By far on of my favorite military topics is discipline, specifically Marine Corps discipline. DISCIPLINE! If you’ve known a Marine one thing you have noticed is no matter what their level of discipline was, after becoming a Marine it increased. After 5 years active duty myself and being closely ingrained in Army culture for the last 7 years I can say that bar none, Marine discipline is something to behold. In general however I’m going to compare military to civilian discipline. No need to stoke the Army vs. Marine debate…today at least.
What is discipline?
There are many definitions as there are for everything. If you look up Webster you’ll find:
Definition of discipline. 1 : punishment. 2 obsolete : instruction. 3 : a field of study. 4 : training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.
In general terms I like to think of discipline in two parts the first being “getting things done” and the second being “getting things done you don’t want to do”.
Before I went into the military, I had an immense amount of the first part of discipline. In my later high school years I was at school by 6am waiting on a teacher to unlock the door to let me in, and I often stayed until 9 or 10pm every night. I was highly involved in art, music, environmental work, community service, and sports. I was getting a lot done.
Things like math however, I had zero done outside the classroom because it was something I didn’t want to do. I C’d my way through math all four years while acing my favorite classes. I had no discipline in getting things done that I didn’t want to do. I carried this to my first university stint, and left before hitting 1/2 my 1 year mark.
Fast forward to after the military, I’m in college for the second time and have to take another 4 years of math (why did I choose business again?). I was reminded by one professor Carolyn Facer that math was like any other skill, and you had to practice daily to get good at it. I had heard this many times before but never with my military discipline to ‘get things done that I didn’t want to do’. I immediately went from high school low C student to 100%’s on my math exams through: algebra, trig, calc, accounting, and every numbers based class I took.
*Disclaimer: business statistics at USC was a bear for me which most definitely was not a 100% class of mine.
The results of this added discipline are numerous and could make a very long list.
I am no anomaly in this area however. Being at USC I was surrounded by veterans of similar stories. They were anywhere from mediocre to good at school before the military, and afterward ended up at USC being good to amazing while also taking on additional responsibilities and roles out of the classroom. This applied to both undergrad and grad students.
This success has carried over to the career marketplace as well for me and my veteran peers. I consistently see others being highly successful as we slowly pass peers from our youth that don’t have that added discipline. I have heard phrases similar to “I don’t want to do this, I don’t like to do this”, from civilians which are used as an excuse to not execute an undesirable task. This form of complaint was something I used on a regular basis as well before I served my time yet, I no longer use it. Don’t want to do it? Do it anyway! It’s simple in concept yet challenging in practice. Serve 4 years or more in the military and you can develop the discipline that others don’t have after 20 years in their career.
Of course as a caveat I must say I have met civilians with immense discipline, and military members with zero. I don’t believe in blanket statements about all people. My point of all this is to show how the military gave me greater discipline than the majority my civilian counterparts which has been another pillar of my well above average success.
*Edit/addition: I want to add that I’ve seen a lot of jabs against millennials and work ethic. This article is not meant to add to that argument as I’ve met amazing millennials and complete sandbagging complainers. I also think it’s difficult to hear many influential people such as Steve Jobs talk about “follow your passion” first, without talking about discipline. No matter how much you may love what you’re doing, you will have bad days and you will have things you do not want to do. The military gives young adults the discipline to, ‘do what you don’t want to do’ while following your passion. A skill I believe our beloved country is becoming less and less proficient at in many ways. To be successful, your fiery passion needs to be fueled by the logs of discipline.
Who wrote this?
I served just shy of 5 years active duty in the Marine Corps infantry while conducting 3 deployments overseas between combat operations and humanitarian aid. After leaving I attended community college then graduated from one of the top business undergrad schools, the University of Southern California. After which I went to the market in business to business sales for technology. In all endeavors I have had well beyond average success due in large part (my opinion) to an intense work ethic most see as over the top.
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