On the morning of my mother’s funeral, I wrote the following paragraph for the original, first edition of this book:
My mother passed away a couple of days, actually nights ago, and the viewing was last night; the memorial service will be in about four hours from now, this morning. It is 6:00 A.M. And here I am, at the keyboard, in my home office, writing. That’s what I do almost every day, for at least the first early hour of the morning, no matter what. And that’s the answer to how I can have five books in bookstores, a sixth and seventh hitting early in 1996, be under contract for an eighth for 1997, write my monthly newsletters, and so on.
It’s not that I’m devoid of emotion, nor that I didn’t love my mother. However, I learned long ago the vital importance of regimen, ritual, commitment and discipline in relationship to successful achievement. So it takes a lot to derail me. Most people are much more easily distracted. Perhaps I’m extreme in my insistence on proceeding with my work plans no matter what, but most people are even more extreme in their willingness to set aside their work plans for just about anything.
Having and commanding the respect of others is a tremendous advantage in life. That edge comes from self-discipline. The highly disciplined individual does not have to point a gun at anyone to take what he wants; people “sense” his power and cheerfully give him everything they’ve got.
Take a look at how little self-discipline most people have. Ask an employer of any size, and you’ll hear how big the problems of tardiness and absenteeism are. People don’t even have enough self-discipline to get up in the morning!
In my business dealings, I find more than half the people can’t seem to get to appointments and meetings on time or keep preset telephone appointments. Clients miss prescheduled appointments. Vendors miss deadlines as often as they make them.
In the entrepreneurial environment, there’s a lot to be said just for showing up on time, ready to work. The meeting of deadlines and commitments alone causes a person to stand out from the crowd like an alien space ship parked in an Iowa cornfield. The ability to get things done and done right the first time will magnetically attract incredible contacts, opportunities and resources to you. All of this is a matter of self-discipline.
And self-discipline aimed and applied at a particular thing is quite literally a magic power. When you focus your self-discipline on a single purpose, like sunlight through a magnifying glass on a single object, look out! The whole world will scramble to get out of your way, hold the doors open for you, and salute as you walk by.
Successful achievement of most worthwhile objectives — including being an infinitely more productive entrepreneur who makes the most of his time — is rarely easy, but is often simple. In fact, it can be boiled down to three steps.
Awareness. If you become aware of the importance of time, you’ll have a different concept of time, valuing of time, and how you must exercise control over your use and others’ consumption of your time in order to have a reasonable chance of achieving your goals and tapping your full potential. You’ll have new awareness of how your time is used or abused, invested or squandered, organized and controlled or let flow about at random. As the first step to new achievement, there’s always awareness of problems and failings, and of opportunities and successes.
Decision. All achievement follows deliberate decision, with extremely rare exceptions of accidental achievement, like tripping over an untied shoelace, falling face down on the pavement, and seeing a wrapped stack of lost $100 bills lying against the curb you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Absent that kind of freak accident, achievement can only follow decision. As a result of your thinking of the importance of time, you can develop certain decisions.
Action. There are three kinds of action: starting things or implementation, follow-through, and completion. When you’ve made a decision, you have to start doing things about it. For some people, this is hard, but for many people in many situations, starting is relatively easy. The person who decides on a new diet may find it easy, even exhilarating to take a huge garbage bag and empty the refrigerator and pantry of all offending foods. It’s follow-through that is usually the hard part. That’s where the tough-minded boss-of-self comes to bear. Relying on sheer willpower is rarely successful. You have to create an environment in which high self-discipline is supported. But self-discipline is required. And rewarded.