5 Hour Rule: A Learner’s Success Model

The 5 hour rule of success essentially states that the most successful people in the world – think Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Cuban, etc. – dedicate an entire hour every day to learning or practicing new things. When you envision how busy with meetings and speeches and presentations these types of people are, this may seem counterintuitive. But if you believe knowledge is power, it makes sense. By constantly learning, you stay a step ahead of the game. In this article, we’ll explore the 5 hour rule and how to implement it in your business, career, or personal life.

5 Hour Rule

What Is The 5 Hour Rule?

The 5 hour rule of learning can easily be accomplished by reading. Reading is, after all, one of the most well recognized ways to learn new things. But listening to audiobooks or taking online courses are other ways to follow the 5 hour rule. But let’s step back and offer a slightly more concrete definition of the 5 hour rule.

The 5 hour rule is almost hilariously simple. It was coined by Michael Simmons, an entrepreneur and journalist. It suggests that no matter how busy successful people are, they will spend at least an hour a day — or 5 hours a work week — learning or practicing. A key part of the rule is that they will consistently do this across time, forever. Lets say you are a 40 years old with three kids under 10 and are building a venture-backed company. The rule says that you will still dedicate one hour each day to learning (if you are following the 5 hour rule, that is).

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The 5 Hour Rule’s Three Buckets

Over time, the rule has been given a bit more “meat on the bones”. Beyond the basic premise of dedicating an hour a day, or 5 per week, to learning or practicing, there is a three-step process to follow associated with the 5 hour rule:

  1. Read

The first step or bucket involves reading. It is well documented that successful people read – a lot. This is how they learn new things, get exposed to innovative ideas, or learn about other industries and cultures. You can still follow the 5 hour rule by replacing reading with listening to an audiobook or podcast, or taking an online course.

  1. Reflect

One you read or otherwise learn new information in bucket 1, you have to take some time to pause, reflect, and think deeply about it for it to be beneficial to you. You might read about a totally different industry, or perhaps about a successful historical figure. This new information can often be used to draw parallels that might help your own business or career.

  1. Experiment

So you’ve read a book and learned something new, and you’ve thought about it and have some ideas for how it relates to your career or business. What next? True proponents of the 5 hour rule, those who are seeking to extract the most value from it, will experiment next. They will try something new with their next client, or try out a new online marketing strategy. They will take some sort of action to test their new ideas.

Who Uses The 5 Hour Rule?

The 5 hour rule appears to be used by some of the most successful people on the planet. Jack Ma, Mark Cuban, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Elon Musk are all voracious readers who seem to follow the 5 hour rule. Others are Charlie Munger, Barack Obama, and Paul Tudor Jones, a self-made billionaire entrepreneur and investor. In fact, Charlie Munger suggests that every single successful person follows the 5 hour rule on some level. Here is what had to say about the 5 hour rule:

In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none. Zero.”
— Charlie Munger, Self-made billionaire & Warren Buffett’s longtime business partner

Results Of Using The 5 Hour Rule

Proponents of the 5 hour rule understand that intellectual capital is becoming more powerful than financial capital. Technology is changing and improving at an almost unfathomable pace. This means that an above-average ability to make connections, see new linkages, or get ahead of a new trend with $1,000 in the bank can be more valuable than $10,000 and a merely average ability to do these things.

Results of the 5 hour rule can include successful new business ideas, personal growth and development, new-and-improved skill, and more. However, the 5 hour rule also has indirect benefits. The time spent reading and reflecting can also help clear your mind and lead to better decision-making that is hard to link directly back to the rule itself.


The 5 hour rule is powerful because of its simplicity. If you are caught in the day-to-day of answering emails and dealing with never-ending minor crises, how will you acquire information about new trends, processes, or competitors? If you make learning new things a daily habit, you’ll reap massive long-term benefits – even if it takes a little longer to complete minor tasks. Cheers to learning!

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Filed Under: Consulting skills, Corporate Training