This 5-hour Rule Can Make You A Better Southeast Asian Entrepreneur

Adopt a learning lifestyle; don’t just focus on efficiency and productivity

Share on
BY Tanya Mariano - 31 Mar 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

When serial social entrepreneur Michael Simmons – co-founder of Empact, a firm that specializes in entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership events – looked through the personal histories of some of the world’s most admired business leaders – Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Elon Musk – he uncovered a pattern. He found that many of these successful people set aside at least one hour a day, or five hours a week, for deliberate practice or learning activities, Simmons writes in this Inc. article.

He called it, the “five-hour rule.” Its power, it seems, lies in the practice of constant and deliberate learning. It’s about adopting a learning lifestyle and systematizing the quest for self-improvement.

The key is to turn this into a daily habit. Says Dominik Weil, co-founder of Bitcoin Vietnam, “I don’t believe too much in ‘resolutions’ – where you promise yourself, ‘from tomorrow on, everything will be different!’ – and which most of the times you will not be able to live up to.”

Instead, to create positive habits, Weil goes for “steady and ongoing incremental change towards improving yourself. The positive outcomes will follow automatically. Action matters – not wishful thinking. And action starts [with] all these small things in [the] common, average days in your life.”

Different people spend these five hours differently, but their activities can be classified into three types: reading, reflecting, and experimenting. Taking time off for these activities may be counter-intuitive in today’s efficiency-obsessed work culture, but if the success of people like Musk, Gates, and Buffet are any indication, then it's safe to say that investing in yourself today will pay off handsomely in the future.


1. Read

Simmons cites several prominent figures who are fond of reading: Phil Knight, founder of Nike; Mark Cuban, who reads for over three hours a day; Mark Zuckerberg; and Oprah Winfrey. Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, was also said to have been a voracious reader.

It’s one of the most glaring things that the wealthy have in common, says author Steve Siebold, who spent three decades talking to over 1,200 of the richest people in the world. “Walk into a wealthy person's home and one of the first things you'll see is an extensive library of books they've used to educate themselves on how to become more successful… The middle class reads novels, tabloids, and entertainment magazines,” says Siebold, as reported by Business Insider.

If you haven't yet, start to build your own library. To really widen your horizons, read up on a variety of subjects, not just books on entrepreneurship and business.


2. Reflect

Another way to spend that one hour is to just think – about your goals, both short-term and long-term; about a particularly difficult problem you've been trying to crack; about a creative project you've been looking to start. You can do this alone while walking, by ruminating with a friend or colleague, or by writing in a journal, for instance.

Writes Simmons, “When Reid Hoffman needs help thinking through an idea, he calls one of his pals: Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, or Elon Musk. When billionaire Ray Dalio makes a mistake, he logs it into a system that is public to all employees at his company. Then, he schedules time with his team to find the root cause. Billionaire entrepreneur Sara Blakely is a long-time journaler. In one interview, she shared that she has more than 20 notebooks in which she logged the terrible things that happened to her and the gifts that have unfolded as a result.”

However you prefer to do it, creating a daily thinking routine will go a long way towards self-improvement.


3. Experiment

Some people choose to spend this time experimenting instead. Test out ideas that you may have been toying with. For instance, if there's a change to a work process that you've been thinking of trying out, spend this time working on that.

There's a chance that your productivity will decrease, but, as the five-hour rule illustrates, it's a sacrifice that has to be made once in a while in order to pursue long term growth through deliberate learning.