Review: The 5 A.M. Club by Robin Sharma

Before writing this review, I was going to be generous and give this book a little more credit given that I saw what it was trying to do in its intentions and structure. However, meditating on my reflections for it a few days after (and the fact I promptly returned this audiobook to Audible because of the bad taste in my mouth it left), I’m just gonna go for the 1-star review (originally I had settled on 1.5-2 stars, but thought that was too high for my experience with it).

Ye Gods, this was painful in retrospect. I’m still somewhat sore that I wasted my time on this for as long as I did.

It’s not so much that I dislike narratives in which self-improvement and productivity guides are formed in the frame of a fictional story (I was fine with The Breakfast Club for 40-Somethings: A Novel Approach to Unlearning Money and Reinventing Your Life to cite a example of something I’ve read in this vein. Granted, that text had some flaws, but it was more enjoyable). In my search for productivity guides, habit narratives, and in particular morning routines, I saw this mentioned in a list of recommended texts and believed it would be a perfect fit for what I was looking for. The idea behind this book is telling the story of a group of fictional people at a wellness retreat who are looking for ways to improve their lives (the whole “own your morning, elevate your life” principle, which is sound in theory). It aims to give suggestions on how people can incorporate habits and mantras during their mornings in order to have a more productive day and overarching life.

The problems: the messages in this book felt incredibly forced and fake without a streamline of the main ideas it wanted to portray. We’re thrown into the story, wade through the muddiness that is the story, but there’s no attempt to really organize these principles outside of it – the ideas are pretty much lost in the indulgence of the narrative. The characters were one-dimensional, stereotypical, privileged wish fulfillment that felt like the equivalent of Michael Bay wanting to write a wellness guru guide and write a loose screenplay tying all the ideas together. It’s incredibly shallow and I cringed so many times at the assassination plot, the horrible love story, the rags to seemingly riches story of the billionaire with infinite pull and supposed zen mindset. Like…none of it worked.

Let’s say for a moment that this book could be taken largely for tongue in cheek humor (which is the vibe I realized it was going for through most of the narrative) – it doesn’t work when you’re trying to teach principles that are meant to be a guide to productivity and for people to replicate and be encouraged to use. I felt the story overpowered the intent of the text on so many levels, and the Mary/Marty Sue projections really undermined a lot of what this book had to say.

I would not come back to this and I would not recommend it, personally. There are other texts that are more fun and informative on morning routines and building daily habits than this without getting lost in meandering projections. I get that this type of narration is Robin Sharma’s style, but I didn’t get any use from it.

Overall score: 1/5 stars.

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