March 11, 2023: Daily Discipline Mailbag

Do you schedule “rest days” from discipline like an athlete would schedule a rest day from fitness so off days can rejuvenate and come back better? (Anonymous - Louisville, KY)

From my discipline? No. Do I get to take a day off making decisions? No? Then I don’t get a day off from discipline.

I don’t get rest days from my legs either. Or my arms, abs, or back muscles. I use them every day. Some days I work them hard. Some days I work them long. Some days I stretch them out or coordinate them together.

Sometimes it happens through the normal activities of the day. Sometimes it happens through intentionally specific training. Some days I look forward to it. Some days I don’t. Some days they feel weak, hurt, exhausted, or uncoordinated., But even on those days, I use them because I need to move. My arms, legs, abs, and back don’t get a day off. Neither does my discipline.


I am looking for a simple mantra to keep me motivated through the tough patches of life. I do like yours at the end of your Daily Discipline, but I feel I need to either make my own or need a hint. (Carlo - 53 - Boardman, OR)

You could be dead. One day you will be. What a shame it would be to arrive at that day still searching and waiting for motivation. That day arrives sooner than anyone wants. That’s why today is the most important day of your life.


What is disciplined when it comes to expecting outcomes? (Brendan - Peoria, IL)

I love this question. I could write an entire chapter on this, maybe one day I will,  but now I’d rather give you something digestible and memorable. So here is a sticky list of the most important disciplines when it comes to expecting outcomes.

  1. You don’t control outcomes.
  2. Expect the best from yourself.
  3. You. Don’t. Control. Outcomes.
  4. Expect to win.
  5. Expect to lose.
  6. Expect it to take longer than you expect.
  7. Expect the outcomes you want most to provide the most resistance.
  8. The higher your expectations, the more you are responsible.
  9. Any fool can create an expectation and get angry when it isn’t met.
  10. The outcomes you expect are often different from the outcomes others want.
  11. Your track record of accurately predicting situations and outcomes isn’t nearly as good as you think, which is fed mainly by your expectations.


I see some value in your ‘Volume to Value’ analysis.  Sometimes, however, I just need to chill out and do nothing.  There is value to this as it helps me to wind down at the end of the day or to restart fresh in the middle of the day. I vary the volume of these activities to whatever is needed to accomplish the goal. (Larry - 71 - Tallahassee, FL)

You nailed it, Larry. The purpose of analyzing Volume-to-Value is so we understand the right amount of something (volume) to deliver the best results or at least the results we want (value).

Everything has a volume-to-value ratio, including chilling out. Get that ratio right and you recover well, have fun, decompress, whatever it is. But many people get it wrong. Their volume of chilling out is way too high and they’re not getting anything out of it. In fact, they’re losing value. Or their volume of rest is too low. They run themselves down, stress out, and get unhealthy. They don’t decompress or recover. They keep trying to do more and more and more, even as the returns from their effort fall off sharply. I think this is what people now call “burnout”. It’s a result of undisciplined volume-to-value ratio.

So yes, figure out the right volume-to-value ratio for your rest, recovery, and chilling out.


When leading others that are not meeting a standard, how do you communicate that without entering the world of BCD, especially the "Complain" part of it? (Anonymous)

“Hey, Mike, can we chat for a minute?”

“Sure what’s up?”

“I’d like to clarify a couple things I might have communicated poorly before, or maybe haven’t communicated yet, is that ok?”


“Ok, so the first thing is what the standard is for _______. It’s _________. The reason this standard matters is because _________. The second thing I need to clarify is that you’re not at that standard right now. The standard is ________ and you are ________. It’s creating ________, which is a problem, but one we can fix. So there’s a gap between what you’re doing and the standard we need. I want to help you close the gap. You need to close it and I want to help you. Or get you the resources or time or whatever you need to meet the standard. Anything in there that’s unclear or confusing?”

The conversation can go many places from there because humans are humans, but now you’ve communicated clearly, directly, firmly, and compassionately (1) what the standard is, (2) why it matters, (3) where they fall short of it, (4) the problem it creates, (5) confidence it can be corrected, and (6) a desire to help them succeed.


No questions, just wanted to say thank you for what you do, I look forward to your emails, listen to your podcasts, and gather up any information from you I can. It is a great pick me up and helps me in so many situations as I try and run a high school in SE Idaho, keep smashing it and thanks again for always being great where your feet are, for the messages you share that help so many! (Burke - 44 - Shelley, ID)

We got a bunch of these in the mailbag this week and I want to acknowledge how much it means to us that it means this much to you. We run Daily Discipline with an immense sense of humility and responsibility. You have allowed us into your world, into your minds, into your hearts. We are like you. Doing the work. Embracing the chase. Figuring it out. Getting better. Training for something. Trying to understand and become our best selves as well. We are on our own journey, as people and professionals, just like you. What an honor to share part of that journey together here. Thank you all.


How do you personally start a new habit? eg: I’m wanting to start working out before work vs after work. (Sheri - 50 - Beech Grove, IN)

The desire to create habits fascinates me. People used to be interested in how to break habits. Now people are obsessed with how to make them. 

I don’t think about starting new habits. Ever. That’s the truth.

How do I start a new habit? I make one decision and take action on it. Boom! Habit started. Congrats to me!

“But BK that’s not a habit. That’s just one choice!”

Correct. That’s how a habit starts. You make a decision and do something. That’s one. The next time you make the decision and act on it is two. Then three. You get the point.

Think of a habit as a line of dominoes. To get the dominoes falling, you have to push the first domino. Domino 48 can’t fall until domino 47 falls. Domino 342 can’t fall until all the dominoes ahead of it fall.

By then the dominos are flowing and falling faster and faster, surging forward with momentous energy. It would actually be pretty hard to stop them. Once the sequence of one domino falling into the other with enough forceful energy begins, it continues. Unless.

Sometimes the dominos aren’t aligned well enough. Sometimes the dominoes are heavy and hard to knock over. Sometimes their direction changes and they lose sufficient momentum.

If you’ve ever tried to create a line of more than 10-20 dominoes that would fall simply by pushing the first one, then you know it’s fairly hard to successfully set up. Something tends to disrupt the sequence. A little too close together, too far apart, not quite enough force. Something gets in the way.

If you push the first domino, it falls, and nothing happens. No other dominoes fall. What do you do? You push the second domino. If nothing happens again, you push the third. You’d probably do this until around the fifth domino. Then you’d set them all back up, make some adjustments, and push the first domino again.

Here’s my point. People want habits to work like dominoes. They want to know how to set them up so they fall just by pushing the first one, maybe the first few. Then they want momentum to take over while they mentally sit back and watch the habit run, like a line of dominoes, effortlessly and continuously. They don’t want to push every domino. That sounds tedious and exhausting.

People want and expect habits to work like a line of dominoes.

I have to push the first domino over. And then I probably have to push the next few hundred dominos over. Maybe after that, the dominoes will fall without my conscious involvement. Maybe. Probably not. I expect to push over every domino.

There are two different ways to look at it:

  1. I want to push the first few dominoes over and then I want the rest to start falling.
  2. I will push each domino over when I reach it and appreciate every domino that falls on its own.

So how do I start a new habit (like working out in the morning)? I push the first domino over. I wake up at 5 am, put on my shoes, and work out. The next day, I do the same thing and push the next domino over.

Whether a habit forms is beyond my control. Whether today’s domino falls is in my control, so that’s where I focus. If a habit forms, great. If it doesn’t, fine. I don’t care.

How do I start new habits? I don’t. I try to be a great decision-maker and make great decisions.

I have no expectation of dominoes falling without my disciplined effort. I’m the primary force behind the dominoes in my life. So are you. Sometimes we work hard enough to get some dominoes falling. Most of the time we’re the ones who need to push each domino until it falls.


What are 5-10 books I need to read? (Chris - 42 - San Antonio, TX)

You mention you read old books. What are your top books that you go back to year after year? (Josh - Saratoga)

Books you need to read. That word “need” is making me think because there are books that can help you and books that can change you.

Books that help you give you tips, tools, and steps. Books that change you shift your view of the world, of yourself, or both. If you want help, you won’t be ready to receive a book that challenges your view of the world. If you’re open to transformational change, the help book will feel cheap. So I struggle with the phrase “need to read”.

Anyway, here goes:

Must reads:

Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Victor Frankl. If you haven’t read this book from cover to cover AT LEAST TWICE, you are not allowed to read another book until you do.

Enchirdion by Epictetus (compiled by his student Arrian). It means “the manual” as in “the life manual” in ancient Greek.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. These are the Roman Emperor’s private notes to himself. After his death, his notes were discovered in his chambers. When people read the wisdom in his solitary writings, they felt compelled to organize and share them. The reason this is important is twofold: (1) Marcus wasn’t telling anyone else what to do. He was telling himself what to do. (2) He never intended for anyone else to read his notes. These were his most intimate thoughts, not catchy phrases written to entertain, sell, or earn a following.

Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life by Luke Burgis. This isn’t an entirely fair or accurate answer by me. Let me explain. This book isn’t good enough to be a must-read, but the topic of mimesis and mimetic desire absolutely is, and this is the simplest and most understandable book on the topic. If you want the original source material, read “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” by Rene Girard, but fair warning, it’s like deadlifting 500lbs to read every page, and there are 480 pages. But what’s in there is profound.

The Lessons of History by Will & Arial Durant. Between 1935 and 1975, Will and Ariel durant wrote, among other things, an 11-volume series called, “The Story of Civilization”. They spent their lives together devoted to telling a fair and true story of history, and helping us understand it. This book is 128 pages of condensed wisdom, a product of two lifetimes spent studying and writing about history.

What I read repeatedly (I could put a lot here, so I chose the ones I read most often and are most important  to me):

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Enchirdion by Epictetus

Mastery by Robert Greene

Antrifragile by Nassim Taleb

Roots of Strategy: Books 1-3

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield (along with multiple others by Pressfield)

Essays by Plutarch

Essays by Montaigne


If we didn't answer your question this week, stay tuned, we got A LOT of questions. We will do our best to answer every question at some point. 

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