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IG#18: how to be successful, the minimum viable morning routine, & reclaiming 11 hours per week

Companies that are hard to compete with are valuable. But have you ever thought about implementing a competitive moat for yourself?

Dominik Nitsch
4 min read

Welcome to the 18th edition of International Generalist! Today, you’ll learn how to be successful (or at least, where to read more about it), a contrarian take on the morning routine, and how an agency greatly reduced workload for their employees.

If you don’t find this valuable, you can always unsubscribe at the bottom of this email. If you like it, tell your friends about it using your personalized referral link. It’s the best way to support this newsletter (& to get some cool benefits in the process). :)

Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash

[1] 2 hours of focus time = 11 hours saved weekly

Insight from brand eins

I’ve long argued for the benefits of focused time blocks on an individual level.

A German agency took it to the next level: they implemented focus time across the whole company every day from 10 to 12. Phones off. Slack off. Email off. Just focus on the task at hand.

Which makes sense: according to the article, we’re distracted by something every four minutes. And since it takes 23 minutes to get into the zone, most people never enter focus time.

Let that sit for a second: most of us never enter “the zone”. Unless we do something about it.

The effects are incredible: for the CEO of the company, implementing this reduced his work time from 54 to 43 hours keeping everything else equal.

Your company likely doesn’t do this (mine doesn’t, but I wish we did), but you can do this at an individual level:

Block out times to focus, without communications; and the more, the merrier.

It’s an easy win.

[2] A refreshing take on the morning routine

Insight from Alex Hormozi

I love ideas that run contrary to what I believe.

I’m a big believer in the morning routine - it has been an integral part of my life for the better part of the last decade. Always changing, never quite the same, but always there.

And usually quite extensive.

Morning routines are meant to prime yourself for the day. To get the maximum out of it. To win the day before it even begins.

This leads to ever ballooning morning routines. At the peak, mine was a solid 90 minutes - and only when I executed it perfectly.

Compare that with Alex Hormozi’s morning routine:

  • Wake up
  • Sit down at laptop and begin work

If the morning routine is meant to ensure you win the day, wouldn’t it be better to just get up and get started on the work you need to do?

I feel caught.

Because he might be right.

Is the morning routine just a way of procrastination?

To test this, I suggest finding out the minimum viable morning routine. What are the things that you need to do in order to get going?

I cut out journaling, meditation (both moved to the evening), and breakfast (intermittent fasting), and reduced my morning routine from 90 to 30 minutes.

Working on your highest priority first thing in the morning seems pretty reasonable to me.

Maybe an extensive morning routine isn’t the highest priority thing.

[3] How to be successful

Insight from Sam Altman

Sam Altman recently released an essay humbly named “how to be successful”. And when Sam Altman - former CEO of YC and now Founder & CEO of OpenAI - writes about success, it’s worth checking out.

Two aspects stood out particularly:

Be hard to compete with

In business strategy, everybody knows about competitive moats.

In personal strategy, nobody thinks about it.

What can you do to build a moat for yourself?

You could build leverage.

There are four types of leverage (according to Naval Ravikant):

  • Capital
  • Labour
  • Code
  • Media

I believe there’s a fifth one: personal network.

You could also identify the intersection of things you’re uniquely good at.

I am by no means the best entrepreneur, foreign language learner, athlete, or writer.

But I’m pretty good at all of them, and there aren’t a lot of people out there who match this specific skill set.

What’s your unique skill set profile?

Define yourself by your strengths, not your weaknesses

“I can’t do X because I’m not good at Y”.

This way of thinking will stand in the way of success. Instead, according to Altman, acknowledge your weakness, and then surround yourself with people who have complementary skill sets to you.

Your confidence will also benefit greatly from thinking about yourself in terms of strengths.

Action Items:

  1. Block out 2+ hours per day with zero communication, fully dedicated to focus
  2. Find your minimum viable morning routine
  3. Think about your personal moats
  4. Surround yourself with people who have complementary skill sets

One ask from my side

I’ve been getting a lot of feedback that some of you really enjoy what I’m writing - which makes me feel giddy, warm, and fuzzy. Please keep that coming.

My friend Lea mentioned recently: “a few friends and myself love the newsletter - we don’t always agree with what you write, but it encourages discussions among us, and that’s awesome”.

I love hearing that. If everybody agreed all the time on the things that I write, this stuff would be boring as hell.

So if you feel anything like Lea, please tell a friend about this newsletter, and maybe even forward them this email. It’s the best thing you can do to help this newsletter grow.

The more people subscribe, the more time I’m forced to spend on writing the best possible newsletter. Again, everybody wins.

Thank you.

That’s it for this edition of International Generalist. Thanks for tuning in and reading!

Who’s behind International Generalist?

I’m Dominik, and every day, I try to figure out how to become a tiny bit more effective. Then, I share some of the lessons learned here.

When I’m not writing, I build the international business for Sdui - the Leading European SchoolOS -, play Lacrosse, lift weights and enjoy draft beers.

Here’s how else I can help you:

See you in two weeks!

Much love



Dominik Nitsch

Proud generalist: Entrepreneur, Athlete, & Writer.

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