I get up early, earlier than most. For generations, my mother’s side of the family has been genetically inclined to early rising. To be exact, I get up at 5:40 every day, make a coffee, two poached eggs and then sit down to an hour of reading, web-surfing and thinking. Slow, thoughtful warmups are essential to high performance.
To run the 100 meter dash in ten seconds, one should slowly build up will and muscles well before the starting gun, and the same is true for starting life every day. Those who get up in a rush, run out the door and have their first coffee once in the office are slaves of their own destiny, not masters.
I begin a daily two-hour radio show at 7:30, followed at 9:30 by a second coffee and emails. Then it’s either back to the radio to record an additional hour, aired later in the day, or to a television studio five meters from my office where I record 26-minute English class segments for Televisión Española or for our own television content. This means five minutes patiently sitting still while one of my female employees applies makeup and then sitting down in the center of the set to bear the bright lights, smile into a naked, impersonal camera and teach the socks off my students somewhere beyond the camera lens. I can’t see them, but I can feel them. I know they’re there, so it’s easy to smile, provoke and enjoy the connection.
Late mornings are devoted to meetings or to designing teaching content, followed by business lunches half the days and lunch at home the other half. The business lunches are with people I usually know well and consist of 90 minutes of fun, enjoyable conversation ending with five minutes of business discussion. At least two days out of every week I don’t return to work after lunch, spending the afternoon and evening doing exercise, playing piano or guitar or reading fiction or non-fiction, from Plato up through the latest bestsellers. I don’t take problems home with me and I lose sleep because of business worries maybe twice a year at the most. If you can learn to find and recruit top-quality people, it’s easy and personally empowering to delegate the day-to-day problems and challenges to them. This ability is must for any person who aspires to lead an organization successfully over the long term.