Having spent a lot of my life with C-Suiters and Top Performers, there is ONE THING all of them possess… DISCIPLINE. They do what others either refuse to do, don’t know how to do or simply don’t try while making excuses saying, “It’s too hard.” If they do manage to try, they soon quit because it did not happen as quickly and as easily as they envisioned.
The saddest part is, getting to the top is not as hard as people think. The most difficult part, is getting off the bottom (the one we sit on) and start climbing up. The secret to success is found in one simple word… Discipline.
This kind of discipline is not a pure dictionary definition. Discipline as a system is NOT defined for us by others. We define and make our own system of discipline and its requirements. The more lax our system is, the less we achieve. The more unwavering and tenacious our discipline is, the more we receive that which we desire. It’s that straightforward.
Step 1 is TAKING ACTION: Growing up as the smallest kid in school (smaller than the girls), as one of the poorer kids in a rich neighborhood and with a surname that sounds like a skin disease, I got laughed at, pushed, beat-up and tormented at times. Rather than give-in or give-up, I was determined to stop the bullying. I started karate at age 16.
Step 2 is INTENSITY: Though I started just 2 times a week for 2 hours a night, within a year I was going 6 or 7 days a week, 6 to 10 hours a day. That commitment to intensity took on a life of its own and my confidence soared.
One direct result was I NEVER got in another fight in school again. NO ONE KNEW I was taking karate nor did they see me ‘take someone out’. Rather, I’d walk into a classroom or the lunch room for the first time with confidence. People no longer smelled the fear. (Our bodies release pheromones and one indicates we are afraid which can spread to others or tell a bully to pick on us.)
If you want a promotion, a new home, a better career… work at it with INTENSITY. Not for a week or two, but as long as it takes. Gain the confidence that produces and never, ever be afraid failing, of a boss or of a loss again.
Lifetime Rewards: This month, 45 years after I started karate, I still have the discipline I learned in karate. Along the way I learned to fear no man, no matter how big, strong or tough. Because I’m indestructible? Hardly. No one is ever the toughest. There is always someone else who is tougher. But truly tough people don’t pick fights. ‘Losers’ and those with ‘something to prove’ pick fights. They tend to make mistakes and are not a real threat.
Step 3… Learn to take the pain: I played full contact karate for 4 years with no weight divisions. The experience in taking hits yet to keep fighting despite bloody lips, bruised ribs and my head screaming in pain was a powerful lesson.
Step 4…Get a Teacher, Mentor, Coach to guide you: This ‘learn it on your own’ approach can take a lifetime to learn and for many, they never ‘get it’. A great teacher or coach can transform you in a shorter period of time. In my case, it would seem logical to just give up when I was getting beaten badly by another stronger opponent in a match. I didn’t because my karate instructor would give me a worse beating if I ever quit than I was getting in a contact match. Once we realize pain is there win or lose, it changes our level of commitment. Might as well take the pain and win.
Step 5: Eat the pain! I learned to ‘eat the pain’ and keep punching and kicking. Experience taught me that eventually, the opponent will get tired of his pain and quit. I just had to outlast him. That discipline gave me confidence and over time, the experience to believe in myself enough to stop fearing the big guys.
Being a top insurance agent, an award winning hair stylist, Olympic gold medalist, a neonatal brain surgeon, a top mechanic or being a great mom or dad requires a lifetime of learning and long nights with little sleep. How can you do that if you cannot take the pain?
Step 6… Find what frightens you: The sight of blood? I used to pass out at the sight of a needle. Getting yelled at? That was daily in karate. Being embarrassed in front of other people? I thought ‘public embarrassment’ was my ‘title’. If you figure out what scares you, create a plan to control the fear so the fear won’t control you. Find the strength and discipline inside you to fight it until the fear goes away. The more you do that which you fear, the sooner you will stop fearing. Some fears are deep seated and you may need to get some professional counseling but many common fears can be beaten with this system.
Step 7: Write down your discipline system. What is your discipline system? ‘Try it until it hurts and quit?’ or ‘Keep fighting no matter what until you win?’ The first will bring you mediocrity and the second success at what you desire. Writing down HOW you will control your fears, what steps you will take, what you will avoid, who will you get to help you, the time you’ll put into it and what you are willing to pay in dollars and sweat to perfect your discipline will empower you to realize your goal of taking control of your fears and adopting your new system for success. (Just like reading and comprehending that long sentence.)
Step 8… Think strategically: The RIGHT strategy can make it easy(er). Different opponents required different fighting strategies.
Tall guys have a lot of reach and if I was too far away, they could hit me and I couldn’t touch them. So I had to get ‘inside’… close. Getting closer to a big guy seems counter intuitive but it’s essential for a win. Once really close, I could strike faster, aim for more vulnerable areas and still use my legs as I’d move out a bit and then back in after making contact. To help with balance, I could grab the guy’s arm when I’d block (or get hit with) a punch and as I kicked him in the ribs, he would instinctively retract his arm, pulling me in with it so I could punch him in the head with his added power.
Sorry if that sounds terrible… it’s just the sport. Each of us competing did so by choice and knew what we were getting into. Life, REAL LIFE, is a lot like that in ‘cut throat business’. With your family, friends, colleagues, clients and even ‘friendly competitors’, we can be super nice. If a rival MNC is trying to put you and your colleagues out of business or someone else at work is gunning for that promotion you want, you need to fight fair but harder than they do. Keep striking with better work, kicking up productivity and unbridled energy, effectiveness and enthusiasm.
Guys my own size (rarely had anyone smaller), were sometimes tougher to beat as most had a ‘hit and run’ approach. They tried to hit me and then run around hoping I’d make a big mistake and leave an opening for them to nail me. So… I did. I’d leave a big opening or expose a major weakness and they’d fly in to smash me. But I could take a punch. Once they came in, even if they hit me, I’d grab them so they couldn’t get away and just punch, knee, elbow and then throw them down hard and they’d quit (if still awake).
That’s not mean. It’s the sport. If you can’t take the hit, don’t get into the sport. If you cannot take the hit at work because ‘he said something so mean’ or ‘she took credit for my work’ or ‘they’ did this or that… don’t get into the game. Take a non-competitive, ‘no contact’ job serving burgers and fries. But if you long for the boardroom, your own successful business, head of the division and huge financial success, be willing to mix it up and take a punch or two… or 100+.
Our strategies in life need to change based upon who or what we are up against. My strategy as a single guy was to push myself and work all over the world. I loved travel and sharing on 6 continents. As a married man, I travelled with my bride and we enjoyed the life and lifestyle. With young children, the strategy changed and I became more of a home body… fixing breakfast for our kids and walking them to school 90% of the time. We take family vacations 2.5 months a year and really invest time with our children. I’ve seen people ramp up their work schedule when they had children and ended up losing the love of their kids and often their spouse. Different time in life requires a different discipline and strategy.
THE REWARD: Discipline’s payoff: In Medan, Indonesia in 2009, I was speaking to 1,200 insurance agents. They were on their feet cheering and clapping as I began my speech. To keep them pumped up, I’d do drop kicks or a cart-wheel and they’d cheer louder. I decided to jump up with my legs in front of me and touch my toes. On the way down, I landed wrongly and snapped my right leg’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The blast of pain was intense. I knew something was direly wrong as I tried to put weight on it and had no integrity at all. A couple women standing in front noticed me stumbled a bit and the pain on my face and screamed in horror not joy.
‘Eating the pain’ habit pays off: “This is not good” I said to myself… just 2 minutes into a 2 hour presentation. I tried throwing my hip forward and letting my now ‘useless’ right leg flop down on the stage and then hopping onto my left foot in a ‘dancing’ motion. It worked. I ignored the pain and ‘danced’ across the stage. They all thought I was fine and I delivered my 2 hour talk… standing. I even lifted a full grown man on my shoulder as a planned part of the talk; though all the weight was now just on my left leg.
Why finish when there was a medical emergency? Because. I made a promise to do it and my yes means yes and my no means no. Besides, it was only pain! Nothing life threatening.
Fortunately, God had given me TWO legs and 39 years of practicing balance in karate to stand and perform on just one leg. After finishing that 2 hour talk, I ‘danced’ off that stage, down the stairs, across the hall as they clapped in unison, and went to the next hall. Why? To stand and give another 2 hour talk to insurance leaders this time. Afterward I stood and posed for pictures with the leaders… for another hour. This completed my promise to my client.
By now my knee was so swollen my pants were stretched tight around it. I hobbled to the car, the hotel room and the next morning to the airplane in a wheelchair and ‘peg legged’ up the stairs of my SilkAir flight (no jetways in Medan) and back to Singapore for 5 days with sister morphine in Gleneagles Hospital for my ACL reconstruction.
Hey, we don’t need to ‘enjoy the pain’ when we can have the comforts of home, hospital, family, friends and a quality life. Pain meds when needed make sense. But if we always dial down the pain with alcohol, drugs, TV, video games, sex, excessive sleep, we miss much of what life is all about.
Realization: The pain point: Pain is always there in life. If not physical pain, mental pain. The pain of defeat, losing a job or friend, betrayal, being passed over for a promotion… again. Bankruptcy. Cheating spouse. Child birth. Home break-in and losing your possessions and that feeling of the loss of security. Child in the hospital… or worse. PAIN!
KEY THOUGHT: Discipline is mostly about getting us through the pain… so we can work for long term gain.
Skip Excuses: Make excuses in little things and we tend to make excuses in the BIG things. Get sloppy and undisciplined in how we use our time and we have just decided to fail at life. (Time = Life) Get sloppy in our work and we can kiss that promotion away. BUT, maintain the discipline of excellence in everything we do and we can achieve almost everything we want in life.
Choose Discipline: ALL of us can chose to be more disciplined. Set a high(er) standard for yourself and work to achieve it. This develops the habit of discipline. As you grow and mature in your habits and discipline system, keep raising the bar.
Decision Time: Decide what you want in life and what you deserve. Then go after it with all your power and discipline. Mountains are often hills we don’t understand. The peaks are often plateaus we can enjoy once we are there. (And then decide if we want to try that next mountain.) If something is hard to accomplish, that means when you are successful, you’ll be ahead of so many others who won’t try or who quit.
Moving Forward: Where in your life do YOU lack discipline? Work? Career? Health and fitness? Diet? Money? Relationships? Anger? Porn? Alcohol? Drugs? Gambling? Your walk with God? Where and how could you apply some discipline to improve these areas? Make a list, make a plan, do it NOW!