Discipline = Freedom
I consider the Weekly/Monthly Reviews to be essential for a high performance system. They’re also the most difficult component to implement, with the highest failure rate. And it’s not just low-commitment skeptics who can’t stick to it. Those fully aware of the world-changing impact it has on life also struggle to maintain the routine.
I know, because that was me for years. I was not able to consistently implement weekly reviews until around September last year. Since then, I haven’t missed a week.
So what changed? I heard three words.
Three words made all the difference to me. So I’d like to share them with you, along with some context.
I blast through podcasts at 2x speed, rapid chipmunk-voices screaming through my ears and spinning around my skull. All of those words blur together, my hope is some of the ideas will linger.
I was listening to former Navy Seal commander Jacko Willink
. I love his experience-rich stories and the insights he draws from them. Buried deep in a paragraph bouncing from idea to idea, he said it: “Discipline Equals Freedom.”
It makes no sense. Discipline is the antithesis of freedom, it’s structure and rules and rigid restraint. Freedom is… free! No structure and no rules and no restraint. Do what you want, when you want, how you want. Right?
But I went right past the inherent contradiction. To me, at this stage of my life, this combination of conflicting words rang so immediately and resoundingly true that in the midst of the 2x streaming blur they jumped out and froze in my mind.
These words would not have struck a chord to my former self, so I have no idea how they’re resonating with you. Some people dismiss the structure and systems I place around my actions and work and personal approach to life. They say it’s too rigid. They say it’s too limiting.
I respond that I have more freedom and space and room to move now with these structures and systems than I ever had before them. And I have rapidly growing outcomes and choices emerging in my life as a direct result. I’m seeing this phenomenon over and over at scale — I’m increasingly in a position to be around more and more people implementing such systems. The results are overwhelmingly consistent.
The modern world, with its requirements and obligations and endless demands, begins from a default starting position that is anything but free. You don’t lose freedom, because you never had it in the first place. You have to create it. You have to earn it.
You earn it through work and effort. You earn it through thoughtful planning and careful selection amid competing options for your time. The central ingredient to all of that is discipline.
Success in business and in life is often associated with taking risks. But discipline does not involve risk. The results are predictable.
So many things we want in life are expensive, but not discipline. It’s free.
Discipline is making good decisions with the abundant knowledge and information we already have. We usually know the right thing to do, but we don’t always choose it. It’s often not a lack of information or knowledge, it’s a lack of discipline. Or if we do lack the information, we know how to find it — but do we make the effort? Discipline again.
Worry and stress over money, work obligations, and family/social engagements are constraints. Worry and stress rob us of whatever personal time that we do have. Structured, disciplined approaches to life relieve us of that strain by getting priorities done and carving out genuine time off, giving us back ownership of personal time.
Discipline puts us on the right path. How we feel about our lives is not determined by our absolute standing, but by whether we feel we’re making progress. Discipline produces progress, and along with progress comes the byproduct of feeling good about our lives. Fear and guilt fade in this state.
Discipline-induced progress compounds over time, increasing at an increasing rate — leading us beyond the feeling of improvement to actual, tangible, measurable gains. Such gains fuel more momentum and effort into the next cycle of disciplined actions, fostering a self-perpetuating feedback loop
of growth psychology and material advancement in life.
Discipline is the linchpin. The move to a disciplined life in pursuit of freedom begins with awareness.