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Leadership – Lesson 1 – Discipline or Regret

One of my favorite quotes is from Jim Rohn and states “We must all suffer from one of two pains:  the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.”  If you’re going to become a better leader, you had darn well better adopt the discipline versus the regret side of the equation!


While there’s some that would argue that leaders are born and not made, I do not agree.  Leaders are made through experience, hard work, and determination.  The first step of your journey to becoming a better leader is to set aside time to develop.

Rule #1 – You must make a focused effort to improve as a leader.


That’s fine you say, but what do I that.  Simple.  You take the time to review the subsequent 29 lessons in this book, identify which items are most relevant, set appropriate SMART goals (more on this in step 6), and spend the first 30 minutes of each day reviewing your leadership goals.

The actual review needs to have two parts.  The first part is to go back through your calendar from the previous day.  Review the days activities in light of your leadership goals.  Where did you succeed?  Where did you fail?  What do you need to do more of?  What do you need to do less of?  Each day you receive an incredible amount of feedback on your leadership skills.  The problem is you’re likely not using this feedback to change and improve your behaviors.  The second part is to go through your calendar for today.  What opportunities will you have to work on your leadership goals?  Where are you likely going to struggle?  What are you going to do different than normal when you face those situations where you struggle?  Planning ahead with a emphasis on when, where, and how you will need to focus on your leadership skills is critical.

That’s it.  No more.  No less.  Through the wonders of the brain, if you start each day with a review of your aspirations that combines your previous day’s performance and your current days plan, you will change your behaviors.

Why do I believe this?  Because I’ve done it!  Back when I had just started out working for Caterpillar, I had a boss call me in to his office.  The dialogue went something like this:

Boss:      “I wanted to let you know that two people have stopped by this week to let me know you’re doing a great job”

Me:      “Great.  I try to do my best.  Gotta get back to work now”

Boss:      “Hang on a second.  They also mentioned that you’re really focused and it took a while to get to know you.  They mentioned that you’re not only a good worker but a nice person and they enjoyed getting to know you”

Me:      “I like to get things done, so I’m not surprised they recognized my focus”

Boss:      “Well, that’s good, but you need to spend more time getting to know them”

Me:      “Boss, I’m here to do a job.  While I like a lot of the folks here, getting to know them is not high on my list”

Boss:      “Well it’s something you need to work on to be more successful”

Me:      “Boss.  You just told me I’m doing a great job and that they like me.  I think my method’s working pretty well”

Boss:      “How many projects are you working on?”

Me:      “Oh, 10 or 12”

Boss:      “How many are going well”

Me:      “6 or 7”

Boss:      “Well, for the one’s that aren’t going well, what do those folks think of you?”

Me:      “They’re probably not big fans.  But that’s OK; those projects are next on my list.  They’ll be pleased enough shortly”

Boss:     “You really need to work on this”

Me:      “Look, I don’t agree with you, but I do respect your opinion.  So I’ll work on it”

Ah, the joys of youth and inexperience!  I went home, called my Dad, and asked for his opinion.  He suggested that I pick up Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People book.  I did so, read it, made a summary of the key points and reported back to my boss that I was going to give it a go.  Of course, I knew that this was a pointless exercise.  Every day for three years I started my day with a review of those key points.  And by the end of the three years, I knew my boss was right.  And I’d totally reshaped my behaviors.

Remember, every day starts with a 30 minute review of your leadership aspirations.  Follow this one rule and I guarantee you’ll be a better leader in 90 days.

ACTION ITEM 1 — Block 30 minutes every morning to review your leadership aspirations

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Curt Stowers

Curt Stowers

Curtis Stowers helps individuals and families across the United States grow their financial assets, particularly in the Naperville, IL region. He is a Certified Financial Planner, holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois, and is the founder of F5 Financial.