As far as life plans go, “taking things one day at a time” isn’t exactly an earth-shattering innovation.

But as another old adage goes, “tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.” And if you want to change the rest of your life, then you need to start with a single day first, says Aubrey Marcus, the founder and CEO of fitness powerhouse Onnit.

In his new book Own the Day, Own Your Life, Marcus offers nearly 400 pages of both simple and sometimes uncomfortable daily adjustments. A motivational speaker, podcast host, and the son of former world-ranked tennis star Kathy Shubin (née Harter), Marcus gives you the framework to help you remain focused on the road to success.

Marcus admits his ideas aren’t an exact blueprint for every individual, but his methods have enough variety to help each person choose their own plan to “owning their day,” as long as they’re willing to embrace change.

“The expectation isn’t that you’re going to do everything every day from here until infinity, but to try and plan one day and just commit to that one single day,” Marcus says. “And, then, just see what happens after that. See what things stick, what you like and want to keep and don’t like and are willing to get rid of.”

Marcus spoke to Muscle & Fitness about his book and his overall approach to revolutionizing your life.

In your mind, how does a successful day begin?

A cold shower is the linchpin. It’s that key moment. You not only get the benefits of the cold, you also get to train your willpower and mental fortitude, which lets you be the type of person who can do something uncomfortable for your own benefit.

The cold shower—when they have to turn that shower nozzle cold—is usually the first time people find a challenge. Everybody reacts to that idea as if I’m asking them to do something beyond their capability. Really, though, it’s a very simple move with dramatic health and emotional benefits.

What’s the one common thread that separates success or failure?

I think it’s a type of person who’s either capable or not capable of turning that shower nozzle cold. Some people can do something uncomfortable for their greater good, and people can’t. Some will pander to their easy choice and their own comforts. And if you’re that type of person, you’re not going to have the success you’re really looking for.

Own Your Day
Courtesy Image

Was writing this book an example of doing something uncomfortable for your greater good?

I’d go for weeks at a time where I’d work 12 to 14 hours a day for, like, seven days straight. That’s almost 100 hours. I did that for at least eight weeks. I definitely put thousands of hours put into this book.

Sometimes, you have to recognize that you’re going to have to let a few things go. You have to make sacrifices. You’re going to have to let some romantic evenings go with your lover. You’re going to have to let your management team make decisions. You’re going to have to give yourself the space to complete a project that will pay off way down the road. So, yeah, that’s the choice, and that’s the move.

How did you come up with the title?

I wanted to compress this idea into one, single day. I felt like everybody could do a day. The world’s flooded with transformational programs. For me, it was about: “What are you going to do what that one day?” You’re either gonna own it or get owned by it. So if you can own the day, you can then own your life.

Do you think it’s possible to be well-balanced in everything—work, relationships, family, the gym—or does something have to give?

I think you can get pretty close. That’s the way I try to live and I don’t think I’m that far off. There are times, though, when you have to focus more on one thing than the other thing. But certainly a lot of my days look like the ones described in the book.

Are there enough hours in the day to maintain balance?

Time is a convenient excuse, but it’s not really valid. Some of these things don’t require a lot of time. When it comes to nutrition, buy an avocado, cut it, grab a spoon, and eat. How long did that take? Two minutes? Heat up some bone broth. You can make choices with different foods. Sstart with what you stock at home, or what you order off the menu. It’s just like turning the shower nozzle from hot to cold. It’s the same muscle that lets you order the avocado and chicken versus the ravioli on the menu. It’s the same thing.

Your mother Kathy was a world-ranked tennis player. She made it to the Wimbledon semifinals in 1967. Seems like she would be a great mentor.

Children learn from mimicking, and I had a great person to mimic. She was world class in what she did, and had great balance with her life.

Any particular examples?

I played basketball in high school. At one point I was having a tough time. My mother told me how she struggled as a tennis player at one point. She told herself to either take a year off or work twice as hard and practice twice as much, because what she was doing at the time wasn’t working. Sometimes the middle ground becomes the problem—like you’re kind of doing what you should be doing, but you’re not fully doing it. So you either need to double down or pull out entirely. That all-in or all-out mentality is something I’ve used in all kinds of things—from athletics to business.

How do you apply that mindset to training?

Say you’re in the gym. You’re doing a few things, you’re on the phone, but you’re not really working out. The move there is to either double the efforts and go really hard and put in a good workout, or just don’t work out at all. It’s just like working on a project. If your heart’s not into it, either work twice as hard to finish it or just pull out and wait till you’re ready. Understand that sometimes just a little bit of effort isn’t going to cut it. It would be better to have no effort or twice the effort.

Who did you have in mind when you wrote this book?

Really, everybody can benefit. I’m not asking people to do heavy deadlifts, superheavy squats, climb a mountain, or even dedicate an hour a day to meditation. Nothing in here is hard. Get a little movement. Get a little light. Get a little sun. Have a cold shower. Be mindful on your way to work. Nothing is out of reach for anybody, and that’s really what I wanted to write.

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