Feb. 1 marked the beginning of Black History Month. A few weeks ago, I wrote about an extraordinary Black leader: Michael Jordan. The career and story of this sports superstar provides a blueprint for outstanding leadership. He once said: “Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard at it.”
Jordan was all about putting in the work. And that work is what separates the extraordinary from the ordinary, the mega-achievers like Jordan from those who favor mediocrity over medals. Another word for the work of an amazing leader is discipline.
When it comes to discipline, there is no substitute. Nothing will help you accomplish your goals like consistent self-discipline. You can be the smartest and most talented player on a team, or the most knowledgeable and gifted leader in an organization but without discipline, you’ll never find the success you seek.
Practiced discipline isn’t for everyone. That’s the bad news. The good news? Once you harness the power of discipline, you’ll be carried by its momentum and reach new, previously unimaginable heights of success. (Michael Jordan, for instance, holds the NBA record for regular season scoring average per game—30.12—and career playoff scoring average—33.45 points per game.)
With self-discipline you will become a master of time management, execution, leadership, relationship-building … everything turns on your ability to be exquisitely and uncompromisingly disciplined. When you have discipline, you can ignore the voice inside your head that warns of failure. You can eliminate negative thoughts and conquer every personal fear.
OK, we understand that self-discipline can lead to success, which brings us to another question: How can we become such students of self-discipline that we’re able to use discipline to accomplish our goals?
To start, we can commit to being honest, always. Discipline requires complete honesty. When you stretch the truth even once, people will forever be wary of what you have to say. When you’re honest, you earn trust. When you’re honest, you can examine those areas of your life that require more discipline and adjust your actions accordingly.
Discipline is the backbone of good habits. When forming good habits, we make decisions every day that allow us to become better than we were the day before. We begin to break bad habits that do not contribute to our success.
Remember, discipline is not the easiest way to go. Human nature wants us to do what’s most convenient but that is never the correct path to accomplishing our goals. It’s much easier to leave your bed unmade or desk uncleaned than it is to tuck the sheets underneath your mattress and make sure your papers are in order. But as I say, it’s the hard that makes us great. It’s the things we don’t want to do or the things that seem inconvenient or uncomfortable that form our most unbreakable habits and strongest, most disciplined beliefs. Remember, the pain of discipline weighs ounces, the pain of regret weighs tons.
Another aspect of discipline to consider: It’s not a sometimes-activity. Discipline is a full-time job. You can’t be disciplined with your diet and eat healthy every day, then only get two hours of sleep at night or forego exercising. Discipline is all or nothing. Discipline has to be applied consistently to every aspect of your life. To be wholly disciplined is to be the best, most productive and most top-performing version of yourself you can be.
To be a fully disciplined leader also reaps rewards well beyond the initial discipline you execute. Discipline teaches us that the output of our complete self-discipline will be far greater than anything we might expect to achieve. There are no limits to success when you practice true self-discipline.
So, what’s the message? For this week, I’ll pass the mic back to Michael Jordan, who was always known as the first player to arrive at the practice gym and the last player to leave. He is a leader who embraces discipline and understands that with discipline, any obstacle can be overcome, any goal can eventually be achieved. “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career,” Jordan said. “I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life … that is why I succeed.”
This article is adapted from Blefari’s weekly, company-wide “Thoughts on Leadership” column from HomeServices of America.