The Dirty Word called Discipline…

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At this year’s  Masterworks School of the Arts  Spring Recitals,  I announced that our students had been awarded $1,620,000 in college fine arts scholarships in the last six years.  Immediately one Dad told me there was no way his son was “talented” enough to get a scholarship.  I told him that talent is really not the biggest factor.  I shared that the most talented student I have ever met, an absolute mega talent, is working a minimum wage job totally unrelated to music.  She thought that her talent was the key.  She learned talent would only take you so far.

Listen to conversations in any group and you will hear a variety of “reasons” as to why many of our life’s goals, our heart’s desires go unmet.  We make excuses for ourselves and for our children.  We feel embarrassed and often unfulfilled.   It’s not that we don’t have deep desires or huge dreams.  I believe it’s something else.

In the last 20 years I have come to believe that all of the “reasons” are really just an excuse for not mastering a simple principle I call the X Factor.  I really don’t think it’s a huge secret.  It’s just that it’s not glamorous, it’s not fun, and it’s usually not worthy of a post on Facebook or Instagram.  Are you ready to hear what it is?  Want to save thousands of dollars in coaching bills and webinars and how-to classes?  What is it?  What’s the X factor of success?

It’s really pretty simple!  I believe almost all achievement boils down to our ability to identify and accomplish…DAILY DISCIPLINES.  Daily Disciplines  are those tasks that must be accomplished each day and as you accomplish them,  they form the foundation of success in our chosen area of endeavor.

Let’s start with the second word –  discipline.  Check any dictionary and some unpleasant words and phrases pop up.  Controlled behavior, obey rules, punishment to correct behavior.  I could go on but we have the idea that discipline is not something we will necessarily like or would tend to do naturally.  Guess what?  That’s true!  Discipline implies doing something that goes against our nature.  Doing something to strengthen a weakness.  Doing something that does not come naturally.  Doing something that is just not fun! ( I just lost a whole lot of helicopter parents 🙂

In an entrepreneurial sense, discipline involves looking at the steps necessary for success.  Every endeavor has activities that are non-negotiable if a dream is to be brought to life.  Then determine which activities come naturally, and which ones you will have to work on.  The activities that come naturally will need little attention.  You will gravitate towards them.  They will fuel your creativity.  That part of the endeavor is easy for you.

But  daily disciplines are the activities that are required for you to ultimately succeed in your given area that you shy away from.  They are usually repetitive (aka boring).  Sometimes they are not part of your Enneagram.   In each entrepreneurial endeavor and for each entrepreneur they are different.  But most of us know what they are in our given areas.  You know they are non-negotiable if you are to see your dreams realized.  You DO know.

When you think about your necessary daily disciplines a thousand other things you want to be doing come to mind.  Often we just give into the pull of those ideas and ignore the daily disciplines altogether.  Those are the areas where you need to develop “discipline.”  Something that has the cumulative effect that when accomplished, will bring huge momentum in propelling you towards your goal.  Something that you, or those who you aspire to be like, have determined is the non- negotiable activity that will be necessary for you to achieve your goals.

An easy example is my wife’s business.  Over the last 29 years she has learned that the most important basic  discipline that is required of everyone is the need to put Mary Kay product on people’s faces.  After all, it’s a skincare and cosmetic company.  Customers make purchases because they feel, touch, smell and experience products.  It seems like a pretty simple concept.  Yet I cannot tell you how many people don’t do one daily discipline of finding faces and putting the product on people.  Here is the kicker – in spite of not mastering this  discipline they expect success!  They do all sorts of activity but they fail to complete the one basic discipline required to build their business.  If you don’t do the necessary  activity, the desired results will not magically appear.

Now to the second part of the phrase, DAILY!  Working an area of discipline once or twice a month will yield no results.  No skill of importance is mastered two, three, or even six days a month.  Momentum is not generated by random, inconsistent  bits of effort and activity.   Our rates of retention, the neurological pathways that have to be developed do not kick in doing any discipline at random intervals.  Doing uncomfortable yet necessary activities on a random, non purposeful schedule do not produce the desired results.  There has to be a daily plan.

Parents are often surprised when I tell my new students I only require them to practice seven minutes a day, 5 days a week,  for the first couple of months.  It’s not the AMOUNT of time, it’s the DAILY  part that brings success.  I explain that consistent activity, developing a habit, doing something each day for a short amount of time,  is better than doing 35 minutes one day a week.  Consistency generates momentum, and momentum pushes us to success!

The student I mentioned earlier is the most gifted pianist I have ever taught.  She plays beautifully and according to her parents plays for hours at home.  Her level is so outstanding she decided to apply to Julliard.  She certainly possessed the natural technical ability and she had the deep burning desire to go to school there and develop a career as a performer.  (Desire and talent are the winning formula, right?) However, there was an area where she frustrated me for years.  While she loved to play, she struggled with the daily  discipline of making  herself learn new music.  Unfortunately the Julliard audition required her to learn four new compositions over the course of six months.  (Isn’t it amazing that the area we want to achieve in usually requires us to perform in an area of weakness!)

 We figured out a simple solution – she had to learn three  new lines of music each day.   That was it, not really a big deal.  It would have taken her 15 minutes each day.  She said that she knew that would be easy enough to do.

The next week she had failed to do the daily work.  There were just so many other things she had to get done and after all her audition was not for months.  So we had to move the number to six.  The next week  we had to move the number to nine. Soon, the goal was unattainable.  The dream was lost.  All because of a lack of daily discipline.  A whole lifetime of possibilities was lost because she was unable and unwilling to do an activity for 15 minutes a day.

One idea to consider, goals and dreams do have time tables and restrictions.  There is  a point where the lack of daily disciplines comes to a point of no return either because of external restrictions or because of our own internal exhaustion.  We simply run out of time.  The realization that our dreams are not accomplished and are now out of reach is a crushing blow!

The failure rate in our society is high.   I encounter people who daily tell me they wish they had  done ___________ on a daily basis.   We could all fill in our own blank.  But usually, the answer has to do with an activity that, had you done it for a short time each day, may have changed the trajectory of your life and business.

So, stop for a minute.  Determine what is your most important goal or entrepreneurial endeavor that you deeply want to see achieved.  Is it right in front of you?  (If not, that’s another blog!)  Now…. Determine what daily activities you need to do to see the goal become reality.  Put them on a spread sheet, write them  on your mirror, place them in front of you.  Then begin to move to your goal ONE  daily discipline at a time.   It really IS the X factor of success!

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