13 min read ⌚
Quick Summary: Own the Day, Own Your Life by Onnit founder Aubrey Marcus is an all-in-one manual for “total human optimization,” providing a bunch of valuable pieces of advice on everything from waking and eating a good breakfast through working and training more efficiently to acquiring proper sleeping habits and having more and better sex.
Who Should Read “Own the Day, Own Your Life”? And Why?
Own the Day, Own Your Life is for everybody who has at least one shelf of his/her home library filled with about twenty how-to manuals for diet, health, work efficiency, sex life, etc.
Well, this book can replace them all.
“The best way to change your life is to change what your life is made up of – your rituals, your habits, how you eat and think,” writes Ryan Holiday in his review of Own the Day, Own Your Life. “This book is a road map for doing exactly that, written by an author whose results can’t be argued with.”
Own the Day, Own Your Life Summary
Even if you have never heard of Aubrey Marcus, you probably already know a lot about Onnit, “one of the fastest-growing human performance companies in America.”
Well, Aubrey Marcus is the guy who founded the company about a decade ago; also, the guy who popularized the concept of “total human optimization” which is exactly what this 500-page mammoth of a book is all about.
Let’s put it this way: its subtitle – Optimized Practices for Waking, Working, Learning, Eating, Training, Playing, Sleeping, and Sex – is definitely not an exaggeration.
So, what are we waiting for?
1: Water. Light. Morning
Aubrey Marcus’ book begins with a quote from none other than Aristotle: “well begun is half done.” For a reason: the first chapter is dedicated to waking up and the things which happen in the half hour after.
“How you wake up sets the tone for your day,” writes Marcus. “Do you slide out of bed and slink through your social media, or do you have purpose in your actions?”
When put this way, it’s not a choice, is it?
And yet – you go on making the wrong one.
“We are highly sensitive to momentum,” notes Marcus. “By starting your morning off with intention, you set your day off on an important positive trajectory.”
Want us to put this as simple as 1-2-3?
Here it is:
#1. Hydrate immediately, because most of us are chronically dehydrated, especially in the morning (after 7 hours of sleep in a dry climate, what would you expect?); do not – we repeat – do not drink any coffee!
#2. Then seek light – but not artificial one: open the blinds and stop being a bat;
#3. Finally, get moving to reset your internal clock.
Now, your day is “primed for perfection.”
2: Deep Breath, Deep Freeze
“Breath and the cold are the best friends you never knew you had,” writes Marcus at the beginning of the second chapter of Own the Day, Own Your Life.
Really, you say? Have has he ever spend at least two hours in a hot morning or evening shower?
Yes, he has, in fact, and has realized that it is too cozy and comfortable to be good for your health and wellbeing.
The key word here is hormesis.
In scientific terms, hormesis is “a biological phenomenon in which low-dose exposure to an environmental agent (called a ‘hormetic stressor’) produces a beneficial effect, while a higher-dose exposure produces a toxic effect.”
In layman’s terms, this “odd duality” has been best summed up by Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous maxim: “What does not kill me makes me stronger.”
In other words, if you want to fight stress, fight it with a proper dose of good, acute stress, aka cold shower.
Well, simply put, “because each morning needs to involve the rush that comes with exposing yourself to nature’s extremes for a few minutes and the willpower you cultivate in the process.”
3: More Fat, Less Sugar, or Don’t Eat
Our dear old Father of the Nation, Ben Franklin, once noted that you need to “eat to live” and not “live to eat.”
Marcus Aubrey starts from there and then goes on to dispel quite a few myths related to our diet.
The main two: breakfast is not the most important meal of the day and, far from being bad, dietary fat and cholesterol are actually good for your metabolic health and proper weight.
If you don’t believe him, just look at a picture of him, and you’ll realize in the blink of an eye that he’s not lying.
In other words, if his dietary habits made his body, then it’s probably right to say that these are not bad dietary habits.
“If you don’t have good fats and protein available to you, rather than eat a bunch of sugary or starchy foods, you can skip breakfast and reap the benefits of intermittent fasting for weight loss and longevity.”
In other words, either eat a fatty breakfast or eat no breakfast at all.
4: Essential Supplements
Now, it is easy to say skip breakfast if the only thing you can eat is cereals, but it isn’t always like that in practice: modern life is both just too stressful and too unpredictable.
Meaning: if you skip the cereals for breakfast, you often end up eating them for lunch (due to lack of time and the need for some instant energy), which is, of course, much, much worse.
Even though “getting the right amount of sun, sleep, and food is itself a kind of supplementation, and the first line of defense,” Aubrey notes that supplementation proper has also become something of a fact of life.
And there are two reasons why you should supplement: “to remediate potential deficiencies and to gain access to unusual or hard-to-find nutrients.”
Aubrey offers an introduction to most of them, but he wheedles out as the key things to consider supplementing these five: greens, probiotics, B vitamins, krill oil, and vitamin D.
5: Drive Time, Alive Time
No matter where you live, chances are that you spend at least an hour traveling to work every day; and probably you spend just as much traveling back.
This is what Aubrey Marcus refers to as “drive time,” and he is right in saying that for most people this “drive time” is pretty much synonymous with “dead time.”
However, it doesn’t have to be that way – at least not today.
Podcasts and audiobooks abound, and conscious breathing techniques and mindfulness practices are always there to help you practice greater presence and peace of mind.
Use this to your benefit.
6: The Power Plants
Though it is not good to start your day with a cup of coffee, says Aubrey Marcus, it is also a bad idea to eliminate caffeine altogether from your regular routine – because, let’s face it, it doesn’t only keep you from falling asleep during those dreadful Friday meetings but it also improves your mood on a daily basis.
Even more controversially, Marcus says that nicotine can be beneficial as well (“to focus, attention, and the enjoyment of your day”), and that the only problems with it come with the delivery.
“The problem with tobacco,” he quotes Don Howard Lawler, “is inhaling it.”
In other words, if you can get used to vaping or absorbing nicotine through your skin or your gums in healthy dosages, then, by all means, do it.
And don’t stay away from nootropics as well: the Huperzia serrata, for example, has been rigorously tested ever since ancient China and, apparently, it helps both with memory and cognitive performance.
Don’t believe Marcus?
Well, try it out!
7: Doin’ Work
“Find something you love to do,” said someone many, many years ago, “and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Though this is true, it is not exactly phrased well: “more important than enjoying every minute of the work you do,” notes Marcus, “is knowing why you are doing it. This is your mission, and being certain of that mission will allow you to flourish even in challenging situations.”
In other words, never underestimate the power of why: it is the difference between what is worth doing and what is not and the keyword in doing the former more creatively and more efficiently.
8: Eat a Weird Lunch
OK – that’s a bit of strange advice!
However, as you read into the chapter, you’ll realize that it is also one of the best ones you can ever hear in relation to your dietary practices.
“Lunch is an opportunity to reframe and restart your day,” writes Aubrey Marcus. “It’s not an obligation to cross off the list. It’s also an opportunity to get your body the micronutrients it needs to keep you feeling great. The way to do that isn’t with something ordered off a cart. It’s by experimenting and exploring. It’s by taking my hometown’s motto to heart, and keeping it weird.”
Put simply, don’t eat the same thing every day because that’s the easiest thing to do.
Also, don’t eat antinutrients, i.e., “highly processed, refined, burned, fried, or artificial foods and colorings.”
Just ask yourself this question: what would have been available to your ancient ancestors for lunch?
Well, eat that – and mix it up constantly.
9: The Binaural Power Nap
You know the feeling: you’ve just finished your lunch and the only thing you can do at the moment is, well, nothing; you’re just too sleepy to do anything.
Marcus Aubrey’s advice?
Listen to your body.
Instead of fighting the post-lunch nap-reflex, just go with it: just thirty minutes of sleep will recharge your batteries and restore your mental capacities to their best.
Our pretty rational tip:
Don’t eat lunch at work.
Let’s face it: the only reason why you’re not exercising is that you’re just too lazy to do it.
It’s not because you don’t believe the hype or doubt the benefits of good training.
Consequently, we feel no need to advocate exercising here: as Marcus Aubrey says succinctly, “exercise is a miracle drug – you just need to take it.”
Now, if you haven’t exercised before, start slowly because otherwise you’ll overtrain and overstrain yourself from the beginning.
And then move on to more difficult and, finally, more unconventional equipment: kettlebells, clubs, maces, ropes – they all work.
Make them work for you.
11: Reset and Reconnect
Many have noted before us: modern humans are overworking themselves on a daily basis (in some Asian countries, unfortunately, they are overworking themselves to death even).
The question is – and, please, allow us to sound Shakespearean for a second – wherefore?
We’ve developed so many machines and tools that are actually marketed as timesaving; then why, oh why, do we lack the time for our lovers and families, for our children and our hobbies, for our dogs and our daydreaming?
As far as Marcus Aubrey (and any sane person) is concerned the above is merely a rhetorical question.
In other words: stop working so much.
When you come home from work, be home: leave your computer in the beg, put your phone to the charger and start connecting with your life.
Quiet down your brain with a puff of cannabis or a glass of wine and don’t hesitate to pick up an instrument and learn how to play one.
Also – have a laugh with your loved ones.
“If you spend a day without laughter and a smile, you haven’t owned the day. Because there is no destination in a well-lived life, there is only the journey.”
12: Eat Dinner Like a King
And after you’re done resetting and reconnecting to your life, it’s time to enjoy it a bit.
“After any good battle,” writes Aubrey smartly, “the warrior looks forward to a feast. And that feast is dinner.”
“Go ahead, champ, eat up and enjoy,” he goes on. “The day is not won quite yet, but you deserve this meal. Break bread, grab some popcorn, eat some chocolate and enjoy. You deserve it not just because you worked for it – but because food is a great part of life. If you go a little too far, don’t worry, we’ve got your back.”
“Eat it consciously, digest it well, and prime yourself for the best kind of dessert: sex.”
13: More, Better Sex
“Wanting more sex than we normally have is part of the natural order,” writes Aubrey Marcus. “It’s when we start having less sex than we normally should, which we’re seeing now, that things really start to go sideways.”
And, in a way, they have already broken down.
The world is just too much frustrated and, apparently, even millennials (at the height of their sexual drive) are having sex less and less often.
Why is that?
Pornography, for one thing.
It’s not that you shouldn’t indulge in it from time to time – sex is good even when it is with yourself – but, let’s face it, it is not nearly as good as the real thing.
And the real thing shouldn’t be a substitute for the fake one: it should be the other way around.
So, start talking to your partner about likes and dislikes and try to rekindle the passion from the past – or create a new one if you’d prefer.
Then start exploring everything sex-related and be as adventurous as you and your partner would like. Spice things up and never forget that “attraction begins with the nose, so be careful with masking your natural smells and pheromones.”
That is – unless you need to.
14: Turn Off, Tune In
“If you don’t turn off,” writes Aubrey Marcus in yet another memorable aphorism, “you won’t ever properly turn on.”
Of course, he refers to the most addictive extension of your existence – it is not coffee, alcohol or marijuana, but (you’ve guessed it) the smartphone.
We know it’s difficult, but, boy, is unplugging your phone at night necessary for your wellbeing. Time moves fast as it is and it moves even faster when you’re endlessly scrolling down on Facebook.
So, why don’t you stop doing that?
Start a journal or something and spend the last half an hour of your day cuddling with the one you love.
That makes all the difference.
For one, you’ll fall asleep much more easily; and you’ll probably wake up feeling much more relaxed.
We are so sleep-deprived nowadays that Arianna Huffington basically changed careers to instigate a sleep revolution.
And she has every right to do that because sleep is so important that it can either make or break you.
As we pointed out above – in the summary of the previous chapter – sleeping is all about finding a way to turn the world off for a few hours.
And just like you need to keep interferences to a bare minimum to work more efficiently, you need to eliminate distractions if you’d like to have a better sleep.
This means: a relaxation pre-sleep period within a cool and completely dark room; in other words: no blue lights whatsoever!
And that’s an order!
16: Bring It Home
Changing your daily routine – as many have pointed out numerous times in the past – means changing your life as well.
Of course, not being able to do this in a short period of time doesn’t mean the opposite: building a routine is difficult, and you need to learn how to forgive yourself if you don’t want to give up.
“Perfection is a myth,” reminds us Marcus Aubrey. “If you forgive yourself, you will begin to feel that you deserve to change for the better, and so you will.”
When in doubt, there are two ways to overcome the struggles: positive self-talk and friendship.
Consequently, the best way to start creating a personal ethos for success includes not only the decision when to start but also the act of letting everyone you love know about it, asking for their unconditional support beforehand.
Now, do it.
Key Lessons from “Own the Day, Own Your Life”
1. If You Don’t Eat Fat, You’re Probably Fat
2. Listen to Your Body: Take Post-Lunch Power Naps to Boost Your Productivity
3. Boost Your Testosterone Levels for Better Sex
If You Don’t Eat Fat, You’re Probably Fat
OK, we admit that sounds counterintuitive on so many levels, but Marcus Aubrey’s almost photoshopped body is evidence enough that it might just be true.
In his opinion, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day if it consists of carbohydrates and sugars; it is far, far better to not eat anything and fast for a few hours than eat cereals in the morning.
“To restore metabolic health and optimize weight management,” he advises, “adding dietary fat back into the diet, starting with breakfast, is essential.”
Listen to Your Body: Take Post-Lunch Power Naps to Boost Your Productivity
Everybody has it: the urge to fall asleep right there on the work desk after that eagerly awaited lunch break.
Now, most books offer advices on how to struggle through it; Marcus Aubrey says otherwise: just go with it.
A 30-minute power nap in the middle of the day resets your body’s energy and your mental capacity to just about the appropriate levels.
Fighting it does nobody any good: not you, not your boss, not your company.
So, workers of the world, unite: ask your CEOs to institute an obligatory 30-minute nap period after the lunch break.
Your main argument: you’ll make up for it.
Boost Your Testosterone Levels for Better Sex
Many studies have shown that regular sex might be just as good for you as a proper diet: in addition to being one of the most pleasurable activities out there, it also improves your health and your physique.
If you want to have more of it – then you need three things: 1) a partner you’re attracted to; 2) a little quality time with him/her; and 3) a high-fat diet.
Yup – you’ve heard it right: once again, fat is the key.
Because saturated fats and cholesterol are necessary to produce testosterone and testosterone ramps up your sex drive.
Say no more: dear avocados, dear nuts, dear oily wild salmon – here we come!
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“Own the Day, Own Your Life Quotes”To live one day well is the same as to live ten thousand days well. To master twenty-four hours is to master your life. Click To Tweet Time is the wrong metric to use when we evaluate work. Because it’s not just about how much time you work, it’s about how effectively you use that time. Click To Tweet To wait for the external world to change before you alleviate your stress is a fool’s errand. Click To Tweet Small things, when compounded over time, tend to have big consequences. Click To Tweet Well begun is half done. (Via Aristotle) Click To Tweet
Own the Day, Own Your Life may not offer many new things on the table, but it works great as a compilation for “total human optimization.”
In other words, instead of buying separate books on improving diet, health, exercise, and sex life – you can just buy this one.
It really works as a well-structured anthology of digested versions of many other books.
And that is a compliment.