Making Your Priorities a Priority

We choose what to make a priority. While it may sometimes feel like we don’t have time for the things we really want to do, in reality we’re simply not making these things a priority in our day-to-day life.

We may tell ourselves, for example, that we want to become a top one-percent public speaker. This is a lofty goal, for sure, but it’s an attainable one—if we put in the work. But instead we decide that we don’t have the time to work toward this goal—we don’t have the time to attend public speaking classes, workshops, seminars, and the like.

Except, this isn’t true. We do have the time to do all of these things; we’re just not making them a priority. If we made our public speaking goal a priority, we could easily take the time to look up when and where public speaking classes near us meet every week. We could then configure our schedule so we can go to these classes on the way home from work—or we could even take a day off to attend an all-day workshop.

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Leonardo da Vinci, the Greatest Dentist of All Time

I’m currently making my way through Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci, as I noted back in November.

In a section titled The Skull Drawings, Isaacson touched upon a point that I’ve been unable to stop thinking about since. The drawings, which Leonardo did in 1489, show a human in various cross-sectioned forms. In one of the drawings Leonardo worked with a skull that had been sawed in half, top to bottom, then the front of the left half was sawed off, making it easy, Isaacson notes, to see how the inner cavities were positioned relative to the face.

To the left of the face Leonardo drew each of the four types of human teeth, with a note saying that a human typically has thirty-two, including the wisdom teeth. With this, as far as is now known, he became the first person in history to describe fully the human dental elements, including a depiction of the roots that is almost perfect.

The point Isaacson then made was that if there were not so much else to remember him for, Leonardo could have been celebrated as a pioneer of dentistry. Just think of that! Here is one of the most famous painters, architects, and—many could reasonably argue—scientists of all time, yet if all that was stripped away, he still would have likely been celebrated within another field.

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All or Something

Yesterday, a tweet by Inc. Magazine claiming that “The world’s most successful people start their day at 4 a.m.” was being retweeted in droves by people looking to vent their frustration at the claim. (J.K. Rowling told the author to “piss off.”)

And honestly, I can’t blame them. After clicking through to the article accompanying the tweet and, thankfully, confirming that me or my book was not referenced in the piece, I gave it a quick read and noticed just how unnecessary the tweet’s claim was.

While the author shouldn’t be the only one placed at fault for this—at many magazines and media organizations, including ones I’ve written for, article authors are unlikely to be writing their own headlines—they continued to push the 4:00 a.m. idea throughout the piece and, assuming they didn’t write the headline themselves, the article’s content was all the ammunition the headline writer needed to create it.

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Resist the Candy

Last week, while my wife and I were packing to stay with her parents over the Thanksgiving break, I decided to leave home the book I was currently reading, a three-pound hardcover edition of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, so to save space in my bag. Besides, my mother-in-law had recently mentioned that she has a copy of the same book, so I knew I could pick up where I left off when we arrived.

Unfortunately, my mother-in-law’s copy was nowhere to be found, so she kindly routed around in her library to find me a couple of books I might be interested in reading instead.

She came up with Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci, and Bob Woodward’s newest presidential biography, Fear: Trump in the White House.

I had heard great things of Isaacson’s latest work. Ryan Holiday had recently praised it with as much passion as I’ve seen him give any book in recent years in his reading newsletter. My mother-in-law was equally enthusiastic in her praise.

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Thanksgiving Every Morning

One of the criticisms I sometimes hear of my book is of what they (often people commenting on social media about an article I’ve written) believe to be a chosen lack of responsibilities surrounding some of the people we interviewed in the book. It’s all very well, they say, spending your mornings working out, meditating, and doing what’s most important to you, but where do your kids fit into all of this? Or your partner? Or even your own down time?

The truth is that this couldn’t be further from the truth. The vast majority of the people we spoke to for the book place a lot of weight on the importance of spending time with their loved ones in the morning; especially if they have kids.

As an example, the attorney general of Washington State, Bob Ferguson, noted of his morning routine, “First, I have a little personal time—breakfast, coffee, the morning news… Then I wake up our nine-year-old twins, Jack and Katie—and my wife, Colleen—and I get them ready and out the door for school.” Ferguson continued, “I’m a big believer that how your day starts is really important. It’s easy for meetings to go late at work, or for other events to come up, and I’m not always guaranteed much time with them later in the day, so I like to lock in that morning time.”

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Earlier today I was speaking with someone about the importance of following up with people. How often have you sent an email, made a call, or physically knocked on someone’s door, only to receive nothing in return, and then decided to give up altogether?

I discovered the power of following up a few years ago, when My Morning Routine first started accepting sponsorships. Whether I was reaching out to potential sponsors directly, or they had initially reached out to me and I was trying to supply them with further details, I was often shocked at how effective following up on an otherwise dead-looking email chain could be.

And this has continued to be true. When Michael and I were approaching people to be in our book, we would sometimes have to follow-up a couple times (three total emails) before we got a response—often in the affirmative. This consistently surprised me; why—I thought—would they reply enthusiastically to my third email asking them to take part, instead of the first or second? If they were interested in being interviewed, why didn’t they get back to me right away?

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On Thinking Before You Speak

One of the criticisms Secretary Clinton received throughout her last presidential campaign was that she was too cagey. She didn’t come across as honest, trustworthy, and like a real person. Whenever she was asked a question during a debate or town hall meeting you could almost see the cogs whirring in her brain as she decided how best to answer.

The same was true of President Obama throughout his presidency. He could hardly be accused of being someone who said anything “off the cuff.” In fact, he was frequently known for over-explaining his answers; giving much more information than the interviewer could possibly want, which in turn hampered their ability to ask further questions.

This is not, however, a rebuttal of Clinton or Obama, both of whom I would have voted for if I were a citizen of this country. Quite the opposite; Secretary Clinton and President Obama have mastered the ability to think before they speak—that old chestnut that was repeated ad nauseam to us as children. While they, Secretary Clinton in particular, were sometimes criticized for this, it’s worth noting that they were criticized for their rare slip-ups—those moments in which they spoke without first thinking through their answer—even more. (Clinton’s “basket full of deplorables,” comment being a particularly well-circulated example.)

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