The alarm sounds, jolting you awake.

Looking over, the clock signifies it’s 7:00 AM. In order to not completely abandon your job in a sleepy escape, you need to get up and get ready to be at work by 9:00 AM.

A few thoughts rush past: “Do I really need this job?”, “If I didn’t go in, would anyone notice?”, “How much severance does my employer pay again?”, and “How many months can I get by with my savings?”

Been there.

The thing is – there’s nothing wrong with having these thoughts. In fact, the thoughts themselves could even stimulate positive change if used in a smart way.

But, still, I wonder: What’s the source of these fearful thoughts?

These thoughts are symptoms, not causes. They’re manifestations of your discontentment with one or several areas of your life.

The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Each day, we’re slightly different than the day before. We’re either growing or declining – there’s not much middle ground.

And the morning time is our stage to decide whether we’re going to actively grow or drag our mental feet.

The energy we foster in the morning tends to carry with us throughout the day, whether we like it or not.

I like to think of the morning as the foundational bricks, laid to ensure the building doesn’t crumble in a big storm.

Success Starts in the AM

I’ve read over 100 books on optimizing productivity and success and listened to 500+ podcast episodes (many were 2hr+ long) around the theme of productivity and fulfillment. This “morning” concept keeps coming up.

One of the most noteworthy findings on one podcast (the top business podcast on iTunes – The Tim Ferriss Show) across his 200+ 2hr interviews is this: Over 80% of the most successful people he interviewed have a definitive morning routine. A traditional case of 80-20 rule.

From Tony Robbins to Arnold Schwarzenegger, each has a thoughtfully developed morning routine. And, their success speaks for itself.

Tony Robbins take a cold bath and jumps on a trampoline.

Tim Ferriss makes tea, then does transcendental meditation and journaling.

The common denominator among the successful is that they all agree: the morning is our launch pad for the day.

The energy (and not just physical energy) we foster at the beginning of our day determines the success of that day.

Are we forging a powerful position to take on our day with passion and vigor?

What’s the Problem With Having No Morning Routine?

For me, personally, here are the negative events that led me to tiredness, discontentment, and poor work performance.

  • Hurrying – I would wait until the last possible minute to wake up and be forced to hurry and forget things or have a temper tantrum in traffic. This also caused my mind to race to other places more desirable, creating a distraction
  • Lack of mindfulness – I felt very scattered, which is frustrating (until I drank my two to three coffees)
  • Physical stiffness – feeling achy and immobile made me not want to attack the day
  • Tiredness – did I not sleep enough? Did I sleep poorly?
  • Frustration/dissatisfaction – why do I have to feel this way? Why do I rush to a job I only moderately enjoy?

There were many other issues I dealt with, as well. And, worse so, the outcomes of the above.

The main outcome I noted was this: reduced productivity. Because I was starting each day stressed, distant, and unhappy, I’d feel frustrated and it would affect my work. I was distracted. I’d constantly build scenarios in my mind of who or where I could be. 

Achievement is a huge source of happiness. So, if productivity is down, so is happiness.

To add to this, I had just left graduate business school. According to Forbes, the average MBA was making $113,000/year out of grad school at the time. Myself? $44,000. It was easy to pity myself at the time, for sure.

As life unfolded in front of me, I kept seeing my friends achieve more and myself stay similar, even though I was exerting myself 110%.

But what I didn’t realize was I was on a hamster wheel of sorts.

More work, harder days, and longer hours didn’t necessarily equate to exponential growth. After-all, those three are all linear measures anyway.

Enter Meditation, And More

About 2 years into my professional career as a marketer, my sister introduced me to the Tim Ferriss podcast. That opened Pandora’s box. I became obsessed – getting through several two-hour podcasts per week, taking extensive notes, and relistening.

As I dug deeper into this space of human performance and mental optimization, I noticed that all the hot shots I looked up to had badass morning routines.

Most of them included a few things:

  • Introspection (which scared me at the time)
  • Gratitude
  • Physical fitness
  • Early starts
  • Mindfulness

So, I finally sacked up and tried meditation. Within a week, I thought I might not need coffee ever again. I also could somehow get along with my boss lady who was known for being a tough one.

I was sold on meditation, and I wanted more.

The Million-Dollar Morning

After experimenting with countless different tools and tactics to hack my happiness and productivity, I began to find my own rhythm.

I would meditate, do a little yoga or run, drink a bulletproof coffee, read, and journal. All stuff I thought you were supposed to do after work.

I began to notice a few things:

  • More focus at work
  • Better prioritizing of my tasks
  • Improved relationships

How could this be? I honestly think it’s because I became a generally happier person. That made me find more interest in my work, be nicer to others, and be more discerning.

I realized that this is how my role models do it. This is how they say no. This is how they become extremely expert and intelligent. This is how they network. They’re genuinely in alignment between intentions and actions.

As things unfolded in the face of my new morning habit, a few landmarks occurred in my career:

  • I got a job that paid $159K after leaving that one with 44K annual (sounds better than the Forbes projection of $110K right?)
  • After leaving that cushy corporate job, I exited my first tech startup (VeaFitness.com) after growing it to 25K passionate users
  • I started my most recent company, K&J Growth Hackers. After a strategic pivot this past February, we grew it to almost a million in annual sales from basically nothing, with my partner Kale in about 7 months
  • I found such a passion for mindfulness, spirituality, and wellness that I created my most recent program, Absolute Athlete, to teach others about this transformative habit (morning routines)

After finding this new fire for life, I decided I really needed to share it. Which is what brings me to writing this article.

I needed to share the routine that improved my life, happiness, and career more dramatically than anything else I’ve tried. Every day, I thank my mentors like Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, Tony Robbins, and more for sharing their insight with me and millions of others.

I actually compiled the morning routine into an eBook here, if you’d like to implement it for yourself too.

Why Change Now?

It’s really hard to see our own misalignments when we’re deep in the weeds of life. It’s also tempting to avoid change to stay safe – financially, emotionally, or whatever.

But the longer we go deferring change and growth, the more “scared” we become of change. Change and growth are like a muscle we need to train daily to make us fearless.

During the days of hurrying to make coffee and get ready only to sit in traffic and get frustrated, it was very hard to step back and see how broken my morning routine was. Now, looking back, it was very broken.

Where to Go From Here?

Well, let’s start by figuring out what you actually want. Then, once you do, try implementing one or two changes for two weeks to see if it works and you like it.

Let’s say you’re feeling distant and distracted at work. Maybe try adding meditation to your morning routine.

Feeling bloated or tired? Try adjusting breakfast.

Dissatisfied? Maybe try practicing three gratitudes each day.

Where you go next should be fully determined by you, so that you can own the decision and feel fulfillment when you keep promises to yourself.

In the eBook above, I’ve provided many ideas for solutions to common problems that the morning routine can solve. So you can always start there if you need ideas.

Best of luck on your journey! Questions? DM me on Instagram at @abs_athlete.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Jonathan Maxim

Jonathan Maxim is an app designer, digital marketer and thought leader in the fitness and technology realms. After leaving his job at a Fortune 50 company, he merged his management experience with his passion for technology and innovation to create Apps that encourage fitness and wellness. Educated at San Diego State University first in Graphic Design and User Interface, he went on to gain his Masters of Business from SDSU as well. Currently he serves as founder and CEO of Vea Fitness, an app that rewards you for working out with monetary incentives.