Here on Inc.com, articles on the daily (and weekly) routines of the super successful are perennial favorites with readers. Oprah Winfrey kicks off each day with 20-minutes of meditation. Richard Branson gets up at 5 a.m. Jeff Bezos putters until ten.

These posts offer ideas and inspiration for those looking to tune up their own routines. There's only one problem with them. They almost always neglect to mention the weird, extreme, and sometimes deeply unpleasant habits many rich and successful people engage in daily. Newsletter The Hustle recently reeled off a bunch of eyebrow-raising ones.

1. Steve Jobs' carrot-only weeks

Those who read Walter Isaacson's biography of the late Apple founder will know that Jobs tried to use natural remedies, including various juice combinations, to try to cure his cancer. He later regretted it. But Jobs' belief in the power of diet started much earlier.

"Steve Jobs went weeks only eating carrots -- reportedly turning slightly orange -- all because he heard they were healthy," claims The Hustle.

2. Ben Franklin's air baths

Lots of us believe that a bit of fresh air can be good for your health (and science agrees that spending time in nature is basically a wonder drug), but founding father Ben Franklin took the idea to extremes.

In a letter dated 1768, Franklin recommended daily "air baths," AKA sitting stark naked in front of an open window for 30 minutes to an hour each morning, depending on the weather. Given that Franklin spent most of his life in places like Boston, Philadelphia, and Paris, it's worth noting the weather was often frigid.

3. Beethoven's coffee counting

Lots of modern high achievers are pretty intense about their coffee, but few can match the composer's level of obsession. "Child-prodigy and classical composer Beethoven hand-counted 60 individual beans for his coffee each morning," notes the Hustle.

4. Shigeru Miyamoto's obsessive measuring

Shigeru Miyamoto, a legendary video game designer at Nintendo, "habitually measures everything he sees. He even carries around a tape measure, guessing and checking the lengths of everyday objects," The Hustle reports.

5. Nikola Tesla's odd sleep habits

Modern biohackers who go to insane lengths to squeeze more performance out of their beleaguered bodies have nothing on inventor Nikola Tesla. He "slept in six 20-minute intervals to gain more hours of productivity each day," states the newsletter.

6. Elon Musk's five-minute schedule

Elon Musk is also famed for his periods of sleep deprivation (and resulting crackups), but his most extreme habit actually isn't the frequency with which he snoozes on his office couch. Instead, it's his relentless and insanely detailed schedule, in which he blocks out his days in five-minute intervals.

7. Tony Robbins' ice baths

The Hustle goes on to mention several more strange habits of well known names, but even this long list is far from exhaustive. Just off the top of my head I'd add Tony Robbins. Every morning he spends a few minutes in an extra hot sauna before plunging into ice cold water. Science has uncovered benefits of cold showers, but that's definitely taking it to extremes.

Extreme habits come from extreme personalities.

What should you take away from this list of oddities? Is the lesson that in order to achieve extreme things you need an extreme routine? The Hustle tries to make the case that these bizarre behaviors are "keystone habits." They sound bonkers but they work by setting the tone for the rest of the day.

"Take Beethoven: His morning ritual of counting beans wasn't necessarily practical, but it was methodical and required intense focus. Completing that task put Beethoven in an ideal mental state to bring the same level of detail to his compositions," argues the newsletter.

There might be something there. I can't imagine the rest of your day looking too intimidating after you've submerged yourself in ice water already, for instance. But I'm more inclined to take another message from this list. One that was succinctly summed up by Musk's ex-wife, Justine Musk.

"Extreme success results from an extreme personality and comes at the cost of many other things," she wrote on Quora. The likes of her ex and Bill Gates "tend to be freaks and misfits who were forced to experience the world in an unusually challenging way."

Your chances of happiness are far greater if you're not on the extreme end of the personality scale, she goes on to say. But if you happen to be born that way, there's no point in fighting it.

Which is probably a more helpful takeaway from any article about successful people's routines, extreme or otherwise. These habits are an expression of their personalities, and they work for them because they fit how they see and experience the world. You're unlikely to get much out of duplicating them. (Unless they call to you personally. If a daily ice bath strikes you as an inspired revelation, by all means get yourself a plunge pool.)

Instead, remember the best routine is one that's tailored to you. Also, keep in mind that extreme success often comes from an extreme -- and often not terribly happy -- personality. That should serve as a consolation if you're not a billionaire but are enjoying your life (and not spending weeks on an all carrot diet).

Published on: Mar 20, 2019
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