I get up at 6

I set our alarm for 6. I usually get up. In fact, even when I don’t set our alarm for 6, I still wake up.

I started doing this several months ago. I wanted to read. I wanted to write. I wanted to learn to use time to influence lives.

And so I get up at 6.

Sometimes, I talk about that itself as if it is an amazing feat. But it isn’t.

Some mornings I get up and spend an hour looking at my computer screen. I browse through articles that have been gathered for me from 138 other writers. I read short comments made by more than 100 of my friends. I read what people have sent me directly by email. I follow connections made in all of those places to other articles, other people.

In my fogginess, as I drink my first cup of coffee for the day, it seems as if I am doing something useful. I may be. I sometimes find things that are helpful for understanding what is going on in the lives of others. I often am able to write to someone, to encourage someone.

Most of the time this random skimming is just random skimming.

Sometimes, the night before I have made a list: Here are the things I am not going to do in the morning. Here are the things I am going to do.

I’m not going to look at the articles from 138 people. I am going to read from the book of Isaiah. I’m not going to look at whatever comes to me. I am going to reflect on that idea I’ve been working on. I am going to send a note to my friend. I am going to write a short essay about that subject.

And  on the mornings when I get up at 6 and work through that kind of list, I am doing something.

I am learning step by step how to use time to influence lives. Starting with mine.


Getting up at 6 to be up for an hour, that is practice.

Getting up at 6 and working through a specific list of activities designed to sharpen my mind and heart and soul and pencil, that is deliberate practice.

[Deliberate practice]  is activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a teacher’s help; it can be repeated a lot; feedback on results is continuously available; it’s highly demanding mentally, whether the activity is purely intellectual, such as chess or business-related activities, or heavily physical, such as sports; and it isn’t much fun.
Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, page 66.

Just getting up at six is like a kid who sits at the piano for a thirty minutes, counting every moment his seat is on the bench as practice. Working on the hard parts  is like the musician who each day works on the part of paying scales that was hard yesterday.

Does that make sense, my daily coaches and feedback providers? Does that help illustrate deliberate practice?


4 responses to “I get up at 6

  1. Absolutely it makes sense, Jon. It’s not about the quantity of time spent or the number of repetitions, but rather the quality of practice done.

    To take a parallel example: it’s not about going to the driving range and hitting 100 balls off the tee. It’s about hitting them in certain *ways*, so that they do what you want them to do, and so that you’re *better* at getting them to do what you want them to do than you were yesterday.

  2. Thank you for this. I was intrigued by the idea of deliberate practice, but this fleshes it out. It’s not merely the routine, but fine tuning the elements of that routine. Choosing not just what you will do, but what you will not do.

  3. Yes, it is very helpful. My practice is not deliberate enough either (one significant difference, my hour set aside is in the evening, not the morning).

    I’ve got 40 days to fine tune this practice. I wonder what I’ll do after.

  4. It does help illustrate deliberate practice.

    When I look at the description, I am struck by “activity specifically designed to improve performance” and the idea of repetition of that specifically designed activity.

    I am wondering Jon about the coaching. I am wondering about the feedback. Feedback seems very dependent upon measurable results. The specificity of design is based on achieving specific performance results.

    I am starting to wonder how well the accepted definition of Deliberate practice fits with your work. I am starting to think about whether there is a difference between deliberate practice and being deliberate about one’s use of time.

    Your illustration of what you do, is intentional and deliberate, but I am starting to see a disconnect with the definition.

    I’m going to keep thinking about this one.