Thomas Edison is perhaps the greatest inventor in history. As the first man with more than 1,000 registered patents, his inventions changed the face of the world and many are still in use today.

Notably, Edison’s illustrious career may be attributed as much to his consistency as any brilliance. In fact, history tells us that he was thought mentally handicapped as a child. Nonetheless, he habitually embraced his curiosity and creativity.

As one story goes, Edison’s concerned wife told him he worked too much. She insisted that the very next morning, he just relax and do whatever he wanted. Edison agreed – and the next morning his wife found him back in his workshop.

This is a powerful illustration of the right kind of routine. Edison did what he loved and he did it consistently. Perhaps he did possess a unique brilliance, but in many ways Edison’s great success and powerful legacy resulted from his daily routine.


Are you languishing in a rut, or prospering from your routine?

I can’t think of a better way to start 2013 than getting a good handle on this critical topic: There is a very important difference between ‘rut’ and ‘routine’ – and many people confuse the two to their own detriment. Here’s an example:

“Habit and routine have an unbelievable power to waste and destroy.”

– Henri de Lubac.

Mr. Lubac’s observation is correct, if we’re talking about a ‘rut’ – but he is utterly mistaken with regard to routine! A ‘rut’ is a dull and unproductive pattern of behavior that’s hard to change. Unquestionably, ruts are a waste of life that destroy our potential legacy.

But make sure you don’t confuse these two concepts, because Lubac is missing two critical observations:

  1. ‘Routine’ holds an unparalleled power to improve and develop.
  2. Though you cannot have a ‘rut’ without a ‘routine,’ you can forge a powerful ‘routine’ without a ‘rut.’

Take a moment to run a quick internal diagnostic before we proceed, and consider your current situation.

Are you stuck in a rut? Or are you enjoying a routine?

If you want to live a story worth telling, you need a routine!

Make a mental note: Routine is potentially the most powerful progressive force in your life!

If you want to do your best in life and/or give your best to others, you absolutely need ‘routine.’ It’s been said several different ways, but the secret of success is always found in daily routine.

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.”

– Mike Murdock

To understand why, we simply need examine the many benefits routine provides:

1) Routine maximizes your efficiency – Change saps mental, physical, and emotional energy because that energy must inevitably be expended to determine how to react to the novelty of the situation. Alternatively, consistency preserves this energy so that it can be applied elsewhere. As a result, routine optimizes the way you use your energy and maximizes your efficiency.

2) Routine enables a compound return on your focus – Like it or not, ‘new and exciting’ generally precludes depth of understanding. However, continued focus in the same area allows you to draw increasingly fine distinctions, which build your expertise. Unsurprisingly, increased expertise allows for increasingly fine distinctions. Such is the goal of a Ph.D. program. The consistency afforded by routine allows for a higher return on your focus and development of unparalleled expertise. Nobody can become an expert in any area without routine focus.

3) Routine energizes your enthusiasm – Many people mistakenly connote routine with boredom or a lack of excitement. This is inaccurate – in fact, the opposite is true. If your routine involves work that you’re passionate about and pursuit of your dreams, seeing progress on those fronts will be energizing!

“Most of life is routine … but routine is the momentum that keeps a man going. If you wait for inspiration you’ll be standing on the corner after the parade is a mile down the street.”

– Ben Nicholas

4) Routine facilitates creativity – I once saw a powerful interview with Inception writer/director Christopher Nolan in which he described the long-term development of the ideas behind the film, which took shape over the course of many years. He said the most successful creative people are those who provide for an iterative process and allow their ideas to simmer and mature. In this way, routine actually facilitates creativity by operationalizing creative ‘simmering’ day-to-day.

5) Routine breeds contentment – We’ve all heard it said that familiarity breeds contempt, but that need not be the case. Familiarity can breed contentment, as well. A routine that maximizes your efficiency, compounds the return on your focus, energizes your enthusiasm, and facilitates your creativity enables you to make progress in areas of your life that are meaningful to you. Such will not fill you with contempt!

6) Routine generates space for novelty – Routine provides more than just a firm foundation on which to build your life – it’s also a secure port from which to set sail toward new horizons! I saw this demonstrated during my time in Bangladesh. Some expatriates seemed primarily interested in searching for themselves. That’s not a bad reason to go work in another part of the world, but it seemed that those who had already forged a firm foundation were more focused and productive, and made a lot more of the opportunities afforded by their time in country.

7) Routine is inevitable – Finally, it bears noting that you might as well establish a powerfully positive routine because routine is inevitable anyway. Even trying to avoid routine becomes routine!

“I have been desperate to escape for so many years now, it is routine for me to try to escape.”

– Jack Henry Abbott

People with a powerful, success-oriented routine are NOT special!

Now that we’ve discussed some of the important benefits of routine, make another mental note: People with a powerful, success-oriented routine are not special!

They are not necessarily more talented or more intelligent than you.

In fact, many times, such people are surprisingly unintelligent or lack any notable talent. However, they are wise – and they maximize their time via ‘routine,’ thus making up for areas in which they lack.

More importantly, you can too! And, it starts by understanding routine.

Today we’ve discussed the benefits afforded by a good routine. Next week, we’ll discuss the elements of routine and shed light on how to establish a good one. Until then, pay more attention to your life and answer the discussion question below, publicly or privately.

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