When I was a young boy I made a monumental mistake.

My equally rebellious friends and I had managed to source a big box of matches. We thought it would be a great idea to go down to the makeshift BMX ramps which were located in the nearby pine forest that surrounded our suburb. One thing led to the next and before we knew it we had figured out that if you hold the match in a specific way and flick it with your other finger then you can shoot them at each other. So that is exactly what we did. We spent nearly an hour burning each other by shooting flaming matches at each other. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do at the time, but in the back of my mind I knew that if I got caught my Dad would kill me!

The very same man that achieved so much for so long by focusing intense energy on areas of his life that were deemed high priorities. This included his family, his work, his sport and community groups.

So, with this as knowledge I continued to burn my friends, as they burnt me – laughing and carrying on the entire time. Until something went wrong…



Who would have thought that hundreds of flaming matches in combination with a dry and arid Australian bushland would be a combination for a disaster? It didn’t take long before we realised we had started a small bush fire off to our flanks. We all snapped into gear taking off our shirts and trying to put out the small fire which by this time was beginning to spread. Then I thought to myself if Mum knew what I was doing with my T-Shirt right now, worse than killing me, she’d be disappointed!

The same woman that had selflessly focused on our family, providing us with good hearty values and morals. She had admirably progressed herself with poise, tact and dignity as she moved up the Corporate ladder into increasingly respected positions of leadership.

As it turned out, with a little bit of luck from some lateral wind we won the battle. Laying there panting, covered in unnecessary match burns a tall dark looming figure appeared over our heads. It was a man that lived on the borders of the forest we were playing in. He had heard the commotion and realised what was happening. We scattered to the four winds in a desperate attempt to escape. I got away and ran home.

Hours passed. Then a knock at the door…

There was my slightly chubby friend standing next to his Dad. There I was on the inside of the door standing next to my Dad. My heart practically stopped. It was now time to pay the piper. The Dad’s talked to each other. I could feel the rage in my father growing.

What eventuated was something unexpected.

When everyone had left and it was just us in the room, he turned to me and said one thing.

“You know better, where was your self-discipline?”

By no means was this the end of the ‘discussion’ or the ‘disciplinary process’ but it was the one thing I would remember vividly in my bones forever as it had come from one of the most disciplined men I know.

——————-

CONTEXT

Today’s society has evolved so rapidly influencing technology, populations, expansion, globalisation and leadership changes.

But in other ways society has regressed and it has been more subtle and insidious. In many areas within society we have seen a progressive shift away from our personal values as our compass, and personal discipline as our mechanism of delivery.

Slowly but surely, we made it more and more acceptable to withdraw from accountability. The truth has slowly been replaced with whatever language or actions make us more comfortable, instead of those that might keep us honest and accountable. This has been further exacerbated by a narrative that encourages people to be victims. We stopped telling people what they need to head, instead of what they wanted to hear. We started making excuses for people in order to avoid having difficult conversations. All this has resulted in a significant paradigm shift that has left many people disenfranchised, disconnected and irrelevant to those around them.

It was Mahatma Gandhi. That said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Most people reading this would agree on one thing. Our minds are often geared to resist change (often due to a lack of incentives, fear of uncertainty or a perceived risk of losing what they already own). So, what is it that can help someone get out of their own way? What can we generally identify as the precursors which will prevent someone from taking positive action in their life? Here are some:

  1. Finding purpose and direction.
  2. Being responsible for the service to others.
  3. Fortitude, resilience and determination.
  4. Prioritisation of efforts.
  5. Plan of attack/delivery.

But these are all just feel good words and phrases unless they are overshadowed by a culture of discipline and action. Without discipline to act on these values and ideals people remain in a state of limbo, always talking a big game but never get anything done. These are the same people that have ‘opinions’ about most things, but rarely have the calloused knuckles of a person who actually works to achieve the goals and commit to the delivery.

DOING THINGS WE DON’T WANT TO DO, BUT NEED TO GET DONE

My time in the military showed me some of the most disciplined people in the world. They would stop at nothing to achieve the goals required for their individual and team success. They understood the interrelationship between self and team success, identifying that in most cases they were one in the same.

  1. If they were scared, they bit their lip and did it anyway.
  2. If they were uncertain, they reminded themselves of their relevance in the team and did it anyway.
  3. If they were under performing, they trained ridiculously hard in order to patch the gap.
  4. If they were hurt they found where they could still provide value and volunteered.

William Feather once stated, “if we do not discipline ourselves, the world will do it for us.”

Looking back now, boy was he right!?

HONESTY

Ask yourself the following questions honestly:

  1. Do you only do things when prompted or influenced by others?
  2. Do you understand your purpose to the point where it influences your daily activities and behaviours?
  3. Are you lazy?
  4. Do you routinely blame external influences or people for your lack of success?
  5. Do you judge other people on their lack of performance, but then demonstrate the same behaviours when no-one is looking?
  6. Are you unhealthy in body and mind, and was it as a result of laziness?

If the answer is unfavorable, then you have some serious life changing choices to make.

ACCOUNTABILITY

It is not someone else’s responsibility to keep you accountable. That responsibility lies solely and squarely on your shoulders.

Moreover, being disciplined does not mean being a jerk or being mean. It has absolutely no connection with being jaded, obtuse, offensive, rude or antisocial – quite the opposite actually. A disciplined person is in control of their behaviour, communication, and deliveries. They accept accountability when they get these things wrong and then subsequently improve without making excuses or demonising the other party.

As we approach the end of the year many of us will start posturing to make our New Year’s Resolutions. Two types of people will emerge from the pack. Those that follow through and commit to long-term behavioural changes, ultimately improving their lives and others. There will be another group of people that will talk a big game, dabble in temporary difficult work and then subsequently quit. The determiner for each of these types will be discipline. Better yet there will be a third group that see no need in waiting for New Years in order to start moving and fixing things, they will start immediately.

BE COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE

Life is not meant to be easy despite our best wishes. Life is experienced in an environment characterised by chaos, uncertainty and friction. The more we choose to place our fates in the environments that surround us the more we lose control of our own futures.

For many, it is time to start being uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable! So uncomfortable that it normalises and you finally realise that you are well positioned to make choices that can significantly improve your life and circumstances, or alternatively float along in a cloud of malaise.

Commit to something small and get it done. Find something slightly more difficult and get it done. Find something even more difficult and get it done…Rinse and repeat until you realise how much control over yourself and your future you really have! Have the discipline to finish something, and then everything.

CONCLUSION

If you want to truly step your life up to the next level then start accepting accountability for your actions. If you know there are behaviours that are unresourceful and are resulting in negative outcomes – Stop them! Surround yourself with people that are also on a journey of betterment. Hold them to account if they are to remain in your circle of influence. They should do the same for you. But, don’t rely on them to get your responsibilities fulfilled.

I trust this message will get to the one person that needs to hear it. It might be the very message which will lead you to a better outcome. It is written from an angle of love and respect.

For those committing to longer term success and are willing to be more disciplined this time around I say ‘Ad Meliora’ – ‘Onwards to better things.’

If you would like to read other articles please visit here.

If you would like to have a discussion about personal coaching then I can point you in the right direction, hit me up in a message…

David Neal Is a leader, strategist, founder, project and change manager, as well as a practical consultant for clients such as the ADA NSW, University of Sydney, Australian Defence Force, Prescare, RSL Queensland, MedReleaf, and KPMG. ​He is one of the authors of ‘Growing Good Leaders’ which focuses on developing high performing teams and running projects. He travels throughout Australia and overseas helping others to simplify the complex. His time serving in the military has provided him with vast experience in leadership, complex problem solving, project and risk management. He has chosen mateship, family and helping good people as his path.

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