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The Un-Cool Virtue That Defines Entrepreneurs

Between a great start-up concept and a great business lies a virtue no one much talks about any more. Do you have it?
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How many times have great brainstorms gone nowhere with your business partners? How many deadlines have been missed, promises unkept, to-do's never followed through on? It happens often enough today that you can't take it personally anymore. In fact, I think most people in business aim to do right; they just fail to pull the trigger.  For whatever reason, they just don’t have the wherewithal to finish the job. 

What they lack is discipline.

“Discipline is the foundation upon which all success is built,” said the late motivational speaker Jim Rohn.  It doesn’t matter whether you are pursuing success in business, sports, the arts, or life in general: The bridge between wishing and accomplishing is discipline.       

Bobby Knight, men’s college basketball’s winningest coach, said:  “It has always been my thought that the most important single ingredient to success in athletics or life is discipline.  I have many times felt that this word is the most ill-defined in all of our language.  My definition of the word is as follows:  1. Do what has to be done; 2. When it has to be done; 3. As well as it can be done; and 4. Do it that way all the time.”

The formula is pretty simple: have a no-nonsense attitude, work hard and improve every day.  Arrive early and stay late if that’s what it takes.  I always say to go the extra mile, because it's the one stretch of the highway where there are seldom any traffic jams.  And few people are trying to pass you.

Good intentions aren’t enough.  People have good intentions when they set a goal to do something, but then they miss a deadline or other milestone.   Suddenly it gets a lot easier to miss again and again and again.

The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi maintained:  “A player’s got to know the basics of the game and how to play his position.  Next, you’ve got to keep him in line.”

That’s discipline, and what every good boss must have.  No one else is going to stay late to make payroll if you don't. No one else will raise funds, pacify investors, hire and fire, demand quality and take responsibility for every aspect of the business if you don't. And if you don't have discipline, you won't be able to, either. 

And you have to enforce discipline on your team, which may be the hardest part. As the boss, you quickly realize it's not enough to teach your employees how to do the work.  You also have to provide the motivation that keeps them moving forward.  And the most important part of that is to model self-discipline in yourself.

I like the way Jim Rohn described discipline:  “It is the bridge between thought and accomplishment … the glue that binds inspiration to achievement … the magic that turns financial necessity into the creation of an inspired work of art.

“Discipline is the master key that unlocks the door to wealth and happiness, culture and sophistication, high self-esteem and high accomplishment and the accompanying feelings of pride, satisfaction and success.  Discipline will do much for you.  More importantly, though, is what it will do to you.  It will make you feel terrific about yourself.”

Mackay’s Moral:  If your willpower doesn’t work, try your “won’t” power.

IMAGE: Flickr
Last updated: Mar 20, 2012

HARVEY MACKAY | Columnist | Founder, MackayMitchell Envelope Co.

Harvey Mackay, author of The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World, is founder of the MackayMitchell Envelope Co. He has written six bestsellers, including Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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