Discipline and Ownership

Jocko Willink who is truly the scariest Navy Seal

I recently listened to Jocko Willink’s podcast on the Tim Ferriss Show titled The Scariest Navy Seal Imaginable..and What He Taught Me. His interview was intense, and I got inspired to grab both of his books Extreme Ownership and Discipline Equals Freedom from the library.

Disciple Equals Freedom. First, get it on audiobook if they have it – reading the book doesn’t give half inspiration that hearing Jocko in your ear talking about discipline might. The book is rambling but inspirational as it jumps from topics like stress to waking up early to working out. My favorite chapter was on stress:

Stress is generally caused by what you can’t control…It is happening and you just have to accept it. Don’t stress about things you can’t control. If the stress is something that you can control and you are not, that is a lack of discipline and a lack of ownership. Get control of it. Impose your will to make it happen. Solve the problem. Relieve the stress. If the stress is something you can’t control: Embrace it.

Extreme Ownership – a lot of Jocko’s themes from his first book carried over to his second. This book lost the rambling intensity of the first substituting a digestible format starting with (1) war story, (2) principle, and (3) application to business. Although a lot of the chapters and key principles feel duplicative after the first few, the format and amazing stories help to keep the book moving and driving home Jocko’s themes around ownership.

On any team, in any organization, all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader. The leader must own everything in his or her world. There is no one else to blame. The leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win….When leaders who epitomize Extreme Ownership drive their teams to achieve a higher standard of performance, they must recognize that when it comes to standards, as a leader, it’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.

Jocko’s energy and intensity are definitely worth investigating in SOME format (podcast, blog, or book). I would skip Discipline Equals Freedom – great themes but extremely rambling, and pick up the second on Extreme Ownership especially if you or someone on your team is struggling with the concept of ownership in their work.

My three reflections on the principles of discipline and ownership:

  1. Being present to a goal requires discipline. From Steve Jobs, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” It isn’t enough to say yes to something, you have to say no to all the noise that prevents you from achieving your goal.
  2. Disciple feels painful. Saying no and being present to what you should be doing feels incredibly painful. Discipline is waking up early when you feel like 30 more minutes of sleep are needed or stopping drinking after the first glass of wine (do you really need the whole bottle? Maybe that is just me) As a leader at work, it is being there for your team and not being distracted by the million emails while you meet with someone. It’s also canceling recurring meetings when they are no longer adding value and holding people accountable when you would rather just be friendly with them.
  3. Discipline equals freedom. By being present to your goals at home and at work and having the disciple to prioritize what matters-no matter how painful-you will start to see results. The best thing about leaning in through discipline is that it starts to feel less painful, and frees your time to drive innovation, engage with others and do things that are fun! But it all starts with being disciplined to do the things that matter.

The Goal – Review


Business parables like The Goal are one of my favorite types of management books. Effective authors take a complex business concept/problem, create an imaginary business with relatable problems, and identify a protagonist to wrestle with the problem and eventually used the author’s management tactics to solve.

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement does not disappoint. Although I disagree with the reviews stating that it is a “fast-paced thriller” and “gripping”, The Goal is an incredibly easy read and great way for a new manager to dip their toes into the concepts of process improvement which can take years to master through methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma.

The protagonist, Alex Rogo, is a newly promoted plant manager trying to turn his failing plant around. Throughout the story, he continues to optimize the metrics that he are told matter– and failing in the process. The protagonist’s has epiphanies along the way. On productivity – “Every action that brings a company closer to its goal is productive. Every action that does not bring a company closer to its goal is not productive.”

The big “ah-ha” is around the ultimate goal of business is to make money, and if you are measuring things that don’t get you closer to that goal, they don’t matter. Overall, recommend the book, but not all the ideas in it. Personally, I lean more towards the Simon Sinek way of thinking – why you are in business is much more important that the pure pursuit of profits, but there is still a lot of value to the ideas and simplicity of The Goal!

This is a mind expanding book that helps new managers question what they are doing and how it ties back to ultimate business results as well as lays out a clear framework for continuous improvement. Another great resource on the subject is Measure What Matters.

Start With Why – Review

I loved the amazing Ted Talk that Simon Sinek did on this subject so finally read the book over the last few weeks! The book reviews his concept of the “golden circle” and includes a copious amount of examples from companies that both exemplify (Apple) and miss the mark on this concept.

The quick overview of the book: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”.

At the center of the circle is your why – “This is the core belief of the business. It’s why the business exists.” How you fulfill that core belief and what you do – the tangible products or services you deliver are secondary and in service to that core belief. The problem is that most companies have it backwards – they market what they do and miss that their customers are more loyal for why they do what they do.

Overall, skip the book, watch the Ted Talk. Although I love and agree with all of Simon Sinek’s points, his 18 min video covers the main concepts without any of the repetition of examples of companies that start with (or do not start with) their why.

Tools of Titans – Review

If you prefer not to read, I’d highly recommend the podcast where Tim Ferriss has most of the interviews in the book. The book is organized into three sections: healthy, wealthy and wise and Tim has managed to get the habits and perspectives from an absolutely incredible cast of people.

At first, I was super skeptical – Tim Ferriss is the guy that does the “4 hour” books (week, body, chef etc.) and just the title of those bothered me. Want to get rich, strong fast kids? Just be like me…

All that being said, the prior COO at Lyft (Rex Tibbens) recommended this to me a few years back so finally took the time to read it, and it did not disappoint! Highly Recommend. I think I annoyed Andi for weeks talking about the different interviews, habits and perspectives of all these amazing people as I was reading them.

Must read (or listen!) interviews:

  • Jocko Willink – Navy Seal, all around badass who when faced with adversity says “Good” and faces it head on.
  • Jamie Foxx – “What is on the other side of fear? Nothing…When we talk about fear or a lack of being aggressive, it’s in your head.”
  • Rainn Wilson – “I was cast in a Broadway show when I was 29 or 30 years old. It was my first Broadway show and I sucked….after I finished that show, I thought: ‘You know what, fuck it. I’m never doing that again….Life is too short. I’ve got to be me as an actor.”
  • Reid Hoffman – “I have come to learn that part of business strategy is to solve the simplest, easiest and most valuable problem”
  • Gabby Reece – “I always say that I’ll go first…That means if I’m checking out at the store, I’ll say hello first. If I’m coming across someboady and make eye contact, I’ll smile first. [I wish] people would experiment with that in their life a little bit: Be First, because–not at all times but most times– it comes in your favor.”