The Sleeping Fox Catches No Poultry


This is the 33rd in a collection of newspaper ads written by Harry Gray, then CEO of United Technologies, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Here is the text from that ad.

We didn’t write that headline.
Ben Franklin did.
Get out of that bed and get cracking, he was saying.
Set your alarm for six, not seven.
If you think you do well after a two-martini lunch,
see what you do after a two orange juice breakfast.
Ben Franklin didn’t spend a lot of time snoozing.
Starting at age 13, with no formal education,
he accomplished more than almost any other American since.
“Plow deep while sluggards sleep,” he also said.
So hop out of the sack.
Get up and go.
The fox is wide awake.
He’ll grab all of the chickens if you snooze.

It was true 250 years ago, it was true 30 years ago, and it’s true today.

If you want to accomplish something, it’s going to take initiative and effort. As Gary Vaynerchuk has said, “Hustle is the most important word…ever.”

I wonder what Ben Franklin would think of today’s technology tools, which could both serve as a productivity boost, or as a great time waster. Would he have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, and if so, what would he use them for?

I would also combine the line from the ad above about setting the alarm for six with another of Franklin’s expressions, “Early to bed, early to rise…”

I don’t think Franklin was suggesting that people try and burn the candle at both ends, but rather encouraging people to put in a full day’s work, and making sure they take care of their health by getting a full night’s sleep.

An estimated 2/3 of Americans get less than the recommended eight hours of daily sleep, leading to behaviors such as sub-optimal decision making, unhealthy eating habits, and falling asleep at meetings, or even worse, while behind the wheel.

Compare this to the sleep habits of some successful executives who were profiled in a Wall Street Journal story from a few years ago, “Sleep Is the New Status Symbol for Successful Entrepreneurs“. The story featured hard-driving executives such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreesen who try to make sure they get at least eight hours of sleep per night, claiming such a habit makes them more effective at work the next day.

So while they may not be getting up at the crack of dawn, once they are up, these executives are highly focused and productive throughout the day.

I think Ben Franklin would approve, and so would Gary Vaynerchuk.

(And knowing the mind sets of these entrepreneurs, they would probably build something to keep the proverbial fox out of the chicken coop or a machine that could “plow deep” more easily and more quickly, thus freeing up their time to focus on other initiatives, and still get their eight hours of sleep).

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