What does an $80.6 billion morning routine look like? For Warren Buffett, the deep-pocketed Berkshire Hathaway CEO, it’s a sausage McMuffin with egg and cheese. Every weekday, Buffett slips through the McDonald’s drive-thru, grabs his McMuffin, and then speeds toward the parking lot of the seventh-biggest company in the world. He’s taken the same drive, and ordered the same breakfast, for 54 years.
For successful CEOs and athletes alike, ‘pregame’ rituals are not only beneficial, they’re necessary. Work environments are steeped in stress, the stakes are high, and the pressure is unending. To cope with the uncertainty swirling around them, many top performers establish routines. If your world is full of uncertainty, the structure of a routine becomes even more important. As neuroscientist Beau Lotto asserts, “every behaviour that we do, we do to reduce uncertainty [and] to increase certainty.”
Jack Eichel, the Buffalo Sabres star centre, who recently detailed his pregame ritual to Sports Illustrated, put it perfectly: “I try to take out as many variables as I can, right? “Try to simplify everything, so all I think about is the game.”
Eichel is an all-star when it comes to neuroticism. His exhaustive routine leaves nothing to fate, letting him float through his day with a single-minded focus: the game.
After rolling out of bed, Eichel hits the rink, eats egg whites, oatmeal, and strawberries and then washes it down with “apple juice, a packet of electrolyte powder with water, and a Gatorade.”
He then “tapes his sticks, takes the morning skate, receives a flush from the Sabres massage therapist, showers and hops into the cold tub for four minutes before heading home.”
He has lunch at 12:30 pm with teammate Sam Reinhart, and then naps from 2:00–3:45 pm. He rises, dons his suit, snags a coffee, and arrives at the rink at 4:30 pm.
He’ll “take a shower, go into the cold tub again, get dressed,” and then put on the Normatec [recovery] pants.” Then he cuts a stick, changes his skate laces, tapes his stick, goes to the team meeting, and eats an apple.
Before entering the locker room, Eichel listens to The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” He transitions to A$AP Rocky for foam-rolling, and then “Kygo for taping his stick.” The whole thing seems rigid and exhausting, but it’s working for Eichel: the 22-year-old has notched 49 points in 42 games.
Eichel’s success — and Buffett’s net worth — reveal how effective a consistent routine can be. By triggering environmental cues, you can box out distraction and zero in on the task at hand.
Students can harness the power of pregame rituals to perform better on high-stress assessments like tests or exams. Your routine doesn’t need to feature electrolyte powder or deep-tissue massages, but it should remain consistent; as both examples demonstrate, it’s less about what you do, and more about how consistent you are with it.
The case of Stan Mikita demonstrates this like no other: Mikita, a hall of famer who put up 1,467 points over 1,394 games, used to have a cigarette between periods and dispose of the butt over his left shoulder — always his left shoulder. Wayne Gretzky had similarly suspect habits: between periods, the Great One would religiously put back one, sometimes two, diet cokes.
To succeed, you don’t have to be devouring apples and blaring “praise the Lord” before exams. If you’re partial to, say, a pregame dart and diet coke — if this is the combination that leads you to the land of 4.0s — then, by all means, follow in the footsteps of Mikita and Gretzky.
Start small and find your own flow — but refrain from overdoing it. Meditation and some exercise can be enough to get the blood flowing and ease the nerves. Failing that, you can always fall back to cheap, billionaire brain food — and pray that a McMuffin is all that it takes to propel you through exam season and beyond.