The way all great things get built

If I were to ask you if you want to be wealthier, healthier, and more skilled, what would you say?

(No, this isn’t a sales pitch… well, maybe it is, in a way.)

You would probably say yes. Most people would. There is a universal desire among the human race to do, be, and have more than we do. It is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, quite the opposite. To endeavor to improve is a noble pursuit.

But let’s say instead of asking you that, I asked you something else – 

“Do you want to spend your time learning how to invest your money, and then sacrifice your vacation or new car to invest it? Do you want to get up before work, while it’s still dark outside and you’re sleepy, and go to the gym? Do you want to give up some of your recoup time at the end of the day to practice and improve your skill level?”

…you would probably think a little longer about your answers to those questions.

What’s funny is that they are basically the same questions. If you invest wisely, you will increase your wealth. If you go to the gym more often than you do not, you will become healthier. If you practice you will get better.

The difference between the first set of questions and the second is that the second prompts us to take action. It shows us the cost of the “more” that we are seeking to “do, be, and have.” And we are not quick to pay the cost.

So then, how does anything great get built?


 John C. Maxwell says, “Everything worthwhile is uphill.” And he is right. If you want to gain one thing, you must sacrifice another thing – consistently. Improvement equals effort over time; that’s what it costs. And when the moment comes and we must pay that cost, self-discipline enables you to follow through.

It is a commitment to something greater than our own time and effort – a demonstration that we can want something and actually bring it about.

And it is like momentum – difficult to get going, but self-sustaining once it is in motion.

So, I have a challenge for you this week.

  1. Pick 2 or 3 areas of your life where you have been striving to improve. (Personal, professional, relational -it doesn’t matter; improvement in one increases the potential for improvement of them all.)
  2. Evaluate how well you have been about investing into those areas. How long has it been since you last dedicated effort over time to that priority? And how intentional have you been about your investment? What does this important thing need from you?
  3. Set a goal for each of these areas that is reasonable to achieve over the next week. Make sure these goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound, or you are not setting yourself up for success.
  4. Make an action plan to accomplish those goals. Use insights from your evaluation to help you make your plan.
  5. Follow your plan! (This is the step that creates the momentum! The rest of the exercise means nothing if you do not follow through.)

Creating a pattern for self-discipline makes room for more self-discipline – and when adopted as a part of your character, self-discipline turns you into the kind of leader that others want to follow.

Until next time,


P.S. Need a self-discipline pick-me-up? Join me and my colleague Madalina for the next Leading on Mondays as we offer some practical follow-through tips for making real change in your life and leadership legacy.

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