The tortoise wins.
I ran a marathon 30 years ago. While training, my wife, Diane, started casually jogging with me at the end or beginning of my runs. A few weeks before the marathon she ran a half-marathon with me.
Since I had never run more than three miles, I had a five month schedule for preparing for the marathon. I was very disciplined about it, it didn’t matter if it was late at night or raining, I kept to my schedule for those five months and finished my marathon.
20 years later I was only running casually one or twice a week, sometimes less. I was able to keep my exercise going with other sports, but really didn’t have a long term commitment to running. 20 years after the marathon Diane was running four to five times a week faithfully, every week.
Discipline vs. Diligence
I had been DISCIPLINED to prepare for the marathon for five months, but Diane was DILIGENT to keep running a few miles every day, year after year. We hear a lot of talk about discipline, but diligence trumps discipline every time, and is much more desirable in growing a business that lasts.
Tony Robbins says we over estimate what we can do in a month, and greatly underestimate what we can do in a year. Diligence takes the long haul into account and sets us up for long term success. It’s about being the tortoise, not the hare. Diligence keeps us from getting distracted by each new shiny object.
Discipline is motivated by short-term goals. Diligence is motivated by long-term goals, deep values and belief systems.
Discipline is about building a habit. Diligence is about building and sustaining a life and a legacy.
Discipline is about WHAT WE DO. Diligence is about WHO WE ARE.
Things are great; things are not great; things are great…
Why are there so many peaks and valleys in businesses? Too often it’s caused by being too committed to very short term impact (discipline) and not having a good grasp on how to do anything about the long term (diligence).
The priority – the long term
Henry David Thoreau said “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” In business, we get a shot at quiet desperation every time we commit to a short term shiny object that we just got excited about. Emotion and shiny objects are a great for recipe for short term shooting stars, but diligence keeps us grounded, stable, shooting for something significant with our business.
Short term goals that aren’t connected to any significant future for our business contribute to quiet desperation – moving from one short term, random, unconnected objective to another. We can look very disciplined about short term goals and never get anywhere. Longer term objectives for our business get us focused on something significant and create quiet resolve.
Investor owned and publicly traded businesses rarely get the opportunity to actually build a business on what would be good for the long term. As a privately owned business, you have the ability to build something that will make an impact for decades to come and create a great legacy by simply being diligent to make decisions that are best for your future, not just your present.
The tortoise really does win. Keep moving, plod along, never give up, stay the course – be diligent.
Diligence beats discipline every time.