How Discipline Equals Freedom


Especially for Entrepreneurs

For people who never served in the military, the concept that discipline equals freedom may seem strange. Many probably think of freedom as being care-free and, perhaps, free to indulge in whatever they like.

But in the real world – the one in which goal-oriented people strive to accomplish something – liberation comes when we’ve completed our mission. Discipline gives you the focus to see the mission through, and the military is the perfect place to learn this lesson.

There is, however, another class of people for whom discipline may connote freedom/liberation/gratification: entrepreneurs. Now for most entrepreneurs who share the belief (and proven fact) that autonomy was their # 1 reason for starting a business, hang in there with me for a minute before you shake your head in disagreement too much more.

My role as a nuclear submarine officer in the United States Navy was the perfect primer for my life in the private sector. I leaned heavily on Qual Cards, which I use at the end of each chapter of my book, “The Second Decision: The Qualified Entrepreneur.”Qual Cards use a simple yet highly effective system for quality control on multiple levels, including personal, professional and for military missions.

In October of last year, a few other Navy men – SEALs – published a book exploring similar concepts. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, highlights concepts of training and their battles in Iraq, and how that training can be applied for self-improvement in one’s personal life, and at work. Here’s a helpful snapshot from the book:

“Our freedom to operate and maneuver had increased substantially through disciplined procedures. Discipline equals freedom.”

― Jocko Willink

From one Navy veteran  to another, I couldn’t agree more. What’s also cool about the SEAL book is that it emphasizes the importance of humility. These guys may be among the baddest dudes on the planet, but you don’t get that way with an inflated ego. It takes years of hard work, diligence and discipline, of course. They discuss how checking your ego is among the most important things you can do when tackling the most difficult challenges. Remember, in the military, these missions frequently include life-or-death scenarios.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll want to think of your business in similar terms. No one is supposed to die, but your business may if you don’t think in terms of accomplishing your mission(s) in business. Statistically over 70% do in fact shut down over their first ten years.. Some entrepreneurs never grasp that the start-up phase is over – and that not only do you no longer have to have your fingerprints on every aspect of the business, but that doing so could be hurting the success of your enterprise. I list in my book specific red flags in this vein. It takes discipline, humility, honesty and ego checking to transition successfully between the phases of your business’s lifecycle.

Thank you to all the men and women who have served or are currently serving in our armed forces!