early mornings and breaking your own rules

Earlier in life I used to clean supermarket floors to make ends meet. For six years I was up with the birds while most of the population was still snoozing. Every morning was a challenge because I had struck a deal with my employer. The job was typically a two person job; the deal was that if I was able to get the store cleaned on my own I would get twice the dollars. That meant every session was a finely tuned operation, when things went wrong (as they regularly did) problem solving was the order of the day. The added challenge was that this was the season when our kids were young… so a good night’s sleep was never guaranteed.

I was thinking about this again this morning as I left home in the dark. There is something romantic about starting the day early. (I can hear the wails of disbelief…) But there is. I find it immensely satisfying knowing that I have been productive before most people have started their day. I loved turning up to my teaching job having already done a couple of hours work, even though very few people knew.

Of course there is a parallel romance associated with working until the wee hours. I’m not suggesting that mornings are better, and I can’t stand this idea that some people are ‘morning people’ and some people are ‘night people’ – mostly because it is used as an excuse rather than an opportunity.

Maybe the point is about being alive. For me, cheating the regular routines and expectations helps me know I am alive, that I’ve embraced whatever the day has offered and lived it with gusto. Everyone is wired together differently. The circumstances, challenges and opportunities that define our life are infinitely varied. The common element is that we’ve got blood in our veins, air in our lungs and 24 hours in a day.

The routines and systems of life can too easily rob us of life. Our family habits and customs, although not bad in and of themselves can become ruts that give us security but protect us from experiencing the variety, freedom and diversity that is on offer. Our workplaces can be even more restraining… intelligent human beings become cogs in a machine that restricts their ability to be fully themselves and add value to their organisations in the process.

Perhaps today is a day to break some rules – not society’s or someone else’s – our own. Talking about living on the edge, for some time now I have been a fan of TED and am immensely jealous of those who have attended the events over the years. After my recent posts on my trip to the Middle East two people independently pointed me to Pangeaday. (Thanks Pat and Sanjaya) It turns out that the founder of Pangeaday (Jehane Noujaim) has been an award winner at TED. Sometimes the world feels very small.