The Golden Hour

The exponential power of focusing on ourselves first

A study done by the exercise technology company Strava, drawing upon data from some 800 million activities, predicts that most of us are likely to abandon our New Year's Resolutions by the second Friday of January—or what they term "Quitter's Day."

It's a well-known phenomenon that the commitments we make as we turn the calendar rarely pan out. And we see in real-time how such resolutions can fade away. Our ambitious plans—often made to atone for our liberal intake of Christmas cookies or peppermint cocktails—meet their match as reality rushes back into our lives in the form of pressing work projects, family responsibilities, and everything else we've put off until "after the holidays."

Being the great employees/parents/friends/colleagues/managers/adult children that we are, we easily forget our ambition and drift back into "people-pleasing" mode.

Attend that 7 a.m. meeting? — Okay.

And the 7 p.m. one? — Fine.

Volunteer to make cookies for 1st grade? — Sure.

Have a virtual coffee with that guy who reached out over LinkedIn? — Alright.

Give up every waking second of your free time to please others? — Sure. Uh, wait... what now?

Please. Please. Please. We aim to please.

And we're good at it. We get things for it. We get money from our jobs. We get praise from our boss. We get appreciation from our kids. (I'm totally kidding! We don't get that! Maybe someday…). And whether we notice it or not, we get little rushes of endorphins when we fulfill each of these daily responsibilities, which on some level make us feel like we are needed and valued.

Needed and valued. Two important things. If we don’t feel needed and valued, our lives can take a turn for the worse. (I wrote about purpose here).

But you know what else is important? Taking time to please not just others, but ourselves, too.

And that's where this relates to resolutions. Maybe we're going to get in better shape. Maybe we're going to start something new this year—a new career, a new hobby, a new business—whatever. Maybe we're just going to try to be happier.

Whatever it is, it will not happen on its own. Strava has 800 million pieces of evidence that prove this.

So what do we need?


Or more specifically, we need a set time, ideally, every day, to focus on ourselves.

A golden hour.

I know. It's hard. Work, kids, you name it. It can be impossible to find this time.

But we have to. For everything else in our lives to work as we need it to, and for us to reach the potential that we have, we simply have to make this happen.

My golden hour may look completely different than yours. I may need meditation, strenuous exercise, gratitude, and coffee (which is pretty much exactly what I need, in fact). You may need journaling, walking, and tea with lemon.

Tim Ferriss and Tony Robbins jump into cold showers or pools first thing in the morning as almost a shock to the system.

Wim Hoff "aka the Ice Man" has a very specific breathing routine that he swears by.

Everyone has their own ritual. And that’s what it is. A ritual.

Below are some of the activities that seem to be most effective for people across almost every walk of life. Obviously, in creating your own golden hour you'll need to pick and choose, or otherwise, this could quickly become a "golden week." Although that sounds kind of amazing...

  • Drinking water, tea, or coffee

  • Meditating — I wrote a novice’s guide here

  • Exercising — could be anything but most commonly:

    • Walking

    • Running

    • Weight-training / resistance-training

    • Spinning / biking

    • Yoga

  • Writing — could take multiple forms:

    • Journaling or so-called Morning Pages

    • Expressing gratitude

    • Coming up with ideas — James Altucher swears by writing 10 ideas a day

    • Recapping the prior day or planning the current one

    • Measuring — how many push-ups done, or articles written, or quality hours spent with kids

  • I'll add reading or listening to podcasts to this list as well. This may not be in the spirit of "thinking your own thoughts" as you're technically consuming someone else's, but for me, especially while lifting weights, this is often the only time I have to listen to an inspiring or informative interview.

So there are all kinds of ways you can approach your golden hour. But the point is the routine itself. It's having a touchstone every day that sets the tone.

You've probably heard the phrase "win the morning, win the day" before. It's exactly that. If it's 7:00 am and I've already completed a strenuous workout, meditated, and written what I am thankful for, I have already won. Whatever else I may or may not accomplish that day is gravy.

Getting your mind right and your body right to start the day puts you at a tremendous advantage.

And it's not just for that day. I've talked plenty in this newsletter about the power of compounding. We know that money invested over long periods of time compounds, but we think less about the growth we can achieve by investing in ourselves. And this growth is not linear, but rather exponential. Through meditation or gratitude or journaling repeated day-in and day-out, we start to see the world differently. We notice connections we previously missed. We understand ourselves better. Our thinking improves and we, therefore, make better decisions that can have material impacts on our lives.

Finally, a golden hour is a remedy for the feeling that life is controlling us rather than the other way around. The universe wants disorder. Remember the concept of entropy? Our lives will naturally trend toward disorder if we let them.

A golden hour is a way to actively fight back against this. It is a stake in the sand. It is you taking control of your mindset before the day/week/year takes control of you.

Guess what? Tomorrow is the second Friday of January. Quitter’s Day.

Fortunately, we’re not focused on resolutions. We’re focused on what actually works: systems. And there is no better system that I know of than the golden hour.

So let’s set our alarm clocks and get a plan in place. We’ve got exponential growth to look forward to. This is going to be awesome.

Have a great week.



In light of yesterday’s troubling events in Washington D.C., I am re-sharing the article below. I believe its message—calling for dialogue and understanding—is as relevant today as it was back in November when it was originally published.

Read: Overcoming a history of division