How Your Daily Discipline Drives Success

John Brubaker, Entrepreneur (

Early in my career, when I was a college coach, I thought the solution to my problems was these two words: “if only.” If only I had more scholarship money, we’d win more. If only I had a better budget, we’d win more. If only I had better facilities, we’d win more.

Those “if only” things were going to solve everything for me. But, then . . . I got a bigger budget and didn’t win more. I got more scholarship money and didn’t win more. I got nicer facilities and, yep, you guessed it.

I wasn’t the only coach who thought that way. The “if only” trap is a common one for coaches. We don’t like to take a long hard look in the mirror for fear of not liking what we see. It’s easier to chalk up our losses to something external that we don’t yet possess.

Thinking that that “one thing will change everything” is also a familiar trap for entrepreneurs. I see it with clients who think that one more staff member, one venture capitalist who will fund their dreams, one video that will go viral or one big client referral will make all the difference.

Yet it’s never one thing, never some magic bullet, that will help you win more. Success lies in your daily discipline. Consider this old Zen Buddhist phrase, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

The message is that consistent execution of fundamentals over time is the key to success. In ancient times you chopped wood to make fire and carried water for drinking; and if you didn’t, you wouldn’t survive, never mind thrive. What are the high-value fundamentals you yourself must execute daily to ensure prosperity?

Enlightenment (success) for the entrepreneur may indeed start with “arriving on the biggest stage” in that person’s industry. Yet the other hidden truth in that Buddhist quote is that after enlightenment, the only thing that will sustain it is precisely what got you there to begin with: consistency in daily efforts.

One thing doesn’t change anything: What drives your results is showing up and putting in the work, day in and day out. The work and the adversity are deposits you are paying, for success in the future. Enlightenment is not a destination or end point on a map or business plan. Your success is built brick by brick, day by day. Put in the hard work, do it every day and when you succeed, wake up and do it again the day after that.

Chopping wood and carrying water is about consistency of effort. I’m what you call a grinder; I’ll win by grinding out sheer effort and doing what other people won’t do. Why? Because I know I’m not smart enough to get by on brains alone, and I’m not talented enough to get by on talent alone. Most people aren’t. I’m actually thankful for that because, through consistency of effort, you create discipline, and discipline wins. Consider adopting this approach if you too are willing to “do.” Then you too will get results that others don’t.

Why is that promise important? Because trust in business these days is at an all-time low. What’s your version of chopping wood and carrying water that will engender greater trust in your business? Examples from some of my clients include:

  • Responding to all emails the same day they come in.
  • Returning all phone calls by the close of business that day
  • Waking up and going to bed at the same time
  • Exercising daily during lunch hour
  • Walking the sales floor every day at 2 p.m. and asking how I can help each employee

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