Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Art of Discipline

"We must all suffer one of two things:  the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment."
-Jim Rohn

Attaining success requires discipline - no surprise to anyone.  Sidenote:  I'm a big advocate of definitions as too many discussions have lacked resolution and too many articles have left the reader confused by not properly defining the parameters of the subject under consideration.  "He has too much talent!"  "She just got lucky!", etc.  Talent?  Luck? 

So, what does "discipline" mean?  One dictionary.com definition defines "discipline" as:  "activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training."  This is the definition we are going to use.

In our context, this means forcing yourself to do something you may not enjoy, to reap the reward at a later time.  It means running an extra mile for a healthier body.  It means skipping a party or a social event to prepare for a competition.  It means bringing your lunch to save a few dollars every day.  It means opening a book on investing instead of turning on the game.  It means accomplishing more by 7 a.m. than others do in an entire day.  It means concentrating your daily activities in a direction that will best prepare you for reaching your goal.  And - here's the important part - doing it over and over and over . . .

Guy Spier in his "Education of a Value Investor" lays out a wonderful example to the investment world.  Discipline means reading the dry company quarterly and annual reports before indulging in the more colorful conference call transcripts and analyst write-ups.  It is shocking how many "investors" don't even read the reports prior to making an "investment"!  Mr. Spier compares the practice to eating your vegetables.  Not a very good first order consequence (they taste horrible!), but very beneficial second and third order consequences (healthier body, longer lifespan).  The company's reports provide the nutrients needed to make a healthy investment decision, but it takes effort and discipline to make yourself sit down and read them.

Coaches, parents, and mentors provide the guidance, to help you progress throughout life.  It should not be a lack of knowledge that prevents you from reaching your goal (if it is, then do a Google search on the people who have accomplished a similar goal and mirror their activities, for a start).  Discipline is applying that guidance on your own.  It means, when your trainer isn't looking, choosing a salad over a burger.  The activities you practice may need to be fine tuned as you continue to improve in your chosen field, but discipline will push you to a level of familiarity with a process where you can productively assess each of your activities and make the necessary adjustments. 

Discipline isn't typically fun, but those who succeed can see beyond the initial pain.  It becomes more bearable, possibly even enjoyable, when you take the mindset that you are building the foundation of your future.

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