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Night Owls and Early Birds | #MyFridayStory No. 170

Night Owls and Early Birds | #MyFridayStory No. 170

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a night owl.

Even as a child I remember going to bed late. And by going to bed late, I have never been “an early bird.” I always get my 8 hours of rest. Sleeping has never been a problem for me. I pity anyone who suffers from insomnia because I could only imagine what it must be like to not get enough sleep. I put my head down on the pillow and within minutes, I’m asleep.

As a funny side, a friend once said to me: “Isn’t it weird how when I tell people I suffer from insomnia, they respond with, ‘Really? I sleep like a log.’ That’s like saying to a blind person, ‘Really? I can see perfectly.’” The truth is, I know I am blessed with quality rest. Knowing that I am virtually guaranteed a peaceful night’s rest, I need never fear not falling asleep.

My cycadean rhythm became geared toward a life spent in the darker hours. In my last two years of high school, I threw myself into my studies—I had been failing badly. I studied for 3 years again after my two years of National Service. My study routine was faultless for me—I was in a groove. I had classes that started at 8 a.m. and would end before 3 p.m. I’d sleep in the afternoon until 7 p.m. I’d shower and have dinner then settle in to study until 3 a.m. Sleep and wake up again around 7 a.m. to do it all again.

I went on to open a small bakery outlet, The Bread Cove, that stayed open until 9 p.m. Later I opened Yanks Diner and Milkyway, another 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. business that suited my preference for late nights. When I left the food business to enter the corporate world I struggled with early meetings. I tried to organise my calendar around a day that starts later and ends later.

For artists and creative types, being a night owl is part of the package. Doing art since high school, I can attest that your creative juices only get going at around 11 p.m. I was happy with my night owl status and wore it like a badge of honour. I became comfortable explaining what some might call lazy behaviour, with how late I had gone to bed.

There are countless anecdotes from successful business leaders, famous presidents, doctors, and other professionals on the advantages of an early start to the day. The internet abounds with “how-to” articles on creating an early morning routine. The evidence that supports waking up early is irrefutable. There are rare cases where the opposite is true, mostly though, it makes sense to be a lark.

The truth is, most of us don’t wake up early because it is harder than the alternative.

Some time ago, I decided to go to bed early and see what happens. I set two alarms one for 5 a.m. and one for 6 a.m. For the first few mornings, I was up after the second alarm. Soon, I was awake before the first alarm at 5 a.m. And I loved it. The quality of my day has improved so much, I can’t afford to go back to being a night owl!

One winter, we were having a Family Gathering at Lekwena Wildlife Estate outside of Potchefstroom in the North West Province of South Africa when a cousin taught me a lesson I have never forgotten. Every evening after dinner, he’d ask the children, “Who wants to see the sunrise tomorrow morning?” The children and some parents would excitedly shout, “Meeeee!” In the morning, everyone would be on the game vehicle before dawn, dressed warmly, coffee flasks and rusks in hand.

Each morning he would take us out to a new location somewhere on the almost 2000 hectares of the game farm. Every morning was a race against time. He had to find the perfect spot for us to be parked and settled with our coffee and rusks, ready to watch as the sun breaks the horizon. As the sun rose. we would sit in silence, each lost in their thoughts. Some mornings there would be game grazing in the distance, others we would be on a rocky outcrop, watching as the sun comes over a bushveld hill. Every morning was spectacular. And every morning my cousin would break the long silence with the same words:

“It’s here free for you every morning.”

I’m going to enjoy as many free sunrises as God allows me.

Have an awesome weekend and please be generous! 😄

As always, thanks for reading 🙏

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