3 Examples From the Battlefield of Discipline Succeeding In the Face of Adversity
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In April 1836 general of the Texian army, Sam Houston, fled the Mexican army throughout eastern Texas. Although his men wanted nothing more than to fight the Mexicans led by Santa Anna, Houston would not risk their lives. Despite accusations of cowardice, he would not budge.
Sam Houston knew Santa Anna would make a mistake and so he withdrew with discipline even when many doubted him. His discipline proved wise when the Texan army defeated the Mexicans in 18 minutes at San Jacinto on April 22. The resounding victory cost 11 Texan lives as they killed 650 Mexican soldiers and captured 300 others; an irreversible blow to the Mexican army that sowed the seeds for Texas independence.
The same disciplined approach allows most successful businesses to overcome their greatest adversities.
Whether a business or entrepreneur is facing intense competition, unfair monopoly, or a global recession, the answer is the same. Discipline in the pursuit of one’s goals is the only way to successfully overcome adversity.
Luckily, discipline is a process to refine and cultivate. To become more disciplined in your endeavors, practice these three tenets.
1. Discipline is constant. Inspiration is fleeting.
In 1985 Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple computers. Being stripped of power and forced from the company that he helped to create, Jobs didn’t fight back with legal action or a smear campaign, which he could have undoubtedly afforded.
Instead, Jobs focused on what he could control: his actions. He founded NeXT Computer, was involved with Pixar’s success and honed his skills over 12 years to become the CEO of Apple again in 1997.
There were moments when Steve Jobs or Sam Houston were inspired, but their constant discipline ultimately led them to success. Inspiration is fleeting, emotional, and unpredictable. It feels great, but accomplishes less than discipline. The entrepreneur who initially feels inspired rarely completes the task without disciplined action.
In the face of adversity, inspiration is even less reliable. The weight of an army, a competitor, overwhelming force, or something not being “fair” strips us of inspiration and motivation. What’s left is our discipline, and the actions it can lead to.
2. Practice “right action.”
Discipline has no agenda. It neither wants nor cares whether you achieve your goal. Action alone will not lead to success, but “right action” can over time.
Santa Anna split the Mexican army to quickly chase victory, the folly of rash action. Sam Houston waited with patience for his moment to strike, the virtue of right action.
“Right action” is characterized as bold and deliberate made mindfully and with virtue. Each person may define “right action” differently and must be confident enough to determine the difference for oneself.
3. Discipline breeds creativity.
You don’t have to be Steve Jobs or the CEO of a huge multi-national corporation to utilize and benefit from these tenets of discipline. Small businesses can take advantage of a disciplined approach as well. Faced with the longest and most intense recession in Calgary’s history, Jared decided his business would keep costs down by renting no space and instead focusing on the quality of service.
He took a lesson from Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius who said “There are brambles in the path? Then go around. That’s all you need to know.” The adversity allowed Jared to be more creative, decentralize his business, and grow during a time when other businesses failed.
In an increasingly globalized and competitive world, creativity is often the only difference between success and failure. Consistent right action breeds creativity. According to Steven Pressfield’s "The War of Art," creativity (in the form of the Muse) only strikes if an artist puts in the work every day.
Like Pressfield, Tim Derrington is no stranger to creativity. At a relatively young age, his architectural and artistic work in Austin, Texas is already revered by many. Noting his most creative work comes when he is free from menial distractions on Saturdays, he often sacrifices his weekend to appease the creativity gods in pursuit of his best work.
This isn’t to say he produces something of immense creativity every Saturday. Neither will you be able to find creative solutions to your problems through discipline alone. But the great works of creativity we do produce will come from our discipline.
Prepare when times are good.
There are a million adages about preparation during the times of plenty for those times when we don’t have much. Most revolve around finances, resources, and saving money in the event of an emergency. Like the diligent saver, we must treat discipline in the same way.
If we can cultivate discipline when things are going well, it will be easy to overcome adversity. In fact, when we are disciplined in our approach to business, we can thrive in adversity while others recede from view.