Up Before The Enemy: 3 Habits That Improve Your Performance as a Leader

Famed Navy Seal Commander and author, Jocko Willink once wrote, “Go to bed at 9:55 pm and you can get up at 4:55 am, still get your seven hours, and be up before the enemy.”  He wrote that in his book Discipline Equals Freedom: Field manual As leaders having a psychological edge is a critical factor in developing the performance of our teams, and our business alike. Willink wrote this in reference to waking up early and working out hard. His main takeaways are that it gives you confidence in yourself, it demands discipline to do both, and that discipline and willpower get stronger when they’re called into action. Here are my 3 favorite habits to make you a more effective leader:

Habit 1: Be Hard To Kill

According to the High Performance Institute, the top 15% of the top 15% of high performers exercise five times per week. As I mentioned a few sentences ago, getting up early and working out hard gives you a competitive advantage. That is not a coincidence, it’s a fact. For me, working out is something I like to take to the next level – I call it going into rage mode. It’s flipping the switch that elevates your performance. Willink believes it gives you the ability to “fight weak emotions with the power of logic, and fight the weakness of logic with the power of emotion.” – because both emotion and logic will reach their limits. You’re enabling yourself to be the full-on rage machine that will not stop. For most people, this is something that is learned and not inherent. You can dig a little deeper and get extra out of yourself to overcome whatever the obstacle is in front of you. It doesn’t matter if it’s doing 10 more burpees or sprinting to the finish at the end of your run – when you’re in rage mode there is no stopping you. When your emotion is telling you you’re drained and you can’t do anymore, rage mode fuels you. When logic is telling you, I need to stop, this is too hard on my body, rage mode elevates you and releases the endorphins required to get you over the hump. Being hard to kill is vital to your performance as a leader. If you’re not in the best shape you can be, your mind and body will shut down easier. In battle, if you stop, you die. In business as leaders, if we stop, we fail. Developing the habit of physical fitness is step one. You’re making a lifestyle change and a shift in your priorities – a habit.

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Habit 2: Organize Your Day

Organization is a skill I do not naturally possess, I would even say, I am the most disorganized person I know. In leadership roles, you’re pulled in many different directions at all times of the day. It becomes virtually impossible to knock off what you need to do because you’re putting out fires, and more importantly dealing with what needs to be dealt with. If you lack organization, your daily tasks will never get complete. It is important to recognize that the most organized and successful leaders are not the ones trying to do it all. They’re the ones that prioritize what work needs to get done, that plan how that work is going to get done, that get help with it by tasking it to the best asset available, and then communicating what the outcome needs to be. If you research it, you will find thousands of articles, books, blogs, and talks about how to be more organized – so I will not tell you the best way for you. Go research and do some testing to find the most effective methods for yourself.

Habit 3: Always Be A Student

Knowledge is invaluable. Someone once asked Buffet about keys to success, and he said  “Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.” Mark Cuban reads 3 hours a day and Bill Gates reads 50 books a year. When someone tells me they’re too busy to read or study, I call bullshit. If three of the busiest and most successful people to walk this earth find time to do it every day – you can too. It’s just not a priority to you. Here are 5 ways you can make reading a priority:

  • Go somewhere specific to read. Studies show that when going to a place for a specific activity you’re more likely to engage in what you’re doing.
  • Set a timer. Whether you’re reading for 30 minutes or 3 hours, it’s always best to schedule your tasks, that way you can focus on devoting your entire time, free of interruptions to reading.
  • Make your knowledge library easily accessible. If you’re a road warrior, like me, use Audible and podcasts. I intake books and articles at least twice a day. It’s the first thing I do when I get up in the morning for about 15 minutes and then when I am in the car or on an airplane I listen to books on Audible or different podcasts from my favorite influencers.
  • Read before bed. Research shows that you absorb more information right before bed, and reading helps you sleep better. Also, reading at the same time every day makes it easier to form a consistent routine.
  • Give it three chapters. It is important to give every book you read a chance, but if it’s not working for you then go ahead and move on. Just give it three chapters first.

One of the most important qualities as a leader is the ability to always execute on our goals. These three habits will guide you down the path to success. I am always open to discussing leadership, fitness, organization, and reading. If you want to talk about it with me, please fill out the form below and I’ll be in touch ASAP!