- Jocko Willink is a retired SEAL commander, bestselling author, and popular podcast host.
- His new book is a “field manual” of insights and routines to build discipline.
- He broke down his morning routine, which starts at 4:30 a.m.
As commander of US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser, Jocko Willink instilled in his men the mantra “Discipline equals freedom.”
It’s the idea that by setting and following strict procedures and guidelines, you’ll free yourself to focus on the mission at hand, rather than be distracted by the process.
And it’s why Willink still has an intense morning routine that starts at 4:30 a.m., even though he retired from the SEALs in 2010.
Business Insider recently sat down with Willink to discuss his new book, “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual” — a collection of insights and routines from his leadership consulting form Echelon Front and hit podcast — and he explained why he considers the start to the day so important.
He wakes up at 4:30
Willink explained in the 2015 book “Extreme Ownership,” cowritten with one of his platoon commanders, Leif Babin, that he noticed as a new SEAL that the highest performers he served with were the ones who woke up earliest, beginning their days while others were sleeping. Willink quickly adopted the habit and has long had his alarm set to 4:30 a.m.
“That nice, soft pillow, and the warm blanket, and it’s all comfortable and no one wants to leave that comfort — but if you can wake up early in the morning, get a head start on everyone else that’s still sleeping, get productive time doing things that you need to do — that’s a huge piece to moving your life forward,” Willink said. “And so get up early. I know it’s hard. I don’t care. Do it anyways.”
Willink usually won’t need more than five or six hours of sleep, but he clarified that he’s not asking people to run on fumes. If waking up early leaves you exhausted, go to bed earlier, he said, and don’t compromise your schedule on the weekend.
He holds himself accountable
After his alarm goes off, Willink will wash up quickly and then take a photo of his wristwatch to show his Twitter followers what time his day is starting. (It includes the date, so he can’t cheat.)
It’s a habit he started a couple years ago to both force himself to stick to what he preaches, as well as inspire others to wake up early.
He heads to his garage gym to work out
Willink throws on his workout clothes — which he conveniently laid out the night before to reduce procrastinating in the morning — and heads to his garage, which he’s converted into a decked-out gym.
He’s got a four day workout rotation (pull, push, lift, squat), and each day’s routine is preceded by a warm-up and followed with core exercises and cardio work.
Willink’s workout usually lasts around an hour, and the cardio portion can range from a few intense minutes to a half-hour run. All of this is typically wrapped by 6:00 a.m.
He might hit the beach
Willink grew up in Connecticut but moved to San Diego for the SEAL base there, and decided to stay. He’s taken advantage of his surroundings and will often go to the beach for a quick swim or surf session. And if the weather’s especially nice, he’ll do his cardio on the beach, too.
He’ll then clean up and get to work
After he’s done exercising, he’ll shower and get himself ready for the day.
He’ll usually have a handful of nuts rather than an actual breakfast (if it’s not one of his fasting days), and won’t have a meal until around noon.
He’ll begin work for Echelon Front or his solo stuff, like his podcast, by the time most people are just waking up.
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