He had lost 84 games in a row. I had just arrived home and found my son Moses playing chess against the computer. I asked him what level he was playing against and he said level five. I asked if he had ever beaten the computer on that level. He said no. So I told him that I would give him $5 when he finally won. I emphasized the word when, because I knew he could eventually win if he didn’t give up. Twenty minutes later he burst out of his chair in excitement. He had just defeated the computer on level five! Upon going over to see for myself, I noticed that the computer kept records of wins and losses. He had played and lost 84 games in a row on level five before winning.
I was proud of him for beating level five but more proud that he could lose 84 times in a row and not give up. He had won before he won by refusing to give up.
When I was a kid I would give up on something at the first moment of difficulty unless I was intensely interested in it. The problem with that is that interest in something often increases as you get better at it, and unless you are willing to push through difficulties, you don’t make much progress. This totally hindered my personal growth growing up.
We Need Self-Discipline
Self-discipline is the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it. The biggest temptation that we usually face is to quit when things get tough, and I don’t think pushing through difficulty comes naturally to us. Is the pain in the short term worth the long-term gain?
In sports, a good coach will push an athlete to go beyond where they currently are even though it will be painful and require a lot of work. The coach knows that after the pain, after the work, there will be reward and the athlete will be stronger and more skilled. The best coaches are able to see not only where their players are at, but where they could be with enough work. Then, they continually correct, praise and encourage the athlete until the athlete also grabs ahold of both the process and the vision.
Choose goals worthy of pursuing
I know this sounds obvious, but from experience, it’s easy to set our minds on something that’s not worth pursuing in the first place, and we eventually recognize it and abandon it. While it’s good to recognize a mistaken trajectory and change course, it’s even better to pick the correct trajectory in the first place. This takes practice, but always remind yourself that life is short, so pick trajectory’s wisely!
I also think it’s wise to have principals when setting goals. For example, a few of my principals I have when setting goals are; does the goal have long-term value for me personally, for my family, for my children, for my friends, my community, my state, my country and the world. These principals will guide you when deciding if something is worth the effort, pain and struggle to learn or accomplish. The stronger your convictions on something, the more pain you will be able to endure while working to accomplish it.
Separating Goals from Methods
Goals should be more fixed and concrete than methods. Hold methods loosely. For example, someone’s goal could be to reduce the time and expense it takes to get from one city to the next. That’s a great goal, but should the method be a flying car? We don’t know. If someone decided that it should be via flying car, they could miss out on the best solution possibly being via Hyperloop or rocket transport. If you hold your methods loosely and allow yourself to learn during the process, you will probably change methods along the way and hasten the achieving of your goals.
Ask for help
Too often we are like the little kid that has a dream to go out and build a tree fort that we’re going to live in for the rest of our lives. And we are going to do it all on our own! We go outside, get some wood, put it into a pile at the base of the tree and then we look up. How in the world are we going to get the wood up the tree and even build the platform? We might try in vain for a while, but we usually give up. Why? Not because it was impossible or too difficult, but only because we refused to ask for help!
Don’t let pride get in the way of achieving a great or noble goal. Accomplishing our goals is already difficult enough without adding the monster that is our own ego. Ask for help. Learn from others. Don’t worry if someone else gets the credit or shares the credit. It’s better that good is accomplished
A Muscle That Can Be Strengthened
No matter where we’re at in life, we can grow in self-discipline and persistence. We need to pick something to do, build or learn and separate it into a progression of attainable goals. You might be wanting to start your own business that could provide you the income you need to live on. Instead of focusing on the end number of customers that you need to pull it off, laser focus on getting the first customer and grind until you get one. Then get your next one. Then set a goal of getting your next five and keep pushing. If you are re-landscaping your yard, instead of always thinking about what it will look like in all of it’s glory, focus on a small area and transform it! Then move on to a bigger area.
We need to encourage ourselves by hitting smaller goals in increments so we can see progress. Progress is the key! Once you get a taste of progress it enables you to push harder, longer and right through difficult obstacles that would have caused us to give up in our earlier days.
I often think back and imagine what it would be like had I learned more self-discipline before I was 30 years old. What could I have learned? What could I have built? How much more of a difference could I have made in the world? I shake my head, look forward and resolve to get better and to help my kids to not repeat my mistakes.
Don’t get discouraged! It only takes a moment to change the world or add value to another person’s life. It doesn’t matter how old you are today. Set your mind on worthy and noble goals and don’t give up!
What is something that you’ve been working on and feel like giving up? Or maybe an idea you’ve had but never felt like you could begin to pursue? I’d love to hear from you!
My son Moses wrote his first blog post and it got picked up by HackerNoon. Check it out!
I added my appliance repair course to Tradeskills.io yesterday. You can check it out here.