The Discipline of High Performers
Focus on starting and committing to one thing daily.
In an interview with author Tim Ferris (podcast and the book, Tools of Titans: the Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers), former Navy Seal Jocko Willink, describes his mantra as, “Discipline equals freedom.” He goes on to offer, “If you want freedom in life—be that financial freedom, more free time, or even freedom from sickness and poor health—you can only achieve these things through discipline.”
I may tattoo this on my forearm. I know this painfully well, but I don’t always live it.
It’s those periods of time where I relax my discipline that I flounder and spiral further into a morass of poor productivity and little output.
- Writing requires discipline.
- Marketing my services demands discipline.
- Hitting the gym every single day takes discipline.
- Eating properly requires incredible discipline.
- Managing my sleep requires discipline.
- Reading requires discipline.
- Maintaining my personal/spiritual self demands discipline.
Not surprisingly, when I am hyper-attentive to all of these areas of my life, I succeed. Like a machine, the areas are inter-dependent. If one breaks down, the rest creak and groan and grind to a halt. When that happens, I need to pick one area to focus on, and slowly the machine comes to life again.
Discipline is Contagious
The good news for all of us is that discipline is contagious in our lives. Focus on starting and committing to one thing daily, regardless of circumstances, and you will find this new-found discipline spreading to other areas of your life.
Consider these approaches:
Read something challenging or inspirational for 10-minutes every morning. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier if that’s what it takes to find 10-minutes in the morning. These 10-minutes quickly become the most important minutes of your day. The rush from being exposed to provocative or motivating ideas becomes a need.
At work, conduct one career development discussion per week. If necessary, skip one superfluous status update to create time in your schedule. You will soon come to view these as the most important discussions of your week.
Connect with more people in one-on-one settings. A CEO I know was struggling to revitalize a tired culture in a firm that teetered dangerously close to extinction. The group meetings and moral suasion from the stage failed to move the needle for performance and engagement. She made it a point to begin meeting one-on-one with a single different person every day. In these sessions, she focused on listening and then doing something about what she heard. The attention and action jump-started the firm. The power of these interactions transformed her style as a leader.
Start moving. Eating and fitness are bogeys for many of us. The only way to lose weight or get in shape is to start changing habits. One client transformed himself over a multi-year period. He started by doing ten pushups every morning and ten at night before bed. Recently, he completed a triathlon.
Tools of Titans is filled with remarkable ideas for success from some wildly successful people. None of them started out successful. They all started with a desire to change and succeed. It took discipline to get there.
I know exactly one person who succeeded at a high level without being particularly disciplined. He’s also the smartest person I know. For the rest of us, it’s discipline or bust.
Art Petty is a coach and consultant working with executives and management teams to unlock business and human potential. He writes the Leadership Caffeine blog.
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