Rise and Thrive: Restaurateur Shelly Fireman’s Morning Routine Will Inspire You to Set Your Alarm Clock Earlier

Major motivation to get up and get moving — and find a hobby you love.

Credit Benvenuto Saba
Credit Benvenuto Saba

Restaurants are a notoriously stressful place to work — even if you’re the boss. Sheldon “Shelly” Fireman knows that pressure well — he owns and operates eight restaurants in New York City and Washington, D.C., including Redeye Grill, Brooklyn Diner, and Fiorella Pizzeria & Italian Kitchen. With over 50 years in the industry, Fireman has found a way to keep the stress at bay. His motto: Self-care is just as important as business growth.  

Here, Fireman shares his morning routine — which involves high-intensity workouts and reading — and why having hobbies will help you be a better business leader.

Thrive Global: What time do you wake up?

Sheldon “Shelly” Fireman: It depends on what time I have my trainer coming. It’s usually 45 minutes before the trainer, but I don’t have a specific time.

TG: How do you wake up — with an alarm, or naturally?

SF: If I have to work out with my trainer, I set the alarm. Otherwise I don’t use an alarm. It’s great not to use one when I can avoid it.

TG: What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

SF: I say “God Bless — I woke up! It’s great to be alive!”

TG: Take us through your morning — step by step.

SF: If I have my trainer that morning, the first thing I do is brush my teeth. Then I wash my face, comb my hair, and try to get on the treadmill to warm up before he comes. Then I glance at two or three newspapers, by which time he’s already come up. I work out HARD. Then as soon as he goes home, I sit down and really look at and read all the newspapers and magazines that I am subscribed to. After that, breakfast is served.

TG: Breakfast?

SF: I normally eat vegetable soup, or some yogurt and blueberries with cereal. Also, I have a half an espresso with Manuka honey from Australia.

TG: Workout?

SF: My workout is a combination that includes high-intensity interval conditioning, working out with the TRX system, rowing machine, weight training, boxing, push-ups… and a lot more.  

TG: Anything special you do that is part of your routine?

SF: Yes, picking out my clothes of the day. I have a large assortment in my wardrobe and have to take some time selecting the pieces to compose my outfit. It’s a big pain in the neck. Then when I’m dressed, I head to the office.

TG: How do you set yourself up to thrive for the day?

SF: With regards to thriving in general, I feel good and work out five, six, even seven days a week. When I do that, I’m thriving. All my businesses are positive, and we have lots of ideas to thrive on, and we’re always improving ourselves. I’ve got wonderful people, so I don’t have to get myself crazy about too many things. I have a Schwinn bicycle at my office. I have a terrific executive assistant, and I have a terrific staff of people who work for me. I have beautiful homes in Lincoln Center, Tuscany, and in Westchester County on the lake with fish and boats, where I go shoot sporting clays on weekends. I have terrific friends that I’ve had since high school. What else could I want in life? I have to admit that I’ve really reached the point that I’m spoiled. And when I know I’m spoiled, I know I’m blessed. I am so blessed by everything and everyone that I have around me. And that is how I am thriving in life.

TG: What sets you back that you avoid?

SF: I try not to take or make any phone calls before I leave the house in the morning.

TG: How do you organize your day? How do you prioritize your to-do list?

SF: Not perfectly. There’s always a curveball, and I swing at it even when I shouldn’t swing at it. It’s never perfect. I have one particular Pain in the Neck (my Chief of Staff), who’s terrific and keeps me on track with my priorities. I get so many ideas in my head throughout the day that I can easily get off-track with things. So thank God I have her.

TG: What is your relationship with technology?

SF: Positive. I love learning new things and new capabilities. I have the latest technology incorporated in all my workouts and exercise machines. I use my phone for timing my transcendental meditations twice a day. I FaceTime and Skype with my terrific staff when I’m traveling in Italy doing research. However, I never let it take over my life. Human-to-human interactions and experiences always win out. The technology I use is about augmenting that humanness of interacting and communicating, not replacing it.

TG: How does it impact your day? Do you take tech breaks?

SF: I absolutely take tech breaks. I’ll lock my phone in a drawer and go exercise on my bicycle in the office, go have lunch, go talk to people, and maybe make a few jokes if they come to my head… etc. 

TG: Bedtime: What do you do to unwind?

SF: I go back on my bicycle at home and meditate. If I was out with friends, when I come home I’ll put my feet up and watch a stupid television program. Sometimes I’ll get a massage to unwind too. But the best thing in the world to do to relax is to go to a bookstore, buy books, take them home, and read them.

TG: Walk us through your evening routine.

SF: My evening routine is getting out of the office once I feel that I accomplished something over the course of the day. While knowing that there is always more to do, it will never all get done, but there’s always tomorrow. Then I go home. 

TG: How do you get ready for bed? 

SF: I brush my teeth, usually put on pajamas, and grab a book that I read for 20 minutes in bed. I don’t ever prepare my morning clothes or my office clothes in the evening. It’s like an adventure going into my closet each morning.

TG: Is tech a big part of your evening?

SF: It doesn’t play any part in my evening. I’ll sometimes even leave my phone in the car when I go out to eat, and that will be the most pleasant part of my day.

TG: How do you set yourself up for a good night’s rest?

SF: I have an infrared sauna which I try to use every evening. It’s almost like a workout. I do that, and I read.

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