Dear Seeker of Truth,
Want to be healthier, have more money, or improve other facets of your life? This letter is for you!
Your body, energy level, and health are a type of resource. Resources can be anything used to accomplish a task — lumber to build a house, money to buy the lumber, time to make the money and time to build the house. Knowledge is a resource used to know how to build a house. People are a resource, as you need them to help erect the frame. Your environment is a resource because it supplies the air you breathe and water you drink to live. Your abilities and skills are resources increasing and decreasing based on their use. In fact, you have more resources just by being born than you will ever need. Most barely know where to start.
In modern times your primary resources are becoming less tangible. Money is a common resource, something that has no intrinsic value and in a fiat culture. Money is completely intangible but is powerful in that it is easy to quantify! You can count it, save it, invest it, spend it, and waste it. Knowledge is another powerful intangible resource. In today’s age (informational) and culture, it is the most powerful resource. Other resources, of emotion and spirit, exist too. Emotional intelligence and spiritual gifts are hard to conceptualize. How you put your heart and spirit into accomplishing things in this world matters. As humanity continues to grow as a species and find the limits to physical and mental abilities, it can grow in emotional maturity and spiritual enlightenment. This leads to the most important resource for the individual — time.
Time is a finite resources for the individual. It is finite, and it is absolute equality. Every person, old or young, minority, male or female, poor or rich, and everyone in between has the same number of hours, minutes, seconds in a day. No one, including the most powerful people in the world, can save time. All are equal in that all spend time — second by second. No one controls how many seconds, minutes, hours, or days he or she gets. The wealthiest person with the greatest access to health care and safety can trip and fall, a car can malfunction, nature can have its way, and tragedy can strike. One day at a time is all you have, which is experienced one moment at a time. You are in time — it is inescapable. If in the future humanity extends life hundreds, thousands, millions of years, humans will still be in time. However, theoretically, around millions of years in the future, after the universe has stretched so far that not even light can travel the distances, all black holes have evaporated, the final supernovas wink out, leaving a silent, frozen void of a universe, time will no longer have any meaning. Humanity will be long gone by then.
Because time is so finite, it is immeasurably valuable. You should fight against the clock. You should be conscientious as to how you spend your moments. Life management is time management. Of course, you cannot control time, but you can control your focus. Your ability to extract the meaningful and beneficial use out of any moment is ultimately what priorities have your focus.
Your improvement in the way you spend time leads to better overall resource management. If you can spend time in a disciplined manner, you will use those hours in effective ways to gather other needed resources, including money, material, relationships, and knowledge. As you waste time, you will typically fail in gathering needed resources. The challenge with all resource utilization is threefold: purpose, focus, and discipline.
Most people do not know how to spend time. When you do not have a purpose, you will spend time on what is not expedient — watching TV, playing games, and goofing off. There is nothing wrong with wasting time. Everyone needs time to relax, goof off, chill out, and live in the moment. The problem is that when you do not have a purpose, you default toward what is the easiest thing more often than toward what you need. Eventually this leads to addictions.
Another issue with resource utilization is focus. You may know what your “purpose” is. You may be an exemplary employee, outstanding husband, or an invested community member, but what should your focus be? If purpose is what you should do, then focus is how you should do it.
The final issue of resource utilization is that of discipline. Often you know what and how to do a thing — you just do not do it. The answer to the challenge of resource utilization is getting all three things to line up. Typically the stronger the purpose and the better the focus, the easier the discipline. Students call this cramming for a test, employees call it a hard deadline, and in the wild it is fighting for survival. Stress and pain can be motivators for discipline; but the reverse is true as well. Being disciplined lends greater control over purpose and more flexibility with your focus.
Everything in these letters take discipline. Living purposefully, developing skills, building relationships, navigating treacherous environments, and effectively using resources are all highly disciplined modes of being. It does not take discipline to live a meaningless, ignorant, selfish, poorly navigated life, mooching off the resources of others. So how do you develop discipline? Where does it come from?
If you are a child, parents can discipline you. A child lives under the command of parents. Good parents will instill discipline in their children. If you are an employee, your boss will instill discipline (called motivation), as can teachers and leaders above you in various hierarchies of competence. However, for your personal, individualized purpose, discipline must come from within yourself. The leadership, extreme ownership, and discipline guru Jocko Willink has this to say about the origins of self-discipline:
“It comes when you make a decision to be disciplined. When you make a decision to be better. When you make a decision to do more, to be more. Self-discipline comes when you decide to make a mark on the world. So where does it come from? It comes from you.”
There is an important point here. Can someone without discipline learn discipline? This idea can get into the weeds quickly because discipline is a powerful word. It covers many ideas like drive, motivation, that feeling you get inside yourself that says you are meant for something, a calling, and destiny. Every person has a spark of discipline inside himself or herself. Most people beat the spark down into nothing, some capable of completely extinguishing it. In a world of growing physical and informational mastery, discipline of the body and mind are readily obtainable. Many people satiate that motivating spirit within themselves with physical and mental discipline, never to wage war with their hearts and rid themselves of ego. That you were disciplined enough to get to this point with these letters means you have that spark!
This week’s action step is simply to make a choice to be more disciplined around the thing you want? You want to be in better shape? Decide to be disciplined with daily exercise. Want better health? Decide to be more disciplined with what you put in your body. Want more money? Adopt financial discipline. Want more free time? Be disciplined with how you manage time. Discipline is something that is learned. Start small, aim for tiny (like 1% improvements) and lean into where you make mistakes and errors. In a real way you learn from mistakes and errors more than from the correct execution of something. The neuroscience of this is explained here. Dr. Huberman shows how learning happens when we lean into our mistakes, especially discipline mistakes.
Jocko is a discipline guru and his podcast is pure gold but may be overkill for some. Here are some small discipline bites amped up by Akira the Don to get you moving. Discipline is about the execution of an action in the face of an obstacle. Of course Jocko’s Discipline Equal Freedom book of poetry is a good kick in the backside to those that really need it.
Assent to Truth,