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Find Your 4 a.m.

Find Your How To Own ThisMantra4 a.m.

While accepting the 2016 ESPY Icon Award, Kobe Bryant ad- dressed his fellow athletes about the truth behind the greats: “We’re not on this stage just because of talent or ability. We’re up here because of 4 a.m. We’re up here because of two-a- days or five-a-days. We’re up here because we had a dream and let nothing stand in our way. If anything tried to bring us down, we used it to make us stronger.” 

Bryant was famous for his legendary work ethic—and his obsessive side. He once called his personal trainer at 3:30 in the morning to say he needed some help with his 
conditioning work. The trainer, roused from sleep, got dressed and headed to the gym and found Bryant already soaked in sweat, practicing on his own. 

An
other time, eager to add cycling to his training routine, Bryant had his trainer rent mountain bikes, and then they hit a Las Vegas trail and rode forty miles, not getting back until 2 a.m. By 7:30 that same morning, Bryant was in the gym work- ing out. 

This is typical Bryant: consistently outworking everyone. Most people won’t do what it takes to be truly excellent in their field, but then they feel frustrated and demoralized by not being where they want. They won’t work weekends. They’d rather party than study. They live for Fridays. They wouldn’t dare show up two hours early for work to get a head start on a project. And they sure as hell aren’t rolling out in the middle of the night to shoot free throws. 

But Rare Breeds are different. They work their butts off. They kill it in the gym when everyone else is sleeping. They study microbiology on their birthday. They practice guitar scales until their fingertips bleed. They burn the midnight oil, not just for a few days or weeks, but daily, and over a lifetime. And their diligence pays off. 
 
Serena Williams
The Black Mamba
One of the greatest female tennis players of all time, Serena Williams, is obsessed with excellence through effort. “Luck has nothing to do with it,” she told ESPN, “because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court 
 
working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.” 

Sure, it helps to have natural talent, but mindset and effort are what breed success. Just think about how many people you know who are ridiculously gifted, but lazy to the Nth degree.  Now think of someone who has a lot less talent but grinds his or her face off. Talent doesn’t take you to the top. Hustle does.   

How to Own This Mantra 
 
To achieve excellence in your field of endeavor, you need to think like a champion. You need to put in two-a-days and five-a-days. 

You need to give effort to achieve that excellence. 
It all boils down to simply deciding. Deciding that it’s intolerable that anyone could be superior to you in your field, whether that’s writing code, playing the violin, mixing cock- tails, or distance running. 

Martin Luther King Jr. left us with this beautiful piece of advice from a 1967 sermon: “Even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote po- etry; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.’” 
 
Ask yourself:  
What am I going to be the best at? 
What routine or practice do I need to do every day? 
What material do I have to study? 
How can I heighten my productivity while I’m in the 
flow? Everyone in the profession is doing the same humdrum things to sharpen their skills, so what can I do that’s extra?  

Challenge yourself to improve. There are plenty of people out there who have as much ability as you do, and some who have more. You have no control over that. But you have com- plete control over how hard you’ll work, when and how you’ll work, and what you’ll sacrifice to be the best.