Author:Griffin, Elle

Modern entrepreneurs would have us believe we need to wake up at 5 AM and work 80-hours a week to be successful. But is there something we could learn from their predecessors?

Last year, Inc. Magazine--notorious for their clickbait--sent out a tweet that said: "The world's most successful people start their day at 4 AM."

To which J.K. Rowling, the author of the acclaimed Harry Potter series, responded: "Oh, piss off."

There was a ripple effect. The debate between early and late risers rekindled in our hearts and minds. One Twitter user even found another Inc. article entitled "Why You Should Avoid Waking Up At 5 AM Every Day" and asked the magazine politely, "which is it?"

Yes, which is it? If we are to be successful, are we to get up early? Or wake up late? Should we work four-hour work weeks or eighty-hour work weeks? For if we are to believe the literature, success is surely derived from one of those things. Unless of course, success isn't as formulaic as it seems.

The book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, records the daily habits of more than 150 people, among them Sigmund Freud, Anne Rice, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Jane Austen. And yet no two days are structured alike. Perhaps then, I wonder, if it's not the method that's the reason for an individual's success, but merely the fact that an individual created one, so they could do the far more important thing and work.

Yes, the work must get done. That is essential. But how it gets done seems to vary considerably from person to person. As J.K. Rowling says, "I haven't got ten rules that guarantee success ... the truth is that I found success by stumbling off alone in a direction most people thought was a dead end, breaking all the 1990s shibboleths about children's books in the process. Male protagonists are unfashionable. Boarding schools are anathema. No kids book should be longer than 45,000 words."

Indeed. And as Harry Potter became a smashing success in spite of the shibboleths, perhaps there are rules we should break in the name of becoming successful.


Some people do. There are early risers for sure, and I am one of them. So was Ernest Hemingway. Both of us wake between 5 AM and 6 AM to get to the important work of writing. The architect, Frank Lloyd Wright did all of his drafting between 4 and 7 AM. Stephen King gets his start around 8 or 8:30.

But then there are those who don't. Gustave Flaubert woke at 10 AM each morning. F. Scott Fitzgerald woke at 11...

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