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Be Successful through Simple Acts of Discipline

Jan 4th, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

I went to the health club this morning. Drug my butt out of bed at 4:30, remedy ate a banana, page loaded up my Subaru with a coffee thermos, dosage breakfast, second breakfast and lunch (not to mention my laptop case, a shoulder bag for miscellaneous stuff that doesn’t go in the laptop case, and my workout bag). Going to the club before work is like a business trip. I’d prepared the night before by aggregating all of the essentials in one room, so all I had to do was get dressed, brush my teeth, let the dog out, feed the dog, stir the coals in the woodstove, drop some wood in there to see if it would catch, let one cat out, and chase the other cat when I left the door to the garage open and he bolted in there to play tag with me through the post-Christmas debris. I ended up with about 30 minutes at the club for actual physical activity, which was worth it, but why does it have to be so hard to exercise regularly?

My nine-year-old got a stand-up punching bag and some boxing gloves for Christmas. With that, the trampoline, and a weight bench in the garage which could be unearthed with three to five hours of shuffling, he reasons that we have a health club at home. I tried to explain to him that part of the attraction of the club is going to the club, where the only distractions are 34 televisions and the occasional sweaty babe.

Is it a coincidence that my first visit to the club in more than a month was on January 2? Of course not. I heard a joke about someone starting a health club named Resolutions that converts to a bar two weeks into the new year. I struggle with self-discipline every day. I don’t like this idea of renewing goals, resolutions, whatever, once a year. Really, every day is the time to start fresh, or every time you wake up. Even if you just fell asleep for two minutes while driving. In fact, that’s an excellent time to start fresh, because you just dodged fate. I realize, however, that without the new year, some people would never go to the health club for even two weeks.

This feeds into my discontent with the arbitrariness of life. January 1 is an arbitrary date for the start of a new calendar year. I can see the value of dates to keep track of things, but let’s not put so much importance on January 1 as the date to re-set our goals. An annual review of goals is just too much time in between. Someone much smarter than me once recorded on a cassette series that success is about the difference between simple acts of discipline and simple errors in judgment. I’m sure you’re familiar with this line of thought. Each day you have hundreds of choices, and if you make a bad choice, no individual choice is so important that it’s going to ruin your life. However, if you consistently make simple errors in judgment, the compounding effect can be devastating, especially in contrast to consistently executing simple acts of discipline. Execute simple acts of discipline all day long, every day — get up early, eat right, exercise, tell your loved ones you love them, put crap away when you’re done with it, drive defensively, smile at everyone, finish one task before moving onto the next, respect the priority of tasks, think before speaking, think and take a deep breath before speaking to your children, save 10 percent of your income, go to bed early – complete these small things consistently and you’ll be extremely successful. It’s all math. Simple acts of discipline and simple errors in judgment cancel each other out. Try to do more of one than the other.

Here’s another math fact that seems true but really isn’t: a personal victory isn’t as gratifying as a personal failure is disheartening. It seems like you have to accomplish something really big to feel proportionally good as you feel bad when you screw up. The illusion is in the effect of gratification versus disheartification. No one wants to be disheartened, so no one seeks to repeat it. We like gratification, so we’re always looking for more. Hence, the absence of gratification seems worse than the absence of disheartification, but in reality, they are equal. So when you get up early, go to the club, and work out for 30 minutes, celebrate a victory. Each simple act of discipline moves the needle on the gauge.

Within our corporate group, we are implementing a system outlined in a book titled The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling. I like the program because it’s hands-on and deals in pragmatic terms. There’s a lot of talk in business about motivation and goal-setting and training but if you have employees who are not doing what you want them to do, chances are they don’t know how to do it. Not knowing how is the primary factor behind fear. Want to help your employees? Show them how to do what you want them to do, and show them what result you expect. Show them until they get it. Ask them to show you how. Setting goals is simply not enough.

I do recommend the book and program, heartily, and encourage you to check it out.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper