By Nicko Place

I had a mini-rebellion recently against Tim Ferriss and the other be-the-best-you-can-be generation of ‘influencers’. I signed up for a lot of these emails and feeds, thinking it would be useful, but I dunno, I’m struggling with them.

Don’t get me wrong: God knows, I could use help and I know my systems, ways of operating, and weaknesses could use work. I should be up for all the advice I can get.

But somebody put me onto Ferriss and the first thing I read was his advice that I should make my bed in the morning. He tied it into some monk who had wisely uttered this observation and also some military leader or something. Something about taking an action early in the day as an example of how you will approach all the challenges to come. I dunno. I tuned out. I didn’t care.

I couldn’t get past my over-riding thought pattern which was: ‘Dude, I’m 52 fucking years old. I don’t need to be told to make my bed. What are you? My Mum?’

So yep, sure, I concede that any decent Ted talker could work up a 30-minute routine from that sentence alone; about the need to drop ego, to be open to new thoughts, to be humble. They’d be right.

But sometimes, as a half-centurian, I think you also have the right to say: I know how to tie my shoelaces. Thanks.

With the proliferation of websites and online platforms like Medium and LinkedIn, gratuitous advice on how to live your life is at an all-time high. Every second person is a life coach or a career coach now, just by putting their virtual shingle out online*.

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Pre-dawn. Some of the city sleeps, others are already conquering. Pic: birdshooter, Houston

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great ones out there. A former Australian Rules football club official, Cameron Schwab, is carving a really interesting niche for himself as a coach for leaders, and others like Anecdote storyteller Shawn Callahan have found genuinely engaging and innovative ways to cut through serious issues of how we behave in the workplace and beyond.

But you also get articles where somebody basically says you’re a loser who is doomed to financial and overall failure if you don’t be like them and hit the ground running at 5 am. You get somebody else saying if you haven’t done a crossfit session, meditated for three hours and made yourself a four-course power healthy breakfast by 7.30 am, you may as well go and live under a bridge. This was a good one, comparing seven theories.

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Weighted vest training: This is not my Sydney friend but may as well be. (Pic: Pinterest)

Funnily enough, I have a friend in Sydney who pretty much lives that last paragraph and I have to say it does totally work for him. He does get up at 4.30 am every day, does crossfit, or works out in his home gym, wearing a heavy lead-lined bulletproof vest to make push-ups and pull-ups harder. He hits the office before anybody else and smashes the day. I’m in awe. He’s 48 years old but looks years younger and is very successful in business. The bastard has a large quiver of high end single malt whiskies too. Bloody over-achiever. Probably makes his bed in the morning, and everything.

But would that work for me? Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that I love waking up next to my wife in the morning and having breakfast as a family, before I let the corporate/writing world claim me for so many hours. I try to get to the gym on the way home, which is a fraught plan as every damn thing can get in the way, but I feel like I’d be losing a lot of quality relationship time if I was sneaking out the door, gym bag on shoulder, before dawn.

I remain envious of my Sydney friend’s success and fitness, but it would seem not enough to sacrifice less tangible stuff important to me. So I guess the question then becomes: am I ok with not achieving all I could if I worked an extra three hours per day?

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins claims to know a bit about success, successful people and being the best you can be. In a recent article, he admitted he’s changed his sleeping pattern to sleep more, instead of less. He also said it was important to separate your definition of success from ‘what you own’.

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Inspirational speaker Tony Robbins getting a coffee.

‘What you get will never make you happy,’ he told Thrive. ‘Who you become, that will make you very happy or very sad.’

I’d take it one step further: to be happy, you need to be truly comfortable with who you become.

This is what I’m wrestling, 52 years in. Am I ok with not being as rich, as famous, as secure, as satisfied as other guys in my peer group? What should I prioritise between family, work, bank accounts, perfect chiselled abs, diet, sleep, personal development?

They are daily questions that only I can ultimately answer, and the same goes for you. But they’re worth thinking about.

If nothing else, having a bullet-proof vest lying around in your garage looks pretty fly. I might have to pretend I’m Crossfit tough, if nothing else.

*Post-script: I saw a great meme the other day, aimed at a younger generation. It said: ‘Oh no, they closed down Instagram and suddenly you’re not a model anymore!
Replace ‘Instagram’ with ‘LinkedIn’ and ‘model’ with ‘life coach’ and it could work for a lot of white collar wannabes out there as well.