Why Waking Up Early Works for Me – And Will For You, Too

In Basketball, Blog, Discipline, Mental Toughness
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If you followed me on Snapchat (@drebaldwin), you would see the skyline image I post every morning. When I’m home in Miami, that photo is of the 4AM morning sky where all you see are street lights. I draw a “WOYG” (Work On Your Game) on top of the pic as a Good Morning to everyone.

I like doing things early.

It started back in 2006, when I was struggling to create a professional basketball career while working 9-5 at the Society Hill location of Philadelphia Sports Club selling memberships. Though I had free access to the gym as a company employee, the Society Hill PSC didn’t have a basketball court, which I needed to work on my game. There was another PSC location though, in Chalfont (I didn’t know either) that did have an indoor basketball court. Chalfont was 45 minutes north of my City Line Avenue apartment, even with no traffic. And my job in Society Hill was 25 minutes south of my apartment.

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This wasn’t a problem, actually. I just needed to grab some basic information and do some math.

Here’s what I needed to know.

  1. The Chalfont PSC (called “Highpoint,” though I don’t know why) opened at 5:30 AM.
  2. My job required me to be there at 9 AM every weekday. Naturally, that meant I’d need to be there at 8:15 AM. Like I told you, early. This meant I needed to be walking out of the Chalfont PSC no later than 7 AM, showered and in my work clothes.
  3. It was a 75-minute drive from Chalfont to Society Hill
  4. The Chalfont PSC, like any gym, had locker rooms and showers. I could change into my work clothes there, and skip the trip back home between gym and work.
  5. Doing the math, I needed to leave home at 4:45 AM to be the first person in the gym every morning at Chalfont PSC. I could get in a 90-minute workout and still be at work on time.
  6. That meant waking up at 4 AM.

And I’ve pretty much kept it up ever since, save for changes in gyms and shorter commutes.

Waking up early allowed me to have many indoor basketball gyms, from Chalfont to Bala Cynwyd to Tampa Bay to Miami, all to myself – which is how I built the foundation of my brand. I recorded my workouts and started posting them to YouTube in 2006. My videos there have been viewed over 40 Million times now. That foundation has lead to me authoring books, speaking on three TEDx stages, selling thousands of products, a top-rated podcast, professional speaking, and many other opportunities.

Though I no longer play professionally, I’m still up before the sun.  My current gym “commute” is a 3-minute walk to a facility that opens at 5 AM.

People ask me though, why? Why wake up early still if it’s not to adhere to a work schedule, flight itinerary, business appointment, or to get the kids to school (I have none)? Why force yourself up when the same things can be done when the sun is up?  What’s the point?

Here are the points and benefits of being an early-riser, with “early” denoting a set time you get up, that is not tied to anything dealing with other people (work, kids, appointments, travel etc.). This is the early stuff you’re doing for yourself.

  1. Get a jump on your day. I feel good when I wake up early, scan the condominium units across the street from me, and see only 2 or 3 lights on in 200+ units. I’m giving myself a head start on the day that most people aren’t getting. To me, anything I do in my first two hours awake feels like it’s worth 10X more because I’m doing it while the rest of the world (in my time zone, at least) is asleep.
  2. Build discipline. Almost everyone knows they could use more discipline, yet many people never do anything that would intentionally build that discipline. A habit of doing something positive that you don’t have to do, but you’re choosing to do on your own accord is where discipline builds. Waking up early every day is such a habit.
  3. Space. If you’re anything like me, you hate crowded gyms. That’s why I avoid gyms during those peak after-work hours between 4-8pm. You can’t get the equipment you want. The dumbbells are all over the place. And the staff can’t clean up as quickly as people and sweat and leave other forms of who-knows-what around the gym. Early in the morning? You won’t ever have to worry about his stuff. It’s usually the same group of people who come in early, like you, and oddly, the early morning crew are always really nice people. Coincidence?
  4. Peace and quiet. If you’ve ever been up before 6 AM and went outside , you noticed something: It’s quiet! Most people are either still sleeping, or just getting up and dragging themselves into the day against their will. The busiest intersections are barren; the traffic signals aren’t even active. You could film a music video in the middle of most streets and not get in anyone’s way.  Early morning, you have the space you need to think, read, write, or practice that hobby you may want to someday turn into a business. And no one is even awake to text, email or bother you in any way. If “me time” is a necessity, early mornings are where it’s at.

Waking up early is a great idea – for all the reasons stated above and many more that I’m not listing. If you wake up early, you already agree with this, and may have other good reasons (leave them in the comments). But for those of you who aren’t convinced, just try it for a week. Wake up earlier than you have to, with enough time to do something useful for yourself like reading writing, or working out. Yes – you’d probably want to go to bed earlier to compensate for the lost sleep. Do it. It won’t kill you.

You may not consider yourself a “morning person.” That’s probably because you’ve never woke up in the morning, on-purpose and with a purpose! Try it and see.
Snap me when you wake up.

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