5 Human Performance Hacks You Must Do Every Morning

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Performance Hacks







  • Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you


    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


  • 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


    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

    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



    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

    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...