School was miserable to me. It felt like torture.
I used to pretend I was sick so I didn’t have to go.
On my report card I’d get “I”s. “I”s stood for “Incomplete”. Incomplete meant that you had to take the class over.
That was OK with me. I could always skip again.
Counselors kept telling me I needed discipline. I didn’t know what that was. I don’t think the counselors knew either.
I fixed things myself.
It wasn't discipline that saved me.
Discipline is a lie. There’s no such thing. Discipline is a lazy word. We use it to either give ourselves credit or put someone else down.
Let me explain.
You don’t need “discipline”. Instead you need a reason.
Back then my classmates had an unfair advantage. They had a reason to go to school. They were part of a club. They had friends. They had parents.
My family was a mess. We were running from the law.
I was living under an alias name. To hide me they even doctored my birth certificate with a sharpie.
I had been bounced from school to school. So many I lost count.
I didn’t want to get involved. At any moment they might find me out. At any moment everything might be taken away. Better to just stay home.
What is discipline?
When you go to the store to buy something you look at the price. If what you are buying is worth more than what they're asking you’ll make the purchase. If the price is too high, you leave it on the shelf.
You don’t buy a pair of shoes and say: “Look at me - look how much discipline I have”!
That’s why discipline is a lie. Discipline is not a character trait. Discipline is making a purchase.
The key to discipline is making sure you see the value. If you see the value you will sacrifice the effort. If you don’t you won’t.
A great example is Kmart.
They say they got wiped out by places like Walmart and Kohl's.
I’m calling B.S.
They forgot one important thing. If you want people to buy your stuff you’ve got to have the prices clearly marked.
I used to avoid Kmart. You could never find the prices. You’d literally have to take stuff up to the counter and have it scanned to see how much it cost.
Thousands of other people avoided Kmart too.
You don't need discipline. You need structure.
Structure means you know what you are getting in exchange for your effort. When a structure is in place it lets you see a clear path to your reward. Structure says: “If you do this then you get that”.
Structure requires stability.
Sifu Brown says: “Environment is stronger than will”.
If you are in an unstable situation you will not have predictable rewards. You must have stability. You can’t set goals if there is constant fighting and threats around you.
I left home at 15. Life got immediately better.
Do whatever it takes to create stability in your life.
Create Your Own Structure
Most of the structure you live with was imposed on you from outside. Society already put systems in place. They told you to go to school. Go to college. Get a good job.
They didn’t tell you how to get in good shape. How to create art. They didn't tell you how to become a martial artist.
Maybe that's what makes our dojo unique. We believe in structure. But we also believe a student must learn to create their own structure.
Students must create goals not set up by a belt system. They set goals based on knowing what martial art practice will do for their lives.
As Professor Pedro Sauer put it: "In America people are taught to be motivated by belts. In Brazil we believe the mat should motivate the student".
Our high ranks come to class not because of something we give them. They come to class because of something they've learned to find for themselves.
If you want more you have to have create your own structure.
It’s Simple. Here’s how.
Pick certain things you love to do. Use them as your reward for doing the things you should do.
Don’t let a day go by without giving yourself your rewards.
Make your rewards immediate.
Telling a kid to go to school so he'll have a good job when he's 30 won’t work. You’ve got to give him a reason to go to school - TODAY.
Tell a single guy he’ll get cancer in 20 years if he keeps smoking does nothing. Tell the same guy he can date his crush, but she hates cigarettes and he’ll stop.
Consequences and rewards are powerful when they are felt NOW.
Say to yourself: “If I run 3 miles then I’ll watch TV”. Or “If I spend an hour practicing; then I’ll surf the internet”. Whatever it is that you want. You bribe yourself with your favorite things.
At 15 I cured myself of skipping school. I decided I wouldn’t allowed myself to go to Karate unless I was in school that day.
I’d wake up in the morning thinking about karate. It got me out of bed. Got me in the shower. Got me to school. Karate was the bribe that got me going.
There are probably dozens of rewards in your life you can use the same way.
Pick a few of them. Attach your reward to those things you know you should be doing.
Now I’m ending this post.
It's time to drink an expensive coffee.
Coffee is my reward.
I didn't feel like it. I wrote today anyway.
I wish I had discovered coffee at 15.
I might be President.