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Cadet Springer is on his knees scrubbing the hallway floor of the military academy’s administrations building.
And not by choice mind you.
But because earlier that day Colonel Rumford felt that the spit shine finish on Springer’s uniform oxfords wasn’t quite shiny enough.
Therefore, the Commandant deemed it necessary to discipline the young cadet.
(The preceding account is based on an episode from the TV series Columbo circa 1978)
From a very early age we are prudently told what and what not to do on a regular and consistent basis.
Invariably it begins with our parents.
And the canon of commands would typically sound something like this:
“Eat your veggies.”
“Do your homework.”
“Clean your room.”
“Don’t forget to wash behind your ears.”
And as a subservient youngster, if you neglected to carry out these daily demands it was fair to assume that there’d be consequences.
Usually in the form of some sort of “disciplinary” action, e.g.,
Being sent to your room.
No going out to play after dinner.
And/or no TV/video games for some unruly stretch of time.
Now when you think of discipline in this context, whether its scrubbing the floor or no cartoons for a week, it’s easy to see why it’s not considered a very favorable term.
Hell, it’s a protocol for punishment!
In fact the principal definition of discipline is just that:
“The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior using punishment to correct disobedience.”
But then, as they say,
THERE”S ALWAYS A FLIP SIDE.
It was virtuoso concert pianist Lang Lang who said, “I think discipline is more important than talent.”
“You can have all the talent in the world, but you won’t discover it unless you have the discipline.”
Now I happen to believe that we all have some degree of natural talent.
If however you believe otherwise; if you’re flat out convinced that you haven’t even so much as a lick of flourish-able talent running through them bones of yours relax.
Because when it comes to discipline even a lingering interest will suffice.
That said, let me ask you this:
What if, in Lang Lang’s words, you never discover what your “talents” are?
In other words, what if you spend your entire life never pursuing a worthwhile interest or aspiration?
And thereby never discover what your true potential really is?
Talk about punishment!
Being sent to your room is one thing.
Being sentenced to a lifetime of woulda/shoulda/coulda and what if is an entirely different matter.
So here then is the flip side.
What if you took it upon yourself to uncover what your talents, interests, and ambitions are?
What if like any other dedicated individual you put in the time and effort to develop those talents, interests, and ambitions?
And what if along with brushing your teeth and changing your socks you did so on a regular and consistent basis?
Discipline as you’ve come to know it suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.
And a very positive and exciting one at that.
Crazy amazing right?
BUT DON’T GO KICKING UP YOUR HEELS JUST YET.
As Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes once said, “It is one thing to praise discipline, and another to submit to it.”
And submitting to it…fully committing to it, is gonna require a lot of ‘self’ discipline.
Remember, unlike when you were a youngster there’s no longer those nagging voices of authority reminding you (or for that matter, encouraging you) to do what needs to be done.
That’s right, from now on you’re on your own.
But hey, at least if you choose to slack off you won’t be sent to your room or be told you can’t go out and play.
Then again. without any looming consequences to consider there’s that even greater danger of looking at an undisciplined day and concluding that no real harm has been done.
And that is a gargantuan mistake!
One that your drill sergeant parents, teachers, and coaches were no doubt desperately trying to keep you from making all along.
And for good reason.
Personally, looking back at those ‘seemingly’ harsh and unfair disciplinary actions doled out to me as a kid, all I can say is that they were little more than a slap on the wrist compared to what I’d eventually have to endure for the better part of my adult life.
And every morning as I gruelingly drag my butt off to another grueling shift of meaningless work I’m once again reminded, I’m once again painstakingly convinced, that it’s not discipline itself that’s the protocol for punishment…it’s a lack thereof.
See ya on Nov 1st, till then, keeep it up.