Although virtually everyone agrees that “time is money,” I’m convinced most people only pay lip service to this truism. If you’re really serious about it, you need to come to grips with the reality that the key ingredient for converting time into money is self-discipline.
The greatest catalyst for an undisciplined person is pain, and pain comes in many forms.
Physical pain, for instance, can be the catalyst for becoming self-disciplined when it comes to exercise and healthy eating. Financial pain can be the catalyst for having the self-discipline to work when you’re tired or sick, or when you’d rather be out having fun. And then there’s the pain that comes from a lost love, which can give you the self-discipline to be a better partner when love comes your way again.
Years ago, when I was still single, I became good friends with a professional football player who was something of a celebrity due to his stellar performance in the NFL. “Bill” was not only a phenomenal athlete, he was extremely intelligent and possessed extraordinary talents in many other areas.
Bill approached me at the health club we both belonged to and introduced himself. He said he had read my first book, and considered it to be his “bible.” Obviously, I was flattered.
Bill had been working on a book of his own for a couple of years, but was having trouble completing it. As I got to know him over the next three years, it became easy to see why. Notwithstanding everything he had going for him, he was totally lacking in one important area: self-discipline.
At that stage of my life, I was attracted to the proposition of having a good time, but I never allowed that to interfere with my work. I normally went to bed between 8:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., woke around 4:30 a.m., jogged a few miles, and was at my Selectric typewriter by 8:00 a.m. or so. As a result, over the three-year period I was friends with Bill, I wrote two more books, both of them bestsellers.
Through it all, Bill was constantly urging me to “live it up” with him. He’d often chide me, saying, “C’mon, don’t be a party pooper. Lighten up. Sometimes, you’ve got to let it all hang out.”
During that three-year period, while I was finishing two successful books, Bill spent his nonpartying time moaning and groaning about changing the premise of his book, endlessly reorganizing his material, and tinkering with — of all things — the title. To me, these appeared to be nothing more than stalling tactics to avoid the gut-wrenching work of actually bringing his book to completion.
As a result, Bill missed his window of opportunity. Because, as everyone knows, fame is fleeting. The door closes very rapidly once you’re out of the limelight. While he was playing in the NFL, it would have been easy for him to find a major publisher for his book. When you get your shot in life, you have to take it.
When I look back on my relationship with Bill, there were two defining moments.
The first occurred when I was putting in 14- to 16-hour workdays, seven days a week, on my books. I vividly recall Bill looking very discouraged after I refused to party with him one night. “How could I ever compete with someone as self-disciplined as you?” he said. “You’re relentless. You would just wear me down through attrition.”
It struck me as bizarre that this famous, multitalented person was telling me he couldn’t compete with me. Ridiculous. The truth of the matter is that he could have written two or three bestselling books in the time I knew him. In fact, with 100 percent effort, he could have beaten me at just about anything. And doors were open to him that certainly weren’t open to me. He would have had a good shot at an acting career… or maybe broadcasting.
Instead, Bill chose instant, daily, and (worse) nightly gratification over potentially huge benefits down the road.
Maybe Bill was just lazy, right? Sorry, not a valid excuse. The truth is, most people are lazy at heart — especially most successful people. They become self-disciplined out of necessity.
“Every morning I have a little fight with myself,” a very successful marketer once told me. “I have to force myself to haul it out of bed and into the office.” Well, I know the feeling. Everyone who has heard me speak knows how strongly I believe in the need to force yourself to take action.
The second defining moment in my relationship with Bill was when he told me he had developed the ability to bluff his way though practice after a hard night out on the town. He said he had mastered the art of going through the motions in such a way that it appeared that he was working at full throttle.
Sadly, Bill carried that same attitude into his aborted writing career and life beyond football. In my view, it’s the reason he’s not ensconced in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where others with less talent but far more self-discipline will be forever honored.
Self-discipline is about restraining, or regulating, your actions — repressing the instinct to act impulsively in favor of taking rational, long-term-oriented actions. My short-lived friendship with Bill was immensely beneficial to me. It made me realize that self-discipline — a trait that every human being has the capacity to develop — gave me the power to outperform people who are far more intelligent and talented than I am.[Ed. Note: To learn how to survive and prosper during the turbulent years ahead, check out Robert Ringer’s powerful audio series Succeeding in a World of Chaos. And be sure to sign up for a FREE subscription to his one-of-a-kind e-letter A Voice of Sanity in an Insane World.]