Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The power of self-discipline?

I picked up a book that was recently sent to Glenn entitled No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline because it looked like it might have something interesting to say. The book basically takes the premise that you don't need wealth, luck or contacts to succeed--you need self-discipline. From the amazon page, the description states that people don't succeed because "they take the path of least resistance (in other words, they’re lazy) and/or they want immediate gratification: they don’t consider the long-term consequences of the actions they take today." I used to believe this, I no longer do.

I spent my life working hard, taking personal responsibility and thinking about long term consequences. I watch in mild disgust while those who thought only about today and want immediate gratification are bailed out, while those who used self-discipline to turn themselves into a success are made to pay the price for those who aren't. Now, I call myself a sucker--not a disciple of self-discipline.

What is the point of self-discipline? Is the intrinsic reward it might bring enough? Any thoughts?

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31 Comments:

Blogger blahga the hutt said...

Helen,

As bad as it seems, there will come a time when all this freudian id crap will come to a head and collapse everything (from a pebble starts the avalanche) and the ones who exercise self-discipline will be the true winners. And no, it doesn't seem like that'll happen now.

12:14 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

I agree with what Helen wrote, and it's kind of depressing.

I don't think this system is going to collapse and the self-discipline people won't emerge victorious. Ain't gonna happen.

On the other hand, though, you have to have a sense of humor about life itself and all of its inconsistencies. You can't take it too seriously, and it's not permanent.

12:18 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

And always remember that Heather Mills is far richer than anyone on this site will probably ever be, regardless of any self-discipline or sacrifice.

You can only laugh.

12:19 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

There's something in the liberal psyche that despises success, unless it is their own, as in the case of Obama, Gore, etc. They'll give hand outs to the lazy, underacheivers, and undisciplined creating a circle of malignant caring.

But when they see a strong, disciplined person succeed, they can't stand it. I think they hate strength more than success. Success is hated because it implies strength.

Self-discipline helps but it doesn't always provide the rewards it should and lack of it some times provides rewards it shouldn't.

12:46 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger HMT said...

This bring to mind the "demotivational" poster that says "Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now"

That said, there's a big difference between "self-discipline" and "hard-work". It sounds like you worked hard and didn't get the payoff you expected. Taking the "easy road" isn't a bad idea, cost is lower so potential return is higher. The down side is that you're going to have LOTS of competition so you'd better be good at walking that road.

Taking the "hard" way reduces competition but there's no guarantee that you'll see return that equals the effort you have to put in.

Planning is the same deal. Taking a long term view is only valuable if you're good at actually accurately analyzing risks AND producing an effective plan for countering them. Taking a "long view" and being wrong can be more costly than doing nothing at all.

Self-discipline (in my opinion, and I realize that this probably is not what the book is talking about) is ALWAYS worth the effort.
Self-discipline to maintain your health
Self-discipline to learn how to protect yourself
Self-discipline to live within your means (no matter how meager)

12:56 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger blahga the hutt said...

JG,

So what if Heather Mills is rich? I happen to like my situation and I'm certainly not lacking for anything.

And yes, it will collapse. You cannot have a society act the way it does and have no consequences whatsoever. You may not see the signs, but I do.

12:59 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger cruft said...

the perspective matters. your's appears secular and from your appearance perhaps jewish. from the Christian's we are emmisaries (imperfect of course) of Jeshua. his nature was to pore himself out, to seve not to be served. our perspective is eternal not temporal. looking to man for approval will only lead to dissapointment as only one can fill the hole that Yahweh has created for himself.

1:02 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

"So what if Heather Mills is rich?"

-----

She's a good example of an undisciplined person who gets more than a disciplined person. It's kind of the topic here, unless I'm totally misreading this post.

If the only point to self-discipline is that you are then self-disciplined - but you don't get any external rewards for it - then fine, but I think Helen was talking about external rewards as well.

On a side note, I completely understand that life is not fair, and it never will be, but why do humans in their laws actively work against fairness in lots of ways? There shouldn't be a law that a dope like Heather Mills should get that money. And that's a human-made decision, someone came up with the statutes and common law cases underlying that sort of crap.

Why help the universe be more unfair?

People who work should get more money than people who don't work. Why make laws to the contrary?

1:21 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

People who produce something for society should get more money than people who take, take, take from society.

But it's almost the opposite in many cases.

1:28 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

My proposal:

Get rid of the income tax, put a consumption tax and exploitive-whore tax in place.

People will then be rewarded for work.

1:36 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

cruft - could you try to use stereotypes a little more? Is it the hair or the nose? What religion did Sammy Davis, Jr. look like? Are you skilled enough to determine Christian demoninations by appearance? How do you "pore" yourself? Stick needles in you skin?

2:14 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger TMink said...

I have to agree with Blahgha's point about self-discipline having long term rewards once things start to fall apart. Honestly, they have already started, and the circle is turning. At least in the elections it is.

Trey

2:21 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger highlander said...

You must be having a bad day Helen 'cause I know you know better than that.

The reward of self-discipline is personal freedom.

- A painter cannot paint the picture s/he envisions without having learned the discipline of painting.

- A musician cannot make the music s/he wants without learning the discipline of his/her musical instrument.

- A writer cannot write a great novel without learning the disciplines of grammar and story-telling.

Until we learn self-discipline, we remain slaves of our cravings and lack the skills needed to do what we intend.

3:02 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger highlander said...

My wife pointed out that when the government takes away from the ants' stores to give to the grasshoppers, not only is it discouraging for the ants, but it also deprives the grasshoppers of the need to learn self-discipline for themselves. They'll just continue on with their useless, silly, profligate ways. And in the long run, that may very well be the greater evil.

4:33 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger blahga the hutt said...

JG,

"She's a good example of an undisciplined person who gets more than a disciplined person. It's kind of the topic here, unless I'm totally misreading this post."

She has a lot of money because she married a really rich guy and took him to the cleaners. It happens. It doesn't affect my life, so I won't worry about it.

"If the only point to self-discipline is that you are then self-disciplined - but you don't get any external rewards for it - then fine, but I think Helen was talking about external rewards as well."

Again, so what? Self-discipline is hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it. You can be rational and free or a slave to your freudian id passions. Take a pick. I don't look for material rewards. I do it because it works for me personally.

"On a side note, I completely understand that life is not fair, and it never will be, but why do humans in their laws actively work against fairness in lots of ways?"

Because most people are patently stupid and don't realize reality in any form? Most progress (and no, I don't mean Obamaprogress) has actually been in spite of, not because of, the vastness of humanity in history. Those people were self-disciplined.

Collectively, we choose the type of society that we want. We may not like to or want to admit this, but it's nonetheless true. Right now, we want a freudian id society with no thought to tomorrow. You can argue otherwise, but there's no way any society (I don't care where they are located) can exist in that state very long. Hence a long collapse and a re-balancing.

4:43 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger we're doomed said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:53 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger Stormbringer said...

I believe in self discipline so that I can accomplish my own goals.

But it grinds my gears watching lazy slobs that I know personally, getting all the things they they want in life handed to them on a silver platter, while I have to work for a living and pay my own bills.

4:59 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger Henry Cate said...

"What is the point of self-discipline?"

One of my reasons for self-discipline is self respect.

5:17 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger we're doomed said...

I feel your pain Dr Helen, I really do!

5:23 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger Joe said...

Like many feel good words, self-discipline seems to mean whatever someone says it means. Typically it means whatever they are doing (as they clap themselves on the back.)

By definition:

discipline - systematic instructions given to a disciple

self-discipline - discipline and training of oneself.

That's it. How that's a recipe for success is entirely beyond me. Even self-control is overrated as a virtue (though is likely more what the author means.)

Incidentally, the dogma that "you get what you deserve" is quite old and unoriginal. It one of the less endearing aspects of the rich who often want to believe that their success is entirely due to their cleverness (and/or righteousness.)

9:18 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

Hate to bring it back to the obvious, but I noticed some years ago that the disciplined, dependable guys weren't getting any chicks. It's like being a 9 to 5er is for suckers.

Most men on here have realized this too, and there are a thousand blogs for those who'd like to learn how to cop an asshole shtick to get girls without feeling defouled at the end of the night.

11:20 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

As I have gotten older I've lost even more sympathy and respect for people who have pissed away opportunities and blessings.

I have a limited supply of emotional energy and I just don't have the time for it. People who were too cool for school, smoked their way through college, got a bullcrap degree, went on a tear of one-night stands, shirked their duties at work, ran up credit card bills, and on and on.

I guess I'm supposed to feel like a bad person for that, but people choose their lives. And as Helen notes they usually choose it by picking either instant or deferred gratification.

Another reason I'm glad I didn't peak socially in high school.

11:24 PM, June 09, 2010  
Blogger TMink said...

Highlander wrote: " it also deprives the grasshoppers of the need to learn self-discipline for themselves."

Indeed. Look at the unintended consequences of the so called war on poverty. It made it very easy to have 4 or more children without a dad in the "family." Now over 70% of black children are born with no dad in their lives and they end up in prison. They end up in prison at the same rate as white and mexican boys who grow up without a dad.

Saving someone from their consequences leads to perpetual dependence and incompetence.

Trey

11:04 AM, June 10, 2010  
Blogger Retriever said...

Self discipline so as to be able to live with yourself. So as to set a good example to the kids (that they will initially rebel against then, hopefully, return to). Like this:
Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence, 1967

7:34 PM, June 10, 2010  
Blogger ZZ said...

I feel a couple of ways about this. First, I agree that there are some people in the world who live slothfully and are essentially parasites on civilization that would never have been allowed to survive in a hunter-gatherer society. However, each of us achieves not only according to our will, but our gifts. I’ve worked with homeless people and addicts for years. What I’ve seen is that nearly everyone has something going for them that keeps them out of the gutter. They may be intelligent or resourceful, or if not that, they may be tall or good looking, or have a strong physique or constitution, or be gregarious or affable, or if none of those, they may have a devoted family or just a lot of luck. Often, just ONE of those gifts is enough to live on. But the fact is, there is a small minority of people who have none of these personal gifts. They’re kind of slow-witted, unattractive, socially awkward, and alone. It’s VERY difficult for them to achieve any measure of success in our society. Add to that the possible enslavement to drugs or alcohol (neither of which was available to hunter-gatherers), and they’re essentially unemployable. I think our society needs (and has) a safety net for that tiny minority. (And no, addicts cannot just “choose to quit”. Physical addiction is impossible to overcome by willpower alone unless you’re Lance Armstrong or Hercules or something).

3:33 PM, June 12, 2010  
Blogger Peter G. Miller said...

Helen writes and says "I spent my life working hard, taking personal responsibility and thinking about long term consequences. I watch in mild disgust while those who thought only about today and want immediate gratification are bailed out, while those who used self-discipline to turn themselves into a success are made to pay the price for those who aren't. Now, I call myself a sucker--not a disciple of self-discipline."

I don't think a problem of self-discipline is being described. Instead, the issue here seems to be that those driven by greed often get "better" results. They too have self-discipline.

Is Helen saying that society should have a fairer way to divide benefits?

Peter
OurBroker.com

6:29 AM, June 13, 2010  
Blogger God Of Bacon said...

Parasites are quite abundant in nature. They have good lobbyists.

9:02 AM, June 14, 2010  
Blogger Xiaoding said...

I blame the successful, the "self disciplined". They too have a share of blame in this.

For decades, now, the rich, the successful, the self disciplined, have been living in utter denial. What have they been denying? That wealth must be protected.

It is not enough, to work hard, sacrifice for the future, make wealth. You must also protect that wealth. This means taking various measures, not just having a store of guns and ammo.

It means taking time, to make sure society is safe. Not just your part of town, but every part of town. Or your wealth will not be safe, as indeed, it is not safe today.

I would argue, twenty years ago, with people, putting forth that the USA needed a national healthcare system. Pretty much for anyone who wanted it, or needed. it. I got the usual response, "Why should I pay for that?"

I would reply, because your house is not an island, and a nation divided cannot stand. No one listened.

Would that I could transport those noble conservatives, full of success, and self discipline, and denial of their fellow man, to the world of today. I would show them around a bit...and then ask, do you see, why, now? Do you finally SEE?

6:24 PM, June 14, 2010  
Blogger Jason said...

'Twas ever thus.

C.f., Ecclesiastes - 'The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance happen to them all.'

When I was a young musician, just starting out, I got some good advice from someone: "If you're REALLY REALLY talented and work REALLY REALLY hard, you can increase your chances of being lucky."

12:23 AM, June 15, 2010  
Blogger Peter G. Miller said...

You can see examples of the societies described by Xiaoding in Mexico and Brazil. Having money is great, but when your kids need security guards and it's not safe to stop at a red light then personal greed is not making anyone rich in the sense of a better life or more safety.

Peter
OurBroker.com

5:08 AM, June 15, 2010  
Blogger StevieRoy said...

Helen, don't forsake the practice of self-discipline. Look how far you've come. Would you be a successful forensic psychologist without it? So some slackers got a lucky break--you should pity them, not envy them. In the face of true calamity, true challenge, they will be totally at sea.

6:16 AM, August 23, 2010  

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