5 Human Performance Hacks You Must Do Every Morning
Post on 16-Jul-2016
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MMUUSSTT DDOO EEVVEERRYY
Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you
For me starting the day without a pot of tea would be a day
forever out of kilter.
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.
Good habits are worth being fanatical about.
Just do it! First you make your habits, then your habits
Lucas Remmerswaal (from The A-Z of 13 Habits: Inspired
by Warren Buffett)
There are 5 things I do every morning, no matter
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
Every morning, I wake up, roll over, flip on my phone
and...check my e-mail.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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...