Jun 11

Man showing off his yoga skills

How can you tell a disciplined person at first glance? Is it the way they carry themselves? The way they walk, talk, work?

It is an interesting question being that we assume that we can get this insight from conducting job interviews, playing golf or cards with someone, or just inviting them to lunch for some small talk. There are many hints into a person’s discipline, but they can be hard to differentiate from quirks, compulsive motives, or habit. We can look at a bodybuilder and assume that the hard work and dedication he/she put into gaining a muscular body is a sign of a person that can make a goal and stay the course to attain it. Similarly we can look at a person that is an “other” in their career path, assume that they had to be twice as good to get there and chalk it up to discipline and perseverance. When we do this, are we mostly right, or is it an even split between right and wrong?

Many of us read strangers at a glance and mentally put them into categories. A religious person that is not in the best shape will seem passive, easy led, and unimpressive. A young man in a trendy suit, brandishing a suitcase will be automatically seen as either a douchebag who inherited daddy’s business, or a faker looking to sell snake oil. These stereotypes are embedded into our brains, so when the heavyset, Jesus lover, turns out to be a staunch business man that has grown his start-up from nothing, we are so blown away that we immediately create a new category for him.

“…it isn’t just racists that box people up in groups, it’s all of us…”

This immediate need to stereotype gets in the way of our objective thinking. When you make up your mind about someone you begin to miss clues that would tell you who they really are. As adults, many of us suffer from this tunnel vision, it isn’t just racists that box people up in groups, it’s all of us. Discipline comes in many forms, and it varies in shape and size. A disciplined martial artist may falter when it comes to applying that same dedication to his home life, but is still regarded as “disciplined” because he wakes up at five am every morning to sharpen up his katas.

I personally don’t think you can gauge someone’s discipline at a glance. Well not always… Let’s say that. There are people who do well in keeping order, following a code, and never deviating from it, and they are easy to spot just by the way they live their lives. On the flip side there are those who are disciplined in various areas of their lives and you would not know about it unless you got to know them personally.

I am of the mind that most people lack discipline–as in life discipline–it is easy to just let things be health-wise, and financially, so we gain weight, live above our means, and complain. I wonder if there is a good way to know if a person has their act together at a glance, or of it’s simply impossible due to the varied masks we present to the world. I still find it funny that  lot of jobs use a degree as a measuring stick for leadership and discipline when many of the thought leaders, financial aces, and successful entrepreneurs that I know skipped the University debt.

I guess there’s no simple answer is there? So manager types, bosses, and straw bosses , tell me. How do you spot discipline in another person?

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  • James

    Discipline is probably best known for sticking to the direction on the road of what you think is (personal) success, I think. Often only measured based on diploma’s, which is a flaw in perception of the one looking for discipline. Perhaps it takes a disciplined mind to see one? Nice piece of writing though!