person” his whole life. He used to work the late shift at his job. 30 years of coming home at midnight. We could never get him to wake up before noon because he always wanted to watch tv until 5:00 am. Lol.

    He’s been retired for over 10 years and has yet to make any changes, still proclaiming that he doesn’t like waking up early, yet still going to bed at 5:00 am.

    Surprisingly, when he travels overseas for weeks or months at a time, he can automatically adjust to the different time zones and end up with his usual routine within 2 days.

    We love him for all his quirkiness. We just can’t get him to have breakfast with us or go on a road trip early in the morning with us.

    It’s amazing how he has managed to allow his own made up idea to control him his entire life. Lol.

    • Nathan Brooks

      Hi Robert, this would obviously be an actual issue preventing you from taking the action, which I really wasn’t dealing with in the particular post. Sounds like a very trying sort of experience. Have you friend any sort of diet/exercise changes? Or blood work done? I wonder how much body make up can make a different? Best of luck Robert … love to hear more on it.

    • Sonia Spangenberg

      Thanks Nathan for a very encouraging article. I have always been a night owl since childhood. I read books with a flashlight at night. Then when i started my Nursing career most of the early part of my 20 years in nursing was working night shift. I did have to work a day night schedule at one point which was ridiculous, but that was the system on the unit I worked. I did manage. I do desire to work on my productivity and my “not a numbers” person labels however. I feel that it is just a matter of how bad I want it. I started Hal Elrod’s book once and tried his method for about a week however things slipped back into old patterns. In Robert Steele’s link from Wiki… there is still some hope for modification of sleep cycle in the milder cases which I feel is probably me, so I will try again, I will commit to reading the whole “Miracle Morning” book not just the first few chapters before starting ; – ) Just because it is important to me to try. I believe in always working on improvement, until I die! Nathan your issues sound similar to mine so I am grateful for your report of success. Thanks.

  4. John Teachout

    Well, as far as the morning person portion of the article, I completely disagree. I have never been a morning person and never will be. That doesn’t mean I can’t get up and do what needs to be done if it needs to be done earlier, my body just isn’t happy about it. I won’t criticize the “morning person” people for not being alert and making spreadsheets at 11pm like I do. Not sure why “mornings” are a more valuable time than “evenings” or nights. But different strokes. Being a morning person or a night person is not the same as being a lazy person. What time of day one works shouldn’t matter as long as there is adequate production.

    • Nathan Brooks

      Hi John … thanks for reading and responding, and in this case, disagreeing. I made my living as a musician for more than a decade, and lived in the up at 10am, and in bed at 2 or 3am for a long long time.

      However, everything about the post still applies … you can just change the time it starts. The point of it is not to argue the time you get up, it’s about the application of having intention in that time. For me, starting at 5am game me the time to implement intentional time in the morning and starting each day with purpose.

  5. Laura Tokgozoglu

    I am working on getting up earlier….my problem is I have no structure in my life right now…I homeschooled my children and I suppose I am now “retired”. My husband and I are very interested in investing in Real Estate and just bought our first property. I am thinking of getting my realtors license, but we are moving to another state in a year so I dont know if getting a license now would make sense. I love staying up late and reading…sometimes till 3AM! And then I get up at 11 or 12! I have read Hal Elrods book and I really liked it. I like what you said about the lies we tell ourselves. I know I am much more productive if I get up earlier!

  6. Drew Marting

    Thanks for sharing some of your insight Nathan. Turned out to be a really good an insightful article. I am now on the wait list for The Miracle Morning through the local library. You were exactly right talking about the excuses we all tell ourselves. I have 19 month old twin girls and before they came along I went to the gym almost every morning. Now I tell myself I am too busy to deal with the gym in the mornings but nothing has truly changed. Time for me to quit making excuses and add some more value out of my mornings.

    • Nathan Brooks

      Thanks Drew, I really appreciate your kind words and taking the time to share them. I think the honest answer is we all have those things in our life we have made excuses on. Now its just having the (constant) awareness of not where we are lacking so much, but how we are continually aware and working on them. Get back after it brother, you will feel a lot better! I know when I miss a workout, I am a mess!

  7. Malcolm Miles

    Great article! Ironically I just listened the podcast featuring Hal Elrod yesterday and I implemented the practice immediately this morning. Today was a great day. Even though I did not have to go to work, the meditation and affirmation alone gave the day positivity, clarity and purpose. Looking forward to winning tomorrow morning!

  8. Alex Sanfilippo

    Solid post man!!! Very good. Sounds like we’re really similar. About 6 months ago I began waking up earlier and since that time I’ve grown tremendously. I now have more time than ever with a greater control of it. I even found time to release an eBook!

  9. Niti Jamdar

    Excellent post! Very inspiring! My wife and I started the two week challenge today of waking up at 6am…felt amazing to be up so early. We have two kids including a new born, so we know is going to be tough to keep up, but no excuses! 🙂

  10. Jerry W.

    Nathan,
    Thank you for this article. I began getting up early beginning in early 2016. Things were pretty stressful at work, and I was waking up at 3:00 a.m., or 4:00 a.m. and staring at the ceiling trying not to wake my wife up. I began getting up at 6:00 and doing some silence, meditation, etc. Now I get up go run on a treadmill at the firehall. It has been over 20 degrees below zero here lately so I am not getting out very often and so sometimes just get on the computer or read a book. I have been able to get up to running about 4 miles a few times a week. I listen to music and think about my life, my goals and remind myself to be grateful for what I have. The stress is still there, but is a little more manageable. I lost over 10 pounds as well. I decided my life would not change if I did not change it. I decided I wanted to run a 5K and used that as motivation to train. I successfully ran my 5K last summer taking 6th. I am not looking to find a mastermind/accountability group.
    One other pointer, I bought a fit bit and it helps motivate me to keep going. The little input and badges help me feel I am achieving milestones. Anyway thanks again for the article. It was great.

    • Nathan Brooks

      This is so awesome Jerry, thank you for sharing. I love all the things here you’ve gotten into because of that time in the morning. Now more healthy, aware of what you are doing exercise wise, and setting new and cool milestones for yourself. Keep after it brother, and seriously … thank you for sharing your personal story here. It is really meaningful.

  11. Michael Woodward

    No disrespect Nathan but I’ve always wondered why some people associate productivity and discipline with getting up early in the morning. I read Hal’s book and experimented with his method but I’m living proof that it’s not a good fit for everyone. The fact is (based on my own experience) that not everyone’s body responds the same way with regard to their sleep schedule. My body clock is set to be most productive between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.. I’ve found that using that time block optimizes my alertness and productivity. If I get up much earlier than that, my body reacts very negatively (excessive sleepiness, vulnerability to colds and flu’s, etc) so I’ve learned where my optimal schedule is and I follow it.

    The bottom line is that there are 24 hours in the day….. that’s it! No one gets more time or less time than that. What you do with that time is what matters. I might still be working and being highly productive right up to 10 p.m. when most of the early birds have been asleep for two or more hours. I also realize (and am envious) that there are people that function very well on five or six hours of sleep but I can tell you that I’m not one of them. I’ll be sick very quickly if I don’t get at least seven hours.

    Regardless, thanks for the article. I’m sure it will help some people that haven’t already tried this.

    • Nathan Brooks

      Hi Michael … I think the important message here is setting the time. If you want to be and are productive up to 3am, and want to get up at 10am instead of noon, that’s cool. I did that kind of schedule for years in the music business. The point is establishing the time you are going to get up, and then having a plan of what you are doing after.

  12. Jeff Rabinowitz

    I do like not having a plan. It gives me the freedom to view everything that comes my way as an opportunity that I can jump on and commit to whenever I find an interesting project. I have done many of my deals precisely because of this. Deals that I couldn’t have conceived of just a short time prior to doing them. I never planned to be a landlord. I never imagined I would tear down a house and build a new one. How does one plan for something that they have no conception of?

    I am a night person. I stay up late and think, enjoy the silence, write, read, attend to paperwork, everything that you seem to imply can only be done early in the morning. It is quieter late at night than early in the morning. (Those are often the same aren’t they?) I often write e-mails to my partners at 4 am–my partners know that is a late night for me, not an early morning. They know that if they wish to phone me before 10 am it is likely their call will go to voicemail but if they call at midnight I just may pick up. They also know that if they send a proposal via e-mail that I will give it my full attention when it is convenient for me. It is likely they will have my answer when they wake up the next morning. It has been years since I woke up to an alarm clock. I wake up when I am rested and ready to start my day.

  13. This is probably my favorite article I have come across on waking up early and one of my favorites on the BP community. I recently began waking up at 4 AM and heading straight out for a run. I have the time to work on personal and business projects that were forced to take a backseat due to the constant chaos of the day. The best part about being up this morning is the silence from the rest of the world. I know I am getting a step up on the competition and I am able to accomplish so much more in a day. Not to mention I am so worn out by days end, I can actually fall asleep. I had trouble sleeping but now there is now trouble. I think that stems from two things 1. exhaustion and 2. feeling that I accomplished so much today. Thanks again.

  14. Stephen Shelton

    Try as I might i can only breathe air, but if I only believe in myself and get rid of these negative words polluting my mind I’ll be able to breathe water.

    Sorry but I have to call BS on this. Half the year during K-12 I had to get up early. For years I worked traditional hours and even got up earlier to miss a daily traffic jam. I certainly tried more than a couple weeks, and I am not a morning person.

    I hate mornings. It’s a sensation that is painless yet is as uncomfortable as pain. It’s a real thing, and part of being a morning person is that the idea of feeling run-down after lunch is an alien concept to me. While morning people are getting groggy I’m getting into my prime.

    It should also be noted that when I’m awake, I’m awake because I’m awake. I’m not awake because I have loaded my body with coffee to get that stimulant in my body.

    Naps? What are those? My dad was a huge advocate of doing everything in the morning. One Saturday he even dragged me to the Kmart knockoff it was even open. He certainly wasn’t lazy, but come 4-5pm he was sawing logs on the couch!

    My body does not like the 5am-8am timeframe PERIOD it doesn’t matter if I’m awake in these hours because I got up early or stayed up late. My body just does not like these hours at all no matter how much sleep I got.

    And, ultimately, what difference does it make? Aside from the annoyances of morning people inventing reasons why weekend events must be at the crack of dawn (i.e. “we have to do it before it gets too hot” yes people actually say that) and why morning people just adjust events earlier because, god forbid, you schedule anything after sunset. If this is a site encouraging entrepreneurship then who cares? Why is it better for Person A to do something at 7am than for Person B to do it 6 hours earlier? I actually setup Outlook to hold late night emails until “Early Bird” hours because I heard a Morning Person say “well, [adjuster] sent me emails at 2am, that’s because it was at the bar all night and worked on my issue after he got home!”

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