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Robin Sharma wants you to join the 5 a.m. club.

The Toronto-based leadership coach and author of the bestseller The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari says that in a time-starved world, we need at least an hour first thing in the morning to refuel, grow and become healthier people. And that should come at 5 a.m., a time when many top performers have started their day, from John Grisham to Ernest Hemingway, Georgia O’Keefe to Frank Lloyd Wright, Beethoven to Mozart.

In his new fable The 5 a.m. Club, he explains that hour fits the concept of capitalization expounded by psychologist James Flynn, which reminds us that natural talent only carries us so far. The key to success is the extent of the potential that we actualize. “Many of the finest athletes in the world had less innate skills than their competition. But it was their exceptional dedication, commitment and drive to maximize whatever strengths they has that made them iconic,” Mr. Flynn has said.

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Building your capitalization IQ should be a prime goal, along with three other focuses Mr. Sharma has drawn from people he calls “history makers.” The second is gaining freedom from distraction. “An addiction to distraction is the death of your creative production,” he writes. Beyond the lure of technology, less often discussed with respect to distraction are your fears, which he contends are more likely to sabotage you, particularly as you move closer to your potential. You will become scared if leaving the majority; you’ll have to deal with jealousy, an increased pressure to perform and the anxiety of failing on your next project. Tranquility and serenity at the start of the day gives you a time without overstimulation in which you can replenish your creative reservoirs.

Your third focus should be on personal mastery – training yourself to be a better human being. That involves what he calls your “four interior empires,” your mindset or psychology, heart set or emotional side, health set or physicality, and soul set or spirituality. They work in tandem. A superb mindset will flounder if accompanied by an emotional life full of anger, sadness, disappointment, resentment and fear. He stresses soul set is not mystical or religious; it’s just your spiritual side – who you truly are.

The fourth focus is to own your day, since what you do every day matters far more than what you do once in a while. Consistency and regularity is vital to success. “Small daily, seemingly insignificant improvements, when done consistently over time, yield staggering results,” he writes.

That’s the backdrop for the 60 minutes you will be alone with yourself and ideas early every morning. It should be divided into three 20-minute slots:

  • From 5:00 a.m. to 5:20 a.m. – move. He says a strong, intense workout right after you get out of bed will be “a total game-changer.” Neurobiological studies suggest it will generate an alchemy in your brain, not only waking you up fully but electrifying your focus and energy, amplifying your discipline. So bolt out of bed and exercise.
  • From 5:20 a.m. to 5:40 a.m. – reflect. Meditate, plan, contemplate, pray if that is something you do, or write in a journal. Instead of doing, deliberate. It’s a chance to understand yourself better, as a step to performing better.
  • From 5:40 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. – grow. This is a time to review your goals, read books or listen to audiobooks or podcasts, or study online. Deepen your knowledge broadly and on the specific matters you want to master.

Sixty minutes of improvement, each day. Join the 5 a.m. club.

Quick Hits

  • When approaching somebody to mentor you, tell them you will work hard to do what they say. Consultant Kevin Kruse suggests as much after taking on many mentees who frustrated him because they rarely would implement his suggestions.
  • Thriller writer Lee Child has two computers at different ends of the room where he writes – one connected to the Internet, one not. If he wants to go online, he has to walk across the room, usually a sufficient disincentive to thwart the impulse.
  • Calendar blocking is best done as a team. Get everyone to agree on the same “do not schedule” blocks on their calendar.
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says the book that inspired Microsoft’s turnaround was Carol Deck’s Mindset, which highlights the importance of a growth mindset. It changed the company’s culture by inserting the idea that everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
  • A recent study by the University of Western Ontario’s Colleen Sharen and Wilfrid Laurier University’s Rosemary McGowan found that despite the significant presences of female students in university business classrooms, female decision-makers were underrepresented in business cases – totally absent in 80 per cent of cases sampled – and when they were featured, their attributes and behaviours were represented in a stereotypical manner.

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