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How to be more successful (not really…)


Successful people are morning people. If that’s not just their propaganda, I’m doomed to be either the proof you can be successful as a night owl or unsuccessful. I’m beyond doubt a night owl.

A couple of months ago, during a weekend away in the countryside, I had the brilliant idea to wake up at 4 AM to see the sunrise, and then join the morning office of a Benedictine priory. Far from being a devoted Christian thing, that’s as close as you get to being in the Middle Ages according to Ken Follett.The Pillars of the Earth, Prior Philip

I started writing this post on paper that morning when left with nothing to do before my day, and this reinforced my idea that it’s useless to get up early in the day and you don’t really get anything done that you can’t get done in the night. The sunrise on the countryside is certainly beautiful, but the world is still not going to be functioning until later in the day. Unless you catch up on work being done during the night somewhere else in the world like when you work at Buffer (which, unfortunately, I don’t), or you do something relevant for what you are going to do later in the day I see very little reason to get up early when your focus grows in the night. So if you are a morning person fine, do that. If you aren’t, that’s another story.

Writing this could be considered doing what successful people do, but the propaganda behind the successful people are morning people mantra implies a degree of action that hardly is an equivalent of my late night contemplations. Or early morning contemplations. Or up to midday contemplations. My mind is far from being functioning in the let’s conquer the world way until it’s fashionably late. I was born at 3.45AM in January and I think it wasn’t an early riser thing, it was a “I can’t miss out on the night” thing. Tales of daytime being a huge nap-time and my insomnia begin from day one, and you see a perfect example of unconditional love in the fact my mother never killed me for being wide awake when she had to sleep. The fact I look perfectly like Novalis itself should raise suspicions.

The reason why they say morning people are successful people implies a specific definition of success. I’m sure of that because it’s shouted all around that night owls are cleverer than early risers, so how can people who are smarter be less successful?

The dictionary definition of success lists 3 meanings: social status, achieving a goal and the opposite of failure.

Let’s start with the first, which is the meaning behind our mantra. If you didn’t notice, the flood of articles shouting the mantra from the rooftop come from places like Forbes and Business Insiders and anything dedicated to entrepreneurs really. It’s all about success in business. If you are in the Christian blogosphere you may find how to have a successful marriage but besides that, if your aspiration is to share newspapers midmorning over brunch with a husband of the like of Dr Tim Stanley (who has admitted to the same aversion for the before 10am time slots I have) after spending most night working on your next research looking like Philosophy in the Paradox of Acting, no one cares.

But as my dear friend and wiser advisor than many paid life coaches Jack Ori says:

Success has to do with achieving goals that are important to you, not everyone else.

So we leave social status behind and move on to achieving goals, which was our 2nd definition. The past few years have seen a rise in messages about how we can achieve whatever we want, but we were also hit by continuous messages telling us what we wanted. This has seen a rise in the number of failures too (as not everyone is good at the same things so why should we all have the same goals?), and reduced the smallest things to less than a success, while if I were ever able to cook soft-boiled eggs properly I would feel like the Queen of England.

There is also a third definition worth mentioning, and it’s that success is the opposite of failure. I have to agree with Jack Matson (Professor, innovation junkie, and a “frequent failer”) that failure is part of success instead. He theorised Intelligent Fast Failure as an integral part of the creative process. Then there are all those beautiful images with quotes about dreaming big enough and all.

But I want to go back to our first definition of success.

The planet does not need more 'successful people'. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds - Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama with quote.

Choose wisely.

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1 Comment

  • Reply The Blond Pond - What I love about solitude | The Blond Pond

    […] the great questions of life. I flatter myself than never a better description of me has been made. I am a night owl, and quite proudly so. What I like about late nights and going to bed when the world wakes up is that the city sleeps. […]

    January 9, 2019 at 5:23 pm
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