“Discipline = Freedom” - Jocko Willink
Physical preparation may be one of the most saturated and competitive fields in existence. How do you get the edge? In a word: discipline.
Discipline for a performance professional is of the essence. I’ve found discipline manifests itself in the realm of getting things done in two ways:
- Productivity Principles
I’m assuming if you are reading this article, you have an idea of how to get motivated. Just the competitiveness of this field should be motivation enough for most of us to become the strongest versions of ourselves to get ahead professionally, while in the process of reaching our own potential and better serving the athletes we work with.
With that said, let’s talk productivity.
For many people, productivity revolves around routine. I don’t believe it’s so much the routine itself that allows for this productivity, but rather the principles and structure the routine creates that makes for success.
I’m a INTP/ENTP on the Myers-Briggs, with the “P” meaning I don’t particularly like everything in life to be structured. I like openness in my life in general. I have a high need for novelty. Thus, I’m not hardwired to have the hard-scheduling that others may possess. In fact, if I strived for some of the hard-structured organization plans that might work for other coaches, I’d be in one hell of a rut!
I tend to focus my productivity on principles, which are:
- Optimize your human machinery
- Have a clean environment
- Follow the principle of deep work
- Silence your addictions
- Don’t get caught up in the negatives
- Balance your life
- Outsource your weaknesses and invest in your time
1. Optimize Your Human Machinery
Want to be productive? You must take care of #1.
To be able to deliver sustained focus, you need to eat well, exercise, and get as much sleep as practically possible. The perceived “glory” of running on coffee and going hard for days on end only ends in the worst crash you could imagine.
You don’t need to go overboard on all the biohacks. But for me, I’ve found that eating as clean as possible, taking a cold shower in the morning, drinking plenty of water, and finding an optimal caffeine source and daily distribution has been extremely helpful in allowing me to give more of what my body has to offer to the daily routine.
2. Have a Clean Environment
This one is pretty simple: having a clean work and home environment primes you for a better mood and greater discipline.
The best example of this is making your bed as soon as you wake up in the morning; it puts you into the habit of immediately taking care of the little things.
Cleanliness leads to more pride in your work space, as well as offering the benefits of a more minimalistic environment. Sometimes the biggest thing you need to reach a higher gear is to take a little more pride in your space.
You don’t have to have a beard and live in a remote mountain cave to take advantage of what 80% of billionares, icons, and high achievers (as mentioned by Tim Ferriss in Tools of Titans) do on a daily basis: meditating.
Hell, if you can’t bring yourself to do some “Ohm’s” - then at least take 5-10 dedicated minutes to focus on breathing and clearing your mind in a peaceful space.
Personally, I enjoy using Tony Robbin’s 9 minute meditation sequence, which I find not only helps my productivity, but also improves my coaching ability on the floor each day.
4. Follow the Principle of Deep Work
Cal Newport’s book Deep Work is life changing to say the least. With today’s fast-paced society, with the long to-do lists and the nearly infinite distractions along the way, it is really easy to let the whole morning go by having chatted with co-workers, checked some emails, done a handful of minor tasks... but really have not actually accomplished the “big thing” you set out to do that day.
If there is a “big thing” to get done - or even a measurable chunk of it - this is something that needs to take the #1 priority in the day. It requires several hours of dedicated work with no distractions. (The book The ONE Thing by Gary Keller speaks directly to this topic. I’ll get into the no distractions part in just a bit.)
This principle is honestly really easy to sum up: don’t do a lot of “little things” early in the day, which are generally your prime hours for creativity, and then make a half-hearted effort at “the big thing” later on.
Do the big thing first.
Then save the little things for when you have less mental power to devote to them. For example, write the big training program early, and then take the afternoon or the evening to answer the emails.
For me, Saturday morning is prime time to head to the coffee shop, turn on my Freedom app (I’ll also get to this in just a bit), get to my online client load for the next week on the TrainHeroic platform, or work on a chapter in my new book.
It’s been shown that the best students aren’t the ones who study the most, but rather those who study the most intensely. If you can study/work more intensely, you have more time for other important items.
Even if you can’t make the big thing the first thing. Give dedicated time for it.
Most of my book Vertical Ignition was written after work in a nearby coffee shop with motivational soundtracks or metal-core blaring in my headphones, and I associated these hours each day with being deeply productive.
5. Silence Your (Electronic) Addictions
It’s been said that alcohol is responsible for the greatest destruction of potential success in life. I would actually update that today to:
- Social media
- The distractibility of today’s society
Every time you log into a social media account, it’s a “mini-hit” of dopamine. It works the same way that a drug (like cocaine) does. Having every social media account imaginable at your fingertips makes it nearly impossible not to derail yourself constantly from achieving your goals.
For many, it’s a matter of using willpower for a few minutes, then checking social media, then getting back “on track” to whatever needs to be done.
For other people, the continual distractions keep people from even getting started in the first place! This saps energy, motivation, and creativity.
Video games run on the same principle. A virtual reality encapsulates a large amount of what a good deal of our population would consider “life.”
Realize that for people to make good money off of any app, that app must be as addictive as possible. It’s down to a science. Think of why those notification buttons on Facebook are red, or why Snapchat has a “streak.” They want to keep you locked into their world as long as possible... which is too bad when it comes to staying in yours.
What do I do here? I know I can’t handle myself with video games, so I just don’t get them on my phone or iPad. I gave away my console when I started Just Fly Sports. That’s a pretty easy solution.
I also know that I don’t have enough willpower not to check my phone constantly to see who liked whatever article I put up recently, so I use the Freedom app to lock myself out of social media. From 7am to noon every day, I am “locked out” no matter what.
6. Don’t Get Caught Up in Negatives
This one is simple, and I’ll make it the shortest of all. You need to surround yourself with positive people.
Negative people will literally suck the life out of you and what you are trying to accomplish. This applies to the chit-chat at work and even time out with friends and acquaintances. Make it a point to surround yourself with those who support you and build you up in what you are trying to accomplish.
These days, much of my social network is other coaches who are on the same mission I am. The mutual encouragement in these cases is essential to growth.
7. Balance Your Life
I heard from a lot of people that they are impressed by the work output I’m able to sustain. In a given week, I have a full time NCAA strength and conditioning job, produce a podcast episode, write training programs for online clients, train club track athletes occasionally, spend time with my family as a husband and new father, and - if any time is left over - I’m working on articles, a new book, or learning more about what makes athletes tick.
Many nights, it’s not until 8:30-9PM that I can finally settle down. But I’m not going to stand here and throw out an #alwaysgrinding hashtag, that’s actually almost an anti-goal of mine (I always spend 5PM-7PM with my wife and daughter, and try to push during the weekdays so I can be as free as possible weekends).
At the end of the day, I want to say that I used every drop of spare time outside of family time as well as I could have, just for that reason: having balance in my life.
The key to success is not the ability to start with a bang; it’s consistency. Not a sexy concept, and you don’t see that many #consistency tags out there in regards to business, but it’s totally true. The only way to stay consistent in the long haul is to respect your body, and the balance that maintains it.
I think I’m personally blessed with an internal “alarm” that just won’t let me work when I really need to rest. I’m not wired like Eric Thomas, staying up multiple days in a row, not eating, and all that.
To me, that’s OK. I’d rather know when to call it a day and come out guns blazing the next morning, not hammer myself into the ground repeatedly and watch the quality of my work and productivity suffer.
8. Outsource Your Weaknesses and Invest in Your Time
This one I actually heard originally from Dave Tate in the context of athletic performance and physical preparation: we all have “our big plate.” What he meant by this is some of us are great at building 1RM strength in athletes, others are great motivators, others great at getting athletes fast and jumping high, some good at nutrition, and the list goes on.
What you aren’t naturally good at, you really need to consider outsourcing.
As admirable as it is to master a weakness, some of our brains are not made to solve Fermat’s theorem. Some people’s brains are not wired to do stand up comedy. To try to bridge the gap of weakness in these situations would be inefficiency to the Nth degree.
Even though I didn’t start my website Just Fly Sports until I was 28, I had told others that someday I wanted to coach full time and run a website on the side... all the way back in college at age 22. It took 6 years for coaching life to fully punch me in the mouth until I decided I needed to start making that website a reality.
The problem was I knew I couldn’t both design my own website and still have time to put great content on it, and coach, and have relationships. The solution: I outsourced to a young, but brilliant designer, Jake Clark, who had just finished his javelin career with me as his coach. Without him, Just Fly Sports would be non-existent today.
Another great thing I’ve done (and you can ask my wife about all the time it’s saved me) is to utilize the TrainHeroic platform to take care of my online client load.
A major source of my site income is from online clientele. The first dollar Just Fly Sports made came from an online client paying $60 for a month of training (a total steal!). Today, I have anywhere from 6-12 clients each month that I want to give an elite level remote training experience to.
After spending the vast majority of my Sundays writing out programs in excel, I eventually decided I needed to:
- Give these clients a better training portal than an excel file
- Find something that allowed me to utilize training inventories and combos that would save me time in program construction
When I made the change over to TrainHeroic and began to upload my training combinations and inventories, I knew something good was happening - even though it was a lot of work at first (and anything worth doing is... as I have hundreds of unique exercises I’ve custom added and dozens of training favorites and formats).
Today, this work has been more than worth it, as my online client programming time is cut in half due to the ability to more easily transfer my training inventory into a custom program, as well as negate the need to send each exercise video to the client.
Since each exercise comes with a video athletes can access on their phone, I no longer have to respond to multiple emails each week asking what a particular exercise looks like. I also don’t have to manage the huge dropbox video database I used to have.
I can’t really imagine what my online business life would look like if I wouldn’t have outsourced this way.
These Principles Changed My Life
So that’s a just a few pieces of advice from a coach who has made it almost a game to see how “perfect” each day can be in terms of productivity, largely to enhance how far he can drive away from Berkeley to enjoy the great state of California on the weekends with his wife and daughter.
I don’t meet each standard in this list perfectly every day, I am human no doubt. But these principles have shaped me over the last decade like I could hardly imagine.