Watching the athletes perform at the recent Winter Olympics, I could only imagine their tremendous desire, determination and dedication, not to mention their commitment, enthusiasm and mental toughness. They set goals and prepared. They had discipline.
It’s the same in business.
It doesn’t matter if you seek success in business, sports, the arts, or life in general. The difference between wishing and accomplishing is discipline.
Discipline is about setting goals, establishing a timeline to achieve those goals, and then following your plan.
Discipline turns ability into achievement. Dreams can get you started, but discipline keeps you going. Talent without discipline is nothing more than a wasted opportunity.
Zig Ziglar said, “It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that drove us into action, and discipline that kept us going all the way.”
I believe discipline is the difference between good and great.
Most people aim to do well; they just can’t pull the trigger. For some reason, they just can’t afford to finish the job. They lack discipline.
Good intentions are not enough. People mean well when they set a goal to do something, but then they miss a deadline or a workout. Suddenly it becomes much easier to miss again – and again and again.
“Discipline is the foundation upon which all success is built,” said the late motivational speaker Jim Rohn. “Lack of discipline inevitably leads to failure. Discipline is the bridge between thought and achievement…the glue that binds inspiration to achievement…the magic that transforms financial necessity into creation of an inspired work of art.”
Whenever I look at a resume for a leadership position in my envelope business, I look for evidence of self-discipline. As candidates have prepared for past jobs, have they identified and mastered three to five self-disciplines critical to future success?
I’m looking for specific examples beyond just showing up for work. Have they taken the lead on difficult projects requiring the development of new skills? Were they flexible when initial plans had to be adjusted to conform to changing needs? Could they put their ego aside when others had better ideas? Were they able to maintain control when challenged by clients or colleagues?
Staying focused when things are going well is often as difficult as staying focused when things go wrong. Self-discipline is what finishes the job. Managers especially need to model self-discipline so that their teams observe how it’s done and can follow their lead.
And employees aren’t the only ones seeing discipline in action. Customers notice how organizations behave. If they see a botched operation, they assume poor quality results. If they see a well-oiled machine, their confidence in the end product increases.
Discipline means you’re willing to do the things you don’t always want to do in order to get the results you need. As difficult as it may seem, consider the alternative. Allow yourself to take the easy way out, and that’s exactly what you’ll find: exiting through the door.
Discipline is not optional. It’s an investment in your future.
Here is a story to drive the point home. A family was gathered for dinner one evening when the youngest son announced that he had just joined the army. There were audible gasps around the table, then laughter, as his older brothers shared their disbelief that he could handle this new situation.
“Oh come on, stop joking,” one of them sneered.
“You didn’t really do that, did you?” asked another. “You would never get basic training.”
Finally, his father spoke. “It’s going to take a lot of discipline. Are you ready for this?”
The new recruit turned to his mother for help, but she just stared at him. When she finally spoke, she simply asked, “Are you really planning on making your own bed every morning?”
Mackay’s Moral: Keep your head and heart in the right direction and you’ll never have to worry about your feet.
Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Swim With Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive”. He can be reached at
by sending an e-mail
or by writing to him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.