What My Mom Taught Me About Entrepreneurial Discipline
Gary Vaynerchuk is one of my favorite social media and marketing influencers. Why? Simple: His guiding principle is that it’s never too late to stop caring what others think and do what you love in life.
Every once in a while, Gary will focus on the 50-year-olds of the world and preach to them: “You’ve got a long life in front of you,” he says, “so instead of sitting at that job for the next 10 years thinking that this new world of technology isn’t for you, go do your thing.”
I used to tune out when Gary ranted about the 50-year-olds. That all changed, however, when my mom went back to college to earn her bachelor’s this past spring.
Now I know that he’s right about the importance of “doing your thing.” My Mom is living proof.
Over the past few months, I’ve been blown away by how Mom’s journey back to school. She’s been a living example of the core standards that some of the key influencers of our time share on a daily basis:
- Define your mission
- Change your perception of obstacles
- Experience the “point of no return”
- Believe in yourself
- Practice unmitigated daily discipline
These principles serve as a guide for how I want to live my life, and it’s been incredible to see my own mother practice them day in and day out.
In homage to her, then, and as added inspiration for you, I want to share her standards so that you can take your own life to the next level—no matter where you are right now.
Standard 1: Define Your Mission
Onnit CEO and founder Aubrey Marcus often talks about how “your mission is your purpose in life,” and making progress towards a mission gives one a sense of purpose. He goes into detail on defining your mission in his book, “Own the Day, Own Your Life,” which I strongly recommend.
I’m not sure if Mom sat down and wrote out her mission, but it’s nonetheless very clear to her: Help as many people as possible through the practice of nursing.
For the past 30 years, that meant slowly working through the hospital hierarchy, first serving as a floor nurse and then a director of nursing. But in all that time, she was more focused on mission than title; recently, she realized that her impact could be amplified by serving in an administrative role.
As you’ll see in the next section, these types of medical roles require the all-important bachelor’s degree. But that meant heavy debt late in her career. So Mom revisited her mission and the obstacles that stood in her way. She decided that the degree was worth it—that it would keep her on the path guided by her North Star, her unfailing mission to help others.
Ask yourself: What’s your mission? Are your daily actions moving you closer to that mission or further away from it?
Standard 2: Overcome Your Obstacles
After countless failed interviews for administrative roles—despite 30 years in nursing—it was clear Mom needed a bachelor’s degree. Without fuss or complaint, she researched programs and enrolled. In a short time, she was a student. She knew that this would require a lifestyle change—new habits, difficult financial investments, sacrifices, and academic discipline. But these obstacles paled compared to her mission.
As Ryan Holiday details in his book, “The Obstacle is the Way,” obstacles are the one constant in the pursuit of one’s dreams. How one perceives, acts upon, and moves forward in the face of obstacles are the most likely predictors of success.
Immediately after enrolling in school, Mom was questioned by her closest friends about her strange life choice: “You’ll be 60 by the time you graduate. Are you sure you want to do this? Plus, you have a great job now. Why are you leaving?” But she persisted, undeterred by these external doubts.
Obstacles also came in form of academic rigor, something Mom just wasn’t used to. I remember her starting off in a statistics class that threw her for a loop—she hadn’t taken a math class in decades. But she made it through with good grades and a lot of momentum.
Challenges, hurdles, and obstacles like these will continue to come at her every single day. But Mom’s response is inspiring. She remains cool, calm, and unflappable. Why? Because she knows her purpose and her why. And she knows the obstacles are worth it.
Ask yourself honestly: How do you think about and respond to obstacles? Do you welcome them, knowing that obstacles are merely bumps on a path to greatness? Or do you dread them, letting adversity guide your decisions and tear you away from your dreams?
Standard 3: Experience the Point of No Return
What separates actual entrepreneurs from wannabe entrepreneurs? Benjamin Hardy set out to answer this question. He discovered that having a moment known as the “point of no return” is one of the biggest distinguishing factors between the two groups. The former has experienced a “point of no return”; the latter has not.
The most profound points of no return, according to Hardy, are those that require a large monetary investment. For Carl, a 16-year-old entrepreneur in Tennessee, this meant investing $10,000 in a shipment of shoes to start a lifestyle company. For my colleague Brian, it was investing the inheritance he received from his grandparents to start a business he eventually expanded many times over.
Mom’s point of no return was investing her savings to go to school. Applying and being accepted were their own hurdles, to be sure, but writing a tuition check was really the big investment. It was the final act that committed Mom fully to her new path.
Have you experienced this kind of investment, or have you always turned back when the “cost” was too high?
[By the way, here is an interview with Hardy where he talks about the point of no return.]
Standard 4: Believe in Yourself
Once my Mom had experienced the point of no return, it was off to the races. Immediately, her mentality and identity changed. She was a student, wholly committed to achieving her immediate goal (earning a bachelor’s degree) to further her lifelong mission of helping others.
Because of this commitment, she knew that she had already achieved the immediate goals she set for herself—steps toward a career in administration. This cemented a belief in herself and her mission that she was eager to share. She was vocal with her inner circle about how she knew she would graduate early, and how she may even go on to earn her master’s degree.
Her mind had completely accepted the fact that she would become a college graduate in a few short years.
This powerful self-belief reminds me of an Arnold Schwarzenegger quote:
“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision doing something, you can do it. As long as you believe 100%.”
This self-belief and confidence, when accompanied by consistent action, are the two ingredients for greatness.
If you had your dream defined and a path laid before you, would you believe in your own ability to achieve it?
Standard 5: Unmitigated Self Discipline
When I think about discipline, the first person who comes to mind is retired Navy SEAL and world-famous podcast host and author Jocko Willink. Every day at 4:30 a.m. (or earlier), Jocko wakes up and puts himself through a grueling workout. I know this because he tweets a picture of his watch every single day, which now serves as a source of motivation for his followers, including myself.
ETR’s Editor Craig Ballantyne is also an incredible model for self-discipline and taking action every single day. Just follow him on Instagram to see his own journey in action, as well as constant motivation, lessons, and routines that will exponentially increase your productivity.
Mom’s discipline is also incredible—as incredible as Jocko and Craig. She takes daily action toward her goals, and puts in the hours even if she isn’t “feeling it.”
Here’s a perfect example: Just the other night, I was in an airport and had talked myself into taking the next hour off and relaxing. Pathetic. But it sounded reasonable at the time. Coincidentally, Mom called to see how my trip was going and mentioned in passing how she had just sat down for a study session. It was 9:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night, and despite having worked a full day, she was just gearing up for a few hours of studying.
Examples like this are numerous, and are what makes her journey so inspiring.
How are you practicing daily self-discipline? What steps are you taking every day to move closer to achieving your big goals?
Though it’s only been a few months, Mom’s work in college has been a source of incredible motivation and pride for my family and me. I can’t wait until she achieves her goal at the end of her journey, and then faces her next big odyssey with poise and persistence.
Thanks, Mom, for being an inspiration and living your life as the example we all should follow. Your standards are the secret to our collective success.
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