I am a millennial.

My entire life, I was always told to "follow the rules" and "I have to do this, before I can do that." I was told to be more patient, I was told to accept where I am and just be OK with it, I was told that what I loved (writing) was a pipe dream and that I should study something more "realistic."

I was told to stop dreaming.

At 26 years old, I am living my dream. I am a full-time writer, ghostwriter, and founder of a ghostwriting agency called Digital Press. I write non-fiction stories about my life, because that is what I love and is my art, and I write essays and informative pieces about entrepreneurship, business, digital marketing and self-development because those are things I am fascinated by. And I have mastered my craft in a way that has allowed me to work on the pieces I hold close to my heart, while also helping CEOs, executives, and serial entrepreneurs take their insight, knowledge, and personal stories and express them in written form on places like Quora, Medium, and LinkedIn.

Basically, I took a dying craft every single person in my life told me would lead nowhere but a barista position at a coffee shop, and I turned it into a way to live my dream, from my laptop, anywhere in the world.

Why am I telling you this.

As a millennial, there is 1 and only 1 thing you need to master in order to become successful.

Discipline.

Put your phone down for a second and look around. If you're at work, if you're out to eat, if you're shopping, just watch what's going on around you. Look at what a distracted society we have become. And we aren't even being distracted by things worth being distracted by. We're being misdirected by cat videos and silly Instagram memes and things that give us a tiny hit of pleasure but no real fulfillment.

The single most valuable skill set you could possibly have today is discipline. It's not intelligence, because anything you want to know you can just look up on the Internet. And it's not something like having a powerful network, because what good is a network if you can't deliver?

Becoming successful, now more than ever, is about having the ability to shut off the noise and get to work.

Think about what an advantage you have over everyone else if you can avoid losing hours every single day to the distractions of 2017. Think about how many more moments you can stay in deep focus if you can get the habit of refreshing your email over and over again under control. Think about how much you could get done by no longer checking Instagram obsessively. Think about how many times in a day you postpone your goals just to consume another sugary piece of content, or watch the next episode on Netflix.

Discipline is truly the secret behind any successful young person.

Because without discipline, without the ability to focus on what you need to focus on (when you need to focus on it), your life becomes one with "the wave." The wave of life whips you around, and you have no control. You let people and things distract you. Your goals take a backseat to everyone else prying for your attention. But when you master the art of discipline, of shutting out the noise so that you can put yourself and your goals first, you become the surfer. You see the wave, and you can ride it, because you've put yourself in a position to do so.

I share this because, as a millennial, I am surrounded by so many peers who all say the same thing: "I want to do what I love; I want to quit my job; I want to travel; I want to work from my laptop anywhere I want too; I want to be my own boss; I want to change the world; I want to do something great; I want to; I want to; I want to."

If you truly want to, then here's what you need to do.

When you finish that sentence, instead of pulling your phone out and reading one more pseudo-motivational quote on social media, encouraging you to follow your dreams, turn your phone off and get to work.

Discipline, and being able to say "no" to the distractions of life, is the differentiating factor between those that dream and those that make their dreams come true.

Published on: May 1, 2017
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.