Discipline and Ownership

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Jocko Willink who is truly the scariest Navy Seal

I recently listened to Jocko Willink’s podcast on the Tim Ferriss Show titled The Scariest Navy Seal Imaginable..and What He Taught Me. His interview was intense, and I got inspired to grab both of his books Extreme Ownership and Discipline Equals Freedom from the library.

Disciple Equals Freedom. First, get it on audiobook if they have it – reading the book doesn’t give half inspiration that hearing Jocko in your ear talking about discipline might. The book is rambling but inspirational as it jumps from topics like stress to waking up early to working out. My favorite chapter was on stress:

Stress is generally caused by what you can’t control…It is happening and you just have to accept it. Don’t stress about things you can’t control. If the stress is something that you can control and you are not, that is a lack of discipline and a lack of ownership. Get control of it. Impose your will to make it happen. Solve the problem. Relieve the stress. If the stress is something you can’t control: Embrace it.

Extreme Ownership – a lot of Jocko’s themes from his first book carried over to his second. This book lost the rambling intensity of the first substituting a digestible format starting with (1) war story, (2) principle, and (3) application to business. Although a lot of the chapters and key principles feel duplicative after the first few, the format and amazing stories help to keep the book moving and driving home Jocko’s themes around ownership.

On any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win….When leaders who epitomize Extreme Ownership drive their teams to achieve a higher standard of performance, they must recognize that when it comes to standards, as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.

Jocko’s energy and intensity are definitely worth investigating in SOME format (podcast, blog, or book). I would skip Discipline Equals Freedom – great themes but extremely rambling, and pick up the second on Extreme Ownership especially if you or someone on your team is struggling with the concept of ownership in their work.

My three reflections on the principles of discipline and ownership:

  1. Being present to a goal requires discipline. From Steve Jobs, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” It isn’t enough to say yes to something, you have to say no to all the noise that prevents you from achieving your goal.
  2. Disciple feels painful. Saying no and being present to what you should be doing feels incredibly painful. Discipline is waking up early when you feel like 30 more minutes of sleep are needed or stopping drinking after the first glass of wine (do you really need the whole bottle? Maybe that is just me) As a leader at work, it is being there for your team and not being distracted by the million emails while you meet with someone. It’s also canceling recurring meetings when they are no longer adding value and holding people accountable when you would rather just be friendly with them.
  3. Discipline equals freedom. By being present to your goals at home and at work and having the disciple to prioritize what matters-no matter how painful-you will start to see results. The best thing about leaning in through discipline is that it starts to feel less painful, and frees your time to drive innovation, engage with others and do things that are fun! But it all starts with being disciplined to do the things that matter.
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