Prepare for your success the night before. Do all the prep work the night before so when you wake up it is like the starter’s gun going off on your race. Number two — Never hit the snooze button. If you hit the snooze button you are snoozing on your life. That means those eight minutes of bad sleep or more important than your dreams and goals. Number three — develop a bullet proof morning routine that lights you up and kick starts your day. If you can get small wins the moment the alarm clock goes off you can do amazing things. Take control of your day the moment you wake up and you are on the path to optimal performance.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Wickersham.
Jeff Wickersham is a High-Performance Habits Coach, Author, Motivational Speaker, Podcast Host and Entrepreneur. Jeff founded Morning Fire Coaching and guides his clients to implement game changing habits for more energy, focus, abundance and time in their lives through the power of the Morning Fire routine. Jeff also enjoys speaking to companies and organizations to deliver actionable strategies to change habits, build positivity and transform their morning routines. Two of his long-standing habits include meditation (1,063 straight days) and cold showers/ice baths (718 straight days). His mantra is Rise, Fight, Love, Repeat.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I had the typical suburban American upbringing, was the oldest of three kids, with a younger brother and sister. I loved sports, spent most of my days outside and was extremely competitive. I had a great childhood, didn’t yearn for much, but always had this thought in the back of my mind that I could do more and be more. It was something that I couldn’t shake, but I also could not put my finger on. Most of my formative years was spent care free until I was in my twenties, when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
It was Sunday, December 28, 2014 and it started off like any Sunday during football season. I was excited to watch my beloved Philadelphia Eagles take on the NY Giants, but that morning I received a phone call from my father and all the hair on my arms stood up. I knew something was wrong and he told me my mom hadn’t woken up in 24 hours. I kissed and hugged my two sons and wife, then made my way over to the house I had grown up in since I was five years old. I went up to my parent’s bedroom to see my dad and sister sitting next to my mom. She was sleeping peacefully, but had a very shallow breath. I went over kissed her hand and forehead while telling her I was there and that I loved her, tears streaming down my face. About two hours later when my brother arrived, my dad called downstairs to come up. With her children and husband all around her, I watched the woman who brought me into this world take her last breath. It was a moment that punched me in the gut, was a searing pain I had never felt and it brought me to my knees. I felt numb, lost, and filled with so much sorrow. A few hours later as the funeral staff was preparing my mom, I noticed concern on their faces. It was late on a Sunday night and we had the second unit from the funeral home. I asked the men if they were alright and they told me they didn’t think they could carry her down the steps. At that moment, I had a choice to hide in a hole of self-pity or step up and lead. I told them I would do it and asked my brother if he would help. That night my brother and I carried my mom down the steps in that dreaded black bag. From that moment on, it has been my mission to inspire and lead.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Both of my parents were such positive forces. My mom had every post-it note color known to man to put in my lunch box or on my mirror before a big game or test. She would always have a heads-up lucky penny at her disposal whenever you needed that push of positivity. My dad is nicknamed “Positive Paul” and is as positive and upbeat as they come. His positivity and tenacity to never give up helped my mom to live longer than anyone thought she would.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I tried to reboot my laptop before a speaking engagement recently and I got the blue screen of death. I tried to boot up another computer with no luck. I ended up being 15 minutes late to the session and just used my iPhone to deliver the session. The lesson I took from that is to focus on the solution and stay calm under pressure. I could have thrown in the towel but I stayed focused and made it happen. If you can keep that mindset then nothing can stop you.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Focus on personal growth before anything else. The more you develop personally the higher your ceiling will be for your growth. I love starting with the nighttime and morning routine to bookend your days. This can be an extremely powerful way to set yourself up for success. If you can be a sponge and carve out time each day to develop physically, mentally and spiritually you will lap your competition. Spending time working on yourself is the greatest gift you can not only give yourself, but all of those around you. In addition, get a coach early who is already where you want to go or has the experience. This will allow you to grow faster and learn from someone who has done it before.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. It resonated with me because there is so much power in positive energy yet so many people choose to be negative and bring that toxicity of negative energy to all those they touch. You have a choice to be positive or negative and that powerful choice is yours. I now guard my positive energy like I’m guarding my life and teach others to do the same.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust somehow that the dots will connect in your future”. — Steve Jobs. Our minds crave to keep us safe and certain at a primal level. Many times, we won’t move because our minds want to see what will happen. This causes procrastination, delay and subsequent frustration. Believing that they will connect backwards can allow you to act in full faith that you are on the right path and increase your odds of being successful.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Speaking to companies and organizations on the power of habits, positivity and the morning fire routine. Since I was in the corporate world for some time, I have a unique viewpoint on how to change habits and behaviors including how to get out of email and meeting purgatory where you have no time in your days. The feedback I have gotten has been off the charts as people find it as a breath of fresh air. What I speak about is not taught in schools and not widely discussed in family circles. I am also enrolling a mastermind called the Kings of Sparta geared towards like-minded men being accountable daily to themselves and their brothers to become better both professionally and personally.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Studies have shown that up to 95% of what we do is driven by our habits and rituals. Meaning those tasks are on autopilot very similar to the computer program that runs in the background. Our minds have a limited capacity on a daily basis so what ever can be automated will be. That’s why it’s critical we setup those good habits to hardwire us for success. An example would be when we went on lockdown for the COVID pandemic. It felt like time stood still and we had so much more time. Granted, we were less busy but we still had the same 24 hours in a day but the reason was much of what we did went off of autopilot. Fast forward a few months later when we were used to the routine, time sped up again.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
They have been the foundation of my growth and success. Without good habits you will be trying to build a house on quick sand adding brick after brick but continuing to sink. One success habit that has been transformational the morning fire routine I use each day. The ability to wake up early before everyone else is such a competitive advantage. I wake up 5–6 days a week at 3:40 am which allows quiet time, space and thought. That daily discipline allows me to take time to develop personally which is a game changer. So many people play defense the minute their alarm clock goes off and then at the end of the day are exhausted, stressed and have nothing left. It’s why anxiety and depression are at all time highs. If you control your day with your morning routine then the rest of the day will fall into place.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
To develop good habits, start small and get someone to hold you accountable. Too many times people start off like they are shot out of a cannon only to stop two weeks into it. It is also very important to know that we have been lied to when it comes to how long it takes to create a habit. We all heard 21 days to make a habit but that is not the truth. It can take anywhere from 21 to 67 days to create a habit so 21 is the bare minimum and why so many people fail. Starting small would be to meditate each day for a week for 2 minutes, then add a minute each week and work your way up. To setup accountability, get a friend or someone you know you can count on to start the same habit and check in daily.
A key to stopping bad habits is putting resistance in the way. Resistance would be defined as putting some time or effort in the middle of when you are triggered to before your bad habit and getting it done. An example would be if you want to stop watching TV every night. Throw out the batteries or lose the remote and then you will have to put more effort into watching TV and most likely will be able to break that bad habit. Putting in 20 seconds or so of resistance will help you break those bad habits.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.
Wellness would be to meditate every day. Download a meditation app and start meditating today. I have recommended to clients to brew their coffee and meditate while its brewing. By pairing a habit you already enjoy with a new habit you are more likely to succeed. Performance would be working out every day. It does not need to be a strenuous workout but if you want to have optimal wellness you need to exercise. If you want to run fast you need to train your body to be that Ferrari ready to run. Ten minutes of movement right when you wake up can not only give you tremendous natural energy, but also check off that exercise box. Focus would be to put away the phone. Avoid distractions and put your phone on do not disturb as much as possible. Studies show that when you get distracted, it can take you ten minutes to get your focus back. If you receive three text messages in an hour, you are losing 30 minutes of productivity. I coach my clients on no distractions for the first 45–60 minutes of their day. It is the hardest habit to break as it feels like the tractor beam on the death star pulling you in, but once you do, it is one of the most freeing feelings. Here is a short video on the five things you need to create good habits:
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Track those habits on a daily basis. What you track grows and if you see your numbers increasing then you will be more likely to continue. There are some habit tracking apps out on the market that can help, I use the Nomo app for example. Dedicate your first 30 minutes of your day to get in those habits as that is when you are at your best and most fresh from a good night sleep. Getting them done first thing allows you to get that feeling of accomplishment flowing and if you try to do them later in the day it is much tougher.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
Number one — Prepare for your success the night before. Do all the prep work the night before so when you wake up it is like the starter’s gun going off on your race. Number two — Never hit the snooze button. If you hit the snooze button you are snoozing on your life. That means those eight minutes of bad sleep or more important than your dreams and goals. Number three — develop a bullet proof morning routine that lights you up and kick starts your day. If you can get small wins the moment the alarm clock goes off you can do amazing things. Take control of your day the moment you wake up and you are on the path to optimal performance.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Preparing the night before. I coach my clients to drink a glass of water first thing when they wake up and ask them to have it out and ready the night prior so the mind can’t put up a roadblock. For hitting the snooze button, one way to stop hitting the snooze button is to put the phone away from the bed so you physically have to get out of bed to turn it off. Developing a morning routine can be done by having a checklist of what you will accomplish. Be sure to include physical, mental, nutritional and spiritual practices in your morning routine.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
One would be turning off notifications on your phone or apps can drastically increase your productivity and focus. You can put the phone on do not disturb and still receive calls from your favorite people. My phone is always on do not disturb. Two would be getting a good night sleep drastically increases your ability to focus. One way to get a better nights’ sleep is to avoid blue light exposure and start the process of going to sleep about 30 minutes before bed time. Three would be taking breaks throughout your day. Typically, our minds can take about 90 minutes of work and then need a break. Anything after that is like pouring water into a full glass, it will just overflow. I recommend getting up and away from all technology for 10 minutes to allow your mind to refresh.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
One great practice is to block off your schedule to set you up for success. For example, every 90 minutes blocking 15 minutes to recharge, go for a walk or just mentally recover. One great practice for sleep is to sleep in a cold room and block out all the light, I have been known to wear a sleep mask to improve how quickly I fall asleep and block out any light.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
I think the key part to that question is you need all three of those components to get into flow. You need to be skilled on a topic, it needs to be challenging and meaningful. If you aren’t hitting one of those then you won’t feel that state. Be aware of each and work to put them into what you are doing and you will achieve flow more often. I love speaking to groups on the power of habits which instantly puts me into a flow state.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My movement is Rise, Fight, Love, Repeat. Rising like a phoenix each day reborn, grateful to be alive. Fighting for what you want with every ounce of your being. Loving yourself most importantly and then you can love all those around you more; and finally repeating over and over to creating long lasting habits.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)
Dwayne “Rock” Johnson. I love his story and I know he has an amazing work ethic. He rises early and gets after it all day long. He’s also done a tremendous job branding himself. He went from WWF to movies and continues to branch out into other endeavors. I know the conversation would be filled with energy and epic!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Can grab my book on Amazon — Rise, Fight, Love, Repeat — Ignite Your Morning Fire. Listen to my podcast — Morning Fire for Entrepreneurs, or reach out for individual or group coaching needs at Jeff@themorningfire.com.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.