Be Disciplined (Part 4)

Discipline is necessary and good. The man under no discipline is like the spoiled child whom nothing satisfies. You can’t raise successful children without it, but that does not mean that discipline should repress or tyrannize. Discipline should lead to powerful habits of direction, work, and good judgment. Good discipline produces strength, not weakness; creativity, not banality; responsibility, not self-indulgence. Always remember that discipline is like a two-edged sword; it is not only to correct children when they are wrong, but to direct them to a way that is right. Fair and reasonable discipline is like a fence that provides protection and defines limits, demonstrating both care and concern. A person without discipline is like a ship without a rudder in the storm of life. Discipline is like the helm of a ship; it gives direction. It is like a vaccine. It inflicts lesser pain now to avoid greater pain later.
Discipline is like sandpaper. It feels rough and abrasive when it’s in motion, but the final result is a smooth and polished surface. He who hath not Discipline is like a race-horse without a rider. Self disciplining means self orientation for achieving the goals at the earliest, within the resources available and streamlining the efforts towards the target. Persistence is one of the most important pillars of self-discipline.
What Is Persistence?
Persistence is the ability to maintain action regardless of your feelings. You press on even when you feel like quitting.
When you work on any big goal, your motivation will wax and wane like waves hitting the shore. Sometimes you’ll feel motivated; sometimes you won’t. But it’s not your motivation that will produce results — it’s your action. Persistence allows you to keep taking action even when you don’t feel motivated to do so, and therefore you keep accumulating results.
Persistence will ultimately provide its own motivation. If you simply keep taking action, you’ll eventually get results, and results can be very motivating. For example, you may become a lot more enthusiastic about dieting and exercising once you’ve lost those first 10 pounds and feel your clothes fitting more loosely.
When to Give Up
Should you always persist and never give up? Certainly not. Sometimes giving up is clearly the best option. Have you ever heard of a company called Traf-O-Data? What about Microsoft? I am quoting their story just to emphasize over the importance of giving up.
Both companies were started by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Traf-O-Data was the first company they started, back in 1972. In 1971, a company called Logic Simulation was inventorying the streets in Kent, Wash. They placed traffic counting boxes, which had a hose going from the box across the street, on some streets. Each time a car crossed the hose, the box increased its count. The results were recorded as holes punched into paper tape, one of the main computer storage media of the time.
Bill Gates, when he was a high school student, got a job processing the data, to count the holes in the paper tape and produce a report. He also transcribed the results onto punch cards to be transferred into another computer.
Rather than doing all the work himself, Gates hired fellow students at Lakeside School. One of these fellow students was Paul Allen. In 1972, Gates and Allen purchased an Intel 8008 chip for building an automated car-counting machine. They formed a company, named as Traf-O-Data with its headquarters in Allen’s dorm room at Washington State University. Paul Gilbert, a friend of Gates and Allen, designed the hardware while Gates and Allen wrote the software. Because the hardware did not yet exist, they tried to write a program on the Washington State University IBM System 360 to simulate the 8008 chip. That way, they could program on the IBM System 360 and transfer the program to the Traf-O-Data device when it was finished.
Around this time, defense contractor TRW was looking for programmers. Both Gates and Allen were hired. While there, Allen developed the 8008 simulator to run on the TRW PDP-10 computers. This allowed Gates and Allen to begin work on the Traf-O-Data software.
After leaving TRW, Gates was accepted into Harvard University. With everything going on in his life, Traf-O-Data barely limped along. By 1974, Gilbert had finished the hardware, and Gates had mostly finished the software. However, the company had no device to automatically read the paper tapes.
An acquaintance of Gates’ father came up with a solution. The device would feel the paper tape with specialized metallic fingers to count the holes. It became known as the squeeze reader. A prototype worked well and a representative of the King County Engineering Department was invited to Gate’s parents’ home to see a demonstration. The squeeze reader failed completely, and no sale was made.
Traf-O-Data, now a partnership between Gates, Allen, and Gilbert, needed a professional paper tape reader. Gates used $3,400 of his own money to purchase an Enviro-Labs Model GS-311 Paper Tape Reader. Traf-O-Data used the device to process the paper tapes generated by traffic counting boxes and produced some revenue. Eventually, the State of Washington offered free traffic processing services, ending this revenue. In May of 1979, Traf-O-Data sent letters to clients saying they were suspending business. Gates’ first business had failed.
Much of the details of Traf-O-Data are lost. This is to be expected since the business was started and run by teen-agers. Gates has claimed that Traf-O-Data had revenues of $20,000 to $30,000 per year over its life. More reliable estimates put the amount closer to $10,000 to $20,000 total.
Some timelines report that Traf-O-Data was renamed Microsoft. This is incorrect. This fallacy is based, no doubt, on the fact that Gates and Allen were involved in starting both Traf-O-Data and Microsoft. Although Traf-O-Data did not become Microsoft, it is no doubt true that the experiences Gates and Allen had with Traf-O-Data helped both of them when the
y started Microsoft.
Gates and Allen ran it for several years before throwing in the towel. They gave up. Of course they did a little better with Microsoft.
If they hadn’t given up on Traf-O-Data, then we wouldn’t have such rich collections of Microsoft and Bill Gates today.
So how do you know when to press on vs. when to give up? Is your plan still correct? If not, update the plan. Is your goal still correct? If not, update or abandon your goal. There’s no honor in clinging to a goal that no longer inspires you. Persistence is not stubbornness.
If you’re growing at all as a human being, then you’re going to be a different person each year than you were the previous year. And if you consciously pursue personal development, then the changes will often be dramatic and rapid. You can’t guarantee that the goals you set today will still be ones you’ll want to achieve a year from now.
In order to make room for new goals, we have to delete or complete old ones. And sometimes new goals are so compelling and inspiring that there’s no time to complete old ones — they have to be abandoned half-finished. I’ve always found it uncomfortable to do this, but I know it’s necessary. The hard part is consciously deciding to delete an old project, knowing it will never be finished. I have a file full of game ideas and some prototypes for new games that will never see the light of day. Consciously deciding that those projects had to be abandoned was really hard for me. It took me a long time to come to grips with it. But it was necessary for my own growth to be able to do this.
I still had to solve the problem of setting goals that might become obsolete in a year due to my own personal growth. How did I solve this problem? I cheated. I figured out the only way I could set long-term goals that would stick would be if they were aligned with my own process of growth. The pursuit of personal growth has long been a stable constant for me, even though it’s paradoxically in flux at the same time. So instead of trying to set fixed goals as I did with my games business, I began setting broader more dynamic goals that were aligned with my own growth. This new business allows me to pursue my personal growth full-out and to share what I learn with others. So growth itself is the goal, both for myself and others. This creates a symbiotic relationship, whereby helping others feeds back into my own growth, which in turn generates new ideas for helping others. Anyone who’s been reading this site since last year has probably seen that effect in action.
The direct and conscious pursuit of personal growth is the only type of mission that would work for me. The value of persistence comes not from stubbornly clinging to the past. It comes from a vision of the future that’s so compelling you would give almost anything to make it real. The vision I have of my future now is far greater than the one I had for Dexterity. To be able to help people grow and to solve their most difficult problems is far more inspiring to me than entertaining people. These values started oozing out of me as I ran Dexterity because I favored logic puzzle games that challenged people to think, often passing up the opportunity to publish games I felt would make money but which wouldn’t provide much real value to people.
Persistence of action comes from persistence of vision. When you’re super-clear about what you want in such a way that your vision doesn’t change much, you’ll be more consistent — and persistent — in your actions. And that consistency of action will produce consistency of results.
Can you identify a part of your life where you’ve demonstrated a pattern of long-term persistence? I think if you can identify such an area, it may provide a clue to your mission — something you can work towards where passion and self-discipline function synergistically.
Be Happy – Be Disciplined.