Ryan Holiday’s ‘Discipline is Destiny’ appears to be an unintimidating little book—a quick flip of a few pages in the morning as a primer for your day. But apparently, big messages come in fun snack sizes. I have several takeaways, and yes, if you can’t tell already, I recommend reading this book. Just remember, I warned you. Do not confuse size for weight.
I’m unsure how I happened upon Holiday’s YouTube channel (besides Google and all of social media tracking my every move). Still, I quickly became a subscriber of both his channel and newsletter. What I didn’t realize is that I found Cal Newport through Ryan’s work, which is ironic because when I chose ‘Discipline is Destiny’ at Ryan’s bookstore in Bastrop, Texas, I did so because I was (and still am) working on Cal Newport’s 4 Month Reinvention plan and I was currently in the Discipline phase. I thought this particular book would help deepen my focus on discipline. And even though the Ryan Holiday rabbit hole continues to get deeper and deeper past the point of being so obvious that there may be a glitch in the simulation, I’m glad for the coincidences. Reading Holiday’s work has been as enjoyable as it’s been educational. Going slow and taking notes has allowed me to contemplate the subtle distinctions of discipline and how it shows up in ways I would not have considered to be a show of discipline.
For instance, learning of Queen Elizabeth’s lack of power but abundance of obligation gave me a newfound respect for the throne. What I once considered a privilege is clearly understood to be a masterclass in poise. Her position in life demanded that she endure a seven-decade-long career without a day off. No wonder they don’t accept outside applications – who would want that job?!
Although I had many, here are a few more takeaways that resonated with me in this time of professional reinvention and personal growth.
Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing (pg.116)
“…the discipline to step away and think: What am I doing? What are my priorities? What is my most important contribution – to my work, family, and world? Then comes the discipline to ignore just about everything else.”Page 117
In the midst of changing careers at the ripe age of 41, I couldn’t help but be a bit spanked by this idea. Decisions must be made if I stand a chance at being great at anything. Plan Bs must be seen for what they are – exit strategies. Side hustles? Expensive hobbies. I must close the doors that need to be closed, and that’s impossible to do with one foot constantly hanging out the door.
I appreciate deep-diving into this topic because it doesn’t just require that I get honest about how I manage my time, but it also demands that I get honest about what I truly value. After all, how can I allocate my time wisely if I’m unclear about what I deem worthy of my most precious asset? And I may claim to know that time is “my only truly nonrenewable resource,” as Holiday says, but do I manage my time like I really believe that? If I do, then I’m not “spending” or “wasting” my time. I’m investing it, honoring and respecting it.
Managing my time by “keeping my main thing my main thing” means being honest about my capacity. Try to be a little bit to everyone, I end up “not much” to anyone. The bottom line is if I value my time, I will only use my time on what I value. After all, time is the most expensive currency. No one gets any of it back.
“That means not just saying no to things, but saying yes to the critical task in front of you that you don’t even notice that the things you said no to even exist.”Pg.125
I often have to remind myself that the best way to practice patience is to participate fully in the present. When I’m immersed in the task right in front of me, I’m capable of performing at my highest potential and giving it what it deserves and often demands: my undivided attention.
“Everything we say yes to means saying no to something else.”Pg. 118
Too often, the people we say no to are those we care about the most, and yes, that means ourselves. I appreciate Ryan pointing out that people often say yes to others to avoid going all in and genuinely devoting themselves to their own goals and lives. It’s an excuse never to try.
I see this too often in my coaching practice. We make ourselves so busy helping someone else because it excuses us from helping ourselves. We put ourselves in a holding pattern like a plane circling miles in the sky, waiting to land. Often, we focus on changing or fixing others because it’s much easier than working on ourselves.
SILENCE IS STRENGTH (pg. 165)
Hands down – this chapter tugged at me the most.
“Seek yourself, not distraction.”Pg. 153
We’ve all heard the saying, “The answer we seek is already within us.” Yet, for most of us, just the thought of sitting alone in silence is enough to make us run for the hills. We tend to judge our racing minds for meditating “incorrectly” that we discount the profundity of simply listening to our racing minds. Even if we observe the race, we stand a better chance of knowing ourselves and what we think, feel, and actually desire. Not what the noise of the culture and society tells us we should desire. I’m not surprised that most of us don’t know what we want when so few of us spend any time listening to ourselves.
“We jump in because we think we’re supposed to. We jump in because we don’t want to seem dumb (even though by speaking, we risk removing all doubt.) We jump in because we just can’t live with someone else being wrong and not knowing it.”Pg.166
Temperance is undoubtedly an issue I currently contemplate frequently…out of necessity. By temperance, I don’t mean refraining from alcohol. I mean refraining from combative attitudes and destructive anger (although I do refrain from alcohol, as well).
Ironically enough, there is a powerful principle I learned while getting sober.
“Does it need to be said? Does it need to be said by me? Does it need to be said right now?”
Often, when I’m wise enough to recall this brilliant quote, the answer to these questions has at least one no. And one no is enough to say NO thing. What we don’t say is just as important as what we do. We won’t be remembered for what we didn’t say, but when our words are either hurtful or plain wrong, trust that we won’t hear the last of it. Words cannot be taken back, and the most hurtful ones are never forgotten, no matter how many times we’re forgiven. We can usually say more, but we can never say less.
Silence and censoring ourselves has become a rare art form in today’s world, where everyone has a bullhorn and a camera. Holiday poses a valuable question: If we refrain from voicing our opinions and arguing with others in person and online, how much more creative energy, material, and ammunition would we have to contribute to our craft? We only have so much time and energy, so we must allocate them wisely. Why should I add to the noise when I can add to my life’s work?
And with that being said…
I’ve never met a greater guru than silence, and I doubt I ever will.Wanetah
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