5 Human Performance Hacks You Must Do Every Morning

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55 HHUUMMAANN PPEERRFFOORRMMAANNCCEE HHAACCKKSS YYOOUU MMUUSSTT DDOO EEVVEERRYY MMOORRNNIINNGG Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. Jim Ryun For me starting the day without a pot of tea would be a day forever out of kilter. Bill Drummond People have traditionally turned to ritual to help them frame and acknowledge and ultimately even find joy in just such a paradox of being human - in the fact that so much of what we desire for our happiness and need for our survival comes at a heavy cost. We kill to eat, we cut down trees to build our homes, we exploit other people and the earth. Sacrifice - of nature, of the interests of others, even of our earlier selves - appears to be an inescapable part of our condition, the unavoidable price of all our achievements. A successful ritual is one that addresses both aspects of our predicament, recalling us to the shamefulness of our deeds at the same time it celebrates what the poet Frederick Turner calls "the beauty we have paid for with our shame." Without the double awareness pricked by such rituals, people are liable to find themselves either plundering the earth without restraint or descending into self-loathing and misanthropy. Perhaps it's not surprising that most of us today bring one of those attitudes or the other to our conduct in nature. Michael Pollan Good habits are worth being fanatical about. John Irving Just do it! First you make your habits, then your habits make you! Lucas Remmerswaal (from The A-Z of 13 Habits: Inspired by Warren Buffett) --------------------------------------- There are 5 things I do every morning, no matter what. The only day I skip these items - which I affectionately call my "Human Performance Hacks" - is when I know that my productivity, my health and my motivation are not that freakin' important. In other words, I have just a few days of the year that are complete slob days in which I let everything slide and simply sit around. Usually this is when I have a hangover, it's a holiday, or I've caught some kind of strange tropical disease like a parasite. And of course, by the end of each of those "non-hacking" days, my body and mind feel like complete crap by the evening. I suppose that on the flipside, these days are excellent ways to remember exactly why I integrate the rituals and habits you're about to discover into my daily routine on the other 360-some-odd days of the year. So below, I'm going to share with you these top rituals and habits - the 5 human performance hacks you must do every morning if you truly want to achieve amazing feats of physical and mental performance in your life. These are the exact hacks I use to enable myself to write thousands of words and record hours of audio and video each day, operate three corporations, homeschool my twin boys, keep my wife happy, and still have plenty of time and energy left over for Ironman triathlon training, playing my guitar, and enjoying a nice glass of red wine - no fancy smart drugs required. Let's do this. ----------------------------------------- Human Performance Hack 1: Check Your Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Every morning, I wake up, roll over, flip on my phone and...check my e-mail. Just kidding. I do indeed, however, flip on my phone. But rather than checking e-mail, I open a special app called the "SweetBeat HRV", put on a wireless heart rate monitor, and do five minutes of simple tracking. HRV (which I describe in detail in chapter 7 of the Beyond Training book), is a measure of the two branches of your nervous system: the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. Your parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest) influences your heart rate via the release of a compound called acetylcholine by your vagus nerve, and decrease heart rate variability. In contrast, your sympathetic nervous system (fight-and-flight) influences heart rate by release of epinephrine and norepinephrine, and generally increases increases heart rate variability. In a nutshell, f youre well rested, havent been training excessively and arent in a state of over-reaching, your parasympathetic nervous system interacts cooperatively with your sympathetic nervous system to produce even-keeled responses in your heart rate variability to respiration, temperature, blood pressure, stress, etc. And as a result, you tend to have really nice, consistent and high HRV values, which are typically measured on a 0-100 scale. The higher the HRV, the better your score. But if youre not well rested (over-reached or under-recovered), the normally healthy beat-to-beat variation in your heart rhythm begins to diminish. While normal variability would indicate sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system balance, and a proper regulation of your heartbeat by your nervous system, it can certainly be a serious issue if you see abnormal variability such as consistently low HRV values (e.g. below 60) or HRV values that tend to jump around a lot from day-to-day (70 one day, 90 another day, 60 the next day, etc.). In other words, these issues would indicate that the delicate see-saw balance of your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system no longer works. I know that seems like a lot of information, so I'll boil it down for you: If you wake up in the morning, test your HRV and it's low, then you need to focus on de-stressing that day, and need to replace (if possible) any stressful activities - whether Crossfit or hard weight lifting or stressful tasks at work - with easier tasks. This allows you to stay well-tuned to the delicate see-saw balance of your nervous system. Oh yeah, and one other quick thing: a low HRV may simply mean that you just need to take a few minutes and calm down before you hop out of bed. Which is why I also do Hack #2 and Hack #3 to see if I can get HRV before letting that number dictate my whole day... ----------------------------------------- Human Performance Hack 2: Journal. While my HRV app is doing it's five minute thing, I roll over and grab my 5 Minute Journal to begin a quick series of notes. I keep the journal on my bedstand so I remember to journal before I get out of bed. This is important. Here are the main two reasons I like the 5 Minute Journal method (compared to my old method of scribbling down some illegible chicken-scratch on a notepad): 1. The layout of the journal integrates the simplest, most effective things you can do everyday to be happier. It's been proven over and over again that shifting your focus to the positive can dramatically improve your happiness, and this journal has a positive quote every day, a weekly challenge, a structure to help you focus on what's good and what you're grateful for - particularly positive affirmations and the best things that are happening to you in your life. 2. The journal is built on principles of positive psychology. For some reason, it took psychologists about 80 years to realize it's better to focus on positive behavior traits rather than things that make us anxious or sad. Rocket science, huh? You end up smiling when you write down the things you really appreciate about life, and scientific evidence shows that journaling can promote creativity, self-awareness, and personal development. So I sit there and journal, typically writing down things like how grateful I am for getting a chance to make a snowman with my kids yesterday or for last night's glass of Pinot Noir or for what happened with my wife after last night's glass of Pinot Noir, then writing down things like how it would be such a nice day if I got a chance to play guitar, fix the snowman's nose, and connect with a colleague I'm launching a phone app with, and finally finishing up with an affirmation like "I'm a joyful guy to be around"... ...and when I'm done, I glance at my HRV score. Nine times out ten, the simple act of journaling boosts my score significantly higher. Amazing how writing grateful thoughts, daily goals and positive affirmations with a pen affects your internal biology. And then, as soon as I finish journaling, I move on to Hack #3... ----------------------------------------- Human Performance Hack 3: Meditate. Until last year, I used to go straight from journaling to Hack #4. But then I decided to hone in on and begin to prioritize daily practice of one aspect of mental training that has been proven to increase mental power: meditation. Even the military uses meditation to prepare a soldiers mind for battle. I know, I know - If theres one thing you probably wouldnt associate with the stereotypical soldier in the military, it would be sitting in a peaceful, zen-like position while practicing deep, relaxing meditation. But the military has actually found the practice of mindfulness based meditation to be extremely helpful in overcoming stress. And from Kobe Bryant to Joe Namath to Arthur Ashe, meditation has helped countless athletes manage stress, improve focus and enhance performance. But here was my beef with meditation: the problem is that its all too often associated with woo-woo science, mysticism and extremely long periods of time spent sitting and visualizing candle flames or the flow of the breath through your nostrils. I dont know about you, but even if those techniques work, I simply dont have time for them, especially when I have twin 5 year old boys shooting tiny marbles at me with their Lego rocket ships much of the day. So instead, I use an extremely fast meditation hack that only takes me about 60 seconds to perform, and I do it immediately after journaling and right before I get out of bed. It's called the quick coherence technique, and here is how it goes: Quick Coherence Step 1: Heart Focus. Focus your attention on the area around your heart, the area in the center of your chest. If you prefer, the first couple of times you try it, place your hand over the center of your chest to help keep your attention in the heart area. You'd be surprised once you discover that your heart actually does still beat at the buttcrack of dawn. Quick Coherence Step 2: Heart Breathing. Breathe deeply, but normally, and imagine that your breath is coming in and going out through your heart area. Continue breathing with ease until you find a natural inner rhythm that feels good to you. This takes practice but you'll figure it out after a few tries. Quick Coherence Step 3: Heart Feeling. As you maintain your heart focus and heart breathing, activate a positive feeling. Recall a positive feeling, a time when you felt good inside, and try to re-experience the feeling. One of the easiest ways to generate a positive, heart-based feeling is to remember a special place youve been to or the love you feel for a close friend or family member or treasured pet. I usually imagine my two little boys' smiling faces. This is the most important step. But don't imagine my boys. Come up with your own thing. I've found it to be even more effective when you can create an image of the positive thing and imagine it being placed on, in or near your heart. This sounds ultra woo-woo, but it works. The cool thing about the the Quick Coherence Technique is that you can do it anytime, anywhere and no one will know youre doing it. In less than a minute, it creates positive changes in your heart rate variability, which can also send powerful signals to the brain which improve your focus and how youre feeling. In addition to the morning, you can apply this one-minute technique before or during phone calls or meetings, in the middle of a difficult conversation, when you feel overwhelmed or pressed for time, or anytime you simply want to practice instantly decreasing your stress. If you're competing in sports or doing a tough workout that requires focus, you can also use Quick Coherence whenever you need more coordination, speed and fluidity in your reactions. ----------------------------------------- Human Performance Hack 4: High-Dose Curcumin. Once I finish up the first 3 steps, I get out of bed and move on to hack number 4 - a quick hit of high-dose curcumin (1000mg). I personally use 4 capsules of this stuff called Phenocane, which is a potent, safe source of curcumin and also has a bunch of other natural feel-good herbal extracts in it. Plus, it's faster than making an enormous bowl of Indian curry. So why is curcumin such an essential hack? First curcumin acts as a bit of a pick-me-up - similar to an anti-depressant, but without all the nasty side effects. For example, in one study a group of 60 participants were assigned to one of three groups for 6 weeks: 1000 mg of BCMTM curcumin daily, fluoxetine (an anti-depressant) 20 mg daily, or a combination of both. A standardized test called a Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression was used to assess the results. Improvements were seen in all groups (fluoxetine 64.7% and curcumin 62.5%), with the greatest improvement seen in the combination group (77.8%). The differences, though, were not significant across the groups. Specifically, the researchers found the curcumin to be as effective as the fluoxetine. This was actually the first human study to find an anti-depressant effect for curcumin, although previous animal studies have shown mood-boosting effects. But that's not all. Curcumin also alleviates brain inflammation and stimulates growth of new brain cells. What kind of things cause brain inflammation or shut down growth of new brain cells? Here's just a few: -Electrical signals from your phone and wi-fi router. -Too much alcohol the night before. -Not enough sleep the night before. -Pharmaceuticals like anti-histamines or sleep drugs. -Hard workouts the day before. -Stress. I don't know about you, but I get exposed to at least one of these things almost every day. So I pop my Phenocane on an empty stomach first thing in the morning and it makes an enormous difference. By the way, the renewal of brain cells by curcumin not only gives the brain plasticity (meaning you're sharper in the morning and better able to form memories and engage in complex tasks), but it also seems to protect the brain from stress and prevent depression. Cheap stuff, easy hack. Done. And move on to the final hack... (P.S. I also keep organic turmeric powder in my pantry and sprinkle it all over my salad at lunch). ----------------------------------------- Human Performance Hack 5: Do Yoga or Foundation Moves. Finally, I get my body moving. Gentle, light aerobic movement early in the day enhances product of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which assist with learning, productivity and focus later in the day. Doing something physical in the morning also makes you more likely to exercise later on in the day, especially if you're an "All-Or-Nothing" personality like me. Morning moving is also great for blood pressure, oxygenation, fat burning, increased metabolic rate, and addressing any tight spots on your body that may be prone to injury or lack of mobility. So every day, I alternate between two modes of movement: 1) 10 minutes of yoga with deep, diaphragmatic breathing I describe in Chapter 5 of Beyond Training); 2) One round of the 10 Core Foundation moves. For the yoga, you can pick your poison. I personally do 100 jumping jacks, then I do the entire sun salutation series 3 times through (click that link, print it, hang it on your wall until you memorize it, then rip it down and go into cruise control for the rest of your life), then I finish with 10 push-ups and 10 body weight squats. And what the heck is Core Foundation Training? Foundation Training is a series of exercises based on integrating the muscular chains of your body - particularly your butt. In other words, Foundation Training turns on the notorious weak link in most humans: our ass. Of course, the book uses the more appropriate term "posterior chain" - and teaches you how to stabilize your spine and core to rapidly reduce any low back pain, mobilize the hips, and use your powerful butt muscles all day long. So you get better posture, and you also look way better in fitted jeans. For a quick introduction to Foundation Training, watch Dr. Eric Goodman demonstrating the basic techniques of a few the Foundation moves. I've had Eric on my podcast before, and you can listen to that episode by clicking here. OK, so now you need to get the Foundation Training Book, learn the 10 moves in that book and do them every other morning, alternating with yoga. It took me about 3 days to memorize all 10 moves. They're not very complex, but they make a huge difference in the the way you look, feel and perform the rest of the day. Plus you can tell your friends that you now activate your ass every morning. ----------------------------------------- Summary At first glance, this list may seem mildly exhausting and intimidating. But when you put it all together, it's actually quite simple. For example, here are my notes from this morning: 6:37: Wake 6:37-6:40: Lie in a semi-coma-like state digging the goobers out of the corners of my eye. 6:40-6:45: Roll over, grab Sweetbeat stuff, grab journal, and take HRV while journaling. 6:45-6:46: Quick Coherence Technique. 6:47: Get out of bed and pee. Pop 4 Phenocane and a glass of water. 6:50-7:00: 10 Core Foundation exercises for 10 minutes. Boom, that's it. By 7am I'm ready to rumble. Or at last take a morning dump on my Squatty Potty. ----------------------------------------- Now is the time for action, go 1) download a heart rate variability app; 2) grab your 5 Minute Journal; 3) review the quick coherence technique; 4) get the Core Foundation book; 5) order high dose curcumin - and within one week you'll have everything you need to change your life and hack your productivity, your income, your career, your health and your happiness. Happy hacking! ----------------------------------------- Did you enjoy this chapter? Get the whole book at BeyondTrainingBook.com and change your life, body and health forever.