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How Early Do You Have to Get Up to Swim With the Sharks?

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin
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I pinched this article from the NYtimes.  Make of it what you will.

How Early Do You Have to Get Up to Swim With the Sharks?
Published: Sunday, July 13, 1997

RISING early. Sages have said it brings health, wealth and the proverbial worm. Aristotle said it leads to wisdom. The 18th-century English theologian Matthew Henry warned: ”Those who would bring great things to pass must rise early. Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty.”

Maybe that’s why Robert A. Iger, the president of ABC Inc., is sneaking around at 4:45 A.M. in the dark (trying not to wake up his wife, the news anchor Willow Bay), so he can beat everyone to the gym at 5 A.M., and be in his office by about 6, to surf the Web.

Or why Howard J. Rubenstein, the public relations mogul, once jogged in Central Park with a Dictaphone at 5:15 A.M. (until his secretary had trouble transcribing a tape that had all sorts of panting on it).

Call it seeking the competitive edge. Of course, they are not the only ones who try to beat the dawn. But by the time many have had that first cup of coffee or rustled a child out of bed, an exclusive club of early birds, many of the city’s movers and shakers have already armed themselves with layers of information; raised their heart rates and limbered their muscles; reviewed the schedules for the day (and many times the week); awakened personal assistants with detailed messages, and sharpened all sensoriums, so they can hit the day running.

The theory being that every battle is won or lost before it is fought.

Or as the real-estate developer Sam Lefrak puts the motto of his life: ”I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead”

Taken as a class, they are a calculating lot, primed and focused, zealots of timing and detail who build snooze time and daydreaming into the schedule. The morning peace can be exploited for polar virtues: accomplish basic tasks to make the rest of the day free or to contemplate and lay out strategy before the onslaught of midday clutter and interruptions.

They have morning rules and rituals. Perhaps drawing on the wisdom of abstinent prize fighters, the publishing star Judith Regan says she won’t have sex during the work week. Peter Vallone, Speaker of the City Council, goes to Mass seven days a week.

Perhaps future social historians will hold them up as human exhibits of the information age. There is more information available, so there is more to digest to get a handle on the world and be competitive. Most of these early birds have read two to four newspapers, browsed the Internet, channel-surfed the television stations, absorbed news radio, listened to voice mail, sent and read E-mail and even had one to three meetings, before 8 A.M.

”There is so much to know now,” said Ira M. Millstein, who at 6 A.M. is reading corporate governance of companies in Third World countries and has filled the desk of his assistant, Sally Sasso, full of faxes by 7 A.M.

And, let’s put it this way, no one is going to bed early. While some may be in bed by 10, most go to sleep from 11 P.M. to 1 A.M. Beyond a certain time, some of these people — by their own admission — are not exactly scintillating. One, who will remain nameless, is known to doze off at dinner parties. Mr. Iger concedes: ”Don’t find me at 7 or 8 at night. I’m a little tough to deal with.”

Some see religious roots in early rising. Abraham, after all, is said to have risen early to sacrifice his son Isaac. But it is clear the modern phenomenon is about pure competition.

”I don’t consider what I’m telling you to be normal,” Mr. Millstein said of his early rising, ”but I bet I’m the earliest.”

”Am I the earliest?” asked Mr. Rubenstein, who admits, ”We’re all a little crazy.”

Dr. John W. Rowe, the president of Mount Sinai Hospital, contends: ”I may not be the earliest riser, but I bet I’m at work the earliest.” That would be 7 A.M., when, he says, he expects his assistant to have coffee brewed for his arrival.

It doesn’t matter who is the earliest, but they all may have something on the rest of the city. As Benjamin Franklin once said, ”He who rises late may trot all day, and not overtake his business at night.” And what is even more awful is that what was considered early then may be even earlier now.

Remember: Benjamin Franklin didn’t have E-mail.


46, president of ABC Inc.

WAKE-UP TIME 4:45 A.M. to an alarm.

MORNING ROUTINE ”I have everything organized the night before. Let’s put it this way: It’s all designed so I don’t have to turn any lights on. I leave the apartment at 4:55 and arrive at the gym and work out until 6. See, the trick is to arrive in full workout attire. You have to arrive at the gym and hit the machines.”

EXERCISE ”I’m addicted to the Versa-Climber,” he said. He works out on it for 35 minutes and then lifts weights. An annoyance: ”There’s a select group of die-hards who are there before me and I don’t know how they do it.”

MORE ROUTINE When the workout is over: ”I walk across the street to my office, where a number of daily newspapers are waiting for me. I spend about an hour reading newspapers, E-mail, surfing the Web, watching tapes from ‘Nightline’ or screening a show. It’s my quiet solo multimedia experience in that period of time.”

He showers in his office, where he also has suits, shirts and ties. ”My suits are all over the place. That’s what weekends are for, shuttling suits.”

BREAKFAST 7 A.M. in the company cafeteria with a few ABC executives.

BEDTIME ”It’s about 11 P.M. or 12 A.M., or later. ”When we’re in reruns I try to go to bed closer to the 10 or 11 A.M. range,” he said.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE MORNING ”I think people have their own rhythms. In my case it’s my morning. I’m less ornery. Don’t find me at 7 or 8 at night. I’m a little tough to deal with. People discover your routine and attempt to gain access to you. It’s a disturbing trend, but the phones tend to ring more than I would like.

”Our lives are filled with many more distractions and many more assaults on our time. Before, all we had to care about was mail and phones. Now there are faxes, E-mail, videocassettes to screen, plus the phones and mail. And the sheer volume of information written about our business has exploded. There is so much more to read.”


32, communications director for Mayor Giuliani.

WAKE-UP TIME An Upper East Side resident, she says she wakes up at 5:30 A.M. but then hits the snooze alarm and rises at 5:45 to WINS or CBS news on the radio.

”I’m very, very efficient. I like to sleep up to the last minute. If I was normal I’d get up earlier, but I like those last few minutes.

”It’s good to wake up to the radio, because it’s like I already know what’s going on.

”I basically roll out of bed, put on my running clothes, and put on a hat and hope nobody sees me.”

NEXT She’s ready to jog, but before she goes she calls the police desk at City Hall to find out about any incident that may have happened around the city from the police officer on duty. She may take notes or follow up right then, calling other people in the administration. She’ll quickly scan the headlines of all the papers.

CAVEAT At 6:10 A.M. she’s out the door to run. Unless the Mayor calls.

”There have been unfortunate times early in the morning when he has read the paper before me and he’ll call at about 5:30 A.M.” she said.

At that point, she said, she will read The New York Times, Daily News, Post and Newsday. ”Then I’ll make sure I have available any commissioner who could brief the Mayor at his morning meeting so he’s prepared for the rest of the day or he can take whatever necessary action to address the issues.”

EXERCISE She takes about a 30-minute run either on the lower loop of Central Park or on the Reservoir, and if she has extra time she runs the full loop of the park.

NEXT ”Come home. It’s about 6:45. Then I’ll read the papers again for another 15 minutes.”

BREAKFAST ”A glass of grapefruit juice or cranberry juice. When I eat breakfast with any kind of food I become hungrier throughout the day.”

EXIT STRATEGY She’s out of the house by 7:15 A.M., and then goes to a meeting at Gracie Mansion or City Hall.

Each day, Mayor Giuliani has a meeting of his senior staff at 8 A.M. for one hour, either a breakfast meeting at Gracie Mansion or a meeting at the committee-of-the-whole room on the second floor of City Hall.

”I really prefer the Mayor’s breakfast meetings up at Gracie Mansion. It’s exactly 15 blocks and I can walk.

”You know there’s a science to the mornings,” she said. She is referring to the chronic congestion on the East Side subway lines.

If she has to go to City Hall, Ms. Lategano is on the train downtown. ”If I leave the house at 7:15 A.M. it only takes 15 minutes to get to City Hall, but if I leave at 7:30 A.M., it takes half an hour,” she said. ”If I’m feeling lazy I do take a cab.”

BEDTIME Falls asleep halfway through David Letterman, about midnight.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE MORNING ”The mornings are a great management tool, because everyone at the 8 A.M. meeting is prepared to brief the Mayor on any issues relative to the city that day, and it’s early enough to have a jump on the day.”


43, president of the Regan Company, which produces projects for film and television. She has handled books by Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern and Christopher A. Darden.

WAKE-UP TIME Generally 5 A.M., but as early as 3 A.M. She always wears big white cotton pajamas to bed. When she wakes up she immediately starts leaving voice mail messages for her assistant, Angelica.

EXERCISE ”I get on the treadmill, which has a phone headset on it, and walk and don’t run.”

She starts leaving messages for her other employees, dictating their tasks for the day. If she’s not on her treadmill, she’s in the Jacuzzi. Either place, she’s making calls.

”I never go to the reservoir to run. Yuck. It’s like rush hour on the reservoir.”

RULES OF THE MORNING ”I never have sex during the work week. Boyfriends are not part of the mornings. We get him out of the house as quickly as possible.” Ms. Regan’s boyfriend is David Morey, a corporate consultant who lives in Washington.

BREAKFAST Ms. Regan is the mother of a 16-year-old boy, Patrick, and a 6-year-old girl, Lara. Breakfast consists of egg whites and daughter time. ”We sing and play and hug and rock. I tickle her and joke with her and then she gets dressed and I have 10 minutes to talk her into brushing her teeth.”

NEXT ”I read The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today and The Washington Post, (all the papers pretty much, except for The Daily News, which she says called her ”the most obnoxious woman in New York”). ”I channel-surf. I pretty much have the television going all morning.”

BEDTIME ”I only sleep four hours a night. When you have children, you get used to their biological clock. My children don’t sleep, so neither do I.”

PHILOSOPHY OF THE MORNING ”Work starts the second I get up. I either work or play with my kids. I have to. I had a brutal custody battle with their father and I value my time with them. I have a lot to do. I’m a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown 100 percent of the time.”


65, the head of Rubenstein Associates, a 150-person public relations firm.

WAKE-UP TIME 4 to 4:30 A.M.

NEXT He puts on his running clothes and enters his office in his Fifth Avenue apartment. He switches on all the lights and the television set and starts flipping through the channels for news.

”It feels like midday,” he says.

He sits in the office until 5:40 A.M., working. He brings home several valises full of paperwork, all color coded in files.

”I organize my phone calls for the day. I look at all my unreturned phone calls. I prioritize them, color-code them and then write a line or two about each subject I have to talk about.”

He also organizes his meetings for future days, signs checks, looks at his diary, thinks about switching or adding a meeting for future days. He handwrites notes. He analyzes the week’s calendar.

EXERCISE At 5:40 A.M., he does about 20 to 30 minutes of stretching, then he and his wife, Amy, run four miles around the Reservoir in Central Park. That’s five days a week; the other days, he works on a stationary bike or treadmill in his home.

Mr. Rubenstein said he used to take a Dictaphone with him while he ran. But he stopped when his secretary said, ‘What’s with all this panting?’ ” When he did run alone, he said joggers he knew would catch up to him and ask him to ”talk to the Mayor” if something needed to be fixed in the park. He hated that.

NEXT At 6:30 or 7 A.M., Mr. Rubenstein does call one of his assistants, who is already in the office, to go over the day.

BREAKFAST Oatmeal with skim milk and coffee with his wife, Amy.

At work, he usually has a breakfast meeting at 8 A.M. ”I like them because no phones are ringing yet and I don’t feel pressure,” he said.

BEDTIME 10 to 11 P.M.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE MORNING ”It’s a full-time day before the day starts. I have almost four hours of focusing on the day without interruption. You go into the day way ahead.”


57, president of Tishman, Speyer Properties, international developers and property managers.


EXERCISE Gets out of bed and immediately starts to exercise. In bad weather he will use the stationary bicycle and treadmill. Otherwise, he jogs, preferably three miles, with one of two ”reasonably steady running partners.”

People who have seen him jogging in Central Park say Mr. Speyer seems to be having business meetings while he’s running. But he says he tries to avoid that.

He has even tried to dictate when he’s running. ”But I got strange responses from my secretary when I brought in the tape.”

Many times, he takes a cab to different parts of the city and then gets out and runs home.

”You get a sense of the pulse of the city that way,” he says.

BREAKFAST 8 A.M. Usually a breakfast meeting. ”When the clock turns to 8, I become a business person,” he said.

BEDTIME About 11 P.M. or midnight.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE MORNING ”I think every minute is precious.”

RULE He never calls Carole Karpel-Sekaloff, his assistant for 30 years, before 7:30 A.M. ”And she never calls me until then, too,” he said.


70, senior partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, an international law firm with 11 offices and 600 lawyers, whose clients include General Motors, Westinghouse, General Electric and Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield.


NEXT Makes coffee with hot milk and goes to his desk at 5 A.M. ”Since I’ve been about 9 years old or earlier, I’m at a desk at 5 A.M. I remember when Martin Block was the D.J. and I would listen to the ‘Milkman’s Matinee’ on WNEW.

”I read lecture notes or an agreement that I’m working on, or a speech or an article or a complicated opinion letter. Anything complicated that requires undivided attention is part of the morning.”

He uses a fax machine to send material to his office.

THE VIEW During the week, he splits his time between his Fifth Avenue apartment and his home in Mamaroneck, N.Y. In both places, he said, it was a priority for his offices to have a view.

”My desk in New York overlooks the park. My desk in Mamaroneck overlooks the Long Island Sound. At first I sit myself down and look out and contemplate and think. It’s peaceful and focused. There are no phones ringing, no people, no computers.”

RULES ”I don’t call any associates or partners until 7 A.M.,” he says, laughing. ”I hold back my anxious calls. I have mercy. I call at 7. That’s acceptable.”

(By the time Mr. Millstein’s assistant, Sally Sasso, comes to work at 8, she has a pile of work on her desk.)

EXERCISE Around 7 A.M.: Work out on the exercycle and stretch and flex.

BREAKFAST Half of grapefruit, coffee, toast or dry cereal.

NEXT Then he goes to work. In New York, he either walks or takes a cab to the office. In Mamaroneck, he gets driven to work and reads the papers in the back seat.

”By that score it’s about 8:45 A.M.”

BEDTIME 10:50 P.M.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE MORNING ”I wouldn’t know how to do it otherwise. I’m getting a jump on everyone. It’s a competitive advantage.”


From Ghana, the Secretary General of the United Nations. (A peacemaker in a world of sharks.)

WAKE UP TIME: 7 A.M. ”I’m not one of these 4 or 5 o’clock guys.” But during crises he will go to bed at 2 A.M. and wake up at to reach people in other time zones.

ROUTINE ”I wake up and get the news. I listen to the radio: to the BBC and Radio France Internationale and then read The New York Times and The Washington Post. The first sections. I need the international aspects.”

EXERCISE ”I then get exercises done on the treadmill. I walk and sometimes I feel energetic and get on my rowing machine.”


BEDTIME Around 11 P.M.

PHILOSOPHY OF THE MORNING ”You have to pace yourself.” He said since he became Secretary General in January, his life has changed. ”Drastically,” he said. ”It’s become very hectic. The first time I heard the phrase ‘time is the enemy,’ I laughed. Now no one has to explain it to me.”

”You have to organize and structure your time in such a manner that you give sufficient attention to the many issues that come across your day.”

Theories, Outrages


Andre Balazs, the hotelier who just opened Nica’s, a bar-restaurant. Goes out at least five nights a week and wakes up from 6 to 6:15 A.M.

”The key is you got to get out of any place by midnight. It’s reverse Cinderella. I really believe this. If you’re out after midnight, the tenor changes and after midnight it’s all about who you’re going to go home with. It’s not very rewarding professionally.

”Years ago, I spent a lot of time with Andy Warhol, and it impressed me that he took his socializing very professionally and paced himself by always being at home at midnight. Andy never burnt out.”


Don Hewitt, executive producer of ”60 Minutes.” Awakes at 5 A.M. and is usually at work by 6 A.M. Reads The New York Times and The Washington Post, then goes to the cafeteria and reads more newspapers.

Why does he get up so early? ”Basically I’m up because I can’t sleep. I go to sleep around 11 P.M. and I listen to the first item on the news. I’m awake and I can’t lie in bed.”


Brian McNally, owner of the restaurant 44 at the Royalton Hotel. In bed around 3:30 A.M. and up near 10.

”I have some cornflakes with a couple of cigarettes and then get into the shower. Sometimes I’ll go out to a cafe and read the newspaper and have coffee and a twisted bagel with sliced tomatoes and lots of salt and pepper. It’s good in the Village: no one gets up until that time.”

”It kills me to get up at 5 A.M. I can’t think straight. I hate those people who are jogging and walking the dogs. It’s depressing. Don’t they have a life? I mean, in principle, I like the morning. You know, there’s sunshine and fresh air. It’s just, what is with the jogging and chirping?”


Don Imus, radio show host. Awakes at 4:17 A.M. and goes on the air at 6 A.M.

”I come over here to the Kaufman Studios and read The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Daily News, and I think about what it all means and whose life I can ruin, and there’s not much time to do it. And though I’m on the air for four hours there are a lot of commercials, so it comes down to seven or eight minutes that I can make someone furious.”

”Most people who I have talked to in the 4 and 5 o’clock area wake up and stare at the clock throughout the night. There was a time, 10 years ago, I had a substance situation, and I had to have an alarm. But no more. I don’t drink or smoke and I just wake up.”

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