For quite a number of years now I've realized, not without great embarrassment, that the thing I do best is sleep. It's not the sort of thing one puts on a resumé. It is, in fact, something best not mentioned. It's been my secret vice which I hid away like an alcoholic hides bottles.
When I was in Washington covering the State Department and the White House it was quite the thing for government officials to boast about how little sleep they needed. Four hours, tops. Everybody stayed up late at Georgetown dinner parties and appeared in their offices at 7 AM. It was a mark of devotion to the great business of government.
There was one person however, the great Senate majority leader, Mike Mansfield, who was known to go to bed at 9 p.m., but he was the glaring exception. I would guess that most people reading this in the Huffington Post don't remember and maybe never even heard of Mike Mansfield. But here's the thing. It's a name you should know (he's the guy who in 1962 told JFK that we should avoid involvement in Vietnam). What's more, he continued to oppose it voting against escalation. He was a champion of bi-partisanship (remember that?).
Nothing like a good night's sleep to give you wisdom. The secretary of state Dean Rusk (and now I'm really showing my age) used to say that while we're asleep half the world is awake making trouble for us. Maybe everybody should have slept longer and ignored at least some of that trouble.
And let that be a lesson for the tech world, which now seems to be stepping up (or down) to that same routine. Breakfast at 8:30? How about 8? Or 7:30? Or 7? And that, after they have had their full hour-long workout in the gym.
Maybe my predilection for avoiding those early hours comes from my freshman year in college when I signed up for calculus at 8 AM. I was as good in math as I was in sleeping in those days, or so I thought. Nothing but A+ all the way in high school. But here I was in this cold building where the heat hadn't come up yet in freezing Ithaca, New York at this ungodly hour. I, a complete slug-a-bed, could barely keep my head up to stay awake and I surely had no idea of what was going on the class. Frankly, concepts of velocity and speed registered not at all. I just Googled calculus and saw that calculus is the study of how things change. Say what? Nobody ever mentioned that in my class. At least not while I was awake. Not to belabor the thing, I failed. I actually got a zero on a test that I took, then a 37 in the final. We were given numerical grades in those days and mine was in the 30s, wreaking havoc with my average. My college career was tanking and I was still in the first semester. And never again could I balance my checkbook. I'd contracted severe math phobia.
I did learn one thing. Never again did I sign up for an early class. Once I graduated (yes, I did manage to graduate) I took only those jobs that didn't start at the usual 9 AM. Later on, I complained bitterly about early take-offs when following Henry Kissinger around the world. I didn't talk about how much I needed to sleep in the morning. A good ten hours is what I need and best if those hours are in the morning, but that's another story.
Now the wondrous Arianna Huffington has allowed me to come clean, to come out of my self-imposed closet. She is emphasizing the importance of a good night's sleep. Too bad she wasn't around to give advice to the State Department in the 60s. This is a new age of enlightenment. Some companies are now even paying their people to sleep. I could have made a fortune.
So I want to declare here and now that I am an Olympic sleeper, surely deserving of a gold medal, and, thanks to Arianna, I can say it out loud and repeatedly.
It's what I do best.
I say it's about time sleep received the respect it deserves.
So don't ever ask me to take a meeting, any kind of meeting, at 7 a.m. I don't want to see anyone at that hour.
Nor, I assure you, would anybody want to see me.