Self-discipline and our Disciplined Universe

This version contains some minor editorial and gramatical changes.

Of all the laws in the universe, did you ever wonder why God created the law of discipline? I mean, why can’t we just lay back and enjoy life no matter what we do?

In one way, discipline is sort of a restrictive law, yet, paradoxically, that same law can also set one free.

Discipline is a universal law, and works hand-in-hand with the law of cause and effect. In fact, I’d say it’s very much intertwined with all the other universal laws as well: invoke discipline, and you affect all the other laws, and the reason I separate the law of discipline from the law of cause and effect, is that the law of cause and effect is a rather mindless law: it just is, and reacts rather indifferently to whatever you do with it. On the other hand, the law of discipline gives you a choice of being aware of what you do.

There are also two aspects to the law of discipline: self-discipline, and externally influenced discipline.

We foster abandoned cats and, besides having them spayed and neutered, they are locked in every night, which they do not like! Cats are nocturnal animals and, given a choice, prefer to be awake and hunting at night and sleep during the day. But, because, in a rural setting, there are dangers out there at night that they would not normally be prepared to face were they feral, so for their own safety, they need to be indoors at night.

I would call that act of locking up the cats at night, externally influenced discipline. The cats have no choice in the matter. As their foster parents, we impose that discipline—or restriction, on them.

On the other hand, self-discipline is where you decide: you make the choice to do something, or not to do something, independent of external conditions. For example, you may decide to quit smoking, a decision that you make, (assumed you’re being) uninfluenced by any external pressure someone may attempt to impose on you.

In similar manner, the universe imposes restrictions—or disciplines on us. For example, start eating too much junk food, and you’ll get fat. That’s cause and effect. But, if you decide that you’re too fat and go on a diet to lose weight, that’s a self-imposed discipline.

Unfortunately, too many of us lack self-discipline, and because of our unwillingness to learn, we leave ourselves wide open to whatever nature, or society in general—or even our own body imposes on us. We resent our neighbor’s success, but are too un-disciplined to abandon our habitual hours of playing games on the computer, instead of taking a course in a trade that would bring us similar good fortune that our neighbor enjoys. As William A. Ward stated, “The price of excellence is discipline. The cost of mediocrity is disappointment.”

I’m retired now, but after a short military career and years of self-employment, I learned early in life, the importance of self-discipline. Throughout my lifetime I witnessed many start-up businesses ending in business failure. The main reason for their failure was, these would-be entrepreneurs did not bother to self-discipline themselves first, by learning the universal law of what constitutes a successful business, before they opened their doors to a business venture.

In the end, it’s our own doing whether we apply self-discipline in our lives, or just fall in line with whatever is imposed on us by an indifferent universe. The choice is ours, and the universe will deliver that choice! That’s the law!

“We must all suffer one of two things:  the pain of discipline or the pain of regret and disappointment.” – Jim Rohn


We are our own competition

No doubt you are familiar with Pogo’s famous quote: “I have seen the enemy, and he is us!” The reason that quote has remained so endearingly popular with us is, unconsciously, we know it is true.

And note, I’ve emphasized the word, unconsciously. Because, on the other hand, consciously, we try to convince ourselves it’s not our fault that something didn’t happen the way it was supposed to happen: our excuses are, there’s too much competition; people are always undercut my prices; my employees don’t have to work more than eight hours a day, so why should I have to? The list of excuses goes on and on. I’ll give you a real-life example of what I mean by our own attitude and lack of thinking that causes us to fail so often.

I’m retired now, but I was in the sign painting and promotion business in my younger years. One day a fellow came and wanted me to make up some promotional flyers advertising his new start-up business: postal home delivery. Since we don’t have mail home delivery in our town: only post-office boxes, on the surface, this seemed like a good opportunity to fill a service need that was not available in our town before his arrival.

I asked him, since this was a new business venture in town, if he had done a survey to see if people wanted postal home delivery. He never did answer me directly, but assured me, that, being a retired postal worker himself, home delivery in a town that didn’t have home delivery, was a good idea.

Long story short, his business was a total disaster that never lasted out the year. In an angry huff, he and his wife packed up and left town. In a parting editorial letter to our local paper, he bitterly complained that the townspeople were too backwards to appreciate the service—home postal delivery—that he was willing to supply.

I can’t speak for other towns, but for us, we don’t need—nor want home delivery. For us, the post office acts as a community gathering place. It gives us a chance to briefly meet and chat with someone who lives on the other end of town and get up to date on what’s happened in his life since the last meeting.

In other words, our post office acts as a mini social gathering place: an excuse for going to the post office to pick up our mail that doubles as an opportunity to socialize. For that reason, most of us don’t want home delivery!

So, where to put the blame for his business failure: on the town for not wanting his ‘modernized opportunity services’, or should he blame himself for not doing proper research before investing his time and money in a no-win idea?

The same ‘blame-game’ idea can be applied to many of our social involvements. One of my present-day pet blame-game topics is our personal health and our present concern over the dangers of the COVID-19 virus. How many of you think the virus is to blame for a person getting sick from it, or even dying? Come on, now, don’t be shy. Raise your hands!

If the virus is to blame, why aren’t all of us sick? The fears also are that it is more dangerous to the elderly. If it is, then why aren’t all elderly sick or dying from the virus than there are at present? Could it be that the virus is more able to attack a person who has a low immune system, regardless if they are child, adult or senior? Therefore, the virus skips me, because I’m healthy, but ‘hits’ my neighbor who is careless in his health habits.

So, in reality, for the majority of us it’s our own lack of personal health care, not the virus that’s to blame for us getting sick.

A practical saying that I’ve always found helpful when I get into the ‘accusing syndrome’ game is: “For every finger that you point at someone else, remember, there are three fingers pointing back at you.”

We could save ourselves a lot of disappointment if we would search ourselves first before looking at our envireonment for failed solutions and/or causes.

The Power of One

I’ll pick on politics as a starter to my column to help me explain my point of argument, because politics is one of my favorite subjects to talk about—although the main message here, as you will see, can apply equally well to any situation.

As long as we continue to believe that we are only one in person and essence, and powerless in a world where money, armies and entrenched customs dominate, we can be assured of being ruled—not governed—ruled—by dictators, be they politicians or dominating company CEOs.

Can we ever free ourselves from this subjugated, submissiveness to an authority role we seem doomed to play a ll our life?

All holy scriptures, both ancient and present-day, proclaim that God made us in His image: gods, He made us—so, at the very least, we should consider ourselves to be princes and princesses in a limitless universe. The question, now, is, if we have such a royal heritage, what happened that caused us to lose our ability to rule ourselves?

Well, the reasons for giving up our power of free will and give domination of ourselves to others can be numerous. Mental weakness and general laziness come to mind as two reasons. But in spite of this quite common fault, society has produced many great minds and achievers that have truly reflected God’s desire for the lofty aspirations for His offspring. Terry Fox, Viola Desmond and Gord Downie are three Canadian heroes that immediately come to mind, and if we turn our search for heroes internationally, the list becomes almost endless. So, we see, it’s not God’s fault that we are weak: He created us as royal citizens of the universe, remember? His plan for us as a loving Father is to see us aspire to—and even surpass—His own lofty heights of creative achievement! So, what went wrong?

Going back to our heroes, the idea of thinking “I’m only one person,” so “what can I do?” isn’t even a consideration in their mind which is obvious by their action and achievements! These heroes know they’ve been created free and are in bondage to no one! So, if they did great things, why can’t the rest of us do likewise?

Free-spirited people are still in the minority. Why do we, the majority, still feel powerless and consider ourselves a failure—or at best, not as good as our successful associates? The reasons are legion: probably as many reasons as there are individuals who feel that they are inferior. Mac Davidson, former therapist, consultant and entrepreneur, may have at least one answer when he stated in Quora: “The fear of making mistakes.” In other words, we hesitate because we are afraid … afraid of what? We’re afraid of making a fool of ourselves in front of others, afraid of people looking down on us if we make a mistake, feeling inferior to associates … where do we pick up such negative ideas? We’re certainly not born with the idea of failure or fear. Watch a child at play and the last thing a child is, is afraid to act out his emotion or desire.

Who knows where its origin? Maybe it began in our primitive days when we were cave dwellers and had to fear the ever-present hungry carnivore who stalked us in order to survive. Since then, we’ve customized our fear to fit our present-day environment, but still kept one basic survival skill: observing and adopting ideas from others in our group.

 The nice thing is, once we become aware of our fears, we can—if we wish to—change. But change is not easy. We’re creatures of habit. The road out of failure can be filled with frustration and failure itself, so here are a few “helps” to help you on your way:

 One very good start is to join a yoga meditation club. You’ll get lots of support from other members there, and positive support is something you’ll need to help cancel out the life-long negative thoughts engrained in us.

Next, copy down some positive quotes and pin them on your bathroom mirror where you’ll see and reflect on them every time you visit the bathroom. Here are a few for starters:

“Your best teacher is your last mistake.”

“The only man who never made a mistake is the man who never did anything.”

“Mistakes help build your knowledge base.”

“Mistakes are proof that you’re trying.”

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

Meditating on such quotes can strengthen our resolve to overcome our weaknesses by learning that mistakes can actually be your friend and teacher.

One final quote to help you. You may have heard this one before—most successful people have. Just make sure to apply it with determination: Aim for the stars! You may only reach the moon on your first try, but that’s better than where you were. And, once you reach the moon, it will be that much easier to reach the stars. Just don’t give up!

Promote yourself from “Can’t Do,” to “Can Do,” and from that direction, look up … way up!  You’re now on your road to boldly go where, before, as a lesser god you feared to tread!

A Sunday Chat with Myself — 11 February, 2018

“No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination; never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” — Lord Chesterfield

Life can have its boring moments if I don’t keep busy, but, to me, that raises  a question: is the idea of boredom a penalty for idleness, controlled by societal forces that have instilled in me the idea that I must always be busy? As the proverb says, “Idleness is the root of all evil.” Therefore, can I assume that idleness I sin, as many of our preachers try to convince us? .” We’re taught that “idle hands create mischief for the devil.” There are a whole bunch more sayings like this so, to me, it’s obvious, society has a serious concern that we citizens don’t fall into idleness, and furthermore, what is boredom? Is one the consequence of the other?

I have noticed mild forms of boredom in higher forms of animals, but not as intense as in humans. For example, my cat can lay on its soft blanket by the window all day long, stirring only when it’s hungry or needs the litter box, and not get bored at all. Life seems peaceful for my cat, but when I get bored, I become restless, and life is anything but peaceful! My mind, my fingers, are itching for something to do!

I also see yogas sitting cross-legged for hours on their mats and not be bored.  The only conclusion that I can come to that my boredom is conditioned; purely a state of mind. Boredom does not necessarily have to be a product of idleness.

In an article that I recently read by Jessica Leber, she claims that there are five types of boredom. I was especially interested in her first three categories of boredom. The first is Indifference. If I understand her correctly, indifference is when I watch the entire evening news hour while eating my sandwich, and come away feeling unmoved by all the negative events that took place in the world this day. In a sense, my mind was idle, but I wasn’t bored: my passive mind was being entertained to a point of indifference.

The next is calibrating. Calibrating is an unpleasant situation one might find himself in,”characterized by wandering thoughts unrelated to the present situation.” It’s like in my youthful days when I still went to school. The scene: an algebra lesson. My teacher would drone on in his monotone voice something about “a” plus “b” minus “c” equals”d” (unpleasant situation) while my mind was dreamily gazing out the window, preoccupied by imagining animal forms in the fluffy summer clouds above.

The third type of boredom Jessica Leber defines as Searching. Searching is like a “person might do to ease the discomfort of a situation one find himself in.” like, I remember once when I was still in the military standing guard in front of our Captain’s office where he was conducting an important training meeting. To relieve my boredom, I counted, then recounted, every one of the hundred plus (I forget the exact amount) of ceiling tiles that ran the entire length of the corridor! I was searching for something better to do, but military discipline demanded that my mind stay in the present moment of being ‘on  guard.’

Boredom: God’s way of telling me that what I’m doing is not interesting. I should occupy my mind with interesting, constructive “stuff.” 

During that military time I was condition not to think: just obey, that all my thinking will be done for me. “Hurry up and wait” was another common military conditioning, while not trying to be bored in the process–not having interesting, personal thoughts–was all part of that routine.

But all that was in the past; they were my life’s experiences. So, is that it? is idleness that causes boredom given to us as a gift that we inherit along with birthright, so that we’re guaranteed to move forward and have experiences?

The yogas have an interesting practice that addresses idleness. It’s sort of a yoga conundrum!  They ask you to try and make your mind blank and still so that you have no thought in in at all. It can’t be done, because, even if you should accomplish that impossible feat of not thinking, the very act of forcing your mind not to think, is a thought! Plainly stated, my God did not create me to have an idle mind, and boredom is the ‘kick in the pants’ for me to find something to do.

For all creation, thinking is mandatory! Contrary to the hum-drum experiences in the military, or what I didn’t learn in school, life forces one to think!

But, I do have a choice: I can fritter away my time in daydreaming, or tightly center my thoughts on a specific topic or action and accomplish something that I’m desirous of doing. Act positive, as work ethicist’s might call it.

Which raises another interesting thought. Many companies have a special department, usually headed by their CEO, called a “Think Tank.” The purpose of the Think Tank is to come up with new or innovative ideas that the company can use in giving it an edge over its competitors. I’ve known people who had pleasure and honor of being part of a company’s Think Tank and one thing that’s decidedly absent during a session is concentrated thinking! Everyone seems just idly doodling and exploring all the possible “what-ifs” centered around the problem/topic of the day. It seems that our subconscious mind works best when our objective, conscious mind stays out of its way, and great ideas—solutions to vexing problems—often pop up seemingly out of nowhere when the mind is idle.

In conclusion, both an idle mind and an active mind are special attributes that we inherited  from our Creator. It is wise for me to know the difference of when to be idle, and when to be active!

“Focus on being productive, not busy.” — Tim Ferris

 

 

My Business

I have retired after over 35 years of being self employed. There are lessons that I’ve learned that I wish to share with you.

The sole purpose of a business is to provide a safe, healthy, happy and secure living for its employees. In return, employees will give their all to the company, making it a sustainable and thriving business.

It’s a win-win situation.

Treat Your Profession as an Art

A while back we had new linoleum laid in our kitchen and in my office area. It was a pleasure to watch this tradesman at work. Like every other home that I know of, our house is no exception: it’s just a fraction off square. Did it bother this craftsman? Not at all! One end of our kitchen was about  1/2 inch longer the other end. I forget the exact measurements, but when this fellow made his final cut and laid the linoleum, the piece fit exactly without any need to ‘fudge’ by adding a corner round or other means of covering up a mistake such as improper measurement or poor cut.

That’s professionalism! This floor specialist had a passion for doing a job  right and it showed in the way that he enjoyed his trade. This might also have been the reason why we had to book about three weeks ahead to have him come to lay our flooring: he was in demand. If given a choice, people will always hire someone that they can count on doing a perfect job every time over someone who is less dedicated to his profession.

I had a chance to talk to him for a few minutes after the job was done. I commented that it already was after eight in the evening. Did he always work this late? Well, not always, he assured me, but he loved his work and when an urgent job required a bit of overtime, he preferred work to just sitting around home, possibly watching some old television show–not that he and his wife didn’t have their nights out, he quickly added. They both enjoyed a social life, but he equally enjoyed his chosen profession. Was he planning to retire soon–say, at age 65? Well, not unless ill health forced him into retirement. Otherwise, he was prepared to work until … well, until he became too old and feeble to kneel on a hard floor, laying tile or carpet.

What an enviable lifestyle that man had created for himself! In my books, he’s an accomplished businessman and a family man. Or, as some might say, a successful businessman!

How to Loose Customers — Fast!

How many businesses do you know have “Quality Service” as their slogan? Now, how many business, from your experience by using their services, do you think really mean it?

Our family isn’t known for it’s love of eating out. My wife’s a good cook so we save a lot of  money by dining at home.  However, about once a week we do love to shop and visit in Lethbridge, a small city near us. If it’s approaching noon and we need a quick lunch we often dine at Subway. There are three Subway Restaurants in the area of Lethbridge that we frequent–well, two actually, now that we’ve eliminated one from our favorites list. Why the elimination? Because of stingy customer service.

Because I’m a vegetarian, my favorite choice is Subway’s veggie salad. I don’t care for lettuce, so I ask  the server to omit the lettuce and, would he mind adding a bit more baby spinach instead. I love the stuff! At the other two Subway Restaurants that we frequent in Lethbridge, the servers won’t  hesitate to load, usually twice as much spinach on my plate to compensate for the ‘no lettuce’ deal–but not this one guy! No sir! Not only won’t he increase the spinach on my plate, he’s even skimpy on everything else that I choose from his selection to make up a veggie plate.

Did I complain about my dissatisfaction with his attitude? No. The cost is only a few dollars and I just didn’t think enough of the guy’s business to feel he was worth my time to complain. With so many other Subway franchises near by that offer premium service, I just made it a point not to frequent his establishment again. So, who’s the looser in this situation?

I ran my own small, three-person service orientated business for over thirty years before retiring. I learned very early in my business years that honest, top quality, professional service must be a priority if I wanted to survive and remain competitive. Furthermore, I made it a point to  never wait for a customer to first complain before taking corrective action, and that habit paid off handsomely because, with few exceptions (mostly situations that were beyond my control),  my customers remained with me until I finally had to close shop because of my retirement. I’m proud of that record!

If you plan on staying in business, customer feedback is just as important to you staying in business as quality of service and dependability are.  Have you ever taken a close look at the top portion of a Walmart customer sales slip? Read it and you will see why Walmart is a success. It’s obvious that good service is a priority with them because the slip asks, “We want to know how we ‘re doing!” They even offer monetary incentives to entice you to respond. You can tell, they’re serious: they want to ensure that, if you shop in their stores,  you are getting the absolute best service for your money that they can possibly give you.

A final bit of advice: don’t wait for your customers to complain before responding, because, unless you’re selling big ticket items where there’s a lot of money involved and it’s worth a customer’s time to complain if unfairly dealt with, such dissatisfied customers will just leave your establishment and you’ll never see them again!  You loose. Big time!

Be creative in thinking up ways to receive feedback on how you’re relating to your customers. One policy that I ran with for several years was to remember my customer’s birthday and anniversary, usually with a card and/or a small gift. It didn’t cost me much to implement this policy, but it was sure appreciated. As a result, because I had laid the groundwork for  mutual value and respect for each other, if a complaint did arise, even if it was only a small, seemingly insignificant problem, my customers thought enough of me to come forward and talk to me. We became friends! I had developed the true meaning of the word, “Customer Loyalty”.

Creativity is the foundation for the mother-of-invention saying … and an assured road to success.