Discipline = Freedom

We often think of Navy SEALs as these macho buff guys that can leave a country and be back in 24 hours – and nobody knows what they did or where they went.

But once you dive into a book about Navy SEALs you begin to see that really, they are ordinary men doing extraordinary things under dangerous circumstances all in the name of freedom. After a mission is complete, they return home to their families and prepare for the next task. Thankfully for the rest of us, they document events and principles that they learn as soldiers.

Recently, I read the book Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. The authors, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, were SEAL officers involved in some of the most intense battles during the War in Iraq. Through this book, both men equate battlefield principles to the workforce and describe how certain leadership skills can push for a more cohesive operation starting from the top.

I won’t go into all of the principles but the one that sticks with me the most is mentioned toward the end of the book – the idea of Discipline = Freedom. If you have read any of my previous posts, you will notice that every day I go to an Evernote file and type out a statement “______” then end it with “Discipline = Freedom.”

Disciplining yourself can be tough. It’s very easy for a leader to pass the buck to someone else for blame. It’s very easy for a manager to not embrace tense situations. It’s very easy for a supervisor to NOT deal with an uncomfortable predicament. But the idea of being disciplined means you embrace the suck. Jocko gives the example that he sets four alarms to get himself out of bed. If you were to follow his Instagram page, everyday (literally), he takes a picture of his watch when he wakes up – at 4:30 in the morning! For Jocko, this is his first challenge of the day – waking up. For him, the enemy is already trying to beat him or outsmart him. It is this simple discipline of waking up and getting that boosts him to strive for more freedom.

While I have not attempted the 4:30 in the morning routine, I have strived for a routine of where I place my alarm on the opposite end of the bedroom. When it goes off at 6:35 am, it gets me out of bed. Do I have the urge to go back to my nice warm bed after I get up? Yep. Do I fail on certain days to not wake up right away? Yep.

But sometimes the failings in a discipline are what is needed in life. With the correct mentality, it is fuel to beat the resistance in order to gain more freedom on the next day. There are days it is hard to practice trombone, or write, or exercise. But the strength behind discipline is the fact it is not a one-and-done opportunity. Each day is a new day.

Out of this excellent book came this idea. While I encourage anyone to read it, be prepared to be made uncomfortable from a leadership standpoint. It is going to make you realize you need to own up to whatever your job is and become more responsible with the job you have been given.

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