This weekend, while standing in the dairy aisle of my local grocery store, a woman I didn’t know asked, “Are you that positive column guy?”
I turned and smiled. “Yes, I am.” I extended my hand to greet her.
“My husband and I wonder where you get the inspiration to write something new every week. You must live an exciting life.”
“Our lives intersected at the dairy aisle in the grocery store, so I bet our lives are not that different,” I responded.
“Do you ever wake up and not feel inspired?”
“Sure. I’m never always going to be inspired or motivated ... so I must be disciplined.”
She looked at me as if she didn’t understand, so I continued.
“My editors are expecting a column in their email every Monday morning. If my column isn’t there, they are left scrambling to fill a void in their publication left by my lack of discipline to produce. If that happens, I’m sure I’ll get fired.”
“Have you ever missed a deadline?”
“No. It’s not an option.”
Discipline trumps inspiration.
This exchange remained with me all weekend as I pondered the difference between inspiration and discipline. We cannot allow a lack of inspiration to keep us from meeting obligations. I don’t always feel inspired to pay my bills, but if I don’t a tow truck would eventually show up and take my car away. So, inspiration is a beautiful thing when it happens but discipline trumps inspiration.
My situation is no different than a student being disciplined to get homework assignments completed or an adult having the discipline to get up and get to work on time. I believe discipline is the ultimate ingredient for success.
I spent a big part of my life as an entrepreneur and CEO. In those roles I hired, trained and directed thousands of associates. As I remember the most successful people I encountered, it was rarely talent or motivation that set them apart from the crowd, it was their discipline. They always delivered. I could count on them to do as they said they would do.
For me, discipline is a matter of habit. Again, using this column as the example, I submit it each Monday by 11 a.m. After I submit it, I immediately set up the page to begin next week’s column. I rarely know what I will write about but setting up the page and leaving it open is key to my discipline. Every time I open my laptop, the first thing I see is the blank page. A law of physics, first proclaimed by Aristotle, teaches us that “nature abhors a vacuum.” If there is a void, something is going to fill it. So, if I have an empty page, I cannot resist writing upon it.
As far as inspiration goes … if you are waiting for it to find you, good luck! Look around. Listen. Be observant. I am a very impatient man. I spend my life looking for things that inspire and interest me. If you roll back through my columns, they are all about subjects I observed, conversations I had, people I met, or situations I encountered. I can’t afford to wait for a subject to find me, I seek it out, ponder it, research it and pound out my thoughts into my laptop or phone.
I hope you are grasping the connection between what I do and your life. You are not different. Your discipline or lack of it will largely drive the level of success you achieve in life. You can’t wait for the motivation to get out of bed. You have places to go, things to do and people to see. Get out of bed and get it done!
Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. We all have dreams and goals, but too many people leave their dreams unrealized solely because of a lack of discipline.
I’ll leave you with what I believe are some of the truest words ever spoken.
“We must all suffer one of two things: The pain of discipline or the pain of regret and disappointment.” – Jim Rohn
Which pain will you choose?