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I’m getting up at 5am to ‘chase the tiger’. How long can I sustain this madness?

A while ago, I came across the work of motivational speaker Eric Thomas, who is a bit like the US megastar life coach Tony Robbins, except, in his own words, “hip hop”. Thomas’s talks (I found them on YouTube) are shouty, inspirational monologues in which he berates people for not wanting success enough: they think they want it, but they need to want it the way they want to breathe. And I do find them quite motivating, once you get past the fact that this logic completely ignores social circumstance as the primary driver of success.

One of the things that Thomas asserts is that he wakes up at 3am. This enables him to get loads of stuff done while everyone else is asleep, and so stay ahead of the competition. He says cool-sounding things like, “I use pain to push me to greatness”, and “I do not take constructive criticism from people who have never constructed anything”, which implies you should only take advice from builders.

I found myself reflecting on his early starts as I shafted my own sleep patterns beyond all recognition. Right now, I am typing this while my family are sleeping soundly – because if I think about something I have to do, I cannot relax until it is done. Thomas would be proud.

Lately I have been trying to fit exercise into my life while also staying on top of work, which has led to some early starts. January saw me getting up at 5am to head to the gym, where I would push it to the max, then feel terrible for the rest of the day. In my defence, I wanted to be back in time for the school run, and you don’t get a body like mine without effort. As the old saying goes, “No pain, no gelatinous body that makes you sad when you go on holiday”.

The problem is, my job involves late nights, and I often don’t get to sleep until 2am. In the past, I have simply cancelled my early morning and slept in, waking up later to lament my failure to “chase the tiger” or whatever Thomas might say. This year, I didn’t want to do that, but am instead left absolutely useless for the rest of the day. Last week I went to a launch event, where I was meant to talk to people enthusiastically about my upcoming shows, and ended up spending the evening reassuring them that I was actually OK, because I looked so glassy-eyed and exhausted.

Paranoia is another side effect of my short nights. Sleep deprivation makes perspective a long-forgotten friend, my days spent mentally spiralling off the smallest thing. I did an advert for my podcast recently that went to the sponsor with some incorrect wording, which meant that my eye for detail has gone, which meant that my work would start to get worse, which meant that my agent would drop me, which meant I would struggle to pay the bills, which meant my family would leave me. Thomas would say, “A setback is only a setup for a comeback”; but I don’t think by “comeback” he means “correctly worded advert”.

A couple of weeks ago, I did a charity club night that went on until 3am. I then had to get home in time to travel to the airport for 6am, albeit for a family half-term break. After weeks of early starts and late nights, this sent me into a kind of madness. I am sure my kids were just playfully bantering in the departure lounge, but to me it sounded as if they were saying, “Hey, Daddy, all three of us are going to spend the day trying to make you cry.” The second we got on the plane and settled the kids, I fell asleep. I woke up feeling properly rested, for the first time in ages. I looked across to tell my wife so, before realising that she’d had to look after the kids on her own while I slept. She looked the way I did at the launch event. I told her the reason she didn’t feel good is because she didn’t want it enough.

Source: TheGuardian