A Navy Seal’s Secret to Success
What are your goals for the next year?
What long-term targets have you set for yourself?
Are you trying to build wealth? Advance your career? Lose weight or improve your physical abilities? Start a business? Become a better husband / wife / father / mother?
Have you thought about doing all these things and made the commitment to move forward regardless of the outcome? Have you made a concrete plan with actionable steps?
Or have you given it a good hard think, motivated yourself, maybe even made the first move, but upon catching the first glimpse of your own personal mountain to climb, you either quickly resigned to the status quo or gave up?
How many good intentions is your road to success paved with?
Perhaps you think you’re on the right path. You think you’re advancing towards your goals, but you’re really only plodding along slowly, lacking direction and dedication, with no evidence of significant progress.
It’s time to take a long look at yourself. You do realize you can achieve anything that you want within reason, right? You can become wealthy. You can publish a book. You can start your own business. And you can become a more benevolent person.
The best part is the only person that can physically, mentally and emotionally stop you is….you.
In the world of Self-Improvement, Jocko Willink has made a serious impact with his no excuses, no whining, wake up at 4 am and do it every morning attitude. He’s received both a silver and bronze star in the Iraq war. He’s known for tapping out twenty Navy Seals per workout. He’s the 5' 11" version of the Incredible Hulk. He is the ultimate bad-ass.
He also knows a thing or two about motivating and maintaining Discipline.
And he’s absolutely right.
Do you think anybody that has experienced current or past success is any better than you? Smarter than you? Stronger than you? If you think so, then you are severely disillusioned and you might have bigger problems.
So what sets the successful apart from you?
Nothing — except for one thing.
In all aspects, they are the same as you. They breathe the same air, worry about the same things and they all have the same fears. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of losing time, fear of losing money, fear of the unknown.
But what they don’t suffer from is a lack of discipline.
“We are what we repeatedly do, therefore, excellence is not an act but a habit.”
Maintaining discipline is the simplest of solutions. There is nothing extra you have to do. There’s no extra gear you have to buy. No financial investment you have to make. It is within you already. All you have to do is the commit to performing the same, small things, over and over again every day and do them excellently.
Some may say that it’s a boring way to live. And they may be right. But the road to success IS boring. If only everyone realized that success isn’t based on doing any one extraordinary thing, but doing the small things repeatedly, relentlessly, with positive effort and great dedication.
“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”
- BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
But come out now with the excuses, I’m ready for them!
What can you tell me that I haven’t already heard? You didn’t go to college, you know nothing about business, you have no control over your finances or you need to buy this, that and the other thing, you have no time, no energy, no physical power, you have mouths to feed — you simply….can’t, can’t, can’t for any number of unfounded reasons.
You can have results or excuses, but not both.”
- ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
But these excuses are negative and unproductive. They make you feel slightly better by justifying your inability to move your ass and get something done. But at the end of the day, you know deep down that you are only failing yourself.
You have to take responsibility because after all, YOU are responsible for everything you do in your life.
And you have to take the initiative to maintain discipline in spite of what may or may not happen in the future.
Unfortunately, we don't’ have a crystal ball that tells us whether we will fail or succeed. We don’t have the ability to eliminate the fear that comes with maintaining constant discipline in spite of the unknown. You could have the strictest discipline in the world and that’s still no guarantee you will succeed.
There is no contract anywhere that says if you apply discipline to your life, and advance your milestones with passion and persistence, that you will ultimately achieve victory and success.
In fact, you can and will probably fail many times.
“What matters to an active man is to do the right thing; whether the right thing comes to pass should not bother him.”
But I’ll tell you one thing. If you instill discipline into your life, you’ll be thousands of miles ahead of anyone who never tried in the first place. The simple act of maintaining discipline will open doors you never thought possible.
You certainly won’t be left for want.
You see, we can’t control those the outcome of those big goals and targets we set for ourselves. That’s not our decision to make. Fate will ultimately decide whether we hit the targets or not. But we can control our discipline. We can choose to do our best every day, leave no moment idle with destructive habits, but instead maximize our potential at every opportunity.
We can enhance our learning through reading, night classes, online courses, apprenticeships. We can learn about business by jumping into the deep end and begin executing upon that business idea, finding a mentor, making mistakes. You can build wealth by tracking what you spend and living frugally. You can build a better body by sticking to a workout regimen long after those newbie gains have come and gone. We can become better partners by being disciplined in our ability to listen to others, understand them and make more time for them.
It’s all possible with discipline. It’s the only thing you need. And it’s the one thing that most of us seem to lack.
I’m nowhere near where I want to be. There are many targets I want to hit and hitting them would allow me the freedom of time, location, allow me to help more people, connect better with family. But they will take time, effort and perseverance.
I’m scared shitless, just like you. I have no idea what will happen in the future. I could be completely wasting my time. But I’ll be damned if anything will de-rail my sense of discipline. I will continue to wake up each day and attack it with 100% of my effort, whether I want to or not.
Because that’s what we have to do with our time on earth. It’s our purpose, our mission, it’s why we get up every morning.
So get up, get active, get enough sleep, drink enough water, and eat better food. Stop making excuses, stop complaining, stop whining and get at it. You are responsible for everything. It’s up to you to get motivated, make a plan, track your progress and most importantly, to never stop moving forward.
And last of all, remember:
Discipline Equals Freedom
— Jocko Willink
Discipline Truly Does Equal Freedom was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.