Unlock the power of discipline…

“Discipline is the ability to make yourself do something you don’t want to do in order to get a result you really want to get.”

Andy Andrews

What is it that you want to accomplish? What is a result that you deeply desire? Exactly how much do you want it? Are you willing to do the work to achieve it? More importantly, are you willing to do the work after the excitement fades? When the effort is no longer fun and has become pure drudgery and sticking to it is really hard to do? That’s when real discipline comes in to play. Talk is cheap, action is cheap too, at least for the first few days. Then the real work starts.

Anyone can motivate themselves to take the first step in a journey. Even the first hundred steps might not be that hard. But what about the steps after that? What if you don’t know exactly how long the journey is going to take?

Discipline means sticking to your plan, doing the work, focusing on getting the next step in the journey right, not worrying about whether there are 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 more steps remaining. Doing the right work, the right way, right now, is all that matters. If you can do this, for the things that are truly important, you have discipline. If you can’t, then you can develop this powerful trait, by just doing it, day in, day out, one day at a time.

What is important enough to you to put forth this kind of effort, with no guarantee of success? Answer this question and you will uncover what it takes to unlock the power of discipline.

One year later…

“I think self-discipline is something, it’s like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.”

Daniel Goldstein

It has been just over a year ago since I started this blog, June 19, 2018 to be precise. (If you are curious about why I do this you can read about it here.) It has been an awesome journey and I have learned a tremendous amount about myself, and what I believe to be most important, through this daily practice. I originally started with the goal of blogging daily for one year with the intent to step back after a year and see if I felt that it was still beneficial or if perhaps I wanted to take a different path.

The discipline required to post daily has been a great exercise and I believe it has been as valuable to me as writing the actual musings. Knowing every day that I must write something and very intentionally think about the deeper meaning and implications of a quote I have chosen has been an exceptional learning process and there is no way I am quitting now. It is fun to select the right quote and write about it every morning. It has become part of my daily routine and, like exercise, is something I have truly learned to enjoy. My posts might not be ready by anyone at all but that truly doesn’t matter to me, it has helped me grow through the practice of self-discipline. Thank you for allowing me to occupy a lit bit of digital space.

Try nothing…

“The word try, means nothing. There’s no such thing as trying to do something. The moment you begin a task, you’re doing it. So just finish what you’re doing.”

La Tisha Honor

I love this quote. “Try” means nothing… Let that mull around in your head for a bit. How often do you use the word “try” in your vocabulary? What if you didn’t? What if you vowed never said the word again? How would that impact how you live? How you show up for the little things?

Worthy work?

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

Theodore Roosevelt

When do you feel most alive at work? When does the work not feel like work at all but instead is energizing and motivating? I love it when the work is exceptionally hard but is so worth doing that it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice in any way. That is magical. Are you there today? What would it take to capture that feeling?

All the small things…

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.”

Walter Elliot

If you ask anyone that participates in long distance endurance events they will tell you that they aren’t at the start line thinking of the race in it’s entirety. No one starts an Ironman race thinking about the 140.6 miles that are in front of them. Instead it is broken down into much shorter segments that are easier for the mind to focus on and control. For example, it’s not a 140.6 mile race, instead it’s a 2.4 mile swim. Yet it’s not a 2.4 mile swim, it’s a swim to the first turn 800 meters out. It’s not even a swim to the first turn, it’s a swim to the next course marker buoy 200 meters away. It’s not a 200 meter swim, it’s settling in with a smooth stroke and easy breathing.

The same logic applies to the bike and to the run in an Ironman. It applies in marathon and ultra-marathon distance races. That is how one perseveres over distances and challenges that are too great for the mind to comprehend and embrace. It applies equally well in life. It’s not about the great thing you want to accomplish five years from now, it is the exact next thing that you must accomplish to become the person you want to be. To be a person of perseverance and determination doesn’t happen with the big things, it happens with all the small things that are strung together.

There are no silver bullets…

“No trainer or coach or expert can make you good or great or unstoppable if you’re not going to do the work, if you’re waiting for someone to make it happen for you. It’s on you.” 

Tim S. Grover

For me, this hits home on the point that no matter what, or how much, I read and learn I have to know how and when to apply that knowledge. I have to do the really hard work on myself. There are no silver bullets. Period. All the great input in the world doesn’t matter if you skip over the truly hard and meaningful work. I love to learn and grow but I can skip the next, and most important step, learning how and when to apply what I have learned on both myself and the world around me.

Getting advice, seeking knowledge, becoming an expert in your chosen field doesn’t mean jack if you don’t do the really hard work on yourself and figure out what you have to do to grow and improve. Ask yourself the tough questions on what you have to do to achieve your goals and not accepting any lame excuses from yourself. Accept nothing other than complete and total ownership. It is not anyone else’s responsibility to make your dreams come true. It’s no one else’s fault if they don’t…

Discipline fuels success…

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

Jim Rohn

Knowing what you want and knowing how to get it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t do the work. That is what discipline means to me. Doing the work. No. Matter. What. No complaints. No griping. Just get it done.

People will ask me, “why do you get up so early in the morning?” It is a very simple answer. Because that is what it takes to get the things done that I want to do. Do I enjoy my alarm going off at 3:50 AM? Nope. Are there days I want to sleep in? Yep. But if I do, I am making a choice not to do something that I want to do and that just isn’t acceptable to me.

To be completely honest I still don’t accomplish all the things that I want to do. I would love to get more done. I feel like I need to improve my personal discipline and focus each and every day to become the person God created me to be.

How do you demonstrate personal accountability and discipline in your life? How does extreme discipline help you achieve your goals?

Do something!

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie

Sitting around waiting for things to happen just sucks. I am the world’s worst at being patient because sometimes patience just feels too much like inaction. I’ve long lived by the tule that it is better to do something, even if it is wrong, than to do nothing at all.

When you are doing something, anything, then you don’t have time to be afraid and worry about all the “what ifs.” Sometimes the action can be physical, sometimes it can be sitting down to reflect and plan the work. Doing something is the key. There is no time or space for sitting idly by in life. If you do, then you will reap what you sow which is nothing…

Dream or a nightmare?

“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.”

Jerry Rice

What is it that you know you should do, but haven’t yet had the discipline to accomplish? Is it being healthier? Learning a new skill? Reading a certain book? Building a stronger relationship with God? Setting aside time to focus on giving to others? The list can go on and on for each of us.

So many people have dreams but don’t have the self-discipline and determination to make those dreams come true. Actually I think living this way might be more aptly labeled as a nightmare… If you want something, do the work today. That is what will make the dreams come true. You can either capture your dreams or be held captive by the nightmare of regret.

We can all choose if we want to be a victim or a victor in life…

NO!

“Every yes must be defended by a thousand no’s.”

Jeff Walker

Yesterday I wrote about focusing on the important, not just the urgent. It made me think about the discipline required to say “no” to all the things that invariably come up in life that will then allow you to focus on the really important things. If you don’t say “no” then you will always be a slave to everyone else’s priorities and not putting the focus on those things that you have said are most important.

I will fully admit that this is an area where I have to be constantly diligent and focused or I will go astray. One tactic I have found that really helps me is taking my objectives and breaking them down in to weekly focus areas and then daily key priorities. Writing those down every morning ensures that I stay on point (or at the very least have a constant reminder throughout the day).

Bottom line. If you want to say yes to the really important stuff you have to say no to all the things that will get in the way.

Lay the foundation well…

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

Walt Disney

All the goals, resolutions, objectives and aspirations in the world don’t mean a thing if you don’t execute against them. But execution alone isn’t enough. You have to have very specific and measurable actions and outcomes that show whether or not you are making progress towards those goals.

Saying “I want to lose weight” isn’t good enough. Nor is “I want to weigh ABC pounds.” Those are nice, but you have to have a plan. You have to break those goals into smaller objectives that are specific and measurable. Then you have to do them and hold yourself accountable for getting it done.

None of this is rocket science, I am sure it is all stuff that you have read before. But then why do so many people fail to accomplish their goals? Why do so many people (including myself) come off the rails and fall short of their goals?

I believe the answer is simple. We (most especially me) get focused on the over the horizon goal and lose sight of the shorter term, here and now “next step” goals and the results that come from achieving these objectives.

Think of it this way. If you want to build a house you have to have a vision, and then create a plan. Then you must get architectural drawings to ensure that you have specific work steps detailed and outlined. But at some point it comes down to getting started and doing the hard work that no one will ever see. Digging the foundation and laying the bricks that they entire home will be built upon. If you take any shortcuts there and don’t do your best work the house will never last and it will never live up to the vision you created in your mind.

Today is the day where you must start working to achieve your goals by breaking the work into measurable components and then as Walt Disney said, “quit talking and begin doing.”

Do you exist or persist?

“Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.”

Roy L. Smith

There is nothing worse than seeing someone with incredible talent choose to let that potential be wasted because they don’t have the discipline or drive to maximize their God given gifts.  It is a human choice when people put forth less effort than they are capable of doing and then achieve less that they were created to become.  Why does this happen?

We, as humans, are inherently lazy.  It isn’t fun to wake up at 4:00 AM and go train your body in order to achieve your goals.  It isn’t exciting to do the same task over and over again as you develop your body or your mind to become sharper and more focused.  It is far easier to sleep in, to make excuses, to settle for less than you are capable because that is the path of least resistance.  It is far easier to simply exist than it is to persist.  

The people who impress me the most are the ones that demonstrate the discipline and relentless will to pound right through their own mental walls and barriers.  These are the people who are forging their future on a daily basis with the decisions they make and the actions they take.  They never allow themselves to sit back and feel sorry for themselves when things don’t go their way.  They adapt, overcome, and set new goals and objectives.  This person knows that with relentless discipline and execution of the small things on a daily basis they can achieve greater results and realize their potential. 

God didn’t create us to have an easy life.  The challenges we face are there to help us grow our talents and maximize our potential to impact the lives of others.  To do this we have to be like the servant in the ‘Parable of the Talents’ and take the gifts  we are given and find a way to grow them into something much more valuable…

 

 

Create a daily discipline around what matters most!

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Peter Drucker

I’ve been guilty of this one more than a few times.  Doing a great job on something, spending time getting it right, but it not being the most important use of my time or energy.  Why does this happen?  

Focusing on the things that matter means you have to be highly intentional at taking the time to understand the problem and thinking through what the most important or impactful solution will be.  Where should the effort be focused?  Sometimes you identify the right thing, but the situation and environment changes and the initiative or effort should be dropped.  That can be hard to do, but it is critical if you want to make real progress.  

Create a daily discipline of asking yourself “what is the most important thing for me to be spending my time on today?” Ideally this should link back to your most important goals, or the “big rocks” as Dr. Stephen Covey calls them.  Otherwise, it is so easy to get off track because we are doing something that is fun or that we particularly enjoy…  

 

The distracted age…

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Alexander Graham Bell

The digital age could also be called the distracted age.  There are so many competing demands for our attention. When was the last time you were in a meeting, at a restaurant, or simply having a conversation with someone when you didn’t see some type of digital device in their hands?  I know I am guilty of being distracted on a daily basis.  The pull of the digital device is a black hole for creative energy and focus.

How much great work is sacrificed because 100% of our effort isn’t focused on the work at hand?  I know that when I make the decision to attend a meeting with only my paper notebook in hand that my focus and participation is so much better.  Yet it is so hard to do with regularity.  Study after study shows that multi-tasking is a myth, yet we all do it and think  that we are are the exception to the rule, that we are able to multi-task with great effect.

It isn’t possible to spend 100% of our time focused and distraction free, but what if we just started by deciding to do it only once per day on whatever the most important thing is for that day?

Today try to attend a meeting, have a conversation, or spend some focused work/thinking time without a digital distraction.  See how how it impacts your productivity.   Give it a try, how can it hurt?

Act like there is no other choice…

“The absence of alternatives clears the mind marvelously.”

Henry Kissinger

How do you create this environment artificially?  When there are truly no alternatives it is magical how intense and focused one can be on the task at hand. The challenge is that to live in this environment all the time isn’t reasonable.  There are always going to be times when there is a plethora of alternatives.  The leadership challenge is to pick the right one and then ACT like there aren’t any other choices…

Why are you running?

“Every morning in Africa, an antelope wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest antelope, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or an antelope – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” ―

African Proverb

What really gets your attention?  What brings everything into focus and ignites within you the ability to hit the ground hard in the morning and run your very best game?  

When I think of this message I think of how awesome it is when there is a burning focus to life that brings clarity to everything else around me.  Without this focus, during the seasons where it is unclear, life just isn’t quite as rich. 

Do you know why you are running today? 

Where do you choose to invest?

“Giving up something now for something better later is not a sacrifice. It is an investment.”

Andy Stanley

What is really important?  Is the things we have now, or those we want in the future?  Where would you choose to invest your time or energy in order to achieve something better later?  

If you know the answer to that question then the real question is this one…  

Why don’t you?

Make your bed…

“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

Admiral William H. McRaven

I remember my Dad reinforcing the classic line “anything worth doing is worth doing well” over and over with my brother and I as we were growing up.  For him it didn’t just apply to the big things, but it was the small things too. My Dad grew up on a dairy farm and one of the life lessons I learned from him was regardless of what you WANTED to do the cows NEEDED to be milked every day.  There was no such thing as a “day off” or the shirking of your responsibility.  Doing the little things, every day, the right way was just how it was done on the farm or else you wouldn’t have positive results and be able to provide for the family.  

If you haven’t seen Admiral William McRaven’s commencement address to the University of Texas in 2014 it is an instant classic.  Frankly it is one that I need to watch several more times to get all the pearls of wisdom that are contained within these nineteen minutes.  Enjoy and go change the world!

Discipline = “No!”

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” 

Jim Rohn

In today’s world everything is beeping and dinging and chirping to get your attention.  Their is a constant barrage of information coming at you to try and take part of your precious time and energy.  In this world of continuous distraction how can you focus, where do you start?  

It starts with writing down the goals.  I’ve found that anything short of a written goal is simply a wish or an aspiration.  Writing the goal down, meditating over it, thinking through the necessary steps to make it a reality.  That’s where it starts.  But that isn’t enough.  Actually taking action and putting those steps in place on a daily and ongoing basis requires the discipline to say no to the things that going to get in the way of making that goal a reality.  

I think that is the key.  Discipline isn’t some great “yes” to suddenly doing the right things.  Discipline requires a strong “no” to the things that are going to get in the way of your goal.  Knowing what needs to be done, and then having the conviction to do them, is critical.  

It reminds me of the great quote by Muhammad Ali, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'” 

To enhance your ability to make your goals a reality what do you need to have the discipline to say “no” to?

Nothing Else Matters…

“Without a deadline, baby, I wouldn’t do nothing.”

Duke Ellington

One of the reasons that I started this blog was to enhance my writing skills and to create progress towards my goal of writing a book.  What do I want that book to be about?  I have no idea yet, but I know that I want to write one.  Reading books has been one of the greatest joys and key differentiators in my life and I have a desire to create something that will serve others and perhaps bring joy or value to them.  But, without a deadline, it will never happen.  

Why not?  All the same excuses and reasons that everyone has for not doing things they say they want to do.  “I’m too busy, life gets in the way, I don’t have time, it isn’t a priority, etc.”    (This is fodder for a separate post but what is the difference between a reason and an excuse?  An action plan with a deadline…)  

By starting this blog I now have a daily deadline to write something.  Progress towards my goal will only happen when I impose a deadline and hold myself accountable for meeting it. 

By the way, the framework of problem solving that I often use is the classic, “Why, How, What, Who, When.”

  • Why – Why do I want to do it?
  • How – How am I going to get it done?
  • What – What am I going to do?
  • Who – Who’s help do I need or Who will I impact?
  • When – When will I have it done.  

Without when, nothing else matters.  It’s all just noise and wishful thinking.  

Deadlines are worthless without accountability.  Change is a choice.  Growth is a choice.  Starting a new habit is a choice.  Stopping a bad habit or behavior is a choice.  The most critical component to these choices?  Establishing the when, and holding yourself accountable to meeting that deadline.  

“Without a deadline, baby, I wouldn’t do nothing.”  This might be one of the most brutally self-aware statements I’ve ever read.  Just remember, without a deadline, nothing else matters…    

What’s your deadline to do something different and achieve one of your goals? 

 

 

Failure to plan…

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

Colin Powell

This quote reminds me of the old axiom “if you fail to plan you plan to fail.” Preparation is such an important aspect of success that sometimes gets overlooked.  It’s so easy to wait until the last minute to get the work done but far too often that increases the chance of failure, or at least of sub-optimal results.  Good preparation is part of the hard work required to create success.  Being intentional in what we WANT to do allows us to execute against our plan with focused hard work AND creates the environment that allows us to learn when things don’t go as planned.  If you don’t have a plan, how will you know if you don’t achieve it?

 

Start. Stop. Continue.

“The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”

Oswald Chambers

This might be the biggest challenge a leader faces. For that matter it might be the biggest challenge any person faces.  Saying “yes” to something means that you are saying “no” to something else.  

Do you have a crystal clear understanding of your priorities?  I’d like to think that I do, but honestly I struggle at times to say “no.” There is always more than can be done than should be done. For me it helps to break the question into two parts.  

  1. Should I do this?  Does it align with my priorities and goals?
  2. If yes, then can I do it?  If I say yes will I be able to complete it at an acceptable level without impacting my previous commitments?  

Sounds easy right.  If only that were the case.  

Less is more…

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Herbert Simon

This is our society today isn’t it?  There is so much information available that we can only consume it in 140 character soundbites.  Or so much information available that we never want to make a decision because we can always find “just a bit more information” to ensure our decision is the right one.  What if we had less information, but more focus?  Is the old adage that “less is more” more appropriate now than ever before?  

I have been spending a ton of time lately reading everything I can get my hands on regarding focus and intentionality. I am actively seeking out secret tips and special tactics to be more productive with my time. I found myself reflecting back to the “good old days” when there wasn’t a constant barrage of information coming at us 24/7.  But then I picked up my copy of “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker (a gift from a very wise friend) and challenges back then were the same challenges we face today.  (By the way, that book was written 50 years ago)  How do you make the best and biggest impact with the time that you have?  As much as we’d (me especially) like to make it a modern problem, it isn’t.  I’d say it’s a human problem.  Why do you think that is?

Plan your work, work your plan…

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”

Tony Robbins

I saw this posted on the wall at the gym today and had to take a picture.  What a great reminder.  Though I am pretty sure I need it on the mirror in my bathroom…

IMG_4221

Know your goals, break them into chunks, start today…  I personally use the Full Focus Planner from Michael Hyatt and the Productive App on the iPhone. Love them both.  There is just something satisfying about having a plan and working it.

 

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