You Are As Good As Your Systems

The less you test your discipline, the more you can test yourself in other areas.

Each decision that one makes is an opportunity to succeed or to fail; therefore minimizing decisions through automation will reduce the potential for tactical failures.

Automation is a powerful concept. It says that anything that needs to be done repeatedly should just be set up into a repeatable system. A system can be a schedule, a procedure, or some other organization of activities that has a definitive time, period, and sequence through which it gets done.

The concept of automation is straightforward enough to understand and implement; so instead, let’s discuss the advantages afforded to someone who runs highly automated systems. Automation offers few specific advantages:

  1. It defines the amount of time one can reasonably expect to spend on a certain task

A system helps a person to plan around a specific activity. Take for instance a morning routine. This is a system that one puts into place and is the same few things they do every morning to get ready for their day. This will have a time commitment associated with it and it will take that specific amount of time each morning to get done. It is a system – repeatable and schedulable.

  1. Takes the guesswork out of when these tasks will get done.

Consider a training schedule. One such instance will say that a person must train 4 nights a week. A person should decide on which 4 nights they will work out each week and maintain that schedule. They have systematized their schedule to block out the same 4 nights each week for training. 

  1. Allows for one to maneuver around interruptions. 

If being realistic – there will be interruptions to these systems. Work will run late, a doctor appointment will be scheduled, or family will come into town. To say that once a system is in place that it will be followed with no deviation is not realistic.

With strong systems in place it is easy to work around these interruptions with minimal impact to the larger progress toward the goal.

Here is what I mean:

By knowing how long a certain activity takes, one will have the flexibility to find that chunk of time somewhere that better fits around the interruption. If it is defined that a training session takes an hour, all one must do is work a one hour chunk into their schedule to go bang out a workout. This immediately quantifies the amount of time required and simplifies finding a block of time where it fits. Further, having a schedule for the amount of times one must train in a week helps to determine on which days one can fit in these training sessions. 

Thinking of this a bit differently, with these two things figured out, one will no longer have to plan activities, rather, they are just moving blocks of time around on a schedule. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, necessarily, it just matters that one blocks out the necessary chunk of time to get it done. It takes all of the ancillary information out of the actual planning and scheduling and forces one to get the work done.

Said yet another way, all of the subjective nuances of a task are removed leaving only the objective blocks on a schedule. With this schedule, one simply has to either follow through on the activities or choose to fail; which is a far different thought than having to choose to succeed, as is the case when there is not a system established.

Remaining disciplined is already challenging enough – there are more more things that will work against an individual than for them in this regard. The more one can simplify and automate those systems that help them to remain disciplined, the less thought one has to put toward specific tasks. 

The more one tests their discipline, the more opportunity one gives themself to fail – so one should aim to test themselves less often in this way.

In practicing automation, discipline becomes mechanical. Rather than having to decide to be disciplined, one will instead have to decide to be undisciplined – which is arguably a far harder decision to force oneself to make.

You are only going to be as good as your systems – the less you test your discipline, the less often you will fail.

Fail less.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

A Disciplined Plan is a Proper Plan

Discipline practiced in the planning phase will pay dividends far larger than the initial resource investment.

The planning stage of any new goal is the first and most impactful stage to mission success. Armed with a good, actionable plan, the success rates of an individual or a team increases. This may beg the question, “What are the ingredients to a good plan?” 

There are many necessary ingredients and their proportions will change depending on the many unique factors and challenges that lay ahead; however, practicing discipline in the planning phase will significantly impact the quality of the plan created. The level of discipline in a plan can be seen in a number of ways. Three common displays of discipline in planning are:

  1. Defining the end point of the planning phase and stopping once that point is reached. Define the goals needed to be planned, to what level of detail, and what is to be left to field tactics along the path. The difference between planning (strategy) and tactics is expanded upon here.
  2. Commiting time and resources to put a plan together at the outset of the pursuit. It is tempting to jump into a new pursuit and figure it out along the way. This approach works for simpler pursuits with minimal moving parts, but in more complicated situations and especially if you are in a team setting, there are too many variables to be managed that decisions cannot be made “on the fly” without causing confusion and wasting resources.
  3. Taking inventory of available resources and skills. Setting the baseline for what is available and known against what will need to be acquired and developed to ensure mission success is a critical step in ensuring that the development of the plan will not overestimate existing resources and be forced to a limp by a weak assumption that cannot be realized. 

Point one is fairly straight-forward and so we will not spend a lot of effort discussing it. This is simply stating to define what the end looks like before one begins the process. Without this step, there will be no indication of when the plan is complete and enacting the plan can begin. This contributes to some trying to come up with a “perfect” plan or continuing to push off taking action because they are “not ready”. If one can define what a workable plan looks like and the high points it needs to hit, they can start taking action once those boxes are checked.

Point two is a little more interesting. This point is prioritizing the efforts needed to make a plan in the first place. Often, when one has an idea they would like to pursue, the automatic response is to dig right in and get going. They will purchase items they believe necessary, they will rearrange their schedules to create time for this new pursuit, they will start producing whatever output they feel is going to get them closer to the end. 

The reality of the situation is that this approach produces a lot of waste – wasted resources in the way of spent money and time that is not providing value to the end goal. 

A planning phase may be seen as wasted efforts in itself – it is taking up time and resources to put a plan together; however, more often than not, the resources expended to establish a good plan will pay for itself many times over in the form of saved money and efforts through minimizing pursuits of those things not in line with the plan.

Finally point three forces the plan to assess and have a real conversation with oneself about where they and their team are at, and more importantly, what will be needed to ensure the plan completes successfully.

Especially when pursuing a personal goal it is too easy to overestimate one’s abilities or underestimate the challenges that are involved in doing something seemingly simple. Ignorance is bliss – one simply doesn’t know what they don’t know.

The tendency to underestimate the time and effort required to get to one’s goals is common. Whether we don’t want to believe the amount of work we will need to put in to be successful or we think we can achieve more than we can, allowing oneself to create a plan with these poor assumptions is priming one to hit a wall somewhere along the line that they must then address while risking the possibility of getting discouraged and quitting.

This exercise will further inform the timeframe one gives themself to complete their goal and overall creates a more competent, actionable plan.

A disciplined plan followed by disciplined action will result in goals accomplished on time and on budget. 

You are not an exception to these common rules. Practice discipline, remain present and honest with yourself and create bulletproof plans of action.

Go forth and conquer.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

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Motivation is Not Discipline

Anyone relying on motivation to drive action will forever be inconsistent.

Discipline and motivation take two paths to the same end – to drive action. They are not evenly matched contenders; however.

Motivation is an artificial catalyst for action created by the manipulation of emotions. It is only a matter of time before motivation will wane and without something else to pick up the torch, progress will be stunted. The progress made with motivation will slowly revert back to where one started only to wait for the next wave of motivation to come. 

Conversely, discipline is reliable and consistent. Rather than rely on external stimuli to create intention and action; discipline comes from within. It is created from strong values and defined by a person’s code. These values alone define the urgency and intention in one’s actions that motivation will artificially produce. 

A disciplined person does not require motivation to achieve. Regardless of the difficulty of the task at hand, the actions taken as a result of discipline happen out of need, rather than out of want. Disciplined actions inherently have a significance to them; the actions support a larger picture. Discipline will define a set of non negotiable requirements that a person must fulfil. It is who they are. The drive to take action; therefore, exists without motivation being needed. 

To the uninitiated, discipline may look like sacrifice. Discipline is easy to blame from the outside for one missing a night out at the bar or skipping out on desserts at the family birthday party. However, to the individual, going out to the bar or eating junk food is the real sacrifice if it is in conflict with their values and goals. A night out at the bar may result in waking up late the following day, sluggish performance, and sacrificed productivity; and keeping on diet may be more important than indulging on cake. 

This dedication to a goal speaks to the understanding of the larger picture. Discipline allows one to see past “one night out” and “one piece of cake” out to the next many nights out and offered cake. There is a higher meaning to one’s actions that does not involve maximizing immediate pleasures at the detriment of future progress. Discipline and the values that underpin it are the higher meaning themselves.

Motivation will artificially create a higher meaning or a call-to-action where one does not exist. The lack of higher significance is preyed upon by those selling motivation – it is the only way that they can be successful as motivation is relied upon when an individual cannot provide purpose for themselves. The lack of purpose comes from their own lack of strategy or real, tangible goals. 

Where motivation will fail an individual, discipline will remain. It is woven into the being of the Initiated individual and will remain with them wherever they go.

Stop seeking motivation and instead cultivate discipline.

Yours in strength,

-Jersey

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Accountability’s Shortfall

Accountability is touted as the end-all be-all answer, but here is one clear area for improvement.

“Accountability” is everywhere. Everyone must be held accountable. You must hold yourself accountable. You need to hold your teammates accountable. You should hold your boss accountable. 

I get it – the concept is important. The importance of holding people responsible for their words and actions cannot be understated. People should answer for their negligence, nonperformance, and transgressions and must stand behind their words and actions, own them, and face any consequences coming from them.

However, “accountability” is quickly becoming an overplayed idea; and worse yet, misapplied as the standard to resolve issues in areas of personal performance and behavior. Many say it; “accountability over everything”. It has become the marching orders of many individuals and corporations alike. 

There is one major flaw that we can improve upon, though.

What is Accountability

At its core, accountability simply states that people cannot act without having to answer for those actions. A code of acceptable conduct must be upheld and those that violate it must be held responsible. At its extreme, accountability is a thinly veiled threat.

Accountability’s largest handicap as an idea is that it is reactionary. Accountability requires that an act must first happen before there is an opportunity to work toward an answer. With this, accountability treats the symptoms of a larger problem rather than solve the problem itself; searching for answers rather than solutions. The solution to the root problem becomes secondary to holding the violating party accountable. Much like a game of Whack-a-Mole, the symptoms will continue to rear their heads requiring further accountability to smack them back down.

At best, accountability’s potential to be proactive is derived from one’s awareness that they may be held accountable for their actions. This knowledge may make them consider their actions before acting, but it may not. This approach is only marginally better than acting first and being held accountable later as the motivation to act correctly is not sound. These actions do not come from a place within oneself as dictated by an internal code of conduct, rather, it is the surroundings that are dictating the actions of the individual. 

Accountability exists outside of an individual – someone or something external to the individual assigns accountability. If a person does not recognize the authority of such surroundings, there is no hope for accountability to have any success in influencing behavior. Even when holding oneself accountable, this remains true (I’ll get to it).

A Two Party System

Accountability will forever be a two-party system. It defines a social dynamic in which one party must answer to another. One party must be accepted as an authority and the other party subservient to it; ie. those holding others accountable and those being held accountable, respectively. This is the fundamental principle that accountability is created upon. 

Two Parties When Holding Oneself Accountable

As stated above this two party concept still applies when holding oneself accountable. In such instances, there must be within a person an elevated version of themselves to which the current version is being held accountable. Those doughnuts and cupcakes must be answered for, the subsequent missed workout must be answered for, the laziness and netflix binge must be answered for; but to who? This elevated vision of what one should be is the authority providing the key piece of the accountability formula. 

The Alternative

550 words in and I have not offered a solution yet. Well, here it is.

There is more value in focusing on preventing the need for accountability – something that will prevent problems from surfacing to begin with. This alternate will empower individuals to take control back within themselves and exceed the expectations of their surroundings.

That alternate; that precursor to accountability is discipline.

Discipline is a far superior concept to accountability and what should instead be touted as the answer in matters of personal performance. As discipline comes from within rather than based on a judgement of the surroundings, there is unmatched consistency and power in its practice. It takes what was outsourced by accountability and brings it back within the individual. The individual does not need to answer to anyone because through discipline, there will be nothing to answer for.

Where accountability will step in and identify responsible parties, sequence of events, and succeed in pinpointing the exact entity responsible for the current situation, discipline could have prevented the situation from ever occurring, rendering accountability unnecessary. 

Solutions; Not Answers

Discipline is a solution rather than an answer; it will resolve the problems that accountability is hired to treat. Deadlines will be met, obstacles overcome, and progress made in whatever arena one is playing in. 

Accountability Isn’t Necessary Until Something Happens

The truth is no one thinks about accountability when everything goes right; and why would they? There is no reason to investigate for responsibility when the task has been completed. 

With this, why continue to tout accountability as the answer when discipline precedes it? 

Through focusing on discipline the finger-pointing inherent to accountability will disappear and the constructed hierarchy will cease to exist. It is a win in every category.

Discipline is what performs. Accountability pokes discipline in the eye when it has failed.

Forge discipline and rely on yourself. Stop relying on accountability. 

Yours in strength

-Jersey

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