Self-discipline will take you far

One of the hardest habits to form is discipline, especially self-discipline. Discipline is the ability to do the right thing we no one is looking. Self-discipline refers more to your ability to motivate yourself to do what is needed without being prompted by others. Self-discipline is quite challenging, but also very rewarding. In so many ways the difference between someone who is “good at something” and someone who is “great” at the same task is simply a matter of discipline.

There is a widely held myth in our current culture that you can use shortcuts or hacks to gain success quickly. Many weight loss products and get rich schemes are built on this false premise. Stupid people work hard and take the long path. Smart people work smart and take the short cut. Is is possible to find more efficient ways to achieve a goal. Yes – absolutely. Leverage best practices and learn lessons from experts so that you avoid missteps. But, I caution you when it comes to following advice that replaces hard work with some other path to success. I have tried some of these shortcut techniques with mixed results at best.

To achieve greatness you must first, desire it, and secondly, and more importantly, you must have the discipline to act out this desire. Planning will only get you so far, it is the execution of your plans that will determine your level of achievement. Execution means work, and work requires discipline. One will not happen without the other. Therefore, if you can master the art of self-discipline, you will go far in life. Otherwise, the status quo will become both your current reality, and your realistic future.

Knowing is not enough,
We must apply.
Willing is not enough,
We must do
– Bruce Lee

Starting over is a difficult choice to make

There will come times in your life when what you are doing is not working, and you need a different approach. Sometimes a minor tweak or slight change will give you better results. But, it may also mean that you may have to start over. You need a redo. A completely different solution is needed for success. Making this choice can be more difficult than you think, especially if you have put a lot of effort into something, but are not getting the results that you seek.

I have faced this type decision more than once in my life, and it has been difficult each time to admit that my solution failed and a new one is necessary. I am getting better at admitting failure and moving on, but it can still be a big struggle for me. Don’t fall into this trap like I have many times. Rather, try a different approach. Start over on a new path. The good news is that God is with us, and willing to let us start over when we need to. The following poem may help explain this perspective. I heard it on a podcast by Ravi Zacharias.

 
He came to my desk with a quivering lip,
the lesson was done.
“Have you a new sheet for me, dear teacher?
I’ve spoiled this one.”
I took his sheet, all soiled and blotted
and gave him a new one all unspotted.
And into his tired heart I cried,
“Do better now, my child.”

I came to God’s throne with a trembling heart;
the day was done.
“Have you a new day for me, dear Master?
I’ve spoiled this one.”
He took my day, all soiled and blotted
and gave me a new one all unspotted.
And into my tired heart he cried,
“Do better now, my child.”

 

 

 

 

 

Move out and draw fire

You have heard me say this phrase many times. I am not sure you know exactly what I mean – so here is a short explanation. It is easy to stay in place, and keep doing the same old thing – day in, and day out. Heading in a new direction takes courage, action, and boldness. Likewise, responding to a dangerous situation without regard for your own safety can be a daunting challenge. As a man, there are times when you will need to be courageous, even when others around you are seized with fear and doubt, and recommend doing nothing.

Today is the 15th anniversary of 9/11. On this day we take time to reflect on the tragic events that transpired, and remember the many lives that were lost to include those brave souls who performed heroic deeds. We are inspired by all the emergency workers who voluntarily went into harms way to try and save others. They did their jobs despite the horrible circumstances – many of them paying with their lives. We still marvel at the deeds of the passengers on Flight 93 who decided to take matters into their own hands rather than wait for the inevitable outcome. Talk about bravery – they knew they were not going to make it…but they took courageous action anyways.

Draw inspiration from these examples – be bold. I am not saying to be impulsive, to take unnecessary risks, or make rash decisions. Rather, I am saying that once you make a final decision, move out. It is rare that you will have all the answers to every question when you begin. In my own life, I decided a few years ago that it was time for me to move my house, and start the next chapter of my life in a new location. It was a big decision at the time. I was not sure how it would turn out, but I decided it was better to take the risk than stay in place. Looking back now – it was the right decision. Move out and draw fire.

Acknowledging the fact that a ranger is a more elite soldier, who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a ranger, my country expects me to move further, faster, and fight harder than any other soldier.

  – Second Stanza of Ranger Creed

Take time to relax – but don’t be a fool

When you have a chance to relax, be careful how you spend your leisure time. Don’t fall away from the things you believe in during your downtime. It only takes a second to make a really bad decision that can change the course of your life, so avoid being a fool, thinking that life is not connected. A good measuring stick to use is “would Jesus approve of what I am about to do”. If the answer is NO, then reevaluate the situation and your decision to make sure it is the right one. Gavin – this point is especially true now that you are in college, and have more free time than you will ever have in your life.

Having said all that, it is important to “get away from the daily grind”, so make the most of it. Life can be intense and exhausting which means you should take breaks now and then. It took me a long time to learn this. Nowadays I am much better at taking time off, and a full summer vacation. The past two summers we have visited Europe. I plan to keep up this family tradition in the coming years.

16 A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,
But a fool is arrogant and careless. Proverbs 14:16

Your days are numbered – don’t waste them

Your days on earth are numbered, so spend your time wisely. I don’t believe that we get more than one chance at life in this world. God brought you into the world, and only He knows when you will return to Him. I know it sounds a bit grim – but that is reality. We all die. Our life on earth does not go on forever.

As you get older, you realize that time is the most precious asset in life — even more so than money.  How we spend our time says a lot about what is important to us. It shows our priorities and passions. If God is important to you, spend time developing a relationship with him. If your family is important to you, take the time to participate in family events. Things we neglect tend to fall away from us over time until they are gone.

I know that both of you are still young, and feel like you have all the time in the world. Unfortunately that is not true. So take it from an old man like me – don’t waste your days. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end is right, I hope you had the time of your life..”   

    – Green Day

The truth does exist – find it

Do not fall for the concept that all truth is relative. Or that there is no such thing as universal truth  In today’s world, many “intellectual people” think that there is no right answer, and that the truth depends on the situation, or circumstances that you find yourself in. Something may be true for you, but it is not for me. They will use a lot of long explanations or clever words to try and justify this position. Unfortunately many good people have fallen for this lie. As a result, we live in a world fraught with divergent views and opinions full of personal agendas and opinions. It is difficult to know the truth given all the lying that happens these days.

It is important as a man that you live in reality and understand the world around you. Truth is truth, and the “right answer” does exist, especially for all the big questions of life that you will try to figure out during your time on earth.  In my life, I have come to the conclusion that Jesus is the answer, and God’s way is the one true way. I formed this opinion over many years and was recently reminded of this fundamental truth when visiting a museum in Colmar that houses the Isenheim altarpiece. This masterpiece is a grim reminder of what Jesus did for all of us on the cross. It is one of my favorite works of art for that reason.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”    – John 14:6

You cannot change others – do not try

A lesson about change- you cannot change someone else, so do not waste your time trying. Some people feel like they have the power to transform others, and spend a lot of time and energy trying to change them through various means. Usually it involves some form of telling them what to do. The problem is that most people do not like being told what to do, much less making a change. I have witnessed this many times. Usually it ends in frustration for everyone. The bottom line is that in order to someone to change they must decide to make the change – no one else can make that decision for them.

Also, you cannot actually change who you are either. We are not butterflies – we are humans created in God’s image. I read a well researched book that talks about the myth some believe that as you grow, and get older, that your personality changes. This is not true. In fact, the opposite is true. As you grow, you become more of who you really are. You are hard wired with certain talents and traits. This fact can be frightening, especially for those who do like who they are, or dream about having some talent that we simply do not possess.

Don’t lose hope. You cannot change who you are….BUT, you can improve any situation in life, especially your own. If you want to change it – start by looking for ways you can improve your part of it first. One of the hardest things to admit in this world is that “I am the problem”, or “I am wrong”. I know from personal experience that it is difficult to admit when you are wrong, and that you need to make a change in your life. If you have done something wrong, or what you are doing is not working at all – fix it, and then watch the situation improve from there. Don’t wait for others to change and solve the problem for you.

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

– Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson