There are no shortcuts to reaching goals. You must become disciplined to overcome obstacles and develop the best version of yourself whether you want to be stronger, faster, smarter, better or healthier. Discipline comes from within and must be a conscious decision and sustained each and every day with no excuses. Discipline keeps people on the right path to success because it allows no excuses for lack of action.
This book is about exactly what the title implies – discipline. In the author’s view, discipline equals freedom because it enables goal achievement. Willink wrote this motivational and inspirational book because he deeply believes that people at any age can pursue and achieve goals through hard work and self-control. So he wrote this book about discipline - understanding it, mastering it and maintaining it. It is about giving up instant gratification and pursuing real success. It is about depending on self and not on others, like counselors, coaches, self-help professionals and drill instructors. In many ways, the topic of discipline is the same topic of the book Essentialism because essentialism is a systemic discipline in which you eliminate everything not essential and focus on what really matters.
Willink divided his book into two parts – thoughts and actions. He begins with thoughts because that is where discipline begins. Achieving discipline depends on the ability to commit to doing what is right, even when choices are undesirable. Blending passion and persistence is a similar formula for success discussed in the book GRIT. Feeling motivated is good, but the feeling will not endure day after day. When feeling unmotivated, it is discipline that ensures forward progress. Challenges become opportunities. Quitting is not an option. Procrastination is not indulged within a 24-hour waiting period, and by then the urge to procrastinate will likely disappear.
In the thoughts section, Willink covers the many ways people get off course and how to overcome these barriers to progress. They all depend on mental and emotional discipline. For example, people have a normal fear of failure, but the author believes that fear can become a motivator. Progress towards goals requires constant movement, even if they are small steps, so fear of failure should drive action and not prevent it. People must let go of stressors that cannot be controlled and control those that can to make it easier to stay focused. You can read more about ending a cycle of worry and stress to start living a full life in the book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Emotional detachment is one strategy for stepping back mentally to analyze a challenge, situation, event or issue objectively for the purpose of deciding on an appropriate action. Self-doubt is also an emotion that leads to excuses for non-action, while overconfidence leads to ego getting in the way.
One of the important messages in this book is that discipline, once achieved and maintained, can lead to a successful and productive life, increased happiness and more joy. A disciplined lifestyle means discipline permeates all activities – waking early, exercising regularly, maintaining a balanced diet and maintaining a “can do and will do” mental state. Discipline in one area will make it easier to pursue goals. For example, waking up early every day makes it more likely a person will exercise regularly and make good dietary choices. The book The One Thing supplements this message with a new perspective: stay disciplined by living with fewer distractions and focus energy on one thing that will bring rewards.
Of course, the author makes it clear that discipline must be nurtured to stay strong. Nurturing comes from within and not from external sources like people, rewards, punishments, social norms and recognition. Nurturing discipline is important to maintaining progress over the long-term because it is too easy to fall back into old habits that impede progress. Nurturing takes many forms, like task completion and pursuing good health. The achievement of each small task should strengthen the drive to achieve long-term goals. Goals should be clear, measurable and achievable. Good nutrition and regular exercise promote health which supports discipline and should be rigorously followed. The importance of discipline in caring for the mind, body and emotional well-being is a subject that applies across a spectrum of efforts. In the book Wooden on Leadership, Coach John Wooden spends a significant amount of time discussing discipline in all aspects of life in order to succeed, whether on a basketball court or in any other endeavor.
To help readers begin their life of discipline, the book’s appendix describes exercise routines. It offers several workout plans, beginning with a strategy for warming up. There are plans for beginners, intermediate and advanced levels. There is also a discussion and plan for getting a good workout when traveling. The book the Checklist Manifesto recommends using checklists as a way to ensure you do what needs to be done in terms of activities and communication with others. Try utilizing a checklist to promote discipline, beginning with a daily workout plan and healthy diet. The key to a checklist is to use it and not let it gather proverbial dust.
In today’s society, indulgence seems more prevalent than discipline. There are so many distractions, especially due to technology. Most lifestyles are also hectic which creates the perfect setting for lack of discipline as people are pulled in one direction or another. This is a problem in personal and work lives, and it is exhausting. “I will do it later,” is the common mantra, and later never arrives. People take shortcuts and want things to happen fast. It takes discipline to lead with purpose in the workplace and stay on course to achieve personal goals. The author Willink deeply believes anyone can develop discipline. It does not take a privileged person, a similar principle found in the book Principles. Anyone can succeed in life, business or a leadership role with a clear straightforward approach. Discipline Equals Freedom is primarily a motivational book that takes away the common excuses for failing to act. There are no shortcuts to real achievement.
Willink ends the book with a reminder that readers need to “do.” They should not just read the book, listen to podcasts, watch videos online, take notes, plan, mark the calendar, get motivated, talk, think and dream. “No, None of that matters. The only thing that matters is that you actually do. So: DO.” Advice cannot get much more sensible than that.
Jocko Willink is a retired naval officer who had a distinguished career in the Navy SEALS. Born in 1971 in Torrington, Connecticut, he is an author, podcaster, speaker and business owner. He earned a B.A. in English at the University of San Diego. Willink spent 20 years as a member of the SEAL Team, rising from enlisted SEAL to SEAL officer. He was the commander of the SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser during the battle of Ramadi in Iraq in 2006. The SEAL Team supported the “Ready First” Brigade of the U.S. Army’s First Armored Division, and the team became the most highly decorated Special Operations Unit of the Iraq War.
Upon his return to the U.S. from Iraq, Willink became Officer-In-Charge for all of the West Coast SEAL Teams. It was during this time he developed and delivered leadership training for the next generation of SEAL leaders, applying his military experience and knowledge about motivation and leading teams. Willink was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and other awards. After retiring from the Navy in 2010, he co-founded and is CEO of Echelon Front which shares the leadership principles he learned during his Navy career.
It is not surprising that Jocko Willink is an enormous success in his post-military career. He has authored and co-authored numerous books on leadership and discipline, including several children’s books. He co-authored the books Extreme Ownership (How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win) (2017) and The Dichotomy of Leadership (2018) with Leif Babin. Willink’s other books besides Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual Mk-1-MOD1 (2017, updated 2020) include The Code. The Evaluation. The Protocols. Striving to Become an Eminently Qualified Human (2020) His most recent publication is Leadership Strategy and Tactics Field Manual.
Several of Willink’s books have made the New York Times bestselling list, including Discipline Equals Freedom. The book is an expanded version of the original 2017 publication.
In addition to writing, Jocko Willink offers Jocko Podcast. He is the co-founder and Managing Partner at EF Overwatch (executive search firm), Chairman of the Board at Origin USA (online retailer) and Chairman of the Board at Jocko Fuel (energy drinks). Willink is also a sought after speaker. His Instagram account is an interesting display of mostly black-and-white images that fit his theme of discipline and focus.