Discipline Equals Freedom — Jocko Willink

I had mixed feelings about the Jocko Willink’s book “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual”.

On the one hand, after reading “Extreme Ownership”, I expected something that is universally applicable. Something that works equally well in the gym, in the office, and on the battlefield.

On the other hand, at the end of the book there is a huge appendix containing workout plans. Looks like a book for someone who has signed up for a marathon, but cannot find the motivation to wake up early in the morning, and go running.

That is not me. My idea of fitness is a little bit different. For me, it is not about finishing a marathon in less than three hours or lifting twice my body weight. The only reason why I exercise is being healthy. I don’t want to have a heart attack before the 60th birthday.

Is there anything I can learn from this book?

There are many books like this one. Books which are supposed to motivate you, persuade you to stop procrastinating, or just kick you in the butt. A lot of authors write about the idea of “just doing it.” They try to convince you that you should “stop postponing your dreams.”

Not so long ago I read “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins. With all due respect, if we, the readers, paid attention and refrained from making excuses, Mel’s book could be a tweet. Unfortunately, we make tons of excuses. We need inspiring stories, real-life examples, and superfluous explanations. Because of that we need long books about motivation, planning your life, fighting with distractions, and stopping procrastination.

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Here comes Jocko

“Discipline Equals Freedom” is different. Jocko does not try to persuade you. There is no back-patting, compassion or consolation. Jocko won’t listen to your concerns. He doesn’t want to hear why being better is difficult for you. He doesn’t want to discuss your detailed plan. He won’t compromise.

Jocko just tells you what you should do. He has a short message he wants to tell you:

Stronger. Smarter. Faster. Healthier. Better.

Take it or leave it.

The Jocko’s book is all about the self-imposed discipline. The desire to be a little bit better every day, and not accepting who you are right now. Is it an extension of the extreme ownership idea? Does he want you to extremely own your life? I bet he does. As Jocko says:

The only person you can control is you. So focus on making yourself who you want you to be. (…)

Get after it and you will become the person you want to be. And you become that person through: One. Small. Decision. At. A. Time.

The preacher of action

This book is dangerous. It really makes you want to change something, to force yourself to be more disciplined. After reading it, you won’t feel comfortable anymore.

Despite the title, Jocko’s book is not a manual. If you are looking for detailed instructions, you should look somewhere else. This book is supposed to motivate you. It shows you what will be possible to achieve when you wake up early in the morning and start the day with something that must be done. Even if you hate doing it.

I have just set my alarm clock to 4:30 am. It may not be a permanent change, but I want to try it. At least for three weeks.

After all, the best time to start doing something new was yesterday. The second best is right now. There is no third best.

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Bartosz Mikulski
Bartosz Mikulski * MLOps Engineer / data engineer * conference speaker * co-founder of Software Craft Poznan & Poznan Scala User Group

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