On Disciplines: An Introduction

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
— Chinese Proverb

Americans love life hacks--productivity hacks, organization hacks, success hacks--which tells us something amazing about ourselves: we want all the rewards without any of the work. And we actually believe that that's a thing. But real life doesn't work that way. There is no 7 Step Process to a Perfect Business Presentation, and even if there is, it's not a process you can go apply to golf or investments, or heck, even to any other type of presentation. We have a problem with our definition of success and a misunderstanding of how progress and proficiency really work. 

Being, Becoming, Doing

One of the most powerful epiphanies I ever had was when I realized that every activity in life could be broken down into three groups: being, becoming, and doing. These are the three types of stuff out there. You've got all the things that exist (being), all the ways stuff happens (becoming), and all the verbs (doing), the actual real-life actions that get stuff done. We Americans skip the latter two and jump straight for the first one. With the incredible availability we have in our country, the unending resources, and the doctrine that anybody can do anything, we think that we too can be Warren Buffett, if only we lived in NYC. 

We would rather BE than BECOME

The fundamental issue here is one of pride and identity. We see something we want to be (say, proficient in the violin), and so we pick up a violin and give it a whirl. When we hear the gosh-awful screeching, we throw it down and move on to the next dream, saying, Oh violin just isn't my thing. After this process repeats a few dozen times, we either man up and realize mastery only comes with intentionality, dedication, and much sacrifice, or we pout about being a victim--that we got all the bad genes in the family, after all everyone else seems to get it.

The fundamental missing piece is in the process of becoming and in the actual doing. And if you want to get the most out of life, you dedicate yourself to learning new processes in life which are transferable. You can spend all day doing, and that is good, but it doesn't mean you will ever be proficient. Peter Diamandis refers to this tension between becoming and doing as the difference between an operating system (OS) and its apps in this great podcast with Tim Ferriss. Your iPhone only has one OS, and that controls the way you do everything on the device. But you can have tons of apps, all with totally different purposes. In the same way, there are tons of different things you can be doing, but it is still only you behind the doing. You've got to change you, otherwise your presentations will stink just as bad as your blog posts, no matter the content.

This may be a new idea, because as is common in life, only those who achieve are aware of how to achieve. Since you can't know what you don't know, it's imperative that you read what I'm writing with a renewed rigor. Remember your dreams. Hope in them, and be willing to learn a new way of achieving them. If you have a dream of learning a foreign language but you don't buy Rosetta stone or research learning methods, you are bound to fail and end up disenchanted with what you feel is just too hard for you. Phooey. 

There are no naturals

Studies show that there are no naturals (in language study) in anything! Those who are successful are that way because at one point they decided what they wanted to live for, and they said no to everything else in their life to get there. This is also why the exceptional, the elite, are terrible family men. As Christians, though, family receives great priority and should be treated right alongside, directly inline, with what the head of the family considers his life objective.

You are good enough

So many--too many!--people give up on dreams because they hit some resistance and explain away their inability with some excuse of their upbringing, natural talent, or opportunity, as if all the successful people in the world were born genetically destined to be great. Those people stay unsuccessful and self-conscious, pulling a long-con on themselves, trying desperately to convince themselves it's not their fault they are bad. They're throwing away their opportunity for success at the altar of their ego while the "successful ones," the ones who know what it takes to be great, look on in wonder at the whack delusion. 

Learn what it takes

I'm going to be doing a series on disciplines, exploring all the means and methods of becoming great. It's amazing how connected, how simple, and how cumulative they are. Once you learn a few--okay maybe a dozen--disciplines you will find yourself able to do not just one skill better, but everything better. That's the thing about disciplines. I'm not here to sell you on some 5 Easy Steps to Find Your Inner You. Nor am I here to trash it. I'm just saying there is a better way. 

We must aim for mastery!

Just like the Chinese proverb says, the goal of our self-education must primarily be to develop new methods. We could fish every day with a hook on a string, or we could invest a week's time in constructing a net in the neck of a nearby stream--a system which would catch fish whether or not we were even present. We've got to isolate the skills required to do what we need to do in life, and train ourselves to be better at those things. 

Over the coming weeks, I hope to fill up the category "Disciplines" with a specific look at each of the disciplines I think are required to live a successful Christian life. Some are inherently spiritual, others are very mundane, but what you will find is that each one impacts all the others. They all connect. That's why making an upgrade to your OS changes everything about you, not just the way you do Business Presentations or blog.

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