Freedom in Discipline


Get your homework done, and then you can go hangout with your friends.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard that line before. I remember as my homework began to pile up in middle school how my parents would push me to be disciplined with it. I’d have to get it done; then I could have fun.

Upon reaching high school and then transitioning into college, I found my discipline had followed. Although my mom and dad weren’t over my shoulder, checking my work, I was getting it done all on my own. And that discipline has come in handy as I’ve taken strides in my career.

What I learned, and what Jocko Willink and Leif Babin teach in their book, “Extreme Ownership: How Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” is that there is a freedom within discipline. “The balance between discipline and freedom must be found and carefully maintained. In that, lies the dichotomy: discipline — strict order, regimen and control — might appear to be the opposite of total freedom — the power to act, speak or think without any restrictions. But, in fact, discipline is the pathway to freedom,” wrote the authors.

Take for instance nutrition. When you are disciplined with your nutrition and eat well 90 percent of the time, you feel great. You are able to train hard. You probably don’t deal with as many health problems as you would otherwise. In a sense, there is freedom due to your discipline in nutrition, freedom because you are healthy and your quality of life has improved. It’s a challenge, but a rewarding one at that.

As they wrapped up the book, Babin and Willink gave a final list, “The Dichotomy of Leadership,” to illustrate, however, that too much discipline isn’t good. Basically, leading is walking a fine line. You should be confident, but not cocky. You should pay attention to the details, but not be obsessed by them. You should be disciplined, but not so regimented that you quench freedom.

Leading your team and your business is a balance, Affiliate. And it’s not something you’ll perfect in a day, a week or even a year. Finding the balance between discipline and freedom isn’t always easy. But like the best things, leadership takes time to grow and develop.

In the end, leading is truly worth the work. “Leading people is the most challenging, and therefore, the most gratifying undertaking of all human endeavors,” wrote the leaders. “So, with that humbling reward in the distance, embrace the burden of command and go forward onto your battlefield, in whatever arena that may be, with the disciplined resolve to take Extreme Ownership, lead and win.”


Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at