Day 4. The 5AM Club: Own Your Morning, Elevate Your Life by Robin Sharma

Recommendation In consultant Robin Sharma’s self-help parable, an entrepreneur and an artist, both frustrated by failure, meet and travel with a mysterious billionaire, Stone Riley. The two travelers have front-row seats to inspirational speeches that Riley peppers with the mantra: “Own your morning. Elevate your life.” Riley emphasizes that success springs from starting your day at 5 a.m. He promises that will enable you to surpass your dreams, make history and free your inner genius. Sharma’s advice, though valid, is familiar from his other books. Recommended for his fans and those who love fables.


  • Rising at 5 a.m. will help you let go of mediocrity and become extraordinary.

  • The old “you” must die to make space for the new “you.”

  • To be a “History-Maker,” work hard, avoid distractions, practice mastery and improve 1% every day.

  • Your four “Interior Empires” are: “Mind-set, Heartset, Healthset and Soulset.”

  • Good habits – waking early, working hard and being consistent – help you become a “Self-Discipline Spartan.”

  • The “20/20/20 Formula” is “move, reflect and grow.”

  • The “10 Tactics of Lifelong Genius” include focusing, setting targets, delegating and learning.

  • “You enter the magic by using joy as your GPS.”

  • Rising early will help you be forgiving and leave a lasting legacy.

Summary Rising at 5 a.m. will help you let go of mediocrity and become extraordinary. An entrepreneur is unhappy, and wonders if life is worth living. She attends a motivational speech by the “Spellbinder.” He is old and seems unwell, but he’s inspiring about overcoming adversity so you can live your best life. Also present is an artist who is unsatisfied with his life and seeks a new path. The Spellbinder collapses. An apparently homeless stranger appears. He expresses admiration for the Spellbinder and shares a secret: The stranger says he is fabulously wealthy. The artist and entrepreneur are not convinced. The man invites them to enter a “secret reality” known only to geniuses and masters. He tells the entrepreneur that she is struggling with her employees because they can’t keep up with her vision. He advises the artist to take breaks from his technology. “You truly can get up early. And doing so is a necessity in your awesome pursuit toward legendary.” While doing one-armed push-ups, the man chants: “Own your morning. Elevate your life.” The artist and the entrepreneur agree that they would like to learn his secrets. He tells them they must break with their weak selves to find their strong selves. The old “you” must die to make space for the new “you.” The stranger is Stone Riley, who is, indeed, a billionaire. The artist and entrepreneur go to his compound. There they see the Spellbinder, miraculously revived. The entrepreneur tells the Spellbinder of her struggles with her shareholders. He reminds her she has chosen to change, to leave behind her old self and embrace her new self like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. He warns that nothing will happen if she hesitates. The billionaire tells the artist and entrepreneur that the Spellbinder taught him about owning his morning to elevate his life. The world is full of distractions, he says, but at 5 a.m. you have quiet. The entrepreneur gets a message from her partners threatening her with death if she doesn’t quit as CEO. Riley assures her his people are on the case. At 5 a.m. the next day, Riley shares his “3-Step Success Formula”:

  1. “Learning and growing” for better awareness.

  2. “Implementation and execution” for better choices.

  3. “Income and impact” for better results.

Dedication to detail sets the most successful 5% of people apart. Riley promises that with self-love and self-respect the artist and entrepreneur can become extraordinary instead of timid. The world is full of “superficial” people who are vague about what they want, so they produce vague results. The world has space for exceptional people because very few people try to reach beyond the norm. To be a “History-Maker,” work hard, avoid distractions, practice mastery and improve 1% every day. Riley reminds the artist and the entrepreneur never to take any day for granted. He says that thinking about dying makes you focus on what matters and feel grateful for the moment. “Your influence in the world mirrors the glory, nobility, vitality and luminosity you’ve accessed in yourself.” Riley then shares the “4 Focuses of History-Makers”:

  1. “Capitalization IQ” – Innate talent isn’t as important as maximizing your talent with dedication and hard work. People don’t optimize their gifts, because they don’t believe they’ve got what it takes.

  2. “Freedom from distraction” – Technology impedes the deeper connections that bring meaning to your life. Staying distracted indicates you are afraid to the best you can be. Focus on one high-quality activity at a time.

  3. “Personal mastery practice” – Dedicate at least 10,000 hours to your practice to become a master. Part-time commitment provides part-time results.

  4. “Day stacking” – Even a 1% improvement over the previous day elevates your life by 30% in 30 days. What you do every day is more important than what you do once in a while.

The entrepreneur gets another death threat from her foes at her company. She is less fearful now, strengthened from embracing the philosophy of waking up early. Your four “Interior Empires” are: “Mind-set, Heartset, Healthset and Soulset.” Riley discusses the importance of fulfilling the four Interior Empires, which are essential to happiness. People talk about elevating their mind-sets, but that is only one of four “sets”:

  1. Mind-set – Important to developing personal mastery, the mind-set needs help from other empires. You can change the way you think, but you must change in other ways as well.

  2. Heartset – Your emotional empire can “purify” your mind-set. Let go of sadness, resentment and fear.

  3. Healthset – Do all you can to live as long as possible, including focusing intently on being healthy.

  4. Soulset – All people have an “unstained spirit and spotless soulfulness” that informs their being.

Riley reminded his guests that these “sets” are best activated in the early morning. Good habits – waking early, working hard and being consistent – will help you become a “Self-Discipline Spartan.” Success demands building good habits. By applying “grit,” even people who lack innate talent can achieve greatness. Riley shares the three elements of the “5-3-1 Creed of the Willpower Warrior”:

  1. The five best ways to nurture good habits – Cultivate willpower, be disciplined, rest and recover when your willpower ebbs, make good habits into a routine and build self-control.

  2. The three standards you need to build great habits – These values are: Be consistent, follow through and practice publicly what you do privately.

  3. The “General Theory of Self-Discipline Spartans” – Take on difficult tasks that matter even if they make you uncomfortable.

Riley tells the entrepreneur and the artist that your brain’s neuroplasticity enables you to grow, but routine is critical because creating a new habit takes 66 days. He says he pushed himself through the rigors of destroying his old habits and the chaos of change to emerge a titan. He practiced the 66-day habit change routine to build his ability to do 1,000 push-ups a day. While visiting the Taj Mahal and listening to Riley further discuss waking up early to discover your hidden potential, the entrepreneur realizes how happy she is. She is in love with the artist, and she forgives the enemies at her company who threatened to kill her. Those who hurt others secretly hate themselves. By joining the 5 a.m. Club, she feels she will earn her right to greatness. The group goes to Rome where the artist and the entrepreneur announce their engagement. The billionaire presents them with an “Amazing Day” template to help them organize their work days for optimal performance. It suggests family time from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., focus on being a top performer from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and renewal from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Spellbinder warns them that not getting enough sleep leads to an early death. He says a nightly ritual is vitally important. The brain produces 75% of its human growth hormone (HGH) during sleep. HGH is essential to creativity and vitality. The optimal amount of sleep is 7.5 hours a night. The Spellbinder suggests a routine for the three hours before going to bed.

  • 7 to 8 p.m. – Eat the last meal of the day. Turn off your devices. Isolate yourself from overstimulation.

  • 8 to 9 p.m. – Have conversations with loved ones. Meditate. Read. Take a bath.

  • 9 to 10 p.m. – Prepare for sleep. Your bedroom should be cool, dark and tech-free. Lay out your gear for your 5 a.m. workout. Practice gratitude.

The “20/20/20 Formula” is “move, reflect and grow.” Riley explained the three sections of the 20/20/20 Formula that unlocks the 5 a.m. “Victory Hour”:

  • 5 a.m. to 5:20 a.m.: Move – Get out of bed the moment your alarm clock rings. Exercise intensely for 20 minutes to cleanse your system and orient your focus.

  • 5:20 a.m. to 5:40 a.m.: Reflect – Write in a journal or plan your day. Visit your gratitude.

  • 5:40 a.m. to 6 a.m.: Grow – Read books, review your goals or study online. Deepen your knowledge to earn more and master your field.

The “10 Tactics of Lifelong Genius” include focus, setting targets, delegating and learning. The entrepreneur’s enemies attack the SUV in which she, the artist and Riley are driving in Sao Paulo. The billionaire’s private security force whisks him away, but leaves the entrepreneur to find the artist, who has been kidnapped. Because she has been following the 5 a.m. Club morning routine, she is strong enough to fight her attackers and get away. She discovers her fiance in an alley with a gun to his head. She uses her wisdom from Riley’s teachings to convince the gunman to run away. “My business will be untouchable and I, personally, will become unbeatable as I execute on all these ideas.” The next day, Riley congratulates the couple, who credit his teaching with their recovery from the trauma of the attack. He tells the entrepreneur that he has “taken care” of her enemies, who will never bother her again. Then, he shares his 10 Tactics of Lifelong Genius:

  1. Build a “metaphorical moat” around your mental focus, physical energy, personal willpower, original talent and daily time.

  2. For 90 days, use the first 90 minutes of the day to focus on the single most important work you can do to facilitate greatness.

  3. Spend 60 minutes working at your highest level, then take a 10-minute break to walk, read or meditate.

  4. During the second part of your 5 a.m. hour, set five “tiny targets” to accomplish that day.

  5. Fast for 16 hours a day and eat during only eight hours. Schedule a second workout at the end of the day. Go for a nature walk.

  6. Schedule two deep-tissue massages per week to reduce your cortisol (stress hormone), and to increase your melatonin and serotonin.

  7. Use the time you spend in your car to grow professionally by listening to audiobooks or podcasts. Even one idea they inspire could earn you a great success.

  8. Delegate tasks that don’t enhance your goals to employees dedicated to your success.

  9. Take 30 minutes on Sunday mornings to create a plan for having a great week.

  10. Take an hour to learn, every day, so you can fulfill your “mighty purpose.”

“You enter the magic by using joy as your GPS.” The artist and the entrepreneur have a beautiful wedding, with Riley present. While sustainability is key to long-term success, he told them, you must work hard to stand out. He suggested alternating peak activity with recharging breaks by taking two days a week off from technology. Once they are more successful, he says, they should take summers off. “Tomorrow is a bonus, not a right.” To enjoy life, Riley says, everyone needs the right relationships, places and activities to fuel the engine that drives their GPS of joy. Riley gives the newlyweds several charms. They include a mirror that helps cultivate comfort with solitude, and a flower charm to remind them that miraculous experiences are more valuable than material things. The other charms are a door, which symbolizes moving on from failure; an eye amulet to ward off evil; a paintbrush to show the power of creativity and the power to make dreams real; and a money charm to remind them to give money freely, because the more you give, the more you receive. The last charm, a coffin, reminds them not to delay being happy to some future date when they think they will have more time.

Rising early in the morning will help you be forgiving and leave a lasting legacy. Riley hosts the newlyweds on a visit to Nelson Mandela’s jail cell on Robben Island near Cape Town, South Africa. During his incarceration, Mandela got up at 5 a.m. every day to work out. Like Mandela, many great men and women suffered but held onto their core character traits: Courage, mercy, humbleness, honor, compassion, authenticity and courtesy. Strive for these qualities to realize your greatness and make the world a better place. To establish a legacy, construct your life around doing good. “Every one of us must rise each morning – yes, at 5 a.m. – and do everything we can possibly do to unfold our genius, develop our talents, deepen our character and escalate our spirits.” Flash forward five years: The entrepreneur is wealthy. She volunteers to help homeless people and runs marathons. She doesn’t care about being rich, famous and powerful, though she is all three. The artist has become a vegan and a habitual exerciser. He’s famous and prosperous. They both work to bring others into the 5 a.m. Club.

About the Author Leadership consultant Robin Sharma also wrote The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, The Greatness Guide and The Leader Who Had No Title. His books have sold 10 million copies.

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