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Discipline Needs to Be Learned, Not Taught

There is no inherent value to being disciplined.

The willingness to do something difficult is only meaningful if it’s exercised within the context of a worthy goal.

We often force students to do all sorts of things that don’t matter to them in the name of teaching them the virtue of discipline. Students don’t need to learn discipline. Students need to learn how to identify their preferences, how to assess their priorities, and how to think in accordance with principles.

When a person understands what they want, knows how to reason about the cost & benefits involved, and understands the implication of their choices, they can decide for themselves if discipline is useful or not in any given situation.

No matter who you are, life is going to teach you about the necessity of discipline. How do I know that? Because we’re all creatures of desire. Every single one of us will continuously experience the universal phenomenon known as “wanting something that isn’t easy to obtain.” And when that happens to you, me, or anyone else, we will be forced to either forego our desires or exercise some form of discipline.

There will always be moments when it’s simply not easy, fun, and convenient for you to get what you want. During those moments, you can estimate the cost & benefits involved. If the perceived benefits seem to outweigh the costs, you can exercise discipline and find a way to achieve your goal. If the perceived costs seem to make the benefits worth less than the effort, it would be self-defeating to force yourself to work really hard at something you neither value nor believe in just because of a dogmatic attachment to discipline.

The people with the most discipline in the real world are the ones who know what it means to believe in something deeply enough to fight for it in spite of the costs.

True discipline is nothing more than the combination of conviction and determination. And if you try to teach people to be determined without taking their genuine desires to be the rightful starting point, you’ll just make them experts at feeling guilty, resentful, and stressed out.

If you’re afraid that your students won’t ever work hard, you can relax because the combination of desire and difficulty will give them plenty of lessons on the topic of discipline.

If a person doesn’t want a particular thing, then it’s pointless for them to exercise discipline in relation to that thing. If a person truly does want something, however, they will learn to be disciplined as long as you don’t swoop down and save them.

If you really want to teach people how to be disciplined, then discipline yourself enough to let them struggle when it’s good for them. Discipline yourself enough to stop rescuing them and bailing them out every time life tries to make them work hard for something they sincerely desire.

You don’t need a basketball to practice basketball (apparently)

I recently finished reading an article from Business Insider titled “17 Examples Of Kobe Bryant’s Insane Work Ethic.

The entire piece provides an enlightening look at the kind of discipline and dedication that often comprises what appears on the surface to be sheer athletic giftedness.

My favorite example is # 3:

He used to practice by himself without a ball, says Shaq. Shaq wrote in his book:

“You’d walk in there and he’d be cutting and grunting and motioning like he was dribbling and shooting — except there was no ball. I thought it was weird, but I’m pretty sure it helped him.”

Could anything be weirder, and seemingly more pointless, than practicing basketball without a basketball?

Stories like this compel me to ask myself the following question:

In what way is it possible for me to work towards my goals even when certain elements that appear to be essential are missing?

It’s easy to imagine how much further along we’d be if we had more time, more money, more support, more energy, more information, more experience, etc.

People with practice routines like Kobe Bryant remind us that there is always something we can do to get better if we’re willing to work hard, think outside the box, and risk looking weird for the sake of being great.

TK’s Two Cents: Motivation, Diversity, The Power of Words, Vulnerability, Determination, & Positive Thinking

On Motivation

A sense of purpose is the purest source of inspiration.

Give a man a job, and if he’s a good worker, he’ll remember to show up and clock in on time. Give a man a reason for existing, and even if he’s a bad worker, he’ll immerse himself in creative action so deeply that he’ll lose his sense of time and completely forget to clock out.

What is commonly mistaken for discipline and courage is often just the organic expression of self-knowledge.

When a man knows his “why”, his excuses and fears bow before him like servants.

On Diversity

What a monotonous world it would be if everyone thought like me.

And there would be nothing fun left to do if I were required to be like you.

But when you are you and I am me, there’s plenty of beauty for us both to see.

On the power of words

The first four letters of the word ‘sentence’ spell ‘sent.’

This reminds me of the fact that it is impossible to utter a sentence without the energy of the speaker being ‘sent’ out.

Words are to the human spirit what wires are to electricity–carriers of a most powerful energy that is capable of both creating and destroying.

On Vulnerability

Sometimes I feel threatened by certain conditions in my life.

I’ve learned to not regard this as a bad thing.

When this happens, I simply remind myself that it’s temporary and I quiet my mind by going for a walk, listening to music, or assuming a meditative posture.

Then, I allow the sensation of being threatened to usher me to that place within myself that needs to be healed, heard, embraced, or reminded that it is truly loved.

On Determination

No matter how many demands the world places on you, you have to be willing to fight to create space for the work you love.

Permission never comes from the outside and it’s always a “bad time” to do something different, creative, risky, or interesting.

Success will always be a stranger to you unless you make it your companion while it’s still invisible.

You have to adopt opportunity as an imaginary friend until it becomes real. 

On positive thinking

Life is like a photo you upload into instagram.

While there are certain elements in the picture you can’t change, you do have the opportunity to make edits before you save it as a final copy.

Some things you’re still going to be stuck with, but no matter how bad it is, you can always spice it up a little.

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