Discipline Equals Freedom: A Commentary and Review of Extreme Ownership
It’s 0330, and my alarm goes off. I open my eyes and stare at the ceiling for a second, trying to catch my baring. I roll out of bed, head to the bathroom to clean up for a minute, and I put on the PT gear that I left folded on my bathroom counter.
Then I head to my office and grab my 55 lb kettle bell. I perform a twenty minute high intensity kettle bell workout with burpees in between each set. After a quick PT shower, I make my morning greens drink and my morning coffee, head to my office, and I’m at my desk by 0430.
I do my morning reading, which is usually something from the stoic philosophers or classic business writers like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. By 0500, I’m working on my morning business tasks. I work on the hardest thing I have to do that day first before more mundane management tasks invade my day. This is normally creating a blog, doing some writing for my book, creating a new product, initiating a new marketing campaign, or working on new shirt ideas.
This is my time – the most important part of my day. With this time, I can do anything and the world is my oyster. The rest of the world is sleeping, but I’ve already spent time investing in myself and I’m there building my vision and making it come to life. Without this time, I would be nothing, but with this time I can be exactly who I want to be.
Why Discipline Brings Freedom
I rarely tell my close friends about my morning routine. When I do, they normally act like I’m some sort of weirdo or freak. It’s not that I care, but I really don’t feel like hearing how horrified they are at the prospect of waking up at 0330. The very fact that they don’t get why I do it shows me why they aren’t where they want to be yet.
Now I’m not saying that you have to wake up as early as I do. That’s not the point of this blog. My point is this: if you want to build the life you want to live, you need to be willing to do it regardless of what the world throws at you.
This is because the world is going to do everything it can to make achieving your dreams as difficult as possible. It’s not because the world is against you. It’s that this is how the world works.
A mathematical law that I learned while I was studying for my Ph.D is this: in a large enough population, everything regresses toward average. While this is part of complex statistical analysis technique called regression, we can take one simple fact from this that we can apply to our success: the more we act like everyone else, the more average we will become.
It sounds so simple, and it is, but we forget it so easily. Why do we watch TV? Because the rest of the world is watching The Walking Dead and American Horror Story and we don’t want to feel like we missed out. Why do we wake up at 0700, thinking that this is early? Because that’s when most of the rest of the world wakes up.
But here’s another one for you: Why don’t we have time to do what we want to do? Because we are following the same schedule as the rest of the world, and we lack the discipline to follow our own schedule.
If I were to wake up at 0600, I’d barely have time to make my coffee, let alone work out, read, and get any work in before my girlfriend wakes up at 0700.
When she does, I’m helping her get ready for work, making breakfast, getting her coffee ready, and then building our relationship with our morning talks. By the time she heads out the door, it’s time for my morning phone calls. When noon rolls around, I’m in meetings for several hours, and by 1600 I really don’t have the energy to do any heavy thinking.
If I wasn’t up by 0330, I wouldn’t have time to do what I want to do: invest in myself, create, build my business, and have my evenings free to spend time with my girlfriend doing other things that I want to do.
Only by operating on a disciplined schedule do I obtain the freedom to do what I really want to do and to create my vision.
Take Extreme Ownership of Your Life
Discipline does not mean that you’re acting like a robot. It simply means that you own your life by taking responsibility for your actions and how they help you to reach your goals. It means eliminating all excuses and focusing only on what you can control.
In the book Extreme Ownership, Navy Seal veterans Jocko Willink and Leif Babin define extreme ownership with a simple statement “Leaders must own their world. There is no one else to blame.” This book is an amazing collection of battlefield stories and business case studies where these two Seals apply what they learned from their time in the teams to business leadership.
There are many amazing points in this book but the biggest is this: you cannot accomplish anything unless you own every situation you are in and take responsibility for all aspects of everything that you and your team do.
This is a mindset change for most people: most of us tend to blame everything in the world but ourselves if something goes wrong. We blame our bosses, our past, our lack of money, and even our loved ones.
By exercising extreme ownership, you operate under the principle that you are ultimately responsible for anything and everything that occurs in your personal and professional life.
Additionally, while Willink and Babin apply these principles to war and business, their advice also has lots of potential application to your personal life.
How often do we argue with our significant others without understanding or admitting to the ways in which our own actions contributed to the fight? How much better would our lives be if we delivered solutions to solving these frictions rather than shunning responsibility for them and letting them continue?
As Leif Babin notes in the book, “it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.” This includes not only tolerating sub par performance from those around you, but also from yourself. If you are out of shape, broke, or unsuccessful, what are you tolerating from yourself that’s keeping you there?
The bottom line is this: if you want to improve your life, you need to take extreme ownership over it. As I’ve discussed with you before, you can’t wait for the rest of the world to make your life better. If you want to live your best life, it’s on you to “get after it” as Jocko Willink would say.
As you move forward in your journey to build the best version of yourself, forget about what you can’t control, and focus on what you know you can control. Your problems do not make you special, but the way in which you respond to them does. You choose to take control and develop solutions, or you choose to tolerate your problems until they get so bad that you have to do something. That choice is always yours.
So my question for you this week is this: what are you going to take extreme ownership of in your life? Read or listen to this book and let me know.