I taught Sunday School this last weekend, and the bible verse was Luke 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…” I was thinking about how this applies to so many things. It applies to handling money, building trust, growing a business, completing homework, and personal discipline, which is what I want to focus on this for this post.
I believe that to be disciplined in the big things that matter, we must also be disciplined in the small things that seemingly don’t. For example, if you want to be healthy, which is a big thing, taking a lot of discipline, you must start with a smaller discipline, like throwing out all the candy or getting out of bed on time. To get out of bed on time requires the discipline to go to bed on time. And, going to bed on time requires the discipline to stop watching TV, reading, etc.
Personal discipline is built one small piece at a time and grows into something exponentially greater. It’s like a muscle that must be worked over and over again so that it can be used at will.
As the end of 2017 is closing in, I find myself preparing for an intense and rewarding 2018. I know that to accomplish my goals for 2018 I’m going to have to get a lot done, and doing that will require extreme and intense personal discipline. In 2018 I want to be the healthiest I have ever been physically. I want to do see Sideways8 and 48in48 grow exponentially. I want to eat dinner with my family at the kitchen table 85% of the time (minimum), and I want to be the most amazing husband and father that I can be.
To do all of that I had better get my butt in gear. I need to be up early every day, seven days a week. I need to be in bed early. I need to read a ton, write a ton, and meet with a lot of people. I need to finish my work at 5pm sharp and work in date lunches and dinners with my wife.
I am preparing now for an intense and amazing year. That preparation starts with discipline, which starts with the small things. I will execute on the small things today so that I can execute on the big things tomorrow.
Lately, I have added a phrase to my vernacular. I repeat it in my mind and aloud. The phrase has become somewhat of a mantra and a mini-meditation of sorts. It has helped me to calm down, take life a little slower, and take in my surroundings. You want to know this magical phrase right? Well, it’s not magical, it’s just a reminder. The phrase is, “I’m in no hurry.” Goofy right? But, insanely effective.
Historically I’m always in a hurry. At every phase of my life, I can remember being in a hurry to get to the next one. Even as a kid my mom used to laugh at how I always wanted to rush to the next thing, often at the expense of the current thing. I can tell you from experience, that is a terrible way to live your life. It is unsatisfying because you are always looking for fulfillment in the next thing rather than enjoying the thing happening right now. Deferred fulfillment is not fulfillment at all; it is emptiness chasing a ghost.
Somewhere along the way, over the course of many years, I have realized this and have methodically slowed down to smell the roses. I have reduced what I do and refined my habits to get rid of excess. And now I’m implementing this piece of the puzzle. This phrase, mantra, meditation is helping me to realize that I am in no hurry. I don’t have to yell at that slow driver because I don’t care if I’m driving slow. I don’t have to get stressed about making it to my next meeting because I have left in plenty of time to be at least 30-minutes early. I don’t feel pressure because I move from thing to thing throughout my day with purpose and with enough buffer between events to know that I’m in no hurry. My pace has slowed. I’m living more in the moment. And, I’m getting more done than ever before! This is a better way to live.
Lately, I have been troubled by the quantity of items I own. My closet is overflowing with clothes I don’t wear. My bedside table drawer is filled with junk that is useless. My office drawers are filled with things I “might use” one day, but know I never will.
I have been thinking a lot about how to slim down and simplify. I like the idea of minimalism and want to lean more in that direction. So, I have come up with what I’m calling “The 3 Item Challenge.”
The 3 Item Challenge Rules:
- Get rid of (or donate) at least 3 items per day
- Do it for a minimum of 30 days
I think I will have to do this for 60 – 90 days to get the level of minimalism that I want, but I’m starting with a commitment to 30 days right now, then I will reassess from there. I started yesterday, so I will blog about my progress on day 10, 20 and 30.
This morning on the elliptical was different. I go most work mornings and work out on the elliptical for about 30 minutes, and it has become a little easy and a little routine, but not this morning. Why not this morning? Well, last night I finished a podcast from Freakonomics Radio about how to become good at just about anything. The core strategy discussed was the idea popularized by Anders Ericsson called Deliberate Practice.
Deliberate Practice, among other things, is practice that makes you uncomfortable. It pushes you past the limit of your current ability. Deliberate practice is knowing that you can run a 10-minute mile and pushing for a faster time. Deliberate practice is the only way to truly improve on skill, pushing yourself outside of the zone where your skill resides and into new areas where you will develop more skill.
I think we all have a propensity to coast, to do what we know we can accomplish and stop there. I have been doing that for months on the elliptical. But, doing that won’t get me to where I want to go, it won’t make me better, it only maintains where I am currently. If I want to get better, I have to do what’s hard, be uncomfortable and push myself further each time. It will be tough, but it will be worth it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what my kids see when they look at me. When they walk into a room, do they see me reading, working, or playing on my phone? When they want my attention, do they see me as attentive to them or as distracted by a device? When I’m watching a ball game, do they see my cheering them on or paying attention to something else? Do my kids see me as attentive an available or distracted and distant?
I think a lot of this comes back to my relationship with devices and how I use them around my kids. I realize that I’m teaching them now what is acceptable, what is normal. I need to be cautious about what I’m teaching, and if I’m honest, at the moment I’m not sure I’m doing a great job. So, here are two lists of things I’m thinking through:
Commitments I’m making to my kids:
- I will not allow devices to distract me from my kids. Their childhood is too short, and devices will always be available.
- I will focus on being intentionally attentive to my wife and kids.
What I want my kids to see:
- I want my kids to see me work hard.
- I want my kids to see me up early.
- I want my kids to see that I care more about them than any screen.
The book The Power of Habit talks about creating a keystone habit. This is a habit that, if created and maintained, will help all of the other pieces of your life fall into place. An example of a keystone habit is daily exercise. If someone wants to get healthy, lose weight, etc., if they make exercise their keystone habit they are more likely to eat healthy and make better lifestyle choices causing them to lose weight and become healthy.
My keystone habit is rising every day at 4am. When I’m up at 4am, all of the other things that I want to do during that day seamlessly fall into place. On days that I’m up at 4am I tend to read, write, pray, exercise, clean, get to inbox zero, have more energy, and be abundantly more productive than on days when I sleep late. Getting up early makes me proactive and allows me to plan for, and then take on my day rather than reacting to it.
I’m convinced that this one habit will affect every aspect of my life, from how well I can grow my company to how I connect with my wife. In 2017 I’m not making a New Year’s resolution. I’m simply saying that I want to focus on getting up stupid early and then dominate each day as it comes.