Tremendous thanks to Kris McGuigan for sharing her thoughts on courage. This week, we are moving from courage to its seductive partner, discipline, and its brutal taskmaster, Jocko Willink.
Now, Jocko Willink did not invent discipline, but he is one of the scariest human beings ever imagined. He spent 20 years in the US Navy and commanded SEAL Team 3’s task unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated special operations unit in the Iraq War. Upon returning to the US, Jocko served as the officer in charge of training for all West Coast SEAL teams, designing and implementing some of the most challenging and realistic — and perhaps psychotic — combat training in the world. After retiring from the Navy, he co-founded Echelon Front, a leadership and management consulting company and authored the number one New York Times bestseller Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win. (Ferris, 2017). Did we mention that he also is a lean 230 pounds, Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert who used to tap out 20 Navy SEALs per workout and a legend in the Special Operations world?
Look at his eyes in the picture above. They look like they are looking through you more than at you. Strong eyes. Sullen eyes. Disciplined eyes. We know the eyes have it. We’ve learned that the disciplined eyes crush it. At its core, being disciplined is suppressing your basic desires and showing restraint. Doing what you should be doing even though you don’t want to. It’s acknowledging and then DOING those things that make you better, faster, stronger – both mentally and physically. And like we’ve said before, you don’t have to like doing these things; you just have to do them. If everyone loved working out, reading extensively, and reflecting on themselves, we’d all be slim, trim, and mentally healthy and engaged. All you have to do is look around to see that’s not the case. When set correctly, discipline empowers subordinates to make decisions quickly and confidently, without the need to check in.
Jocko’s life philosophy is discipline equals freedom. As he said in a recent Success talk: “If your alarm clock goes off at 4:30 a.m. and you immediately give up and surrender to the snooze button, well, what’s the rest of the day gonna look like? If you have the discipline when that alarm goes off you get up, you get in the gym, you do something physical, you’re setting the tone, you’re holding the line, and that discipline is gonna maintain.”
To Jocko’s point – it’s discipline that keeps an organization on the straight and narrow; that keeps them focused on compliance. Good intentions are great, but if you don’t train yourself to “get up when the alarm goes off,” those good intentions are worthless. Most organizations that find themselves on the front page had good intentions – they meant to do the right thing, they just hit the snooze button on compliance. Our job as compliance professionals is to train the business to be disciplined when it comes to following the rules that govern our industries. You don’t have to like the rules, they don’t have to make sense to you, but you do have to adhere to them. It’s discipline that saves the day.
So get up and get to it. Build that muscle memory for your organization. Drill it into them and set the example every day. Explain why discipline is important and why good intentions certainly won’t keep your organization off the front page when things go sideways.
In Jocko’s words, “Don’t count on motivation; count on discipline.”