For most of us, the idea of self-control is following a diet, getting up early, or making sure to return all your calls.

In reality, though, when we say "self-control" we are really discussing discipline.  Aesop's tale of the ant and the grasshopper speaks to this; subliminally, the idea of the American Dream hints at it, and volumes after volume of coaches, authors, and celebrities tell you how to achieve it.

In a lot of ways, though, my life's work - The E-Myth Revisited trilogy and my other books and writings - doesn't dwell on the idea of self-control.

Why?

Simple - the goals of the E-Myth (to fix broken businesses and to build enterprises that are no longer dependent upon one individual) are not about "fixing" personas and personalities. The weak link is nearly always the frail human creature running the enterprise and their lack of systemic control within a business.  

Now, that isn't to say that entrepreneurs should not have self-control - not at all.  On the other hand, if every small business owner exerted rational thought processes to building a business and never moved past their own comfort zone, then we might still be riding horses and reading scrolls instead of e-mail.

No, the self-control of the successful entrepreneur is radically different that that of the wage earner - and here's how:  The entrepreneur isn't satisfied with the status quo.  If anything, they have a complete lack of self-control:  they view the impossible as the possible and they set down the path to make it happen.  In making that distinction, of course, they exert enormous self-discipline to create the future as they envision it and then, they become a force to bring about that future through discipline and willpower.

Can they follow a diet?

Of course.

Can they answer the phone?

Yes.

Do they worry about those things?

No, they are driven to achieve far bigger goals.

They've established those goals and doggedly pursue them until they are reached ... and then, likely, they set still higher goals and expectations.  The names of our current generation of entrepreneurial legends - Bezos, Jobs, Musk - they have continued to play active roles in business long after their primary success.  They follow their diets, they (likely) obey speed limits, and yet, they continue to push past rational ideas of what a successful entrepreneur should be doing with his or her time.

Even Tom Watson, the visionary behind the success of IBM, didn't follow the rational thoughts of the time period when it came to building "Big Blue" - he disciplined himself to envision what IBM would be and then, set about designing that outcome.  Do you think that took discipline and self-control?  You bet!  Through two World Wars, the Jazz Era, and the Depression, Watson used these skills to understand, analyze, and craft systems that would culminate in a company that employed 72,000 and generated a billion dollars in sales annually - in the 1940s.

And he exerted this entrepreneurial self-control for decades.

For today's entrepreneur, I'm challenging you to not only stay focused on your business goals (and have concise ones you want to achieve), but to explore why those need to be your goals.  Create the time - through self-control - to see why the "standard" isn't acceptable in your industry anymore and how you and your company can recreate what the expectation should be.

Published on: Feb 26, 2018