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My family didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. But the really frustrating thing was that nobody at work seemed to notice all the extra time I was putting in. In fact, I was getting ribbed about coming in late.
After working especially late one night, I stopped for gas at about two o’clock in the morning. As I handed my credit card to the lady in the glass booth, she said, “Man, you look beat!”
“I’ve been working almost twelve hours a day,” I told her. “And half-days on weekends.”
She looked at me, unimpressed. “You talk about it like it’s a virtue,” she said.
“Well if working long hours isn’t a virtue,” I shot back, “what is?” “Being the first one at work,” she said.
It was a very bizarre moment: being lectured about virtue by a gas jockey at 2 A.M. But somehow I knew she was right. For all the extra hours I put in, my partner—who had his weekends free—had cornered the market as far as the Puritan work ethic was concerned. He seemed more virtuous not only to our employees but also, I suddenly realized, to me!
There is something about getting in earlier that seems wiser, nobler, smarter, or just plain more industrious than working late. Getting to work earlier says something about being energetic, organized, and in control. Staying late leaves the opposite impression: You are diligent but disorganized, earnest but erratic, hardworking but a drudge.
In How to Become CEO (Hyperion, 1998), Jeffrey J. Fox puts it this way:
If you are going to be first in your corporation, start practicing by being first on the job. People who arrive at work late don’t like their jobs—at least that’s what senior management thinks. . . . And don’t stay at the office until 10 o’clock every night. You are sending a signal that you can’t keep up or your personal life is poor.
This lady in the glass booth was right. Getting to work first was better than working until dawn. From that moment on, I resolved to come to work earlier.
And I did. At first, it was difficult and my success was sporadic. But then I came upon a plan that worked. I resolved to set my alarm clock to wake me a minute earlier each day. A single minute would feel like
Step 2: Plan to Become Wealthy 49
nothing, I figured, yet in the course of two months I would have moved the start of my day back by an hour.
I used this minute-per-day program to move my at-work time from 9:00 to 8:30 and then to 8:00 and then to 7:30, and so on. Today, I typically wake up at 5:30 and arrive at my desk (or my workout) at 6:30.
WHAT YOU WILL GAIN BY GETTING TO WORK EARLIER
This change gave me the right to feel as virtuous as my early-to-rise partner. But the benefits were more than psychological. I began to notice all of the following physical and material benefits almost immediately:
• More energy
• More energetic focus throughout the day
• A chance to review my various in-boxes before planning and prioritizing my day
• Quiet time, without distractions, to concentrate on important tasks
• A feeling of being ahead of everyone else
“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” Ben Franklin advised almost 300 years ago—and taking that path really did make a big difference in my life. And I’m not the only one. There are several studies showing that successful entrepreneurs typically get to work at least an hour before their employees. So do most CEOs. Most of the wealthiest people I know get up early. In fact, this is such a universal trait ofsuccessful people that I’m tempted to say it’s their number one secret.
YOUR WEALTH-BUILDING PLAN FOR THE NEXT 12 MONTHS
Most people don’t marry into money or fall into an unexpected inheritance.
Wealth usually arrives bit by bit as the result of carefully setting long-term, medium-term, and short-term goals and
If you get up and get in to the office one hour earlier, you will immediately start to join the ranks of top management ... the people who are always in the office first, sometimes by 6:00 or 7:00 a.m.
50 AUTOMATIC WEALTH
planning out what you need to do every month, week, and day to achieve them.
You’ve set your lifetime, medium-term, and yearly goals. You’ve made a commitment to “rise early and catch the golden worm” each morning. Good so far.
Now let me show you how to break down your goals for this year into concrete, achievable steps for this month, this week, and this very day. Since financial independence is one of your primary goals, let’s take a look at how you might create and prioritize your objectives in terms of some of the wealth-building techniques I’ll be teaching you later in this book.
I’m going to assume that your lifetime wealth-building goal is to be financially independent. But since I don’t know what you’ve established for yourself so far in terms of your medium-term wealth-building goals, let’s go with a hypothetical scenario.
So let’s assume that your medium-term goal is to have $120,000 a year in pretax passive income and that your target for achieving that goal is seven years.