Making shit happen is hard. Competition is stiff, information is boundless, and technology is ever-changing. Without discipline and the wholesale commitment to fulfilling your obligations, you’ve got no chance at sustained success. There’s no easy way to create a client presentation, pitch for new business, and address personnel issues in the 30 minutes of your day that aren’t spoken for. There’s no easy way to be away from your family to attend the client meeting that popped up the same night you bought tickets to the theater. Thank goodness for discipline since we all know there’s no shortcut to success.
Yet, interestingly, this hard-charging discipline, which I’ll call Type 1 Discipline, is something that I’ve found to be the easy part of discipline. Maybe it’s because I’m an ENTJ, a Horse, and have spent the last 15 years of my professional life tackling new entrepreneurial challenges. Regardless of how I’ve gotten here, what I’ve seen is that most entrepreneurs and true business drivers are comfortable with the principles of Type 1 Discipline: reliability, consistency, sacrifice, and hard work. And as hard as Type 1 Discipline may be, I’ve come to discover that there’s a next level of discipline that once mastered, truly transforms teams and businesses. This, my friends, is Type 2 Discipline.
Principle: The really hard part of discipline isn’t charging hard; it’s letting go.
It isn’t running around a parking lot holding your child’s bike while they try to ride without training wheels; it’s letting go of the bike and just standing there once they have shown some stability.
It isn’t preparing a fantastic client pitch that keeps you up all night; it’s letting someone more junior on your team make the pitch after you’ve worked hand-in-hand to create it.
It isn’t chiming in when someone on your team is taking a non-traditional approach with a client; it’s keeping quiet and realizing that they might have a different approach than you and that their approach might be better.
Welcome to Type 2 Discipline, which is damn hard to do.
Type 2 Discipline doesn’t come naturally, and is part of the reason that executives who can grow a company from $0 to $1mm often are different from those who can grow a business from $1 to $10mm or those who can grow from $10 to $100mm.
To get be ready for Type 2 Discipline, you need deep self-awareness, a clear vision, and complete confidence in the people surrounding you. It’s taken me decades as a professional and a lot of personal setbacks and learnings to take on Type 2 Discipline, but I’m starting to learn.
My father would often say, “life is for the living” when the topic of death would come up. Since losing him seven years ago, I think I’ve finally come to understand what he really meant. You see -- I no longer wish for him to still be with us; today I’m thankful for the time I had with him and the wisdom he imparted onto me. I’ve let go of wanting things to be the way they used to be and I’ve embraced how things are today, while expressing gratitude for how thing used to be.
While “letting go” of a parent might not be something you’d typically think of as a disciplined action, the power of letting go of a desire to change things out of your control requires immense discipline. Getting to this point took plenty of therapy, conversations with great friends, and introspection about what makes me happy and what would have made my father happy. It’s no accident that these actions line up with the three principles of Type 2 Discipline: self-awareness, a clear vision, and complete confidence in the people surrounding you.
What’s holding you back and do you have the discipline to let go of something that’s holding you back? If you don’t, a first step might be to think about how you really want to live and talk with five people close to you about how you can get there.
In my role at The Outloud Group, I’m across our branding, marketing, PR, business development, and brand relationships. After refreshing our brand and identifying a few targeted companies we were excited about working with, I was fortunate enough to land a new client.
Two months into the relationship with the new client, I was working hand-in-hand with another team member where I was regularly catching small mistakes before they would’ve been presented to the client. While I didn’t like going through the process of finding mistakes, I was happy they didn't reach the client. Despite talking through these mistakes and making some process enhancements, I started to realize that so long as I was there as a “safety-net”, there was a strong chance that these mistakes would continue. I felt like I was in a lose-lose situation: either keep being the safety-net and re-checking work or become comfortable with mistakes getting to the client.
My solution wasn’t perfect. I still don’t love it, but it’s worked in the long-run. I implemented Type 2 Discipline and communicated to my teammate that I was ostensibly removing the safety-net from the equation….and while additional mistakes did happen, the number of mistakes decreased and there was an increased awareness in the importance of error-free work. A short-term bruise turned into a long-term asset.
Similarly, I’ve had to really challenge myself to back-out of running client accounts. This means creating Standard Operating Procedures for the team. This means documenting and training the team in the methods and mentality that have enabled me to successfully run accounts. This means setting a clear timeline for when and how my role will change. Most importantly, this requires a commitment to letting go, even when this causes challenges and problems. A bruise can lead to strength when team members recognize that growth must happen to achieve our shared objectives.
While I’ll never apologize for high expectations for myself or my team, I’m comfortable taking some lumps and bruises along the way so long as this continues to translate into growth in my team and growth in me letting go. After all, as Chief Growth Officer, I understand that my own personal growth and the personal growth of my team is the only way we’ll grow as a company.
So go ahead & be brave. Figure out what you’ll let go of over the next 6 months and publicly commit to this goal. And while you’re at it – commit to being brave enough to taking a vacation to show your team it’s okay to get away and to show them you have confidence in their ability to get shit done when you’re not there. And most importantly – figure out what it is that you really want and never sacrifice what you really want for what you want right now. This takes discipline…Type 2 Discipline.