August 30, 2016

Five Reasons You Should Wake Up Before 5:30 am Each Day

If you study the life habits of some of the most successful men and women in the world, certain habits seem to repeat themselves. Regular exercise, a dedication to reading, getting 6-8 hours of sleep each night, scheduled time to unwind each day with the family, etc...But one habit that can be found in almost all schedules for these individuals is the habit of waking early in the morning to start their day before anyone else. Let's take a look at a few well-known people and their morning schedules:

Tim Cook (CEO of Apple): Wakes each day at 3:45 am and immediately gets a jump on his email inbox, followed by a trip to the gym.

Jeff Immelt (CEO of General Electric): Wakes at 5:30 am each morning to work out, read the newspaper, and watch the morning news.

Jack Dorsey (CEO of Twitter & Square): Wakes at 5:00 am for meditation and a 6-mile run.

Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook): Wakes before 6:00 am and has been known to work through the night talking with Facebook employees.

So what are the benefits of setting an early alarm? If you're someone who has dedicated yourself to improving your life, you might ask yourself why you should wake up at 5:30 am each morning. What can be gained by losing an hour or two of sleep each day? The reasons are plenty, but here are my top five:

1. Small Steps Add Up:

What could you accomplish in an hour's time? If you've decided to take steps to improve your health, your career, or your overall quality of life, waking up at 5:30 am instead of 7:00 am each morning gives you an extra 90 minutes to accomplish your goal. Spend this time working on whatever it is that you've set out to accomplish. Do you want to lose 30 pounds by your birthday? Go for a run in the morning. You're less likely to encounter cars on the road or other runners, and the quiet can help you clear your mind for the day. Are you determined to get your Master's degree within the next few years? Use the extra time to work on coursework, or to research potential job openings once you have your degree. Or if you simply want to catch up on your favorite hobbies, read during this time and think about how you can use the knowledge from your reading to improve certain areas of your life.

The extra time you spend each morning will make a lasting impact on your overall success. An extra 90 minutes each day builds up over time, accumulating to more than 10 hours each week that you have over others. Use this time wisely to improve yourself, and you'll be amazed at the results.

2. You Eliminate Excuses:

The biggest excuse that people give when they are asked about pursuing their goals is, "I don't have the time". You hear it every day, don't you? When asked about exercising, going back to college, travelling the world, or starting a business, people simply spew the first excuse that comes to their mind. "I don't have enough time". But those same individuals will turn around an hour later and tell you about their favorite television show, the one that they watch religiously each week. Or they will go on and on about some celebrity in the news that just got a divorce because her husband was cheating.

Lesson to be learned here? We all have the same 24 hours in the day. Bill Gates doesn't have  the ability to extend his days by a few extra hours because he binge-watched Orange is the New Black instead of working on a new program for Microsoft. He has to prioritize his day to maximize his results. By waking up at 5:30 am, you have the ability to get the work done that you put off each day. The To-Do list that always gets ignored can now be tackled with enthusiasm. The "Life Wish-list", those goals that you've always dreamed about, can be accomplished, and you will have no more excuses as to why you aren't successful.

3. It Improves Personal Awareness:

The time you gain by waking at 5:30 am does not have to be used on work. Many successful people choose instead to focus on meditation, exercise, or reading during their early mornings. These tasks help set a calm and relaxed tone for the day, while also allowing the individual to gain personal knowledge and understanding. Excluding the health benefits of all three tasks, using your early morning to eliminate stress and to focus your thoughts can be incredibly useful in increasing productivity. Create a daily To-Do list that helps prioritize certain tasks, thus eliminating that helpless feeling that people often encounter throughout their day.

4. It Creates a Good Impression

Now, I'm not insinuating that you should set your daily habits based off of other people's opinions, but if your superiors start to notice that you're returning emails before 6:00 am and that your tasks are being completed early, good things will start to happen for you. This is your opportunity to get ahead of your peers, and if that time you gain each morning is used productively, people will begin to notice a change in your performance, your demeanor, and your overall appearance. Few people ever take the time to improve their lives, so rising each day to do just that will set you apart from others around you.

5. You'll Feel Accomplished

After a few weeks of 5:30 am wake-ups, a list of completed tasks should start to immerge. Maybe you've made headway on that terrible research paper that's due at the end of the semester. Or maybe you've finished reading two books that have been collecting dust on your shelves for years. Regardless of what it is, you will have accomplished things that otherwise would have gone unfinished. For that, you should feel proud and you should use that sense of pride to push forward onto new and exciting projects.

Waking up at 5:30 am each morning can, at first, seem daunting. You may consider yourself "not a morning person". But if you can find the self-discipline necessary to get out of bed, you'll find that the benefits of early rising far outweigh that extra out of comfortable sleep you would have gotten otherwise. Because in the end, no individual has ever experience self-growth from staying within their comfort zone. So wake up early, tackle your day, and experience greatness!

Dan Moffett

Follow me on Twitter at: @dmoffett2306

August 22, 2016

Overcoming 'Average'

As is the case with most people, I have a handful of fears that can sometimes leave me shaking, speechless, or uneasy. If I am stationary, I have a terrible fear of heights. I'm also not a huge fan of spiders, though I have been known to overcome that fear to squash one or two if they make their way into my bathroom. But above any fear that I can list here, the one situation that I most dread for my day, my week, or even my the fear of being average. The idea that my life will turn out just like millions of other people, with no deviation from the norm and no desire to be an individual, scares the living hell out of me.

But why do I fear being average? There's nothing wrong with average, right? Find a job you like (notice how I used the word 'like', not 'love'), work 40-50 hours a week for 40 years of your life, build up a 401k and savings retirement, and spend your years literally living for weekends and your annual vacation. Millions of people accept this life. They either graduate high school or college, and then they find a job and settle into a routine similar to this one. And the saddest part is that most people don't even like their job! According Forbes (2014), 52.3% of Americans are unhappy with their jobs. What's even more unsettling about that statistic is that only 30 years ago, more than 61% of Americans reported being happy with their work. Which means that while we've progressed in terms of workplace comforts, efficiency, and overall quality of work, we continue to lose passion and desire for our job.

Before I continue, I want to make something blatantly clear; There is no job or career that I consider better than any other. If you're a shift manager at McDonald's, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as that is a job that you love and one that you're passionate about completing each day. If you wake up each day excited to go to work, good for you. I commend you and respect your life choice. When I write about being average, I'm referring to the millions of Americans who wake up each day and drive to a job that stresses them out, makes them angry, and fills them with frustration, but yet they refuse to take any action to change their circumstances. So if you work in fast food, serve as a janitor at a local high school, or stock shelves at Best Buy, don't ever let anyone convince you that you are beneath them. Because as long as it's what you're passionate about, you've already won.

To continue, you may ask, "What's the alternative? I have to work in order to make a living".

And you're absolutely correct. But what I'm here to challenge you to do is to find something that fills you with excitement. I want you to think back to when you were eight or nine years old and try and recall what it was that you thought about doing when you were an adult. Did you like animals and want to become a vet? What if you loved to write and talk with  people and you wanted to travel the world as a reporter? Maybe you wanted to learn how to build tall buildings and you wanted to become an architect...Regardless, you had a passion at one point in your life. The simple question that you must ask yourself right now (I'm serious...ask yourself) is..."Why did I give up on that passion? Why didn't I pursue it to the fullest?"

I can probably tell you that if your dream was difficult to achieve (studying architectural design requires a degree of 4-8 years/the world of reporting has overtaken a drastic change with the revolution of the internet and instant news reporting/becoming a vet requires expensive schooling and professional resources), you were more than likely discouraged by someone at one point in your life. Even the ones that we love often give us discouragement disguised as advice. One of my goals in life (among other things) is to publish a young adult fantasy novel, and I can't count the times that members of my family have suggested that I have a "Plan B" or "A safe plan" in case the 'writing thing' doesn't work out. They tell me that they're proud of me and that they know I'll be published one day, but then they instantly follow that up with a vague statement regarding a traditional job or a career.

So to return back to the question of "I have to work in order to make a living"...If you are someone who can't stand the thought of working a 9-5 job the rest of your life, I challenge you to find your passion and to work on achieving that goal each and every day. If you have to work a full-time job, use your time off to pursue your goal. Want to write a book? Wake up early before your shift and write 3-4 pages. Eat supper and then crank out another 5-8 pages. Or maybe you want to open a hair salon? Use your weekends researching how to open a DBA (Doing Business As) business out of your home, and once you have all of the necessary information and paperwork, make it happen. You may have to work a job you hate while you pursue your goals, and that's alright. As long as you're working on yourself, there's nobility in that. I'm working on launching my own business and I'm also writing a book, but since neither of those are providing enough income for my family, I currently work at a local bank.

"But what's wrong with being average?" Some people ask this question. Or they'll say things like, "Why can't you just be happy with what you have? You've built a great life for yourself". My answer to questions like these are simple: I realize that this one life is the only chance I'll have to ever accomplish anything great. That's it. One life. If I'm lucky, I'll live somewhere between 80-90 years, and at 25 years old (turning 26 in two months) I'm already roughly 30% through my life. If I want to accomplish the goals that I've set for myself, there is no time to waste. People who settle in life act as if they have some kind of "Do-Over Button" that they can press at the end of their life to go back and finally accomplish what they've always wanted to accomplish. Most people push off putting in the hard work outside of their 9-5 jobs for "tomorrow". They'll start saving for a trip to Spain "tomorrow". They'll think about going back to college to finish their degree "tomorrow". And then "tomorrow" quickly turns into 6 months...and then a year....and then five years. And before you know it, you're 75 and you can't do the things you always dreamed about doing. So my passion comes from my understanding that life is incredibly short and that this is my one opportunity.

I'll end with this: There is no reason in the year 2016 for any person to be living a life that they hate...No reason whatsoever. Nothing frustrates me more than someone who constantly complains about their situation but never takes the steps to change their circumstance. This is your life. No one is going to step in and magically change everything that is wrong with your situation. Eventually, we each must step up and make the necessary changes if we want to achieve our goals.

I'm terribly afraid of waking up one day when I'm 80 years old and realizing that I settled for my life. The thought of working 'some job' simply for the sake of security is maddening to me, and it's a life that I refuse to accept. I'm deathly afraid of being average, and I'll spend every day of my life making sure that I leave average in the rear view mirror.


August 15, 2016

Why it's Important to Have a Goal -- and How to Set One

Albert Einstein was once quoted as saying, "If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, no to people or things".

The goals that we set for ourselves have as large of an impact on the outcome of our lives as any other influence that I can imagine. Why is that? Simply put, it's because whatever we decide to work towards for our future is a reflection of how we perceive ourselves and our abilities. It dictates who we surround ourselves with, the type of attitude that we have for ourselves and our lives, and it largely influences that quality of life that we live.

Let me give you an example. I'm sure that many of you can choose someone you know that has worked hard to because successful in their chosen fields...A biologist, an engineer, a physician, or an entrepreneur. Whoever it is, they decided years ago that they would start on the path towards that goal and that they would do whatever it took to see it through. This type of individual  always seems to have it "together", don't they? They're composed, confident, and can tell you where they see themselves going in five years.

Additionally, I'm sure that you can also find someone that you know who has simply given up on life. They've found a job that pays them enough that they can live comfortably and they've settled in that job, or even worse, they bounce from job to job with no drive and no desire to improve themselves our their situation. This individual has no goals for their life, they see no future and live each day of their life within that specific 24 hours. They often appear lost, frustrated by mediocrity, or complacent.

So what separates Person #1 from Person #2? Is it genetics? Was Person #1 born from parents who were Doers? Did Person #1 have financially successful parents who were able to provide better resources and more opportunities for their children? Possibly...but what truly separates individuals who reach success and those who simply "float" through life with no desire and no passion is the formation of goals. Having a clear, concise idea of where your life is headed can drastically impact the outcome of your life. Confidently believing in yourself and your abilities can alter how you perceive the world, and it opens up doors of opportunity that you would never imagine opening before you became clear about your life.

But for those who do not have an understand of where their life is heading, how do you start? Well, at the beginning, of course! Before you can have a detailed goal, you must have a general one. So:

Step #1. Decide what it is that you'd most like to accomplish in your life. And to be clear, this doesn't have to apply to your career. This type of goal can be more general, such as "Visiting 5 different countries before my 30th birthday" or "Run a marathon in 10 different states" or even "Start a non-profit organization for underprivileged children in my community". Whatever it is that you dream about accomplishing, pick a goal.

Step #2: Write it down! Write it down! Write it down! When the idea of writing down my goal was first presented to me, I laughed it off and told myself, "Why should I write it down? I know what my goal is. I wont' forget". The purpose of writing it down is not so that you won't forget. It's so that you have a physical, daily reminder of your goal that you can look at to use for motivation. Pin it up on a corkboard in your office. Put it on your fridge so you see it every morning when you're getting ready for work. Wherever you put it, write it down and look at it daily. Remind yourself what it is that you're working towards.

Step #3: Learn the process. What I mean by this is that you must take your goal and break it down into smaller, more manageable steps. Using the example of running a marathon in 10 different steps, you must first be prepared to run 26.2 miles before you can move forward with this goal. So create a running plan that gets you in shape. If you can only run one or two miles at a time, create an Excel spreadsheet and run 2 miles every two or three days for a few weeks, and then bump it up to three or four miles. Then gradually work your way to 26.2 miles. Or look online and find a suggested running plan. Whatever you do, just make sure you break your goal into small tasks. This will help alleviate the pressure of accomplishing a larger-than-life goal, and it also creates smaller milestones for you to check off of your life.

Step #4: Set a timeline. Once you've detailed how you're going to accomplish this task, you must set a timeline for yourself. This will help create a sense of urgency for your work. And you must be tough on yourself in regards to this timeline, as it is easy to tell yourself that you'll simply "do it tomorrow". Do you know what tomorrow holds? The dreams and wishes of those who never succeed. So tell yourself that you'll run your first marathon in six months times...Circle it on your calendar...Tell your friends so that they can keep you accountable. And however long your timeline is, make sure you have small checkpoints that you can use to measure your progress. If you want to run your first marathon in 6 months, you should probably be able to run 15-18 miles by month #3 or #4.

Step #5. Get to work! So you have your goal, you have a detailed plan of how you're going to accomplish it, and you have a timeline...What are you waiting for? Start working. And as someone who has a number of life goals that I'm currently working on, I will admit that the hardest part is starting. I understand that taking on such a daunting task can be challenging, frightening, and seemingly impossible. What if you tell your idea to your friends and family and they laugh? What if you don't finish? What if you do finish and you fail?

While I can't give much advice regarding your friends and family, I will say this: Any task worth doing will require you to develop thick skin, because there will be people who doubt you. Even your friends and family will tell you to "be smart" and "have a Plan B", but you have to believe that what you're doing is worth doing. You must believe that you will succeed, because otherwise, what's the purpose of even beginning if you don't believe you will be successful? If you're not 100% convinced that you will come out of this a winner, don't even start down the path, because your heart has to be in this completely. And in regards to failure, I have always considered anyone who gives an honest effort more noteworthy than those who simply hide in the shadows.

So step out of that comfort zone and try something new. Don't settle for that job that pays the bills just because you're afraid to leave your hometown. Go...explore...and set ambitious goals. And if your goals don't scare you, they're not big enough.

Daniel Moffett