Learn from Success: Studying the Daily Routines of Great People

Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, a budding artist, or just striving to become the best version of yourself, studying the daily routines of successful people can show you how small steps add up to great achievements. From history-making inventors like Nikola Tesla to modern celebrities like Barack Obama and Oprah, we can learn from some of the most highly accomplished individuals by taking a look at what their daily routine looks like.

With greater insight into the lives of these highly successful individuals, we can formulate our own personalized strategies for success that will help us meet and exceed our expectations. In this blog post we’ll take an in-depth look at why planning your day around routines and rituals is essential as well as exploring different examples of routines that have been implemented by people who become notable in their fields.

Establishing a healthy daily routine is essential. It helps maintain energy levels, create healthy rituals, and form peace in life. It’s not just about time management; it can also positively influence one’s physical, mental, and emotional health.

Why we should learn from successful people

Modeling the behavior and ideas of successful people provides us with a roadmap for success. It is an incredibly powerful tool, one which will give us increased knowledge, insight, and intuition to apply ideas to our own lives that can bring us closer to achieving our goals. Not only do we have access to their experiences and judgement, but it can spark our imaginations with new ideas of how we may build on existing foundations or create something completely new. Having a model to model ourselves after gives us not only inspiration and hope, but also actionable information that we can leverage towards attaining our own fruition.

Successful people have, many times, devoted a great deal of time to thinking about the subject of self-improvement. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel when we’re making the effort to improve ourselves. If we observe the routines of highly productive and creative people, we have a shortcut to implementing good routines ourselves. Many of these people have shared a lot of advice. Having a model to work towards is great for helping you visualize your future and keep yourself motivated.

Common traps in learning from successful people

Learning from successful people is a great way to improve your own skills, but rigidly following their advice can be a trap. This is because every person’s success is different and contradictory pieces of advice could exist that all promise the same outcome.

It’s important to use your own judgement and think critically when attempting to gain knowledge from those who have achieved success. Not every successful person’s routine is going to work for you, or is even healthy. Genius is often quite close to madness. You definitely don’t want to copy someone unhealthy.

So it’s important to remember to take all advice, even from people you admire, with a grain of salt.

After all, even experts in the same field are often very different people. Jeff Bezos, for instance, has a slower, relaxed morning routine.

“I like to putter in the morning, so I like to read the newspaper, I like to have coffee, I like to have breakfast with my kids before they go to school, so I have my kind of puttering time is very important to me. And so that’s why I set my first meeting for 10:00.” –Jeff Bezos

But Apple’s Tim Cook has a very different routine.

“The Apple CEO is up early every morning, rising at 3.45am to work on emails for an hour — he gets between 700 to 800 every day. ‘I like to take the first hour and go through user comments and things like that, and sort of focus on the external people that are so important to us,” he said in an interview with Axios on HBO.'” – Balance the Grind

All self-improvement should be treated like an experiment. Figure out what works for you in your circumstances. Successful people are good models, but not perfect ones. Below, we’ll explore the most common themes we can learn from leaders in their field.

How successful people use their energy

The most important skill that successful people display is using their daily routines to properly focus their energy. There are many tempting distractions all around us that are inevitably going to pull us every which way. In order to prevent distraction, we can look to how morning rituals help people gain clarity and focus.

Beethoven made a cup of coffee with exactly 60 beans each morning. Author Mason Currey notes in his book Daily Rituals that Beethoven, “often counted them out one by one.” This level of precision isn’t necessary for composing music, but having something precise to focus on and clear one’s mind in the morning can center oneself.

Many business people make a To-Do list to take stock of their priorities. Actor Hugh Jackman, among many other people, meditates every morning. You don’t have to get up at 3:45 like Tim Cook, but starting your day by focusing your energy on something calming and clear the clutter from your mind.

Nobody’s productivity routine is the same. Each one is very personal. You might work best from 5-7 AM, or 10 AM to 1 PM, or in the evening. You can find a leading person in any field who works in any time range. But what’s important is consistency. Consistency helps not only regulate your day to day life, but is important for focusing your energy on the things you’re passionate about. When you’re working, you want to enter the flow state.

Author Haruki Murakami takes this to an extreme. Dr. Dario Dornbierer describes his routine:

“[Murakami] wakes up at four, writes for six hours, goes for a run or swim in the afternoon, reads in the evening, and goes to bed at nine. ‘I keep to this routine every day without variation,” he said in his interview with The Paris Review. ‘The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerise myself to reach a deeper state of mind.‘”

Murakami’s life is modeled around getting himself into the flow of writing. Not all of us can or should do this, but we can learn from this about focus. Marukami’s focus when he is writing is all on the book, to the extent that his whole schedule is already planned out around the novel. If we’re writing, or painting, or planning, we need focus.

This is what every single successful person’s daily routine contains, in one form or another: a period where they can focus. They take their energy and focus it on whatever their craft is: acting, painting, writing, designing, any skill that requires concentration. It’s not about working hard, though it is hard work. It is about working deeply. It is about directing your energy towards what you are doing.

The exact way you do this is, again, personal. Mason Currey noted that Ernest Hemingway wrote with a typewriter on top of a bookshelf (much like today’s standing desk). Benjamin Franklin liked to sit nude in chilly air. Whatever weird thing works for you, go for it. The point isn’t the quirk, the point is that it settles you into a zone where your energy is directed.

By eliminating distraction and putting yourself in a separate space, physical and mental, you can direct your focus to the thing you’re passionate about.

Doing this at the same time each day is important. If you develop the ritual, whether it’s 30 minutes a day or your whole life like Murakami, then the ritual will develop you. The ritual will sustain you and keep you going through difficult times, and the more you do it, the easier it is to get your energy directed toward immersing yourself in your passion.

Scientist vs. Artist vs. Leader—Comparing and Contrasting Routines

Differences in the routines of a scientist, an artist, and a leader, for example, can be quite profound. Each one relies on structure and discipline to create the results they desire. Scientists often have strictly regulated research studies that must adhere to strict protocols; it is a field where frequent documentation, rigorous testing, and careful analysis are required.

Artists tend to keep regular practice schedules but also rely heavily on creativity and inspiration to bring their projects to life. Leaders often have highly unpredictable days filled with unexpected challenges as they deal with everything from personnel issues to developing plans for goal achievement or crisis management. All three professions are unique and require different expertise, but many of these things can apply across fields.

So while it’s natural and desirable to study people’s routines in your field, it helps to branch out. A writer can learn from a successful scientist’s meticulous project tracking and review. A scientist might appreciate an artist’s daily walk in nature for both the beauty of it, but also the relaxing nature of it. A lot of CEOs meditate for very different reasons than Buddhist monks, but still get the benefits of mental clarity.

People do things for lots of different reasons, but many times achieve the same benefit. Things like breaks, walks, and quality time with family are common for many successful people because these things are what we need to prosper as people. Our success isn’t just material; it’s about focusing our energies on our passions: the things that help us grow and live fulfilling lives.

No successful person is only a CEO, only an artist, or only a performer. They are people who have dedicated themselves to a craft and served as an example we can emulate. But don’t narrow yourself to only that; take in successful parents, siblings, and children. Emulate greatness not only in your own field, but wherever you find it.

To close, establishing an effective routine will help to jumpstart your life. When learning from successful people, don’t get too frustrated and make sure to remind yourself everyone is different. You shouldn’t forget that successful people also have unique stories or use different types of energy compared to yourself.

You’re not going to be able to copy anyone completely, and you shouldn’t. You’re you, and nobody else. But you can see what’s worked for others and save yourself some struggle. Look out in the world to inspire yourself. Emulate what works and moves you closer towards your goals each day—the rest will fall into place in its own time.

If you want more ideas on how to structure your day, then watch or listen to our co-host conversation episode, A Conversation on the Best Daily Routines for a Healthy Life, where we break down the obstacles to maintaining a healthy daily routine and share some of our experiences overcoming them.

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