I sat in bed, listening to my phone’s alarm clock.
“Why did I do this to myself?” I asked.
In that moment, I could not understand why I decided to wake up so goddamn early.
“This is crazy,” I thought. “No one wakes up this early, especially me. I’m a night owl. I’m not a morning person.”
The excuses kept coming.
I felt tired. I went to bed late. I wanted to hit the snooze button. I had a long weekend. I needed to rest. My bed was comfortable. I was comfortable.
However, I had a problem: my phone was on the other side of the room.
I placed my phone across room last night, knowing that I would have to force myself to stand up and walk over to it to turn it off this morning. I learned the hack in The Miracle Morning for Writers, which teaches writers how to build a writing ritual.
The hack was reenforced again last night after reading several articles (article 1, article 2, article 3) about Jocko Willink, a former Navy SEAL commander. Jocko, who is now a Twitter phenom, is known for his profound staccato advice and for taking a picture of his watch every morning when he wakes up at zero dark thirty to tackle the day.
As he writes in new book, Extreme Ownership:
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. . . . Waking up early was the first example I noticed in the SEAL Teams in which discipline was really the difference between being good and being exceptional.
Why I woke up at 4:30am today
I woke up at 4:30am today because I wanted to test myself and because I wanted to be exceptional.
Those were my goals, and I succeeded in accomplishing them. While small, they were significant and symbolic for me.
First, I passed the test, getting out of bed and getting to work writing this article for you. To be honest, waking up at 4:30am sucked and I hated it. Hell, you might even hate this article. Who knows? No matter, the key lesson is that you have to show up and do the work anyway, whether you feel like it or not.
Then, I was exceptional, not in a pretentious way in which I thought that waking up early made me better than anyone else. I simply acted in an exceptional way.
To be exceptional, you just need to act differently, to be the exception to the rule. There is no magic or mystery about it. Being exceptional is pretty straightforward.
Still, most people are not exceptional. Most people follow the rules, the customs, the status quo. Few dare to challenge assumptions and go their own way. Few even try. Most people do not wake up at 4:30am. So, by definition, those who do are exceptional.
“No one does X . . . except Y,” they might say. “Y” could be you if you gave it a shot.
You can apply framework anywhere.
In your personal life, you set yourself apart from everyone else by finding what makes you exceptional. What is your unique combination of passions, motivations, and traits? What makes you weird?
In business, you distinguish your brand by serving a customer that no other company serves, by offering a product or service that no other company offers. Who is unserved or underserved? What do they want and need?
Remember that you and/or your business does not need to be better, just exceptional. When you act exceptionally, people notice. They may not care, they do notice.
Now, go do something exceptional.
What makes you exceptional? Leave a comment and share.