9 min read ⌚
Discipline is a set of rules, right?
And yet, if you ask former Navy SEAL commandeer Jocko Willink,
Who Should Read “Discipline Equals Freedom”? And Why?
If you’ve already read the two leadership classics, Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership – both co-authored by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin – you may think that you already know what to expect from Discipline Equals Freedom.
Yet, as we explain below, this book is a bit different; it lacks the usual fair share of war stories and anecdotes, and the structural integrity of the other two books.
With that being said, it’s much more motivational and inspirational, much more personal and jam-packed with vigor and get-out-of-your-chair energy.
You’ll probably like it if you’re interested in either of these two book categories.
About Jocko Willink
Jocko Willink is a retired United States Navy SEAl commander, a bestselling author on leadership, and a renowned podcaster.
In addition to commandeering the most decorated SEAL unit during the Iraq War (SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser), Willink is also a graduate from the University of San Diego with a BA in English.
With fellow former SEAL Leif Babin, he has authored two incredibly popular books on leadership, Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership.
In addition, he has also authored four books on his own; Discipline Equals Freedom is one of them.
He is also the host of a popular podcast, the Jocko Podcast.
“Discipline Equals Freedom PDF Summary”
When compared to the other two works by Jocko Willink we’ve summarized here (Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership), Discipline Equals Freedom is rather unusual in at least a few ways:
• Jocko Willink is the sole author, aka it’s not co-written with Leif Babin;
• It has unusual dimensions for a self-help book (7.7 x 1 x 8.8 inches) and a pretty much distinctive military-feel design;
• It’s filled with images of Jocko and stuff, and everything’s even more intimidating and motivating than you’d expect it to be because the entire book is in black and white;
• It’s not as tightly structured as Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership.
More specifically, Discipline Equals Freedom is actually divided into two parts – “Thoughts” and “Actions” – with the latter part subdivided into three sections: “Fuel: Feeding the Machine,” “Repair and Maintenance: Injury Prevention and Recovery,” and “Appendix: The Workouts.”
Furthermore – and as already suggested – the lessons come in distinctive tiny dosages, bursting with energy via short, powerful sentences and bolded, all-capped crescendos scattered all around the page.
Willink covers many topics throughout the book, mostly from a theoretical standpoint in its first part (topics here include discipline, fear, procrastination, weakness, regret, etc.) and in a much more practical manner in the second part (diet, sleep, working out, etc.).
Since even listing all of the lessons inside would take us too much space, for our summary, we decided to select and digest only the best bits of the book.
And since the second part is much more practical (it even includes “the workouts”), we’ve relied almost exclusively on the first one.
Key Lessons from “Discipline Equals Freedom”
1. The Way of Discipline
2. Where Does Discipline Come From?
3. Overcoming Procrastination: When and Where to Start?
4. Staying Motivated.
5. Sugarcoated Lies
6. Me Versus Me
7. Laughter Wins
The Way of Discipline
This is, by far, the most important lesson of the book: there’s nothing without self-control, and the only way is the way of the discipline.
If you’ve come him looking for the shortcut or the hack – Jocko Willink is pretty adamant about this – you will never find it.
The shortcut is a lie. The hack doesn’t get you there. And if you want to take the easy road, it won’t take you to where you want to be: Stronger. Smarter. Faster. Healthier. Better. FREE.
To reach goals and overcome obstacles and become the best version of you possible will not happen by itself. It will not happen cutting corners, taking shortcuts, or looking for the easy way. THERE IS NO EASY WAY.
There is only hard work, late nights, early mornings, practice, rehearsal, repetition, study, sweat, blood, toil, frustration, and discipline. DISCIPLINE.
THERE MUST BE DISCIPLINE.
Willink describes discipline as “the root of all good qualities,” “the driver of daily execution” and “the core principle that overcomes laziness and lethargy and excuses.”
It’s pretty simple when you think about it!
Want to become a good guitarist? You need to have the discipline to practice.
Want to become a great footballer? Once again, unless you’re in a cartoon, you won’t achieve that through some magical transformation, but by showing up to practice every single day for a few hours for at least a decade.
Want to earn some money and become rich? You need financial discipline for it as well; as a rule of thumb, if someone’s selling you shortcuts, he’s 100% lying to you.
Where Does Discipline Come From?
According to Jocko Willink, the question from the title has a pretty simple answer: “Discipline comes from within. Discipline is an internal force.”
What about coaches and self-help gurus and drill instructors, you say?
Sure, they can help you, notes Willink. But unless they are there with you all the time under all circumstances, it will be only a temporary solution.
External discipline is neither as strong nor as permanent as self-discipline.
And self-discipline, as the term itself implies, comes from you, comes from the Self.
More specifically, it comes from your decision to make a mark on the world, to do more, to be more.
Self-discipline lurks behind every single one of your choices, be they as banal as should you eat this apple or this chocolate bar.
If you repeatedly choose the latter, then blame nobody for your failures: you are not disciplined enough.
Overcoming Procrastination: When and Where to Start?
Unless you’re a superhero, you know exactly how procrastination work: instead of preparing for your math exam tomorrow, here you are, reading a summary of a book you didn’t know if it existed until yesterday.
And this is not just a one-off event: it’s something that keeps happening to you over and over again.
So, how do you stop it? When is the best time to stop procrastinating?
Here and Now, says Jocko Willink.
Simply put, that’s the reality of it all: books don’t get written by themselves; ideas don’t get executed through some miraculous force in the universe; and weights aren’t going to move a single inch unless you try lifting them.
It’s not that complicated, so, really, there’s no need for you to go on researching or debating the pros and cons of it.
Just start doing this.
Take the first step and make things happen.
Here and Now.
Motivation is a powerful force.
So powerful, in fact, that sometimes it can help you move mountains.
Emphasis on sometimes.
It’s a myth that motivation is a spark; motivation is a process; and is the pretty legitimate child of discipline, progress, and success.
Don’t believe us?
Believe Jocko Willink!
He’s a Navy SEAL who has spent years of his life fighting to survive (literally), and yet he says that you can’t “expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen.”
The reality is that you won’t be.
So, once again, it’s wrong to count on motivation to achieve something.
You need to count on Discipline.
There are no magic pills or life hacks known to men that will ever do the job for you; you have to do the work yourself; you are the one who has to make it happen.
Donuts are tempting.
The colorful sprinkles, the cream filling, the glaze…
We know what you must be thinking at the moment: why are you doing this to me, man? I need to get a donut right away!
Why shouldn’t you?
It’s just one treat for the day, and, dare we say, its highlight! And, moreover, you’re hungry. And when you’re hungry, any food is better than no food, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong.
First of all, donuts – just like chocolate chip cookies, double Dutch chocolate cake, Coca Cola, potato chips, pretzels, hot dogs – are, simply put, not food!
They are, quite literally, poison.
They don’t make you better, stronger, faster, healthier, smarter – they make you the very opposite of this.
Even when you’re hungry.
And, believe us, you’ve never been hungry; human beings can survive for a month without food, and you’ve barely gone without it for more than 10 hours.
Donuts are enticing because they are sugarcoated lies.
There will be many other sugarcoated lies you’ll happen upon throughout your life, both literal, and, much more importantly, metaphorical.
Stay. Away. From. Them.
If they are shiny, sweet, tempting, and, especially, if they are free – then they are most probably lies, poisonous lies!
Don’t let them fool you.
Just stay on your course: your will is much stronger than the will of a donut.
Hold the line.
Me Versus Me
“There are people in the world who have skills and strength and talent that I will never have. Never.”
For example, he says, no matter how much he trains and how hard he works, he will never be an Olympic weightlifter or an Olympic sprinter.
And this comes from a guy who’s a decorated Navy SEAL commander and who has probably trained every single day of his adult life for at least a few hours!
Now, why’s that?
Because he doesn’t have “the right genes.”
But where does that leave us, we who are tenth the people Jocko Willink is?
Well, in his opinion, precisely where he was a few decades ago: resolute to try to become what his genes say that he will never be.
Because, in the end, that amounts to becoming the best that he can be.
“My glory,” notes Willink in few sentences which are more than worthy of a quote:
doesn’t happen in front of a crowd. It doesn’t happen in a stadium or on a stage. There are no medals handed out.
It happens in the darkness of the early morning. In solitude. Where I try. And I try. And I try again. With everything I have, to be the best that I can possibly be.
Better than I was yesterday. Better than people thought I could be. Better than I thought I could be.
You always win today if you’re better than you were yesterday.
And that’s guaranteed.
“Sure, there’s darkness everywhere,” notes Jocko Willink in his last “thought.” “And I have seen my share.”
Remember (once again): this is a guy who has not only fought but commandeered during the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War, a man who has seen other people – his friends and soldiers – die at his feet.
In other words, he has seen so much more darkness than you will ever see.
Even so, he really thinks that despairing over it all is the wrong way to go.
No matter how difficult life is, it is less so when you’re laughing at it.
Despite the suffering.
To spite the suffering. To spite the hardships. To spite the challenges.
Laugh at them all.
They can’t stand it when you do. And they all get easier.
Yes: Laugh at them all.
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“Discipline Equals Freedom Quotes”Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on Discipline. Click To Tweet Don’t let your mind control you. Control your mind. Click To Tweet You have to be vigilant. You have to be on guard. You have to hold the line on the seemingly insignificant little things— things that shouldn’t matter—but that do. Click To Tweet Don’t fight stress. Embrace it. Turn it on itself. Use it to make yourself sharper and more alert. Use it to make you think and learn and get better and smarter and more effective. Use the stress to make you a better you. Click To Tweet Is this what I want to be? This? I this all I got - is this everything I can give? Is this going to be my life? Do I accept that? Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Discipline Equals Freedom is not much different from many motivational books you can find out there; in some ways, it could even remind one of Tony Robbins.
However, make no mistakes: this book’s a bit different than all those “you can achieve everything you want to” manuals.
Because it starts where all self-help books should start from: the “no shortcuts” reality of life.
It offers no secrets, no hacks, no tricks.
Just a bunch of sensible, commonsense, practical pieces of advice you can’t go wrong with.