A friend, mentor, and father like figure to me in business was Jack Howe. Some would say that he was not easy to get along with, some would say he pushed too hard. But what he possessed was determination. He was determined to not only be his best, but to change the world. Maybe he was not the most skilled, but he was by far the most determined and he expected no less from those around him too. Jack wrote this letter to a mutual friend of ours, but I believe it’s intended for many more to read. Are you determined to be your best? Jack was!
The longer I live, the more weight I attach to a man’s ability to manage and discipline himself. The longer I live, the more firmly convinced I become that the essential factor which lifts a man above his fellows in terms of achievement and success is this superior capacity for self-discipline.
Talent plays its part, of course, but talent or aptitude is not the difference. Every day in every field of endeavor we see talented men whose special abilities are wasting away, contributing little to the success of the individual or the good of mankind. And every day we observe others who are less gifted but who accomplish more.
Education is a priceless aid to success, of course, but education is not the difference. The educated derelict is a common sight, and so is the man who has achieved resounding success without the opportunity for, or the advantages of, a formal education. It seems a valid conclusion that while formal schooling is an important advantage, it is by no means a guarantor of success, nor is its absence a fatal handicap.
Luck is not the difference between one man’s achievement and another’s even though there are those who profess to believe it. It just isn’t so. All that need be said on this point has been said in those classic words – “It’s a funny thing about luck: The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Is the difference, then, a matter of differing levels of intelligence? I believe not, even though manifestly the man or woman endowed with an unusual intellect, a naturally agile mind, a higher-than-average intelligence quotient, is fortunate on that account and thus possesses a running start toward success.
But we have all seen within our own field of observation that the relationship between intelligence and accomplishment is something less than constant. We have all observed that we encounter frequently the brilliant ne’er-do-well and his opposite number, the man of average intellect but superior achievements.
We are told that the Army, in giving intelligence tests to millions of men, has discovered nearly as many instances of high intelligence in overall jobs as in the professions, and about as much brainpower on the assembly lines as in the executive suite.
The conclusion is inescapable that high intelligence provides no assurance of success or achievement and that the average mentality can and often does achieve far more that average results.
For my part, I have concluded that the quality which sets one man apart from another – the factor which lifts one man to every achievement to which he reasonably aspires while the other is caught in a slough of mediocrity for all the years of his life – is not talent, nor formal education, nor luck, nor intellectual brilliance, but is rather the successful man’s greater capacity for self-discipline.
Talent will not stand alone, but talent coupled with the industry and study and personal efficiency, which are the natural consequences of self-discipline, will produce high levels of achievement. Education without self-discipline is of limited and academic value, but combined with the diligence and sobriety and strong will, which are the natural consequences of self-discipline, it becomes productive and practical. Luck doesn’t count either way in the long run, because it ultimately “averages out.” We all know that all the hands dealt in a game of cards over a period of time will be of exactly equal value.
High intelligence is wonderful for those who are blessed with it, but the rest of us have to get by on what we were given when the brains were passed around, We find encouragement, however, in the realization that even superior brainpower without willpower is of small consequence, while average intellect combined with superior determination can and often does achieve results of momentous proportions.
Yes, I am totally convinced that the essential, fundamental, underlying difference between one man and the next, one of whom becomes a man of achievement and distinction while the other remains a pebble on the beach, is the former’s greater capacity to manage oneself.
The man with true capacity for self-discipline can tell himself to get up in the morning and not need someone else to sweep him out of bed.
He can tell himself to start a course of study and to carry it through and need no policeman to see that he does so.
He can tell himself to smoke and drink and eat with moderation and make it stick.
He can tell himself to do an honest day’s work and then do it whether someone watches him or not.
He can tell himself to do the truly important things first, so that if there isn’t time enough to go around and something must be neglected, it will be the less essential tasks and carry out his own instructions.
He can tell himself to save the first pennies out of each dollar of income, not the pennies “leftover” – and can resist the temptations, which would destroy his financial plans and his economic hopes.
He can make himself do what he says he will do – he can make himself finish the job once he starts, carry out his plan, start in time and be there on time.
He can discipline himself so well that no one else needs to do so – and because he can, he proves himself to be a man and not a boy.
…..And because he is capable of self-discipline, he surely is, or in course of time he surely will be, a man of satisfying accomplishments and achievements of distinction.
Now, here is the most interesting thing about the capacity for self-discipline: He who wants it may have it.
The capacity for self-discipline is, I believe, the essential ingredient….yet, vital as it is, priceless as it is, you can have it if you want it – if you want it enough!
If you were born without an ear for music, you can’t give yourself that talent by wanting it. If you have no natural athletic ability, you probably can’t be a star. Whatever you IQ was at age four, so they tell us, it will tend to remain constant all your life no matter what you do about it.
But the capacity for self-discipline, more important that any of these, is something we can generate within ourselves! And what a happy and glorious truth this is – that the one ingredient we most need is ours for the asking, for the wanting….if only we want it enough.
We need no special talent, no advanced education, no “luck,” no superior intellect, to discipline ourselves more effectively tomorrow that we did today:” We need only the resolute determination to do so!
All you need to do is this: Beginning this very day, stop doing some one thing you know you should not do, and start doing each day some one thing you know you should do!
Then a little later, when you have those two items mastered, try two more…then later two more, and then still more.
Stay with it long enough, and the world will be yours!