Listen to my full interview with Early to Rise founder Mark Ford here. You can also read the transcript of our interview below.
Craig: Hi, this is Craig Ballantyne from Early to Rise and I am here with Mark Ford, otherwise known as Michal Masterson, the founder of Early to Rise. Mark, thanks for joining us on this call today.
Mark: Happy to be with you, Craig.
Craig: That’s fantastic. I’ve never heard an interview with you and we’re going to cover some really great stuff today on your productivity and how people, no matter if they are the boss of their lives or whether they’re an employee, can put these secrets to work. So just a bit of background about Mark, he founded Early to Rise in 1999 and built that subscriber list to over 450,000 readers at its peak. During that time, he also found some time to write several books including the must read Ready, Fire, Aim, which is probably THE most important book that you’ve written, Mark, I think, for people that are in business and then the Seven Years to Seven Figures.
Mark: I think for entrepreneurs, for those yeah.
Craig: Yeah, so entrepreneurs need Ready, Fire, Aim and then anyone who wants to save for retirement needs to be reading Seven Years to Seven Figures, as well as Automatic Wealth. Now what are the differences between those two books, Automatic Wealth and Seven Years to Seven Figures?
Mark: I first must stop to remind you readers that I’ve written and published no fewer than 18 books. Actually, I think it’s 19 at the last count. I want to tell you that the reason that I’ve been writing and publishing so many books is I got into a one-sided competition with Bob Bly, I think you know who Bob Bly is. Don’t you, Craig?
Craig: He’s written for us before.
Mark: Right. Bob is a very prolific writer. He’s a very bright guy and he writes about marketing and business and writing. He spoke at a lot of our conferences and he’s always highly ranked a speaker. I was shocked when I found out about 10 years ago, well 14 years ago now 2000, that Bob had written and published like—I don’t know how many books at that time, 40 or 50 books. It was unbelievable. I just couldn’t figure out how he could possibly do so much. I asked him about it and he told his system which I’ll share with you later but I decided that since I always wanted to write and publish books myself I decided that I would somehow compete with him.
And so in the 14 years that have passed since then, I have written and published more than 18 books. So I figured that I would be gaining on him because I took the 50 and divide it by his 50 years and figured he wrote one book a year so I wrote 18 in 14 years or whatever. As it turned out, in the 14 years he’s written another 20 or 30 books. So that was my motivation.
So I do have lots of other books that I’ve written about but those three books, I think that Ready, Fire, Aim are really my insights as to how businesses go from zero a $100 million. I’ve been involved with dozens and dozens of business startups, very directly involved, not just from a remote distance or working for them and I think that there are basically four stages of growth in business that I identified. They have common challenges, common opportunities. I’m really proud of that book. I think it’s a very useful book and when I work with people, my clients today, I just insist that they read it because at least it gives us a common vocabulary.
Seven Years to Seven Figures is really a book, it’s just a bunch of stories about people who have managed to from your relatively ordinary, income and ordinary life to having a seven-figure net worth through various channels. The seven years to seven-figure promise was something that I thought as a marketer would be attractive to people but also as a business coach was realistic. So I thought I would write a book about, I made there a dozen people that I personally mentored that accomplished that and how they did it in their different areas.
Then Automatic Wealth is more like a basic financial planning book for people who are not experts in financial planning, about how to build wealth one step at a time starting from very modest means and basically doing what I did, which turned out to be very different in many ways from what you might you think you need to do if you get your ideas about wealth-building from the popular magazines.
Craig: That is impressive.
Mark: That’s how I would describe the difference.
Craig: Excellent. Thank you and I would say for the entrepreneur for Ready, Fire, Aim, as soon as you get done reading Ready, Fire, Aim, you just go back and you start working your way through it again because there are so many things that apply. There’s actually just so much information that you can’t apply it all at once but you’ll make money every single page that you read of that book over and over again. So I look forward to going through it again.
Mark: Thanks for saying that.
Craig: So that’s half of your bio. Now you retired from Early to Rise or you let us take over Early to Rise in 2011 because you felt you’ve written everything you know about entrepreneurship and marketing and copy. You’ve gone on to grow your new venture which is the Palm Beach Letter to eight figures in less than two years so a quick explanation of the Palm Beach Letter Mark and why you moved over to that?
Mark: Well, I got talked into doing it to tell you the truth, Craig. Early to Rise had three components, one of which you took over, the basic franchise. But it also had a health component and an investment component and I wanted to give the employees of those divisions jobs. So I went to Porter Stansberry who’s an old friend and colleague of mine and a former protégé of mine and I said, hey Porter, why don’t you take over this business; you can make a great success out of it and you can own most of it; just leave me a little piece of it. He said, “Fine but only under one condition.” I said what’s that? He goes, “Well, you have to be a part of it for at least two years.”
I didn’t want to do it but I reluctantly agreed to do that. But I said I’ve been in this financial adviser business for thirty years but I’m not an investment expert. I’m not really even interested in it. And he said, “Yeah, but you know business and you know how to make money and I think there’s an appetite for that and I’m imagining a franchise where we apply your business principles to investing.” So that’s what we did. I said okay, I’ll do that but there’s only one rule. I’ve got one thing and you’ve got to employ all these people. He said, “Well, I can’t promise to employ them but I’ll try my best.” So we agreed. I signed the deal and then like a month later, he fired everybody but me.
Then he created a new team. He brought in this guy, Tom Dyson, from his crew who’s an excellent editor and stock analyst and in time really became the publisher. I was the coach of the business but I also wrote to the business. It has turned out to be a very gratifying business because in fact, it is and we are giving investment advice that’s based on my views on how to grow wealthy and my views are very—I’m a chicken entrepreneur, I’m a very conservative investor and I really don’t like losing money so the whole franchise is based on that.
And Porter was right. It does seem to have struck a chord. It’s actually now almost three-years old and in that time it’s gone from nothing and I think we ended the year last year at about over 80,000 subscribers and revenues of almost $30 million and profits of, I don’t know, $7 to 8 million. So it’s turned out to be a very nice little business for the Agora family.
Craig: And so you’re beyond your two years. So you think you’re going to stay there for several more years and keep?
Mark: Well, I don’t know yet. Every two or three years, I threaten to quit. I’m like Howard Stern. I just go on a long rampage, say I’m going to quit and then they make it more fun and interesting for me to stay on so I just agreed to stay on for another couple years. So we’ll see what happens. But I do feel that at some point that I’d just divulged myself at every idea I have on these subjects. I am having that feeling right now, I’ve been writing about wealth building for three years now.
Anyway, I’m charged up. We’ve got a whole new series. We’re doing a whole series on wealth stealers, people in suits that steal money from you and I’m very excited about that, doing investigative reports for our readers, explaining why they’re getting ripped off and how they’re getting ripped off and how they can protect themselves. So there are some new subjects that I’m excited about getting involved in.
Craig: Yeah, I think that’s really, really valuable advice. Unfortunately when I was a younger man, I was on the receiving end of that so it’s education that needs to be out there. You and I talked briefly about Tony Robins’ new book and he covers a lot about that as well in his.
Craig: So one other thing I wanted to mention about Palm Beach, Mark, is my favorite part of it. I read all of the newsletters in the book and my favorite part is definitely the Wealth Builders Club where you show people how to create a side income and also live like a billionaire. Not only is it entertaining but it’s just fantastically practical advice. So that’s wonderful.
Mark: Yeah, I’m very proud of that. It’s not inexpensive to join it. I don’t know what it costs but it’s a couple grand or more. So I’ve really tried to load it up with everything. We have at least nine full-fledged programs that took me several years to develop. Each program consists of a series of essays that I write that explain what’s involved in this, what the potential is, what is required. I try to really outline. These are all income business, wealth-building opportunities and strategies that I’ve used personally so I know it’s the real stuff. We’re just loading it with value because I want people to feel that what they paid for it is a small fraction of what it’s worth.
It’s been very good. We’ve had really good response and now we have chapters opening all over the world. In the last year, we’ve opened up chapters in Argentina, in China, in England, Australia and India. I just got back from our first wealth club meeting in India. We had a hundred people there. They came to dinner with me and we had a great evening and talked about the wealth-building opportunities in India. So it’s been a wonderful experience.
Craig: Yeah, that was really fantastic information you provided on that. I just read How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, which was totally different than what I expected it to be because I know that Asia encompasses South Asia but I thought it was going to be about East Asia and it was all about a man in South Asia. That was a great story.
Mark: Right. I was going to say on that subject, I might be confusing two books. I think there’s a book with a very similar title that I read. I picked it up when I was overseas somewhere but it turned out to be a novel about a guy that was reading all these self-help books. It was very funny because he was reading all these self-help books, trying to get rich and then he had this love interest. That’s not the same book, is it?
Craig: No, that’s the one that I’ve read. But I thought the story is about the guy with the water company, right?
Mark: Yeah. That’s right. He gets very rich but he never manages to get his girlfriend until he’s like 80 years old or something, right?
Craig: Yeah, and he never really gets filthy rich either.
Craig: Then he has a heart attack and I’ve just spoiled the book for people. Sorry. Well, you did, too. Yeah, I knew it was a novel but I thought it was about getting filthy rich in East Asia as opposed to South Asia.
Mark: Oh right. I just loved the title so much I picked it up and when it turned out to be a novel, I thought this is really fun stuff.
Craig: I think it was interesting how he wrote it in that self-help book and the narrative telling which he used was also pretty interesting.
Mark: Right. You know what I loved? There was a part of it that I thought was very clever. In the West, well in America and England and so on, it’s somehow crude to want to make a lot of money and get rich. I’m sure it exists in every culture to some extent but you do feel like there’s less of that in Asia. When I’m in China and India, you feel like people are where they have experienced real poverty and more recently in their history, they’re not ashamed of wanting get rich, be an entrepreneur and get rich.
It’s very different from old wealth in England where I remember once I was in France, I was invited to lunch with a bunch of rich English guys that had estates in France because they weren’t quite rich enough to have them in England. They were all sitting around tut-tutting and talking about Oxford, Cambridge and so on. And then I asked them and I said them, “So what do you guys do for a living?” and there was dead silence. They all stared at me like I had turned into a smelly gorilla. So that attitude, that very condescending attitude towards entrepreneurship is much less prevalent in the East and that’s one of the things I liked about that book.
Craig: Yeah. So quickly to finish up, you actually retired at 39 but it didn’t last and it might be the only thing you failed at, as far as I know. Today, you’re still a champion jiu jitsu fighter that can beat men half his age and you remain as productive as ever, which is what our call is going to be about today because you really have no financial need to keep working but you love being productive and you love creating stuff
So we’re going to talk to you about your secrets to extreme productivity today. You haven’t slowed down since you left ETR. In fact, you’ve become even more prodigious even at the Palm Beach Letter. So what does your daily routine look like now compared to the schedule that you published, I think it was maybe 2010, when you were running ETR?
Mark: If you don’t mind, I’m going to pretext that by just a couple of minutes of bragging because every year I send out to my closest friends and colleagues, and I might have sent this to you, and if not I will, what I accomplished here before. Did I send that to you?
Craig: I read it in Creating Wealth and then if I published it as one of those little tips in ETR the other week.
Mark: Okay. This is not going to sound good to people that don’t know me but I’m amazed myself at how much stuff I get done every year. Forget about being principally involved in one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, like twelve companies, one of which hit $580 million, another hit $30 million and another hit $24 million, $11 million, $4 million and so on, and being involved in all kinds of other projects, real estate and all these other business ventures. I wrote 200,000 words. I wrote and published three or four books last year. I opened up an art gallery in Nicaragua. I’ve opened up an inn. I have all these building projects. I’m involved in building a thousand homes in Panama. There’s all these stuff that I’m doing and I’ve read 50 books last year.
So it is amazing to me what you can do if you just get yourself involved in a very simple productivity protocol. But it requires a couple things. What most people do to be productive is they make a list and they make New Year’s resolutions. Then they write things down and then they just don’t follow up on them. But the two things, and I wrote about this in ETR and I know you’re a big proponent of it, the two things that changed my life in terms of productivity were that I decided to prioritize the things that really mattered to me, the things that would change my life and I got this from I think it was Stephen Covey.
He says you should think about all your goals in terms of a quadrant. There are four sections to a quadrant. One is important and the other is not important. Then another is urgent and not urgent. So you write all your list of your goals down and then he said “When I do this with people, I asked them, what should you do first? And everybody says well obviously, I should do the important and urgent stuff first.” He says, “And that’s a big mistake. If you want to change your life, what you have to do first is the important but not urgent stuff.”
The important but not urgent stuff is the stuff that really will change your life like for me, it was become a writer, a published writer. Beyond newsletter writing, I wanted to write books. That never happened until I coupled identifying what was not urgent and important with the other trick which is to devote the first hour or two of my day to those important but not urgent tasks.
To do that you have to separate yourself. You can’t walk into your business office and do that because most of the time your important but not urgent tasks are not about what you’re currently doing right now to keep the money rolling in. It’s about things that like for me becoming an author or making a movie—I’ve made two movies since that was one of my goals—these things I would have never done are the things that you would postpone.
Every year when you go back and you look at what you’ve done and then you look at what you haven’t done, you realize the stuff you haven’t done are these dreams that represent what you really want to do as a fully-fledged human being. At some point in time, you have to say I’ve got to stop doing this. Luckily, I started that when I was 50 so I’ve accomplished a lot in the last 14 years that I’m sure none of which I would’ve accomplished without this system.
Back to your question, my protocol is nearly exactly the same as it was 14 years ago or more or less when I started writing ETR and started figuring out this protocol based on the advice I’d read from other people but trying things out for my own. I still put the first couple of hours every day to do those priorities. It’s really amazing. I break down my long-term priorities into yearly priorities and then I break each year into monthly tasks, the things that I have to accomplish for all of those goals. In the beginning of the year, I might have fifty 50 goals but only some of them are top priority. So I identify them and I focus on the most important ones but not urgent ones in the early part of the day.
Then I come into, typically today, these days I will come into work. I would say out of five days, two or three of those days I will come in the middle of the day. So I spend my first five or six hours at home writing novels, working on my movies, involved in the wealth club, which is a big important part of my life still and doing things that really matter to me that I won’t do the moment I go into the office. Then when I go into the office, I do the stuff that I consider just keeping the wheels moving, all my commitments to all my other businesses. In broad terms, that’s how I organize.
Actually, I have three parts to the day. When I feel like I’m burned out at the office, I go somewhere else. I used to go to a cigar bar that’s near my office. I would go there and they would bring me an espresso, a glass of water and a cigar and I would start to work with that. Then an hour later—I have them trained– they would come over and bring me a glass of tequila. So I was able to put another two or three hours in the day feeling kind of like I was playing hooky from my office. Of course after that tequila kicks in, you can really write some really miserable fiction that you think is wonderful at the time. It kept me going. There were days when I’ll work until 9:00 or 10:00 at night, starting at 6:00 in the morning.
So the real challenge for me now because this productivity thing completely works, the problem is it’s completely addictive. When I finish the day, I am compelled to look at my daily priorities and all the cast. The priorities I highlight in yellow and as soon as I get them done, I take off the yellow highlighting and I change the color, indicating that they’re done or part done. When I do that at the end of the day, if there are any yellows there, it’s very hard for me to stop. I usually just have to get them done.
When you get into that habit, it’s so strong that what I’m trying to do now is just do less. I don’t need to do anymore. I’ve accomplished in this 14 years pretty much all my major goals. So this is a warning. Be careful. If you start to use productivity system, you may find that you can’t stop. If this were a packaged product, I have to put that on the label.
Craig: Well first of all, maybe with your novels, maybe you should sell it with a bottle of tequila so that your tequila-induced writing therefore becomes more.
Mark: That’s a great idea! You’re right. If I could get them to achieve the same level of intoxication I was in when I was writing it, they probably would think it’s just as good as I thought it was. That’s a brilliant idea. We’ll have to figure that out.
Craig: All right. Now here’s a question. What else will you do with your time if you weren’t being productive on these great tasks and books and stuff? Do think you’d even be able to come up with an answer for that?
Mark: Well, all the normal answer I’ve done. I still do jiu jitsu for an hour a day. I still work out a couple of times a week and I’ve scheduled in now time to even things that we hyper-productive people know we should be doing like now I’ve scheduled in time where once a week, I actually go out shopping—I started this three weeks ago—to actually make dinner for my wife. I realized I was in the supermarket for the first time in 20 years and I don’t know if you’ve been there, Craig, but these supermarkets today are amazing.
Craig: I know.
Mark: They have so much stuff you wouldn’t believe it. Plus, if you want to make vegetable stuff, they’re already chopped up in little packages. You can pretend to your wife that you did the work yourself but in fact you just bought it from this supermarket. So I actually put those things into my—that’s part of everything. The one thing I would say. You see, it’s not that. I’m able to do all that. Most of the stuff I want to do now is now social, spending time with family and friends, more time. That I can do very easily just by putting into this.
But the problem I’m having is some component of relaxation because when I put those things in there, they’re still pleasurable but I just want to have some amount of time in my life that’s unstructured. There’s a kind of contradiction in scheduling in unstructured time but that’s the one thing that I’m working on. I’m actually thinking of seeing a shrink specifically to help me with that problem, to help me just not care so much about being productive for every waking hour. But it’s fine. I do things. I still watch movies on NetFlix and I still, as I said, read a lot for pleasure. I’m not missing anything except maybe a little of relaxation or a little bit of the feeling that I’m free and fancy.
Craig: Yeah, and you get through a heck of a lot of books in a year, too. That’s impressive alone, that list that you sent out. I was amazed by it. It’s a lot more than I read. One thing that I’ve done because like you I’m very structured, very disciplined, one thing that I’ve done to give me a little bit of the relaxation, freedom mentality is just establishing a cut-off time at the end of the day where there’s no more writing, no more electronics. If I do anything, I’m allowed to read after but I’ve get it all done by this amount of time and if it’s not then it gets moved to tomorrow. But by then, by the end of the day, because I follow your rule, first things first, I’ve already gotten the most important stuff done. So a quick question on timing and then maybe we’ll get into that first things first rule. So you get up at 6:00 and start working then and that is five days week or six days a week?
Mark: Yeah, I would say that of course there are variations, depending on sometimes we’ll have friends over at our house. My wife has just had two, her sister and her friend over for a week and a half and so naturally I wasn’t going to bed when I normally do, which is around 9:30. I go to bed at 9:30, sleep and I wake up typically 5:30. So there were nights when I was going to bed 11:30 so there are some variations.
But yeah, a typical day would be getting up between 5:30 and 6:00 and being in my office, which is above my garage by usually 6:30, a quarter to 7:00 at the latest. So I’ll go have my coffee and a little piece of toast and peanut butter or some eggs. Then I go up there and I give myself a short amount of time to read the newspaper, which I’ve got to tell you I think is a very negative experience, reading The New York Times. The front page is just loaded with bad news that I don’t really care about, people killing each other all over the world in countries that I will never set foot in. Anyway, that’s probably something I shouldn’t do. Lately what I’ve been trying to do is not read the paper.
I’ve been getting up a little earlier, to my office and then reading something that is spirit-enhancing. In fact, I’ve been reading P.G. Wodehouse, the British turn-of-the-century writer who wrote these very funny stories about Jeeves, the Butler Jeeves. Somebody, one says that he has a perfect world where nothing ever goes wrong and in the end, everything is fine. So I’ve been doing that a lot and that’s been helpful. Typically, what I’ll do is do that and I just work on these top priority things.
Somewhere around noon, I have my first workout. I’ll get into the office at noon, I’ll do usually my jiu jitsu workout. I’ve got a dojo right in my office that I built my trainers come in and we train for an hour. Then I shower and I go back to my office and I start kind of what I think of as my business day. Anyway, I explained that to you. I work until I get a little burnt then I go to my cigar bar.
Craig: Yeah, and I’ve joined you there at the cigar bar a couple of times.
Mark: That’s right. You joined me at the cigar bar that I used to go to that was owned by somebody else but I don’t think you’ve been to my new cigar bar that I own.
Craig: No, I have not.
Mark: Okay, well what happened was if you remember that cigar bar, I think when we went there it was still trying to place music and you could sit outside and you could have a good conversation. Then after probably the last you were there, they started introducing karaoke and Trivial Pursuit outside and so it was impossible to get a conversation completed or work done. I warned them many times because I knew I was by far their best client that they should get rid of this guy but they didn’t. I had a warehouse about a quarter of a mile from my office and last year I converted it into my own private cigar bar. So the next time you come, you will be in a much nicer cigar bar without any threat of karaoke or Trivial Pursuit.
Craig: Yes, so thank you. The last time I was in Florida, you were still in Nicaragua. I did enjoy that cigar bar. Most people were playing poker when I was there last time so it definitely has changed to Trivial Pursuit. But here’s an interesting thing. Have you read Daily Rituals by a young man named Mason Currey? Did you get a chance to go through that book?
Mark: I have not. No, I haven’t.
Craig: It has really wonderful vignettes about authors over time and they included one about PJ Wodehouse. Every day since 1918, he would get up and the first thing he would do in the morning was a series of calisthenics that he learned in the army. He did this every day for the rest of his life and then he would go and he would write. A lot of these writers, they would write from about 9:00 until 1:00 and then they would all go and have a big walk in the afternoon. It was very common. Charles, Charles Darwin, all these composers.
Mark: I didn’t know that. That’s great to hear. I am aware, I love reading about the daily habits of writers and you’re right. Most of them woke up early. I’m sure you’re still getting letters from people saying Early to Rise, I’m not an early riser. But in fact, there is something special about getting up early.
Craig: I always picture you as having this Ernest Hemingway little bungalow or something where you go and write. Have you been to his place in Key West?
Mark: I have been to his place and you’re very perspicacious, Craig, because I have been there many times and I’m completely in love with it. The place above my garage—as you’ll remember Hemingway’s place was above his garage—it’s modelled exactly on his studio there.
Craig: That’s wonderful.
Mark: So that’s exactly what I do. I go up to that place. I never my hunt but I’ve got a couple of some kind of animal heads on the wall and I try to make it very Ernest Hemingway-like.
Craig: That’s wonderful. One of the things that I’m pretty sure it was definitely Early to Rise and I’m pretty sure that it was you that wrote about it but one thing that changed my life in terms energy and productivity was when I finally listened to the advice that was repeated over and over again about going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. That just made a world of difference. Like you, there is going to be a lot of nights where like even last night, I’m in Toronto staying at a nice hotel, I had a meeting last night that went very late so my bedtime was late but I still got up at the same time and I’m a little more tired today. I stick to that and it really has worked wonders for me.
Mark: I agree with you 100%. What you’ll find out because usually about five or six days a week, what happens when you do that is you get up early on Sunday, too, and it’s wonderful because you have all these early hours in Sunday where nobody else is around. It’s terrific. I know you like to go out and walk your dog. For me, I can go over, cross to the ocean and just sit there. It’s wonderful
Craig: Yeah, that’s funny. Matt Smith just sent me the other week on a Sunday morning, he went for a walk at a park near his house in Denver and he just loved it so much that he shared the photos because it was so serene, there was nobody out and it’s like you owned the world pretty much.
Mark: Yeah, Denver is such a beautiful place to take walks and I don’t blame him.
Craig: All right. So Mark, what makes a perfect start to your day for you for the business owner and the employees listening? You’ve written a lot about going early to work for people that are employees. How do people start off the day perfectly?
Mark: I would say first, the thing I mentioned before, try not to read the newspapers, especially The New York Times. The most important that makes it a perfect day—and I think you’ve written about this, too—is if I attack something that is problematic, that I’m struggling with, I want to go after, it’s got to be important. It’s got to be one of my important or urgent things but it’s usually I’m wanting to put off because I’m having a little trouble with it. We all resist things that are hard but the things that are hard are the things that change our life for the better.
So the perfect morning is when I attack something like that. I don’t have to make a major breakthrough. I just have to move it forward a little bit. Even if I just spend a half hour doing it and I’ve only moved it forward a little bit, the very fact that I’ve just started on it, I know it means that the next day it’s going to be much easier for me to go back to it and then eventually that wall, whatever I’m facing, that psychological wall which consists of problems that I haven’t been able to figure out how to solve, I know it’s going to crumble. To me, that’s the key to a perfect morning. It’s just get to work and make some progress on something that’s important to you, especially is it’s problematic, even if it’s just a memo to yourself about what you’re doing to do the following day and how you’re going to approach it.
Craig: That’s really fantastic. This morning I was having breakfast with a young man who’s had some success in the technology world and he sold the company already. He’s 27 and he said he’s having trouble with disciplining and sticking to his schedule and I’ve kind of used the analogy of a workout. You go in and some days your beat up and you don’t want to work out and the warm up is hard but as soon as you get through, if you say just get me ten minutes of the warm-up, as soon as you get through those ten minutes of the warm-up the next 40 minutes go by quickly. I find when I go and write on those problematic things that you mentioned, those first hundred words are a real grind but then all of a sudden it’s 40 minutes later and I’ve done a thousand words. I think you really made a great point about attacking a problem.
Mark: Right. That’s a good analogy because the way I think about it now is I don’t say don’t worry; it’ll be okay; you’ll be able to finish in an hour. I do this for my workout. What I say is—and I say this to all my trainers because they work me out—I walk in and if I feel like that, I go okay, I’m working out but there are two rules. One, you see this skin? There can be no perspiration on the skin when I’m done. Two, you see how I’m breathing right now? This breathing cannot be accelerated one iota. So I’ll do whatever you want me to do but those are the rules. Of course, it’s kind of a joke but that’s what I really mean. So I give myself permission to do very little.
I wrote about this once or I read it. I don’t know if it was my idea or somebody else but I was feeling very lazy for a while and I was in a slump where I didn’t want to work out. So I said okay, this is what I’m going to do. I’m just going to do one push-up in the morning and literally that’s what I did. And there were mornings when I only did one push-up but of course, before long, I would do my one then it would turn to five and turn to 50. Then I have a whole workout, like you said, once you get going.
The point I’m making is that I give myself permission whether it’s a workout or a task of accomplishing a small amount because the main thing is just getting started. Then as you say, at least 50% of the time, they get so much easier after you’ve broken the momentum barrier that you end up doing way more than you ever thought you had energy for.
Craig: Absolutely. Mark, what is the role in your productivity of the night before in the planning and preparation?
Mark: Well, I used to do all my planning and preparation the morning of but I don’t know whether I’ve read it or whatever but I eventually came to believe that it was better if I did it the night before and this would be perfect if I followed your rule of a sort of cut-off time. I like that idea. I’m going to do that. So that 10 or 15 minutes before that time, I would sit down and do tomorrow’s tasks.
The way I organize my tasks is very easy for me to do that because I do everything, I change the colors of things and so and so. I could quickly run down what needs to be—I could do it in my five minutes. The good thing about doing it the night before is that it kind of is in the back of your mind as you’re going to sleep. It’s not stressful but you’re kind of aware of what’s going on the next day. I think it just helps. Sometimes, I find myself dreaming about the issues. I’m not doing it so that I do dream. I do want to turn off at the end of the day but you subconsciously or otherwise at the back of your mind, I think it does help to plan your day the day before.
Craig: Now this is a little bit off-topic and I’m prepared for it but Dan Kennedy’s really big on putting your subconscious mind to work. Do you ever do anything to try and program your mind to work on a problem at night like say hey brain, go and figure this riddle out?
Mark: Other than that which I just said, by planning and thinking about things the day before, I don’t—I think that what Dan is saying is very true but I don’t like the idea of doing that. The reason we were talking about before like when I finally finish working, the last thing I want to do is worry about more work problems at night so I just resist that whole idea. I’m sure it’s good. I’m sure it’s helpful. But I kind of find I do that anyway.
Just the other night, I found myself dreaming, believe or not, about options trading, something that until I got involved with the Palm Beach letter I knew nothing about, cared nothing about. But I finally got involved with it and the program is working quite well. So I had a very pleasant dream where I was figuring out a new options strategy. So these things do happen and I do believe that your subconscious mind or whatever it is does work to help you solve these problems.
Here’s what I would say is the best thing by far, a hundred times more powerful than artificial telling yourself to think about this problem. If you do the system that I’m talking about, if you follow my system where every day you’re reviewing, there are like 50 or 60 things, some of them I’m going to do in a day, some of them are longer term, but I read through every single one of them every day so I’m always reminded of things that I’m still working on. I could glance at my thing right now and tell you that one of my projects, I’m working on changing this scholarship that I established in my parents’ name at the college. There are some details that have to be worked out. I have to figure out some things.
So when I go through my list, this is one of like I say 50 or 60 things that are highlighted because I haven’t finished it yet and it’s important to me. I just glance at that and then some time I find myself thinking about it later on. I think it helps. Just the momentary recognition that it is part of your goal is enough to get your—I think our subconscious minds are very well trained. They know how to do their job and they don’t need to be artificially—it’s hard for me to believe that you could. Maybe you can. Anyway, that’s my answer.
Craig: Do you nap during the day at all, Mark, and have you ever found that as beneficial?
Mark: I love to nap if I can. If I’m tired, I nap. It’s crazy to push yourself. If I’m tired, I don’t have the energy to think clearly. All my work is thinking except when I’m exercising so if I’m feeling groggy, either I’ll go work out which usually does the trick or if I can, if I have a half-hour I’ll catch a 10-minute or 15-minute nap. I go into my exercise area. I have a massage room and I go in, I turn off the lights, I lie down on the massage table and hope that I don’t fall too deeply asleep and fall off the table. But 10 minutes later, 15 minutes later, it works great for me. Some people say that when they take a nap, it makes them feel worse but I think that happens if you’re like taking a half-hour or 40-minute nap.
I’ll tell you a very funny story about power napping. I get jetlagged pretty easily. I’m in England. Agora has a publishing company, a financial publishing company there and I’m in. I have a meeting in an hour and I’m really tired. So I see the conference room is vacant and I thought I’m going to crawl under that table and take a nap. So I do. I crawl under the table. Obviously, I’m feeling a little self-conscious about it and then I fall asleep.
Then I kind of wake up and I look. The door opens up and I look. I see these feet come in. I could tell by the shoes, oh my god, it’s Norman Rentrop. Norman Rentrop is our German partner and he’s like this very formal, very impressive. You couldn’t pick somebody that I would be more embarrassed to be sleeping in the middle of the day in front of than Norman.
So I’m like frozen. Oh god, I don’t he doesn’t see me. His feet just are stopped there and then all of a sudden of course from beneath the table, I see his face peer at me. He goes, “Mark, what are you doing?” I’m saying Norman, I’m taking a little power nap. He goes, “Ahh, power nap.” His head comes up and then his head comes down. He goes, “Do you mind if I join you.” I go sure, sure. Then Norman crawls in underneath with me and lies down and of course I couldn’t sleep a wink after that. I was so nervous. People all over the world are benefiting from these little power naps. I’m all in favor of them.
Craig: And in all sorts of odd and strange places.
Mark: Yes. Try doing a power nap with someone you barely know and his feet are two inches from your face.
Craig: That’s funny, Mark. That’s awesome. I really appreciate that. We’ve run out of time. I’ve got a few more questions. We’ll have to schedule another call because this was a lot of fun. I think people are going to love this interview. I know they will. I learned a lot, got some great ideas and I hope that cut-off time works for you. So thank you so much for taking time out of the routine, Mark, for this call. Where can people go? Obviously, they can find your book and they can read your articles at ETR but what’s the best place to find your content on Palm Beach Letter. Is there a site where you guys actually have free content or is it all just—?
Mark: First of all, thanks. It’s always fun talking to you and hello to all the current ETR people. I’m glad to still be in touch with you. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know. I’m sure there is and I’m sure that by the time you publish this we will have put the right people together. I know we have a website. We have free content and there’s plenty of stuff. I just don’t happen to know what it is at the time but it will be available to your readers when you publish this.
Craig: Wonderful. Honestly, we publish so many of your articles at Early to Rise anyway.
Mark: They’re probably sick of hearing from me by now anyway, right?
Craig: I don’t know about that. All right, Mark. That’s great. Hopefully, next time we chat it’ll be at your cigar bar. I look forward to that. Thank you very much for being on the call and we will talk to you soon about goal-setting, I think, because those are the next questions I have for you.
Mark: All right, Craig. Nice talking to you.
Listen to my full interview with Early to Rise founder Mark Ford here.