I’m an entrepreneur. And a writer. And a creative. I do a lot of different things, a lot of different kinds of work. I know what the cliché says—I should be a hugely focused and productive person who lives like a super human and breathes pure and untainted inspiration.
But here’s the truth. I’m a total f*cking mess. A hot mess. I run my life and my business and my writing career and my speaking engagements with a sense of organized chaos. Do you know why?
Because I’m a human. And humans are disorganized, chaotic, emotionally up and down, totally inconsistent, and gloriously weird. We are. Even when we try to impose a sense of order, and we look like hyper-scheduled automatons, we’re still flying by the seat of our pants.
When all of life is completely unpredictable, it’d be impossible to do anything else.
With that in mind, I want to talk about my rituals and my way of greeting the day. It might not be inspiring, and you’re not about to learn any life hacks, but I think it’s going to resonate with one or two of you.
I wake up at 6 a.m. and hate myself and my life.
There is no way around this. Almost every morning, almost every day of the week, the first thing that drifts into my mind when my alarm goes off is how much I hate everything. How much I hate being awake, and hate work, and hate getting up, and hate showering, and hate writing, and hate building things.
This is largely unavoidable. I know because I’ve tried everything. Setting myself motivational messages, getting more sleep, modifying my diet, doing yoga, etc. Doesn’t help. The version of me that wakes up is just a real, grumpy as*hole. There’s not a lot I can do about that except hold it in and wait for the fog to clear and the feeling to drift away.
To pass the time, I like to think through a list of things I’m grateful for. It’s not a total antidote, but it does help. My partner, my comfortable bed, my breakfast, my family, Fugazi’s debut album, whatever book I’m reading. It’s not an easy list to make when hateful me has control, but it’s a positive move nonetheless.
I battle with my early morning phone addiction.
After I finally drag myself out of bed, I struggle with the crazed urge to check my phone. I know there are going to be tweets, emails, app updates, tech news, funny sh*t to read, and probably one or two hilarious gifs, and I want to see them all so incredibly bad.
I’ll occasionally freeze with indecision, itching to grab my phone and dive in, but knowing I need to get myself in gear. Recently, I’ve taken to charging my phone in the living room to escape its clutches in the early hours of the morning. I know if I don’t, I’ll sit on the bathroom floor, delaying my shower for a good 20 minutes while I scroll, swipe, and tap away. It’s wasted time; I’m rarely conscious enough to comprehend what I’m reading, and it makes me run late.
If I’m lucky, I can make myself jog.
I hate jogging. It’s not something I want to do. I know I’ll love the version of me that returns from a run, glowing and sweating and feeling accomplished, but I’m not fond of the version of me that actually runs. At all. Most mornings it doesn’t happen. But I try and hit a target of getting out the door three times per week. Or two times. Hey, it’s a moving target.
It’s incredibly hard to meet that target, because I’m never motivated about working out, and I’d rather watch early morning X-Men cartoon reruns, but it’s a matter of making a conscious decision to exercise at least a few times.
When I get back from my jog, I’m exhausted. Wiped out. Not in the mood to make a kale smoothie and post on Insty. Instead, I try to meditate for 10 minutes.
A couple years ago, the therapist I was seeing for my depression suggested I calm down by spending 10 minutes visualizing myself placing every thought that came into my head on a leaf and watching it float down a stream. I know it sounds like bullsh*t, but it has never failed to work for me. Any more than 10 minutes and I get way too bored. Sorry, that’s the way I am.
I eat breakfast with my partner. And drink a normal, delicious coffee.
We make a point of sitting down together three or four mornings per week—no phones or tablets or laptops—and chatting while we share a bagel, muesli, or eggs. And a cup of delicious coffee. Not green tea or a superfood smoothie. Beautiful, dark, incredible coffee. It’s my favorite part of every day, when we keep ourselves offline and just enjoy the moments.
She’s senior management at a pretty high-growth legal start-up, so the both of us are pretty switched on most of the time. When we get a chance to just be, it’s incredibly refreshing. It’s hard for us to do this. Schedules are crazy, and our careers take a lot of effort and time and commitment. There are some mornings when it would be so much easier to just run out of the apartment and blow through McDonald’s on the way to the office. But we don’t. Most days…
I can’t stress enough how important this part of my day is. I love it, and I love her.
That’s most mornings for me. They’re not inspiring, and my morning ritual isn’t designed to turn me into a productivity machine. It’s pretty normal and often a huge mess. But it works for me, and it doesn’t stop me from hitting the ground running and knocking out my to-do list most days.
You don’t have to try and hack your life with all the bullsh*t advice out there. You don’t have to get up at 5 a.m., drink a warm glass of water, and read Chicken Soup for the Online Blogger-Slash-Start-Up Founder-Slash-Future Motivational Speaker. I know we’re told that literally every successful person in the world does that, but tough sh*t.
When I was younger, I read all the blogs and decided I was going to turn myself into a Jack Dorsey-like machine. I tried being at my computer by sunrise, writing blog posts. It did not work. I was angry, unmotivated, and a real pain in the as* to be around.
My point is, you have to wake up and face your day in whatever way works best for you. For me, it’s trying to make positive choices about what I do every day and fighting a battle against my worst nature. And losing that battle a couple days every week. It’s probably going to be something similar for you.
Don’t try and life hack your way to post-human status. Don’t get too caught up in the self-help stuff out there. If it inspires you, that’s great. But you need to live your own life on your own terms.
This article originally appeared on Medium and was republished with the author’s permission. Jon Westenberg founded the creative agency The Growth Mafia. The views expressed herein are his. Follow him on Twitter.