Discipline Equals Freedom

Not my words, but a phrase I’ve been thinking about the past few days after listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast discussion with Jocko Willink.

Jocko Willink & Tim Ferriss

Talk about a power-hitting duo. For the last few months, I started listening to podcasts at the recommendation of my friend TJ, and I constantly find myself going back to Tim Ferriss’ podcast since I have always been a fan of Tim since reading the 4-Hour Workweek. So this podcast brought out the precision of Tim’s interview style with a guy that has looked at death right in the face as a bad ass Navy SEAL in Iraq.

Thoughts About Discipline

Tim asks one of his classic questions “What would you put on a billboard?” and Jocko answers:

Discipline equals freedom.

His belief is that being disciplined in all aspects of your life, be it work, gym, eating healthy, etc. rewards you with more free time (and freedom) to do other things you want to do. The counter-argument is that being disciplined in these areas of your life also can mean you are locked in to a way of doing things and following a protocol that is the opposite of being free and creative.

In my life, discipline means being able to control my destiny to a certain degree. Being able to follow a process and protocol that I know will lead to an outcome I want, whether it’s work, working out, basketball, etc. I know I can control the outcome with X% confidence, and the rest is left to luck and the higher powers.

A few examples:

  • ACL Injury – My last few stories have been about my recovery from ACL reconstructive surgery, and no other injury in my life has been as physically challenging as this one (typical ankle injuries and bone bruises from playing basketball). The protocol from the PT office and from other resources I’ve found online break down the exercises you need to do on a daily basis. There is no room for error, if your goal is to recover and build strength back in your leg. Straying from the protocol, for me, means failure. So on the days I was tired, sick, or had other things to do, I found time to get in my exercises because I did not want to fail. It boggles my mind that one could forego a life of a healthy knee because they were too tired or lazy to get their ass off the couch and onto a yoga mat to do some stretching and exercises.
  • Eating Healthy – Some people say I am the most boring person to eat with, and I don’t blame them. I am disciplined about what I eat because I feel that I am able to really enjoy other foods and meals when I have a baseline of meals I always consume. This means the same omelettes, chicken, salads, spaghetti, and newly added steak make up 90% of my diet. Part of it is that I know how to make all these meals very efficiently and there is not a lot of room for experimentation or fucking things up. Every meal does not need to be laced with truffle oil or ice cream, because if they were, wouldn’t the enjoyment you derive from these “unhealthy” foods be less?
  • Morning Routine – Much like I follow a protocol for my ACL recovery, having a morning routine prepares me for any shit I have to deal with that day. This is where I see Jocko’s point a little more clearly, because I feel that if I don’t go through my morning routine, I don’t have the energy and stamina to get through my day. More specifically, I do not feel equipped with those attributes. I eat the same shit for breakfast, do my pushups and pull-ups, and everything is done in a specific order. I remember Tim talked about this in one of his podcasts but accomplishing these small tasks in the morning such as making your bed have profound effects on your mental capacity throughout the day.
  • Work – This is a little harder to find the connection, since I’m working on a startup and every day new problems and challenges come our way. However, we could easily let emotions and anxiety rule our minds and respond to these challenges in unproductive ways. Instead, my team approaches every challenge the same, by prioritizing which problem needs our attention the most and then doing a triage from there. If you become too emotional about someone who has brushed you off or losing a deal, you will fail. Your business will fail. In this context, discipline around how you conduct operations and business processes helps you control the final outcome.

Being A Man From a SEAL

Tim also asks Jocko what 3 events led Jocko to feel like a “man.” A big question that could yield all sorts of answers, but Jocko gives his top 3:

  1. Jiu-jitsu
  2. Combat (in Iraq)
  3. Getting married and having kids

These seem like pretty generic answers to me, but the theme between all three answers is that these events gave Jocko confidence in himself. I wrote about being a man in a previous story, and confidence is probably the main quality trait Jocko has that many men lack. He was unwavering in his answers back to Tim and it showed that these events truly turned on a light switch in his mind about what it means to be a man.



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