Why A Former Night Owl Became an Early Bird

 Photo by  Chris Spiegl  on  Unsplash

When I was a kid, I loved staying up late.

I would play video games and get my homework done at the same time. Super efficient I know.

I think this is how I tricked myself into thinking I was a night person.

Middle school me thought cool people stayed up at night and lame adults slept early and woke up early.

But that was just culture playing a trick on me. As a kid, I wanted to rebel against the norm, so if the norm was waking up early and doing my job, then I wanted the opposite of that: aka fighting against my natural circadian rhythm as a human.

But I suffered for this.

I wasn’t getting the things I wanted done. I felt tired throughout the day. The human body was designed to react to the chemicals that sunlight releases to wake us up. When computer screens interfere with that natural chemical reaction, we end up unlocking the ability to work late at night — but that doesn’t mean we should.

Advantages of Being an Early Bird

Early Birds have more discipline. Try waking up sometime between 5-7 AM every day. It’s a challenge that early birds adhere to consistently. And in conquering a mini-challenge every day, we train our discipline to handle more difficult things.

I understand it sounds awful to some people “what ew, I don’t want to wake up that early”. But discipline gets you what you want, and getting up early helps you get more discipline.

Early Birds have more quiet time to focus. When you wake up earlier than the norm, you have this period of quiet in the morning that is beautiful. No one is rushing you, no one is bothering you. It’s just you doing what you want to do.

This is the perfect time to write, exercise, meditate, or work on that passion project of yours. No one will ask you to run an errand or text you at this time.

Early Birds have guilt-free nights to do what they want. If you deliberately push your hardest work towards the early morning, then by the time night time rolls around, you can celebrate each night fully. Night Owls push things off until it’s late at night, whereas Early Birds get their work done immediately as soon as they wake up.

They are allowed the spontaneous nights while also making progress on their responsibilities/goals.

Early Birds will make more consistent progress on their goals. When you have the discipline and time in the morning to prioritize your tasks, you tend to get sustained success. Simply taking a step every day to improve is a surefire way to long-term benefits.

Disadvantages of Being an Early Bird

Early Birds can’t always spend crazy nights out. If you have friends who like to go out on late night adventures and taco runs, you’re going to miss out on these.

Early Birds put in more effort upfront. It takes time to build discipline and habits. It’s hard to stick to it when you want to sleep in.

Conclusion

I hope that helped explain why I’m an Early Bird now.

You don’t have to be an Early Bird to get your best work done, but it has a lot of advantages over being a Night Owl.

If you are serious about losing weight, getting fit, or writing your first novel, then I don’t think there’s a better way to do it than getting it done in the morning.

Balancing Chaos and Routine

 Photo by  Linus Nylund  on  Unsplash

A topic that has come up often recently in my life has been the balance between taking a leap of faith, and staying with the predictable.

Some interesting examples:

  • My sister, who wants to take a nomadic approach to her job for a year
  • My friend who wakes up every morning without a plan or routine, and
  • Myself who has sometimes skirted with trying to make my entire life routine and “optimized”

In each day we can choose how much chaos we invite into our life.

Chaos in itself is not bad.

Chaos to me is simply the unpredictable. The things we can’t plan for. The spontaneous dates. The job opportunity you didn’t think would respond to you. The girl you meet at the coffee shop randomly. There are things in our life that we cannot control and for that reason, when we do try to control them, life will smack us down and remind us that we can’t.

We have to make room in our lives for the spontaneous events. We have to be comfortable with the chaos, because that’s just how life is. If we try to resist chaos, we decline the world’s best opportunities because we aren’t willing to take a chance outside of efficiency.

However, too much chaos leads to lack of focus and mental instability. The human brain — when it doesn’t know when it’s going to get its next meal or next sleep — will constantly be on alert. The ability to innovate or create will be stifled because of a worry about other things that don’t matter. We don’t need to focus on the chaotic nature of bills, chores, and errands if we plan ahead. We can focus on the task at hand when we introduce more order into our lives.

I feel that too many college students in particular are swept along the chaos without order at all in their lives. They adjust their lives based on outside forces.

On the other side of the coin, there are others like me who try to make their whole life routine in order to be efficient, and invite no chaos at all. They adjust their lives to predictably effective, but not necessarily exciting. This is also potentially harmful to the human psyche.

Too much order results in resistance to something out of routine, and a generally restrictive response to your curiosity in life. You push down your own mind’s natural desire to take risks and innovate. It means staying in and saving money because you don’t want to accept the chaotic nature of the potential fun of a night out.

Over the years, I’ve swayed away from the highly ordered life.

I suggest now that a truly free life needs a balance of both: chaos and routine.

You need enough routine where you get what you want to get accomplished, but not too much where it restricts your growth.

You need enough chaos where you get to experience the spontaneous nature of life, but not too much where it drags you along a path that you can’t control.

You need both.

I find that having a morning routine with gym, meditation, and breakfast helps you be chaotic in other parts of your life (such as innovating at work, or going out at night guilt-free). Grounding myself in routine habits such as these allows me the freedom and flexibility to partake in chaos, confident that I did what I wanted to do today with complete control. Whatever else happens, happens. I won’t try to control the outcome for those events.

That’s what it all comes down to.

You need to understand what activities whose outcomes you want to control, and willingly abandon control of other activities.

When you understand this principle, you’ll gain the sense of confidence that comes with knowing you are on your path to a better you. And without being restrictive of the burning desire to ensure that everything in your life has a payoff.

With chaos, you don’t know if the result is going to be good or bad — but the good that comes from chaos can be so good, that the bad isn’t even that bad when you think about it.

Take risks. Embrace chaos. Ground yourself in routine.

It’s how you get the best of both worlds.

Life Is Like a Really Slow Video Game

Here's the thing with video games: it simulates all of the things we crave in life (action, excitement, new things, and progress).

And you get these things guaranteed if you put in the hours it takes to get there.

See, the same is true for real life, but the levels are a LOT longer. Instead of hours it takes to get that new skill upgrade, it takes weeks, months, or even years.

In real life, it takes patience.

Even when we work hard, we don’t see how much better we get. It happens so incrementally and so slowly. When we compare our selves to our immediate surroundings it seems like everyone is better than us. But we don't count the fact that there are other people who are just sitting around doing nothing or taking way less action than you are.

You are miles ahead of that person.

But it’s not like a video game where we see progress super consistently and super fast.

That's why we have to be patient with our growth.

It’s going to be a lot slower, but getting good at things and putting in the hard work really does reward you in the end. You're going to see the results by training everyday, by putting in that extra amount of effort, that extra bit of discipline.

You won't see the effect immediately, but over time, you will absolutely feel the effect.

Why College Students Are Getting Depressed

I forget where I heard this idea, but I read once that the three basic human needs are:

  1. Sense of autonomy
  2. Sense of competence
  3. Sense of relatedness

I'm going to apply this understanding to my theory to why I see so many depressed college students. Now you may have a different lived experience with college where it was awesome for you, but I notice this a lot in friends.

College Makes Us Feel Powerless (Autonomy)

"You'll have so much choice" -- a common phrase they tell us in high school when we they talk about how college is going to be so much better than high school.

They fail to mention the mandatory GE's, or that you will hate 4/5 of your professors but have to finish their course anyways, or that you will not be able to study abroad if you want to "graduate on time".

We feel pulled on our strings from all directions because often we're taking 4-5 classes that don't collectively respect our time. Every instructor is demanding something of us at all points of time and no one is giving us the choice to just say no to any of it, less we sacrifice the degree we desire. The feeling of powerlessness consumes us for four years, to the point where it's funny to say "I'll just suck it up for 4 years".

College Makes Us Feel Incompetent (Competence)

How often have you been in a class that moves forward too fast. The teachers often rush through material to stay "on-track" with the syllabus.

The social pressure of asking a question in class is too overwhelming -- we don't want to be the kid that is slowing the rest of the class down. And we also don't want to look stupid. So we question whether we're smart or dumb whenever we don't understand a concept in class and NO ONE asks any questions. Is it because they all understand it? Or because everyone is just like me and doesn't want to sound dumb?

We spend so much time theorizing on material for years, but never are given the opportunity to apply what we've learned in class in the real world.

This causes a certain thought process that goes like this: "what the hell is the point of this if we're not going to use it?" When asked what you're studying in school to family members, you have a hard time explaining what it is because you can't see the point of what knowing that information does for your life.

Even at the end of 4 years of this schooling, we never feel good enough for that first real job, especially if we never had any internships.

College Makes Us Lose Ourselves (Relatedness)

In a place where it's so easy to be constantly around friends, we start to lose a sense of self. Who are we really, when we are so surrounded all of the time by people who alter our behaviors?

If you feel lonely on a campus, no matter how many groups you're a part of, you feel extremely isolated. Like you can't relate to anyone while everyone else has their fun cliques on spring break, taking weekend trips, etc.

In competitive schools, people screw each other over for grade points like it's some valuable currency. Like it'll make them better to bring others down. But it won't.

At some point, you might start to see yourself as a number. Because you're stuck in such a bubble, you'll start to think stupid thoughts like: "employers only care about my GPA" or "my sense of self-worth is based on my GPA" or other unhealthy spirals of thought.

Self-value can be confusing in college, especially when you have lack of competence and lack of autonomy.

Final Thoughts

Those are some of my theories when it comes to my theory on the correlation between college and depression. Because these basic human needs aren't being met, we have real problems with the way our education system is being run.

What do you think? Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below!

You Can't Have It All At Once (Q1 Reflections)

I've previously written about my goal-setting strategy in the past.

Summed up, I do this:

  • At the beginning of each quarter, plan SMART goals out in 3-month increment.
  • Assign tasks or habits that I can do on a daily basis to contribute towards goals (The 20-Mile March).
  • Evaluate progress with accountability partner on week-by-week basis.
  • Reflect on past quarter by last week of sprint (Week 13, which is this week for me).

Here's an excerpt from my reflection for Q1:

 Photo by  Ali Inay  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ali Inay on Unsplash


What were the 3 biggest lessons you learned this Q1?

1. You can’t have social goals and feel really accomplished.

Most social goals are uncontrollable and not satisfying when you complete. Because what you want most is connection, and that is impossible to control with the many random variables of life. For example, you may want to talk to five random people every day, and although you will reach this goal, you may find that completing the goal in itself doesn't make you feel any better. However, simply choosing to start a conversation with anyone on your path as a life principle rather than a numbers-oriented goal will make you feel as if good things are happening to you on autopilot.

2. Don’t try to track everything.

There are some things that you must focus on and spend all of your bandwidth on making successful, and others you must accept the consequences of less focus. You have to accept the shitstorm of other things being okay, while you excel in a few select areas — else you risk mediocrity in all areas. Be careful with this because sometimes the things you track become less fun.

3. You have a strength of health goals and social goals if you set up the right infrastructure. You need to set up the same system for your work life.

This past quarter, I was easily training and eating right - I had a powerlifting coach leading most of my training, and I simply had to follow it. College has made social life a lot easier this year compared to last year on the road in Chicago to Houston. Easier to go on autopilot. Now you just need to cultivate that discipline with your work — I know it’s hard, but you have to create focus periods and endure in order to become great and provide the right life for you and your family in the future.


Hope you enjoyed that sneak peak into my reflection on my top 3 lessons I've learned this past quarter on goal-setting!

Next post, I will talk about my top 3 wins for Q1!

Choose two and accept the consequences

Sometimes you have to choose what you want to worry about: those are called your goals.

Anything that is not your goal, you must accept the consequences that it may not be perfect. You have to be humble and know that you can only put your limited focus in towards a select few things.

Everything else you must be okay with being sub-par in for while you focus on the important things per time-frame.

*For example: if your goal one month is to lose weight and start going to the gym, while also performing at your new job, you have to accept that you won’t have as much time to hang out with your friends after work.

The same goes for if you really value your friends and must hang out with them, but your work is also really important, then you might not go to the gym (that is unless you socialize at the gym, which is great! You're still putting your relationships on auto-pilot, but it will work out well).

In the end, I've found that you can only select two and really prioritize them.

Daytime is for reality, Evening for imagination

I created a new rule for myself:

Daytime is for learning, deep thought, and reading non-fiction. Evening is for getting lost in a fictional world.

The results I've noticed so far:

  • My dreams have become a lot more vivid since switching to fiction at night.
  • I make time for non-fiction business book reading during the day, which I enjoy.
  • I get less bored with what I'm reading because of the variety.

It hasn't happened yet, but I predict that having this switch on and off from serious non-fiction books to really out of this world fiction will allow me to make more connections.

I used to read purely non-fiction, because I wanted to get ahead in life.

I constantly find myself fascinated by learning things that can improve my life.

But mindset blocked me from enjoying the fiction world of literature. I'm ashamed to say it, but I avoided a whole genre of books because I thought they were a waste of time. Little did I know that fiction has the ability to make your mind think in different ways. I'm having such a fun time seeing the connections between fiction and our real world.

My intuition tells me that I will start to notice the same concepts appearing in new places that I haven't seen them in before. I just need to allow myself the time to enjoy stories.

Simple But So Hard to Implement

 Photo by  Scott Webb  on  Unsplash

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

You want it all.

Health.

Wealth.

Relationships.

But you can’t get it all at once.  You can only choose two. Don’t misinterpret this as “I must suffer in one area so that the other two thrive.”

No it’s less about results, and more about willpower and automating.

In certain sections of my life, I find it’s helpful to actively focus on only two things, while letting the last section happen automatically. What this means for me is that while I’m focusing on my fitness and professional goals and recording the steps I take to get there, I must not actively try to improve my social life.

I shall simply let it happen while I focus on my health and wealth.

And you have to be okay with that.

That’s why being an adult is so hard. Because you have to prioritize things, while purposely letting other things fail or go on autopilot.

Your Parents Are Shit-Testing You

 Photo by  Daniel Cheung  on  Unsplash

Here’s the thing with parents: they either love you or they don’t.

And you’ll often think that they don’t growing up.

But you’re probably wrong. Most parents love you, but are unable to show it because of various social factors and fears — they’re afraid of being called bad parents, afraid of your potential failure, afraid of a whole lot of shit essentially.

Now you may call that selfish, but they’re human too.

They’re afraid of things they can’t control, just like you are.

But although your parents don't want to lose control of you, they also want you to be a self-sufficient individual and thrive. So it seems conflicting, because the goals contradict each other: you can’t control a self-sufficient individual.

To handle this, I like to assume that my parents will always love me no matter what I do (barring murder or theft of course).

Now if your parents truly love you, they will challenge you because they still want to hold onto that shred of control they have. But they will still love you regardless when you do choose what you want to do.

I can’t say for sure since I’m not a parent, but I predict that this will be a painful yet very exciting moment in your relationship.

However, if you do your thing, and they truly cut you off, then they never loved you in the first place. If you truly had bad parents, then this should be a net positive result for you, though it does come with some pain. Ultimately, you will have done the right thing by validating your own love for yourself, rather than accepting their fake love.

Remember: more often than not, your parents love you! So go for what you want!