Listening to the podcasts of personal-development guru Robin Sharma is like a double espresso for my productivity levels. Last week, hearing his words first thing made me knuckle down on days I’m certain I’d normally have spent half of on Instagram.
His effect was unexpected, because I’m not usually sold on “gurus” and Sharma is a full-on guru, with a capital G – he has a global following of millions, his previous bestsellers include The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and he’s been translated into 92 languages. His secret personal-client list includes “celebrity billionaire” clients, as well as companies including Nike, Fedex and Coca Cola.
The title of his new book, The 5AM Club, sums up his balls-out approach. He has a lexicon I’d usually find cringe-worthy, talking about “personal mastery”, “elite performance” and having a “world-class life”, and a level of relentless positivity I’d usually find objectionable – but I have to confess, I’m all in.
I wanted to talk to Sharma because his name cropped up with other interviewees as a key influence, including Kristina Karlsson and Roxie Nafousi. I like Sharma’s voice – it’s warm and gravelly and not too strident. But I think what really sold me is his message that money is not happiness. “It’s society’s hypnosis that says you’re successful when you have a Ferrari and millions of pounds and you’re famous. But is that really true?” These are his markers of success: contributing to your community, doing your work excellently, “whether you’re a baker or a taxi drive or a teacher or a fire fighter.” He spreads a message of kindness and hugging. It’s not religious, but it is a little What Would Jesus Do-esque.
One of Sharma’s big principles is that how you are on the inside determines your results. “In The 5AM Club, I share a philosophy as well as a morning routine that will help any human being on the planet manage their interior life so they’re not only happier but they’re stronger, more creative, more productive,” he tells me.
It may sound alien to our British ears, weaned on cynicism and self-deprecation, but it works. When I listen to his podcast in the morning, I get more work done and, this morning, I finally joined the 5am Club (a time when, if awake, I’m to be found staring blankly into a cup of tea). The rules are as follows: 20 minutes of sweaty exercise, 20 minutes of meditation or journaling, then 20 minutes of “growth” i.e. inspirational listening or reading. The idea is, by six o’clock, “you’ve prepared yourself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually to be much stronger in the day,” he says. It’s not just about starting your day right, either – if later on does go pear-shaped, you can use these tools to make it right again.
He spreads a message of kindness and hugging. It’s not religious, but it is a little What Would Jesus Do-esque
1 Move, preferably in nature
Not only does Sharma prescribe a 20-minute workout at 5am, but also a “second-wind workout” at the end of your work day and when you need to rescue a day that’s gone downhill. Exercise works miracles, he says: it reduces cortisol, the “fear hormone” and increases dopamine – “the inspirational neurotransmitter”. “The way you feel after exercising is always much better than the way you felt before,” says Sharma. “We are animals and we have a primal instinct to be in the wild. That instinct has never been so denied,” he says, referring to our collective screen addiction. “It’s very sad, people are losing the best days of their lives.” It doesn’t have to be a huge expedition, even a short walk will work.
2 Write down all your thoughts and emotions
Pouring all your frustrations and spiralling thoughts on to a page will release your toxic feelings, according to Sharma. “I’ve been journaling for over 25 years and I can tell you it’s saved my life. When I’ve gone through very difficult times, pouring my pain and my confusion and my disappointment out on to a blank page was incredibly healing.” Sharma believes if you leave all the anger and disappointment inside, it will end up “significantly reducing your creativity, productivity, enthusiasm and performance”.
3 Help someone else
Asking yourself what you can do now to help someone will get you out of your ego and give you a perspective on your problems. “When we help other people we lose our selfishness,” says Sharma. “The more helpful we become the more we leave our pity party.”
4 Find the brighter side
The simple idea is that you need to start to train your brain to focus on what’s good in your life. Sharma says perspective and gratitude both help here: “We can build a global empire from a phone, it’s an incredible world right now. And yet a lot people have lost perspective – a billion kids went to bed hungry last night.” Blessed may be an overused word, but, he says, it’s true that you can change your outlook by thinking, regularly, how many ways you are exactly that.