Getting Up Early

By D. J. McAdam.


"The heights by great men reached and kept,
were not obtained by sudden flight.
But they, while their companions slept,
were toiling upward in the night."

  --  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Woody Allen has made the point that a large part of success is simply showing up.  I'd like to add to this idea, and ask readers to consider that one of the secrets of success may simply be getting up, or at least getting up early. 

It's been said that one's relationship to one's bed is often paradoxical; one is reluctant to go to it at night, and reluctant to leave it in the morning.  But do people who get out of bed at an early hour have an advantage over those who do not? 

Consider this excerpt regarding the Comte de Buffon from Samuel Smiles' Self Help:

"Notwithstanding the great results achieved by him in natural history, Buffon, when a youth, was regarded as of mediocre talents. His mind was slow in forming itself, and slow in reproducing what it had acquired. He was also constitutionally indolent; and being born to good estate, it might be supposed that he would indulge his liking for ease and luxury. Instead of which, he early formed the resolution of denying himself pleasure, and devoting himself to study and self-culture. Regarding time as a treasure that was limited, and finding that he was losing many hours by lying a-bed in the mornings, he determined to break himself of the habit. He struggled hard against it for some time, but failed in being able to rise at the hour he had fixed. He then called his servant, Joseph, to his help, and promised him the reward of a crown every time that he succeeded in getting him up before six. At first, when called, Buffon declined to rise - pleaded that he was ill, or pretended anger at being disturbed; and on the Count at length getting up, Joseph found that he had earned nothing but reproaches for having permitted his master to lie a-bed contrary to his express orders. At length the valet determined to earn his crown; and again and again he forced Buffon to rise, notwithstanding his entreaties, expostulations, and threats of immediate discharge from his service. One morning Buffon was unusually obstinate, and Joseph found it necessary to resort to the extreme measure of dashing a basin of ice-cold water under the bed-clothes, the effect of which was instantaneous. By the persistent use of such means, Buffon at length conquered his habit; and he was accustomed to say that he owed to Joseph three or four volumes of his Natural History."

In this same work, we also read of Sir Walter Scott:

"It was his practice to rise by five o'clock, and light his own fire. He shaved and dressed with deliberation, and was seated at his desk by six o'clock, with his papers arranged before him in the most accurate order, his works of reference marshaled round him on the floor, while at least one favorite dog lay watching his eye, outside the line of books. Thus by the time the family assembled for breakfast, between nine and ten, he had done enough - to use his own words - to break the neck of the day's work."

Catherine Gurney, in her letter to her brother, says,

"Whether or not you are required to rise early, I recommend thee to keep to the practice of it. I have no doubt that thou wilt find it more and more beneficial as thy employments increase upon thee."

If getting up early - and, of course, getting to work early - was an important issue to Buffon and Scott, it would be unwise of us to dismiss the matter as unimportant.  Nor are Buffon and Scott our only examples.  Other well-known figures who habitually rose with the morning sun include Peter the Great, Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Webster...  The list could go on and on.  Orison Swett Marden, in his Pushing to the Front, makes the observation that "...most of those who have become eminent have been early risers."

Lest readers think this a thing of the past, I have only to remind them that it was the habit of the noted British author P D James for some years to work on her novels for two hours each morning before going off to work.  She did not say, as many might have, that "she had no time to write;" nor did she say she would "try to get to it at the end of the day," which most of us know from experience will never work.  Instead, Ms James rose early, and as a result has enriched us all through her literary industriousness. 

What time should we get out of bed each day?  I would say five in the morning, if we are truly committed to being successful.  Later, if we prefer to lay in bed and merely dream of the success that could have been ours.

See also: The Preface to Arnold Bennett's How to Live on 24 Hours a Day.




Upon the sadness of the sea
The sunset broods regretfully;
From the far spaces, slow
Withdraws the wistful afterglow.
So out of life the splendor dies,
So darken all the happy skies,
So gathers twilight cold and stern;
But overhead the planets burn.
And up the east another day
Shall chase the bitter dark away,
What though our eyes with tears be wet?
The sunrise never failed us yet.
The blush of dawn may yet restore
Our light and hope and joys once more.
Sad soul, take comfort, nor forget
That sunrise never failed us yet.

Celia Thaxter.


"He whose awakening consciousness has become alive to its lofty possibilities, who is beginning to shake off the darkness of ignorance in which the world is enveloped, rises before the stars have ceased their vigil, and, grappling with the darkness within his soul, strives, by holy aspiration, to perceive the light of Truth while the unawakened world dreams on."
-- James Allen, from The Way of Peace



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