The 5 AM Club Summary and Review

by Robin Sharma
Has The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary. Once upon a time, there was a billionaire; he’d reached the true elite, achieving significant results in both professional and personal spheres. He was the type of man who’d leave his legacy on the world. But the secret behind his successes was surprising. He attributed his achievements not to his natural talents, nor to the hours he invested in his work. He credited it to a revolutionary morning routine, built around getting up at 5 a.m. and following a little known formula designed to turbocharge his mental focus, build his physical fitness and encourage him to be his best self daily. With this book summary, you can join the 5 am club too. You can learn how to wake up every day and embrace the solitude, silence, and lack of distraction the early hours of the morning offers. Continue reading, and you’ll discover how elite performers in all walks of life get ahead by making the most of a time of day that others use to sleep, watch the news, or browse social media. In this summary of The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma, you’ll uncover:
  • why having freedom from distraction can help you to produce better outcomes;
  • why slowing your brain down through transient hypofrontality is so important; and
  • how to create the routine of an elite performer.

The 5 AM Club Key Idea #1: A Chance Meeting

This is the fictitious story of a unique group of people: a depressed entrepreneur, in need of revitalization; a frustrated artist, trying to refuel his creativity and build a legacy; and a billionaire with a string of successes and a desire to pass on his knowledge of how to live an extraordinary life. These three characters met at a personal optimization conference where legendary business guru, the Spellbinder, was speaking. He was renowned for his talent of weaving magic and captivating his audience with the power of his insights. The billionaire approached the entrepreneur and the artist after the Spellbinder’s speech was over but they didn’t know that he was so wealthy. The billionaire was disguised as a poor man, a habit he formed to remind himself that money isn’t everything. The only clue to his real wealth was his expensive watch. The billionaire told the others that he’d made a fortune thanks to the Spellbinder, who’d taught him that while many people wish extraordinary things will happen to them, the truly elite discover that they can make extraordinary things happen on their own. The entrepreneur and the artist became more curious about this mysterious man who talked like a guru himself. They listened as he described how the Spellbinder – who was actually the billionaire’s personal mentor – had taught him one thing that was more important than anything else. What was that information? That the most reliable way to produce the best results in your personal and professional life is to develop a world-beating morning routine. Being a generous man, the billionaire made them an incredible offer. If they wanted to go with him to his beach house in Mauritius, he would teach them the secrets of building a great morning routine. All they had to do was meet the next morning at 5 a.m. The entrepreneur and the artist were somewhat skeptical the next morning, but that started to give way when a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce picked them up. The car took them to a hangar where a sleek, ivory-colored private jet waited for them with the logo: “5AC.” The entrepreneur asked the chauffeur what the logo meant, and was told that it stood for “The 5 am Club.” And so began their journey in understanding what a revolutionary morning routine meant and a new outlook on life with the potential to transform everything for the better.

The 5 AM Club Key Idea #2: Why 5 am?

Early the next morning, the billionaire explained to the entrepreneur and artist how waking up at 5 a.m. was the way that he learned how to escape mediocrity and achieve greatness. Getting up at this time increased his creativity, doubled his energy, and tripled his productivity. But how? Many true greats throughout history, from novelist John Grisham to composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, have learned that the isolation that comes from waking at 5 a.m. has a multiplying effect. Everyone has a limited mental capacity or cognitive bandwidth. Throughout the day, we give our attention to more and more tasks: work, the news, interaction with others and social media. Our bandwidth gets used up by all of these so, by midday, we have a hard time truly concentrating on anything at all. By constantly shifting our focus, we don’t give anything enough attention. However, if you wake up at 5 a.m., you have a golden opportunity to concentrate on a singular high-value activity without your brain getting distracted. This focus is further heightened by the concept of transient hypofrontality, which means that at 5 a.m., you are well placed to reach a state of flow in your thinking process. The billionaire explained this is because when you are experiencing a peaceful 5 a.m. start to your day, the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which handles rational thought, temporarily shuts down. So the inclinations to analyze, stress and worry are impaired. At the same time, the peace of daybreak spurs the production of neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. The result is that you can naturally enter a state of flow: being fully energized, focused and in the zone. Flow is the elite mindset that all top performers, from violinists to scientists, possess in their finest moments. You’ll find that if you get up at 5 a.m., you’ll be more focused and productive for the whole day. If you need another reason for why joining the 5 am club is a good idea, consider this: to achieve the same results as the top 5 percent of elite performers, you have to do what 95 percent of entrepreneurs, artists, and others are resistant to. Most people aren’t willing to get up at 5 a.m. so if you are, you have a major competitive advantage.
Find out how to stack the odds of success even further in your favour: by building a top 1% work ethic.
Now let’s look at how to not only achieve great things but how to become a true history maker: someone whose achievements change the world.

The 5 AM Club Key Idea #3: Historymakers

On a gorgeous morning in Mauritius, the entrepreneur, the artist, and the billionaire gathered by the sea. A school of squirrelfish could be seen swimming through the clear waters. In this lovely setting, the billionaire conveyed the four focuses of the great history makers. Firstly, he said, the greatest are not defined by their natural talent, but by the extent to which they capitalize. According to the billionaire, self-discipline and perseverance can trump talent and giftedness. Rather than believing you don’t have what it takes, capitalize on the abilities you do have to make a difference. Secondly, the billionaire explained, freedom from distraction is essential. Too many people waste hours on addictive, hollow technology and social media. If you want to succeed, you must focus, simplify, and concentrate. This means becoming a purist, and concentrating on a couple of amazing work projects rather than several decent ones. And in your daily life, it involves stripping away everything that distracts you from a constant focus on what’s most significant. Turn off notifications and cancel pointless meetings that take you away from activities that truly add value. Gain a distraction-free hour every morning to concentrate on what’s significant by joining the 5 am club. Thirdly, the greatest understand the power behind day-stacking. That means the smaller tasks completed daily are far more important than large tasks executed occasionally. Consider improving one ability or skill by only one percent every day; it’s a little change, but over the course of a year it amounts to a 365 percent improvement! Finally, the billionaire shared the last focus of history makers: personal mastery practice. According to psychologist Anders Ericsson, a person has to invest at least 2.75 hours of daily practice towards a skill for ten years in order for the first signs of elite-level mastery to surface. If you want to master yourself, you should spend your first hour every morning intensely working on you, your mindset and approach to health, spirituality, and love. The entrepreneur and artist now understood more clearly how the most elite stayed ahead. The billionaire told them it was time to take it to the next level; now they had to understand how to cultivate their best selves.

The 5 AM Club Key Idea #4: The Four Interior Empires

How often, asked the billionaire, have you heard a guru speak about improving your mindset? We hear this all the time – think optimistic thoughts, and you’ll enhance your life. But, said the billionaire, as he walked along a white sand beach with his pupils, what those gurus don’t tell you is that your Mindset is merely one of four “interior empires.” If you’re only working on growing your Mindset, you’re ignoring your Healthset, Heartset, and Soulset. That’s like only polishing 25 percent of a picture! Your Heartset signifies your emotional life and well-being. It’s important because, even with a world-class Mindset, you can’t intellectually deliver while your emotional life is a mess. As Sigmund Freud remarked, “unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and they will come forth later in uglier ways.” Focus on a healthy Heartset and you’ll quickly feel a difference. Next, give your Healthset – your physical health – attention. One of the essential steps to getting ahead in life is longevity. The billionaire jokingly pointed out, you can’t be a titan of an industry if you’re dead. Committing to optimal fitness provides you with a couple of extra very healthy and productive decades to build a greater legacy. Furthermore, elite performers recognize that every day gets significantly better with exercise. It ignites your energy, diffuses stress and increases joy. But even that isn’t enough; there’s another interior empire to cultivate. Your Soulset, the billionaire explained, means your spirituality. Too often, everyday life draws us toward the superficial and material. Take some time in the quiet moments of the early morning to remember who you really are. Connect with the hero inside of you. In the silence of the dawn, meditate on what you have to offer the world. Focus on your Soulset, and you’ll reconnect with the best part of yourself. The entrepreneur noted that this framework improved his self-perception, leading him to question how he could use the first hour of his day to effectively apply it. The billionaire told him that he was ready to hear about the 20/20/20 formula, but not in Mauritius. They had to go to The Eternal City – Rome. It was time to get inspired by the passion of the Romans, the city’s architecture, and its superb food.

The 5 AM Club Key Idea #5: 20/20/20 Formula

Now standing in the square at the bottom of Rome’s famous Spanish Steps, the little group took in their surroundings. It’s time, the billionaire said, to discover how you can remodel your creativity, performance, utility, wealth and productivity. Just waking at 5 a.m. won’t do it. You could rise at 5 a.m. and spend an hour browsing social media and checking messages, but that won’t optimize your day. The 20/20/20 formula will though and it asserts that you use 20 minutes to move, 20 minutes to reflect and 20 minutes to grow. The first step is to move or to perform a vigorous exercise for 20 minutes. What’s really critical is making yourself sweat. That’s because sweat gets rid of cortisol, the fear hormone. Sweat produces the protein BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which repairs brain cells and accelerates the development of new neural connections. By sweating for 20 minutes, it literally means you’ll think faster! Then, make 5.20-5.40 a.m. a moment for reflection with a period of deep peace and solitude. Before the complexity of the day begins, reflect on what’s most important to you. In an age of distraction, and constant notifications or messages, you’ll be amazed at what visions, dreams, and inspiration come to your mind when you have a few moments of silence to yourself. Write these thoughts down in a journal. Commit your current ambitions, things you’re grateful for in your life, and frustrations and disappointments to paper. Doing this will help you to understand your vision and let go of toxic, negative energies. Take a few minutes to meditate. Research shows that meditation helps to lower cortisol, which reduces your stress. It’s a proven method to stay relaxed, and the great performers of the world are always calm! Now it’s time for the last 20 minutes of your hour. At this point, you need to grow, so take 20 minutes to learn something. Study the lives of prominent achievers by reading their biographies, learn about human psychology, watch documentaries on innovation, or listen to audiobooks about business building. Something every billionaire has in common is a love of learning. And there you have it: a perfect morning routine, to make the hour your own and become a member of the 5 am club.

The 5 AM Club Key Idea #6: Embracing Sleep and the “Twin-Cycle of Elite Performance”

As the city of Rome slowly began to come to life, the billionaire, entrepreneur, and artist ventured into the depths of the city. As they descended down a dusty tunnel, the billionaire stated they were in the catacombs – underground passages utilized as burial grounds by ancient Romans. The artist asked why they were there and the billionaire explained that they were surrounded by people in centuries-old-slumber, therefore making it an appropriate place to discuss the importance of deep sleep. Research shows that sleep is one of the key factors in predicting one’s life expectancy. How you spend the last hour of your day is almost as important as the first when it comes to peak performance. Too many people are sleep deprived, which is due to technology. Research reveals that the blue light our devices emit reduces melatonin levels– the chemical that induces sleep. Being in front of a screen before sleeping will prevent you from resting properly, so turn your technology off no later than 8 p.m. Spend the rest of your evening chatting with loved ones, meditating, in a relaxing bath or reading and then go to bed no later than 10 p.m. This way, you can positively maximize the value of your 5 a.m. time. Sleeping isn’t the only major way to rejuvenate. A key to top performance over time is to switch between periods of passionate, focused work at the highest levels and periods of time for deep refueling through relaxation, recovery, and fun. This is a process that the billionaire refers to as the twin-cycle of elite performance. Growth doesn’t just happen in the performance phase, but in the recovery phase as well. If you want to understand why this is the case, the billionaire said, speak with a farmer. They’ll tell you there’s always an intense phase of tilling soil, planting crops and laborious work. However, after that period comes the fallow season. This season may seem like a stage of resting. It looks like nothing’s going on. But really, it’s the fallow season, during which the soil rests and replenishes its nutrients, that predicts how well crops are going to blossom. Some of us don’t like embracing the “rest” portion of the twin-cycle. The entrepreneur admitted this, remarking that if he isn’t working, he feels guilty. But, as the billionaire responded, balance is essential. So don’t just work: embrace rest, relaxation and fun, comfortable in the knowledge that it’s all a key part of elite performance.

The 5 AM Club Key Idea #7: In Review

The key message in this book summary: The first hours of the day are where heroes are created. If you want to truly master your life, begin by owning your mornings. Freedom from distraction at 5 a.m. will enable you to increase your creativity, maximize fitness and protect your serenity in this age of complexity. Actionable advice: Set your alarm clock half an hour ahead to trick yourself into waking up at 5 a.m. First, purchase an alarm clock: technology is distracting and shouldn’t be in the bedroom. Once you have an old fashioned clock, set it 30 minutes fast and then set an alarm for 5.30 a.m. That way, when you wake up, you’re fooling yourself into believing you’re getting up later. When the alarm goes off, get out of bed immediately, before the weaker components of your character come up with reasons to stay under the duvet.
Suggested further reading: The discipline to wake up early is just one characteristic of top performers. Find out what else the super-successful do to get the most out of their day in this article on work ethic.