This summer I developed a morning routine. I’ve read several books about how great men and women worked, and a common thread in almost each individual’s story was a routine they followed each and every morning. Maya Angelou rented a hotel room where she’d start writing every morning at 6:30. Ben Franklin used to sit naked in his chamber for 30 minutes reading and writing, taking what he called his “cold air” baths.
After spending 3 months building one, I can say the effects have been transformative. On days when I do my routine, I feel like I’m shot out of a cannon — mentally on, happy, and excited to do things.
I’m not important enough to cover my routine a la Daily Rituals, but will go deep on a new practice that’s had a profound impact on my life: incantations.
So what exactly are they? This is where it gets a little weird. But, screw it: if reading this helps one person feel more confident and capable, it’s worth the slight embarrassment.
Basically, incantations are a combination of visualization exercises, posture, focus and saying stuff really, really loudly.
For me, incantations look like this: in the morning, I start bumping music(so my roommates don’t hear me yelling) and hop in the shower. Once I’m in, I start visualizing a scenario I’ve come up with that specifically addresses the beliefs I’m trying to build. In my case, I’m starting my own company and dealing with plenty of self-doubt, fear of failure and questions about how capable I am.
In this visualization, I imagine the future more successful version of me. The person I’ll be when my next company succeeds. Where am I? What am I doing? How is my posture? How do I sound when I talk?
I visualize all of these details and emulate them — standing like the future version of my more confident self, talking like that guy will talk, etc. Basically, I envision what I’d look like in the future when running a successful company and try to bring that person’s actions, posture and voice back into the present day. Then, once I have this image fixed in my mind and am copying the posture and feelings of my future more successful self, I start yelling.
I don’t just yell anything. In my case, I’m afraid of failing with my next career step. So, I envision (as part of this visualization exercise) someone walking up to future successful me and asking “what are you going to do if this fails?”. And, I yell the response: “I’M NOT GOING TO FAIL” 10 times.
Why did I choose this sentence to incant? It’s because it’s a belief I want to build that answers a question I wrestle with all the time: *what will I do if I fail?*. In the past, this “will I fail?” doubt means that I’d take on too many projects, say yes to too many things, trying to mentally diversify the things I was working on so I couldn’t truly fail. In practice, this meant that I made very little progress on key things that I cared about. Addressing this doubt has helped me feel comfortable focusing on the most important 1–2 things that will lead to big results in my life.
You can choose any incantation you want, but I’d recommend tying it to something you care about — improving yourself with members of the opposite sex, learning a new skill or crushing your job. Whatever area you feel lacking in confidence is where I’d focus an incantation.
Why Incantations Are Awesome
Incantations have been hugely helpful in building positive beliefs. My good buddy Scott Britton talks a lot about how your beliefs determine the quality your life. Your beliefs influence your emotions and actions, which in turn determine everything about your life — who you’re friends with, you career, your work… everything.
For example, someone who believes they are a talented potential employee will interview very differently than someone who’s desperate for a job of any kind. Self assurance and confidence vs. self doubt and second guessing. This is also why people with experience are often more confident than a rookie just starting out: their experiences lead to the belief that he/she can do something well, which then engenders feelings of self-confidence.
Beliefs are nothing but chemical signals firing in your brain. A successful entrepreneur’s neurochemistry doesn’t suddenly change by being around more money. There’s nothing about physically being around large piles of money that causes one’s brain to change and fire in different ways. Rather, our hypothetical successful entrepreneur’s brain changes in response to external evidence (selling a company) that allows the brain — and therefore you — to feel confidence, accomplishment, achievement… whatever.
So, those are incantations. I’ve found them incredibly powerful, and after a few weeks of incantations can honestly say that I wrestle with far fewer “oh shit, everything I do is going to end in failure” moments than I did before. Plus, you feel like a badass after stepping out of the shower.
What’s your morning routine? Do you do anything a bit strange that you’ve found helpful in getting things done?
Thanks to everyone who supported the launch of the book. It’s sold 16k+ copies at this point (which puts it in the top .5% of self published books) and we’ve gotten a ton of great feedback and reviews. I’m really happy with how the book has come out, and appreciate all the support and kind emails from those of you who’ve read it.2