1-Sentence-Summary: Discipline Equals Freedom is a former Navy Seal’s field manual for finding and using the self-control you need to achieve your dreams, combining motivating ideas and mindset advice with practical tips on waking up early, exercising and eating right, and getting your health in order.
Read in: 4 minutes
Favorite quote from the author:
In 2018, Youtuber Casey Neistat’s day looked like this: Wake up between 4 and 5 AM. Work for 2 hours. Make breakfast with his daughter for an hour. 8 AM, run. Get to the office by 10, leave around 6, family time until 10 PM. Then, hit the gym for an hour, and, at 11 PM, pass out. That’s…pretty crazy! But also pretty effective.
While visiting Casey’s office in the vlog episode where he breaks down this schedule, former Navy Seal and instructor Jocko Willink confirms that Casey has intuitively grasped the most important lesson about self-control: Discipline Equals Freedom. In his same-titled book, a follow-up to his bestseller Extreme Ownership, Willink explains what that means.
“We all want freedom, right?” he asks Casey. “Financial freedom, more free time, physical freedom. But the way to get to freedom is through discipline. If you want to be financially free, you have to save your money. You have to work hard to earn more money. You have to not buy stupid things. All that takes discipline.”
But how can we develop this discipline? In his book, Jocko explains, starting with the thoughts and actions required. He also provides practical tips on working out, eating right, and even preventing injuries.
Here are 3 lessons to help you build more discipline in your life so you can achieve your dreams:
- Shortcuts don’t work, and realizing this is the only “cheat code” in life.
- To wake up early successfully, set a fixed wake-up time, then let sleep debt help you adjust.
- The only person worth competing against is yourself.
Let’s dive into discipline!
Lesson 1: The only shortcut in life is not taking shortcuts.
Seth Godin thinks “Kickstarter” is the worst name ever for a company helping creators and entrepreneurs raise money. Why? Because a financing campaign should be the last step in bringing a dream together, not the first. “It should be called ‘Kickfinisher,'” he told Marie Forleo in an interview.
That’s why, before seeking funding for his book The Icarus Deception on the platform, Seth blogged daily for years. By the time he let his audience know about the project, collecting the money was easy. He hit his goal in 3 hours.
“The long way is the shortcut,” Seth says — and so does Jocko. “The shortcut is a lie,” he opens his book. “The hack doesn’t get you there.” You can take the easy road, of course. But it won’t get you where you’re trying to go, he says. The shortcut is the hard way.
“What’s the hack?” Jocko asks. There is only one, and, deep down, we already know what it is. “The way of discipline.” The only way to become smarter, faster, better, is to put in the work. The best thing you can do — the only shortcut that actually works — is to drop the attitude of seeking fast fixes, now and forevermore.
You can’t uncut any corner you’ve previously taken. That’s done. But you can not cut the next one. And the next one. And the next one. Welcome to the long way. You’re now officially on the fastest path to your goals.
Lesson 2: If you want to sleep and wake up early, never change your alarm, and let the rest fall into place.
Like Casey, even years after leaving the military, Willink still wakes up early. Every day, he posts a photo of his watch at 4:30 AM to prove it. No shortcuts!
Rising early is a keystone habit of discipline because the win of getting up early makes it more likely you’ll stack other wins later, like working out or resisting the donuts at work. It’ll also afford you the mental space to do so — because everyone else is fast asleep!
But how can you sleep 7 or 8 hours yet still wake up early? Jocko has 5 ideas:
- Exercise enough throughout the day so you’re actually tired.
- Turn off screens well before bedtime. Eliminate stimulation.
- Read. Reading makes us smarter and helps us fall asleep.
- Don’t change your wake-up time. Even if you lack sleep one night, you’ll make up for it the next.
- Do it every day. If you need more sleep, get it from naps, not by sleeping in.
The more of these factors you combine, the better it will go, but I found #4 most interesting. Sure, getting up early after only 5 hours of sleep might not feel great during the day, but the next night, it will help you fall asleep, Jocko says. “At the end of the day, you want to be tired. Now, you can go to bed at 9:30—you are now on track.”
If you’ve failed at making early rising a habit before, try locking in your wake-up time and allow yourself a few days to adjust. Soon, you’ll find a new rhythm, and with it, more discipline!
Lesson 3: Your greatest victories are the ones you achieve against your former self.
“Greatness comes from within,” the announcer begins Porsche’s “Compete” commercial. We see Muhammad Ali entering the ring, Magnus Carlsen sitting down at a chess board, Anna Kournikova grabbing her tennis rack. “From pitting you…against you.”
What’s this? A second Ali steps up? A second Carlsen sits down? Kournikova is preparing to play…herself! “You against you,” the announcer keeps repeating, as we see these legends battle it out against themselves. “Until the greatest version of you…triumphs” — and they each best their former selves. Epic!
While Porsche’s idea was that the only car that can beat a 911 is a better, newer 911, the same applies to you and I! “My glory doesn’t happen in front of a crowd,” Jocko claims. “It happens in the darkness of the early morning. In solitude. Where I try. And I try. And I try again.” He may not have the stature to be an Olympic weightlifter or gymnast, but he can always become a little faster, stronger, smarter than he was yesterday. “Better than people thought I could be. Better than I thought I could be.”
In the end, the only person worth competing against is yourself. You’ll always know what you are truly capable of, and you’ll always know when you’ve surpassed your prior top performance. Those victories will always be the most rewarding, and, in the end, they are the only ones worth winning.
Don’t compete with anyone except yourself. In this life, it’s you against you — until the greatest version of you triumphs.
Discipline Equals Freedom Review
Discipline Equals Freedom is a short, square-format, engaging, directive book. It’s full of motivation, inspiration, and centered around a single theme. It also contains plenty of practical advice around working out, eating better, and resting well. If you’re ready for a kick in the butt from a Navy Seal, this one’s for you!
Who would I recommend our Discipline Equals Freedom summary to?
The 17-year-old high schooler who just discovered the joys of working out, the 28-year-old student who really, really needs to finish her thesis, and anyone who feels like they’ve fallen behind their true potential.