Many years ago Ben Franklin made this insightful statement: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise…” (The Way To Wealth Being the Preface To Poor Richard's Almanac for 1758.) If that statement is true, it means that in the 5 seconds it takes to get in bed at night and the 5 seconds it takes to get out of the bed in the morning, we could have three of the most desired of all blessings--health, wealth and wisdom. Obviously we would have to get busy doing something meaningful during the hours we are awake, but his simple message is profound. How is it that so few follow his suggestion when it only takes about 10 seconds a day to do and when the potential rewards are so incredible? Let’s look briefly at his three promises:
Recently I read this question asked on a popular Internet site: Q. Why do so many old people get up early? As you can imagine there were various answers given to explain this phenomenon. How would you answer this question? Here is one answer: “It is because going to bed early and getting up early leads to better health and a longer life. This question is similar to asking why do so many old people avoid smoking?” The point made is that those who consistently go to bed late and sleep in are not as likely to reach old age. Further research needs to be conducted, but there seems to be growing evidence that Ben Franklin knew what he was talking about when he associated this practice with health.
There is no question that stress can lead to early death. Many spend large sums of money trying to relieve stress and searching for joy yet never realizing that “…joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5) Sterling W. Sill, the author of 32 books who lived until he was 91 years old said, “To give the journey through life a downhill grade, get up early enough to watch the sun rise. It is exciting to experience the light, warmth, and energy that helps to make the earth beautiful with flowers and vegetation.” (The Wealth of Wisdom, p.144.)
Internationally known medical doctor Russell M. Nelson also tied the practice of getting up early to mental well being when he said, “To those who feel defeated and downtrodden, look to the early hours of the day for your rescue.” (CR, October, 1986 p. 88.)
Recently I went jogging before sunrise. There were very few lights on in the neighborhood and everything seemed very calm, peaceful and relaxing. I watched the sun just peaking over the horizon and was filled with gratitude and hope. The worries from the night before seemed manageable and I was excited to start the day.
A few years ago one of our son-in-laws was taking several difficult college classes. At that time he was getting up early every day to keep up with his studies. One day he was up at 5:00 a.m. riding his exercise bike while watching a cable news program. He called me later that morning and told me that the first two TV commercials on TV that morning were for very expensive luxury cars. He asked me if I could explain why these companies advertised at that time of day. I contended that they were target marketing to successful people because they are the only ones up that early. You can be sure that these huge international companies have done their market research before spending valued advertising dollars on ads at that time of the morning.
The connection between wealth and getting up early was mentioned by King Solomon in the Old Testament. “Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.” (Proverbs 20:13.)
During a conversation with a very wealthy CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I asked what time he got up in the mornings. He said that he got up by 5 a.m. every day. I wondered if he had to get up at that early hour because of the demanding schedule of a Fortune 500 CES or whether he was the CEO because he got up early. To find out I asked him how long he had been getting up at that time. He told me he began doing it at age nineteen and had never stopped.
While most people are very familiar with Benjamin Franklin’s short maxim, many are unfamiliar with his entire statement. He strongly suggests that those who get up late are not likely to become wealthy. He said: “He that riseth late must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night; while laziness travels so slowly that poverty soon overtakes him. Drive thy business, let not that drive thee; and early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise… (The Way To Wealth Being the Preface To Poor Richard's Almanac for 1758.)
It appears that the “early to bed and early to rise” connection to wisdom is no longer just a theory. A scientific study conducted by researchers at a major university found that: “Students who habitually go to bed late and sleep late the next day have lower grade point averages (GPAs) than students with early-to-bed and early-to-rise sleeping habits. The later students slept in the morning, the lower their grades tended to be. Out of all the factors studied, weekday and weekend wakeup times had the strongest association with students' GPAs. Each hour over the average that students slept in on weekdays was associated with a 0.13-point drop on the GPA (0.0-4.0 scale).” (Journal of American College Health.)
Isn’t it interesting that the average college student in America seems to do just the opposite of what this research suggests. A common practice during the college years is to stay up until the early morning hours studying or working on papers and then to sleep right up until the first class of the day because of physical and mental exhaustion. At a time when students should be gaining wisdom, many are doing the exact opposite of what will lead to it.
The men and women called to lead the Fortune 500 corporations of America are often chosen because of their wisdom. Several surveys have shown that as a whole these leaders are early risers. If following a daily ritual of going to bed early and getting up early contributes to their wisdom, it would seem wise for us to do the same.
Ben Franklin was a legendary polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. He excelled as a scientist, printer, inventor, author, postmaster, political theorist, diplomat, civic activist, politician, and statesman. He lived to be 84 years old when the life expectancy for a male in America was 34.5 the year he died. His daily ritual was to get up at 5:00 a.m. and to always have a project he was working on to better himself or mankind. Some may doubt that his simple suggestion of going to bed early and getting up early had anything to do with his amazing accomplishments. As I see it there is only one-way to prove him right or wrong.