You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

Discipline Is the Key Attribute of Successful Millennials Discipline determines the difference between those who succeed and those who stop trying.

By Dan Dowling

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Living at home after the age of 18 used to be an unthinkable shame. Guys jumped into manufacturing jobs straight out of highschool, women married young and parents were left at home to go about their lives.

Thankfully, times have changed. Domestic laws have relaxed, and assembly jobs are competing with the Dodo for the most boring thing in non-existence.

Today, if you're under 30, and out of the nest, you've got it going on.

But regardless of all the benefits of incubating a bit longer - more time to discover yourself, less pressure to marry, etc. -- millennials are lacking one trait that will make or break our success: discipline.

Discipline is harder to come by now than ever.

Discipline used to be a product of survival. You either got disciplined and ate, or you got dead. Today, our mothers continue stocking the fridge so there isn't any mortal motivation to succeed. So in lieu of fearing starvation, we need a different approach.

We need to fall in love with success.

Unfortunately, society has a pathetic definition of success, and millennials are too smart to not be jaded. We've been told that success is limited to the confines of academia, desk jobs, corporate ladders and marriages that we'd gladly trade for alcoholism and loneliness. Where do I sign up?

Along with losing our hunger for food, we've also lost our taste for success. And we've fallen back into the nest.

Who could blame us? We see our parents locked in jobs they hate - bad marriages too -- and we're told to be successful like them?

"No thank you," thinks the intelligent millennial, "I'll take my basement."

But what if success was different?

What if success was doing the thing you loved most, on your own time - married or single -- while making a difference to people who appreciate your talent?

What if success wasn't a formula laid down by the starch-necks that came before us, but rather something of your own design? Would millennials then find the discipline it takes to succeed?

I think so. That's what happened to me anyway.

I redefined success, and I discovered discipline.

I was the paragon millennial male: stuck at home after I dropped out of college - desultory and dependent. But I knew the standard of success and refused to take part because I wanted to be happy. And I wasn't happy living at home.

After several failures to launch, I was 24, glued to my parent's couch and feeling totally impotent. I didn't want conventional success, but I couldn't let my wings atrophy at home either - that was too painful.

Out of necessity birthed my own version of success.

Related: 4 Success Secrets for Creative Entrepreneurs

I decided that success was making a living and a difference doing what I loved most: writing. Since finding my passion for writing, I learned how good it felt to do what I loved, and I wanted to help others find their own success.

After carving out a more suitable definition of success, for me - one that didn't necessarily involve more college or office jobs -- I found myself at the starting line all by myself. My path to success was distinctly my own. No one had ever done it before me so no one could show me how to do it.

So I had to trust that doing what I loved would be enough if I did it every day - if I stayed disciplined.

You have to stick with it.

Since I had a burning passion to write, all I had to do was schedule time every day to make it happen. That way I could improve my skill. And I did, but only after I physically wrote down my objectives for the day.

It didn't matter that I'd been fired from or quit every job I'd started, or that I'd been branded as unreliable and irresponsible because I loved writing. But more than simply loving it, I needed to make a difference through it.

With my new formula of success - one that didn't involve slaving away for someone else's benefit -- discipline came naturally. One week of daily writing became two, then weeks became months, and months became years. In small increments, my character changed along with my habits and my entire life.

Related: 7 Behaviors of Successful People

Discipline over time works miracles.

Staying disciplined with writing summoned all of my demons to the surface - my insecurity, my little-me complex, my arrogance and my fear of the unknown. But because I was hungry for success, I got over these limitations, and I shed my small skin.

I didn't get many paid opportunities at first. I became familiar with rejection. But because I had committed to writing each day - to writing better and to improving others lives through writing -- I learned to cope with failure. And I got better.

My writing got published on bigger and bigger sites. Companies eventually came to me with job offers, and I landed work with local businesses I scouted out. I made enough money to move out and support myself.

I'm learning more now than I ever had in all my years in college. I read about syntax and style, and it's fascinating. I study writing for several hours a day, which is as much as I practice. And as I stay disciplined, my opportunities - and pay -- keep climbing.

What's your definition of success?

I'm sharing my story because I'm a lot like you. We both have our own unique path to success that only we can walk. We both have a desire to make a difference in other people's lives through our passions. And we both need to stay disciplined in order to find success and feel happy.

If you've rejected the modern definition of success, good for you, but that's only part of it. You need to come up with a unique version of success that no one else can touch. It needs to be centered on doing what you love and on helping other people through your talents.

And if you want to realize your vision of success, you must be disciplined.

Related: The 12 Covenants of Success

So figure out what you love, then do it every day. Learn as much as you can about your career, and pursue it with vigor. If you're developing a bona fide passion, discipline will come naturally. No amount of suffering will keep you from sticking with what you love.

I left the nest after a year of committing to disciplined writing. And now that I'm on my own, I'm hungrier for success than I've ever been. I'm achieving more than I ever thought possible. Discipline has given me freedom and the ability to improve others' lives, and I wouldn't trade that for anything.

Dan Dowling

Solopreneur, writer, and coach

As a former couch-surfing millennial turned solopreneur writer and coach, Dan Dowling writes on personal development. Visit and learn how to create your own solopreneur success story.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

I Designed My Dream Home For Free With an AI Architect — Here's How It Works

The AI architect, Vitruvius, created three designs in minutes, complete with floor plans and pictures of the inside and outside of the house.

Side Hustle

This Dad Started a Side Hustle to Save for His Daughter's College Fund — Then It Earned $1 Million and Caught Apple's Attention

In 2015, Greg Kerr, now owner of Alchemy Merch, was working as musician when he noticed a lucrative opportunity.

Business News

This Fan-Favorite Masters 2024 Item Is Still $1.50 as Tournament Menu Appears Unscathed by Inflation

The pimento cheese sandwich is a tradition almost as big as the tournament itself.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Science & Technology

These Are the Top 6 AI Threats to Your Business Right Now

The modern workforce is forever changed by artificial intelligence. If you fail to understand that we will all need to learn AI to some degree, you haven't been paying attention.

Business News

Here's One Thing Americans Would Take a Pay Cut For — Besides Remote Work

An Empower survey found a high percentage of respondents would take a pay cut for better retirement benefits and remote work options.