“Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual” by Jocko Willink

What better time to remind ourselves of the importance of discipline than as the holidays come to full swing. The distractions and off-ramps that take us farther from our goals are abundant. I’m not saying that these distractions are bad. Time with family, travel, holiday commitments, are all things that take us away from our daily comforts and routines. Maintaining self-discipline during these times is challenging, if not impossible for some. Unhealthy foods, sleeping in, not working out. The holidays serve as a perfect excuse for us to justify taking some time off or letting our discipline crumble. In Jocko’s Field Manual, “Discipline Equals Freedom,” there are numerous examples of how and why maintaining that self-discipline is critical to our progress. The comforts of the easy path are just that, easy. In this book, Jocko’s prose, bordering on poetry in some cases, provide a multitude of reminders to keep us motivated and on the “war path.”

  • To reach goals and overcome obstacles and become the best version of you possible will not happen by itself. It will not happen cutting corners, taking shortcuts, or looking for the easy way. THERE IS NO EASY WAY. There is only hard work, late nights, early mornings, practice, rehearsal, repetition, study, sweat, blood, toil, frustration, and discipline. DISCIPLINE.
  • People are not who you want them to be. Kill your idols. Sure there are things we can learn from people—but people aren’t going to be what you think they are—what they should be. People, even those people you have put up on a pedestal, are going to be faulted, weak, egomaniacal, condescending. They are going to be lazy, entitled, shortsighted. They will not be perfect. Far from it.
  • The only person you can control is you. So focus on making yourself who you want you to be.
  • You have control over your mind. You just have to assert it. You have to decide that you are going to be in control, that you are going to do what YOU want to do. Weakness doesn’t get a vote. Laziness doesn’t get a vote. Sadness doesn’t get a vote. Frustration doesn’t get a vote.
  • A person’s strength is often their biggest weakness. But, their weaknesses can become strengths. Me? I am weak, in all those ways, I am weak. BUT I don’t accept that. I don’t accept that I am what I am and that “that” is what I am doomed to be. NO. I do not accept that. I’m fighting. I’m always fighting. I’m struggling and I’m scraping and kicking and clawing at those weaknesses—to change them. To stop them. Some days I win. But some days I don’t. But each and every day: I get back up and I move forward. With my fists clenched. Toward the battle. Toward the struggle. And I fight with everything I’ve got: To overcome those weaknesses and those shortfalls and those flaws as I strive to be just a little bit better today than I was yesterday.
  • If the stress is something that you can control and you are not, that is a lack of discipline and a lack of ownership.
  • Don’t fight stress. Embrace it. Turn it on itself. Use it to make yourself sharper and more alert. Use it to make you think and learn and get better and smarter and more effective. Use the stress to make you a better you.
  • It takes both emotion and logic to reach your maximum potential, to really give everything you have, to go beyond your limits.
  • When it just doesn’t make any logical sense to go on, that’s when you use your emotion, your anger, your frustration, your fear, to push further, to push you to say one thing: I don’t stop.
  • Fight weak emotions with the power of logic; fight the weakness of logic with the power of emotion.
  • It is never finished. You always have more to do. Another mission. Another task. Another goal. And the enemy is always watching. Waiting. Looking for that moment of weakness. Looking for you to exhale, set your weapon down, and close your eyes, even just for a moment. And that’s when they attack. So don’t be finished.
  • Discipline calls for strength and fortitude and WILL. It won’t accept weakness. It won’t tolerate a breakdown in will. Discipline can seem like your worst enemy. But in reality it is your best friend. It will take care of you like nothing else can. And it will put you on the path to strength and health and intelligence and happiness. And most important, discipline will put you on the path to FREEDOM.
  • Knowledge is a powerful tool. It is the master of your tools. It is where your tools come from, because without knowledge, there is nothing. Let’s take that one step further: Knowledge is the ultimate weapon; it trumps all other weapons. Thought is what wins—the MIND is what wins—knowledge is what wins. And you gain knowledge by asking questions. Which questions should you ask? Simple: Question everything. Don’t accept anything as truth.
  • Question yourself every day. Ask yourself: Who am I? What have I learned? What have I created? What forward progress have I made? Who have I helped? What am I doing to improve myself—today? To get better, faster, stronger, healthier, smarter? Is this what I want to be? This? Is this all I’ve got—is this everything I can give? Is this going to be my life? Do I accept that?
  • I don’t view aggression as an outward attitude. I view aggression as an internal character trait. A fire in your mind that says: I am going to win. I am going to battle and I am going to fight and I am going to use every tool I have to crush my enemy. And that tool might be fists, but it might be guile. It might be a frontal attack, but it might be a flanking maneuver. It might be an undeniable display of force—but it also might be a subtle political maneuver. And that is what aggression is to me: The unstoppable fighting spirit. The drive. The burning desire to achieve mission success using every possible tool, asset, and strategy and tactic to bring about victory.
  • The people who are successful decide they are going to be successful. They make that choice.
  • FEAR OF FAILURE IS GOOD. Fear of failure will keep you up at night, planning, rehearsing, going over contingencies. Fear of failure will keep you training hard. Fear of failure will stop you from cutting corners. Fear of failure will keep you working, thinking, striving, and relentlessly trying to be more prepared for battle.
  • Are there things I regret and things I wish I had done differently? Of course. Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back, who wouldn’t want to take another go at something and improve by doing it again? And then why not do it again, and again, and again? Who wouldn’t want to do things over until you have it perfect? But the fact is: You don’t get that chance. You get one shot. We get one shot at this gig right here: Life. One life—that’s all we’ve got. And the most important thing to understand about regret is that in and of itself, regret is worthless. It does nothing for you. In fact: The only thing valuable in regret is the lesson you learned. The knowledge you gained. But walking around filled with regret gets you nothing. So. Learn and move on. Don’t let regret beat you down. Don’t be a slave to regret.
  • When things are going bad, there’s going to be some good that will come from it.
  • Death is horrible and death is wretched and death is cruel. And: Death isn’t fair. And I don’t know why the best people seem to be taken from us first. Death is also inescapable. There is no way out. No one gets out alive. Death is part of life, like the contrast between the darkness and the light. Without death, there is no life. And the people that I have lost: They taught me that. They taught me how precious life is. How blessed we are to have every day. To learn. To grow. To laugh. To live. To Live. To live every day with purpose and passion. To wake up in the morning and be thankful—thankful for that morning—thankful for that opportunity to go into the world and live.
  • Don’t worry about motivation. Motivation is fickle. It comes and goes. It is unreliable and when you are counting on motivation to get your goals accomplished—you will likely fall short. So. Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on Discipline. You know what you have to do. So: MAKE YOURSELF DO IT.
  • Everyone wants some magic pill—some life hack—that eliminates the need to do the work. But that does not exist. No. You have to do the work. You’ve got to hold the line. You’ve got to MAKE IT HAPPEN. So. Dig in. Find the Discipline.    Be the Discipline. ACCOMPLISH. That’s it.
  • We all have limitations. I don’t have the right genes to be an Olympic weightlifter. I don’t have the right genetics to be an Olympic sprinter. Or gymnast. Sure, if I trained my whole life, perhaps I could have become fairly decent in those sports. But the best in the world? No. I simply do not have the DNA to be the best in the world in those categories. But what does that mean? Does that mean I give up? Does that mean I quit? Of course not. Not at all. It means that I am going to try to be the best that I can be. The strongest. The fastest. The smartest human being that I can become. That is what I am going to go for. And it doesn’t matter that I will not be better than others when I compare myself to them. No, I will look at others who do achieve greatness in a category, and I will say: Look at what is possible. How close can I get to that greatness? How close can I get to that glory? But my glory, it doesn’t happen in front of a crowd. It doesn’t happen in a stadium or on a stage. There are no medals handed out. It happens in the darkness of the early morning. In solitude. Where I try. And I try. And I try again. With everything I have, to be the best that I can possibly be. Better than I was yesterday. Better than people thought I could be. Better than I thought I could be.
  • We are taken apart, slowly. Convinced to take an easier path. Enticed by comfort. Most of us aren’t defeated in one decisive battle. We are defeated one tiny, seemingly insignificant surrender at a time that chips away at who we should really be. It isn’t that you wake up one day and decide that’s it: I am going to be weak. No. It is a slow incremental process. It chips away at our will—it chips away at our discipline.
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