Haroldson Lafayette Hunt Jr., popularly known as H. L. Hunt, an American billionaire oil magnate who became wealthy by trading poker winnings for oil rights, said the key to success is “Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to pay for it and decide to pay it.” However, what H.L. Hunt overlooked is that the glue that holds his three keys together is discipline. Without discipline a decision or determination will melt like wax when it comes against opposition.
Discipline is a decision determined by vision and purpose. It is the bridge between aspiration and accomplishment. Discipline is not a one-road street; rather it is a two-edged sword. Discipline is doing what is necessary, though inconvenient, to achieve a goal. It is also restraining from doing what is unnecessary, though inviting and attractive, that may take one off course. Successful people subject themselves to a regimen of restrictions and self-denials to achieve their set targets. They do the unpleasant but necessary tasks that will take them to their desired end. They spurn pleasurable but incapacitating activities that will take them off their predetermined end. They do not spare themselves; they keep pushing the frontiers and ensure they do whatever they need to do so that they can achieve the goals they have set for themselves.
No one can achieve lasting success without discipline. The best an undisciplined person may have is a fleeting success. But the disciplines required for success comes in different forms. Here they are:
The discipline of starting
The most difficult part of any endeavour is starting. Many people who would have become world changers never realized their dreams because they never got their dreams off the ground. While it is always tasking to start, the secret of getting anything begun is just to start. Don’t wait for the perfect time, there will never be any. Don’t wait till you have enough resources, resources are never meant to be sufficient. Once you have done your research and you decide on the path to tread, any further delay will make starting herculean. You cannot accomplish a task you never commence.
Some people never start because they do not want to give up their current comfort. The truth is that those who don’t go, don’t get. Those who don’t start something new never become great. To live your dream, you have to shift from your current position. Until we change, we don’t become great.
Some people never start because they are afraid of failure. But failure is never final unless you make it so. As observed by Henry Ford, failure is nothing but an opportunity to begin again, more intelligently. Those who have never failed at anything have never attempted anything extraordinary. Every project or task has a 50-50 chance of failing or succeeding but you will never know the way the task will turn out until you try it. Don’t allow the fear of failure to rob you of the joy of savouring success.
Some people never start because they think they are too old. To fail to start because of age consideration is to deny the world the benefit of what may turn out to be a great idea and to deny oneself the joy of birthing a dream. It is never too late to start doing the right thing. No one is ever too old to live his or her dream. For as long as you have breath in your nostrils, what you fail to achieve is what you fail to venture into.
By the time Chief Afe Babalola established the university named after him, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD) in 2009, he was already 80 years old. At that age, many of his contemporaries had already wound down and were awaiting transition to eternity. But he had a burning desire to establish a university that would be a model to others. So, at that advanced age, he established the university and devoted the whole of himself to making it a centre of excellence. Ten years after, ABUAD has become a model.
In the 2018 final bar examination of the Nigerian Law School, apart from ABUAD recording a 100 per cent pass rate, a Law graduate of the university, Ekpo Naomi Uwem, emerged the overall best student. Of the 36 prizes available, ABUAD graduates won 24.
The university presented its students for the MBBS examination for the first time in July 2018. All the 43 students presented pass with eight of them scoring distinctions, the equivalent of first class.
What will confer immortality on Afe Babalola is neither his wealth nor the many legal cases he won, it is the university.
His legal practice was just meant to be a means for him to realize his purpose in life. He started the university despite being considerably old because he had the discipline to start.
The discipline of continuing after failing
Starting a venture is not a guarantee for success. According to a Forbes report, eight out of 10 new entrepreneurs fail within the first 18 months. So, the likelihood of failing is high. But while that fact should moderate the risks you expose yourself to, the fact that 20 per cent of all new businesses succeed should motivate you to stop at nothing until you succeed. If anybody has achieved anything, so can you. Many people give up after experiencing an initial failure. When you fail in an enterprise one of two things happen, you lose or you learn. Those who give up lose; those who trudge on learn and eventually win.
Michael Jordan, who won six NBA championships and is regarded as one of the best basketball players ever, said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Failure is nothing but a phase on the success journey. Those who fail before succeeding make better champions. But when you fail, don’t be content with failure. Let the failure spur you to success.
Many of those who surrender after experiencing failure are not self-motivated. Their inability to continue after falling often arises from their expectation of a non-existing external motivation. If after failing you are looking for a shoulder to cry on, you may be disappointed. If you seek hands to prop you up after failing, you may become disillusioned as none may be available. But if you say to yourself that “my vision is bigger than this failure”, then you receive the inner strength that springs you back on your feet.
To succeed in life, you must never make failure the end of the road; rather make it a bend on the road. The journey continues after the bend.
Those who are not disciplined enough to get up after a fall never savour the sweetness of success.
Discipline of avoiding distractions
Becoming successful requires 100 per cent attention, not anything less. Most people fail to achieve their objectives because they allow themselves to be distracted by issues that are not essential to achieving their set goal, though they may look important.
Distraction is one of the greatest hindrances to success in life and leadership. Distraction is not primarily about extraneous activities, it is essentially about giving attention to issues which may be important but are not critical to the task at hand. Paying attention to issues that are not critical to the goal slows down progress and impairs success rate. Critical to getting things done is knowing what not to do at all. It is not unusual to have many things compete for one’s attention at the same time but those who want to achieve their target know that it is not everything that beckons to them that deserves their attention.
Focusing on important tasks is critical to achieving success in an endeavour. Focus is essential because it does not give room to distractions. When an individual focuses the totality of his energy on what is important, success is guaranteed. Contrary is the case when he is unable to put all his energy in one direction. It is likened to diffused light. Diffused light has minimal effect. But concentrated light, when passed through a magnifying glass, can burn a paper or even a fresh leaf. When light is more focused, it becomes a laser and laser can burn steel and destroy cancer.
Warren Buffet’s counsel
A young employee once approached Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest men in the world, seeking his counsel on how to be effective. In response, Buffet asked him to write out his top 25 goals. The employee wrote out the 25. After writing out the list, Buffet asked him to review the list and identify his top five goals. The employee went through the list and after a while circled five items on the list. Then, Buffet asked him what he was going to do with the two lists. The employee said, “I will start working on my top five goals right away.”
When Buffet asked him about the second list his response was that, “Well, the top five are my primary focus, but the other 20 come in a close second. They are still important so I’ll work on those intermittently as I see fit. They are not as urgent, but I still plan to give them a dedicated effort.”
Buffet then responded and said, “Everything you didn’t circle just became your Avoid-At-All-Cost list. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top five.”
Distractions are not those things that do not matter at all; they are those things that matter a little and thus compete with those things that matter a lot. Developing the discipline to avoid them by all means takes one closer to set goals.
Discipline to stave off gravitational pull
The upside of success is the achievement of desired goals. It is the fulfillment and joy that accompany the accomplishment. It is the honour, recognition and glamour that it attracts. These are the trophies and the trappings. But success is not without its downside. Success creates a sense of entitlement in the successful. Some highly successful people believe that working hard to get to the acme of their pursuit entitles them to anything that catches their fancy. That is why many successful people have been found guilty of abusing their privileges such as mismanaging resources and taking advantage of people.
Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky
Between 1995 and 1997, former President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, was involved in an extramarital relationship with former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. When this became public knowledge, the former president denied it. An inquisition by the House of Representatives got him convicted of perjury and was subsequently impeached in 1998. He was later left off the hook by the Senate.
But while answering a question recently on why he engaged in the affair with Lewinsky in the documentary, Hilary, which focuses on his wife, Hillary Clinton’s life, marriage and unsuccessful campaign for the presidency in 2016, the former president said his extramarital affair with the former White House intern was a way of managing his anxieties.
Clinton said, “Nobody sits down and thinks, ‘I think I’ll take a really irresponsible risk.’ It’s bad for my family, bad for my country, bad for the people who work with me.
“You feel like you’re staggering around — you’ve been in a 15-round prizefight that was extended to 30 rounds, and here’s something that’ll take your mind off it for a while. Everybody’s life has pressures and disappointments and terrors, fears of whatever, things I did to manage my anxieties for years.”
Although he later said he regretted the act, Clinton engaged Monica Lewinsky in extramarital affair because he believed as the president he had a right to her.
That is the undoing of many successful people. This sense of entitlement has brought down many people and destroyed many otherwise sterling careers. The feeling of entitlement is the gravitational force that pulls down many successful people.
To escape, you have to take deliberate steps to build your character even as you build your career. This will imbue in you the discipline to ward off gravitational pull. Anyone who builds his career at the expense of his character will have his career destroyed by his lack of character.
Discipline of humility
Humility is critical to sustaining success. No one who is deficient in humility can remain successful for long.
Although many people see humility as self-deprecation or self-debasement, it is neither of the two. Humility is respecting the other person irrespective of his status, station or stature. It is being considerate about others’ feelings even when they have no power over one; it is being conscious of the effect of one’s actions on others. Humility is treating others as one would want to be treated were the roles to be reversed. Humility is being strong enough to admit fault or weakness and being courageous enough to receive help from those with competence in such areas.
Humility derives from your comprehension of who you are and appreciation of who others are. It is a product of confidence based on a sense of security. Humility becomes inevitable when an individual understands that nobody is self-made but that every successful person is a product of the contributions of people and forces from a variety of places.
The arrogant lack an understanding of the purpose of success. The successful are not supposed to vaunt their success or oppress others with their achievements, instead they are supposed to serve others with their privileged position. The higher a person goes in life the better positioned he is to serve others. Knowing this makes men humble. But not all successful people have this understanding, so not all of them are humble. Only the humble can serve with the right attitude. Service is not throwing platitudes at others; neither is it providing them placebos. Service is going the extra mile to ensure an improvement in the lives of others.
It is only those with that disposition that can develop the discipline of humility which is essential to sustain success. Hence, it is only those with that disposition that enjoy sustainable success.
No one can go far in life who lacks discipline.
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