“Nothing of importance is ever achieved without discipline. I feel myself sometimes not wholly in sympathy with some modern educational theorists, because I think that they underestimate the part that discipline plays. But the discipline you have in your life should be one determined by your own desires and your own needs, not put upon you by society or authority.”

Bertrand Russell

I have often said that nothing is achievable without discipline.  I got this message from my father repeatedly.  I really got the message one day  at a clan gathering.  It was the summer before I got married and the family got together in Marlboro, MA.  We got a couple of rooms at a local hotel and had a great time exploring Boston.

One of the dinner stops was a fine local restaurant in Marlboro.  As the family settled in the waiting area, we got drinks and waited for our table.  I shared a small table for two with my Dad.  He was drinking a vodka martini and I had a glass of red wine.  As the conversation progressed, I asked a simple question:

“What is the key to success?”

Dad sort of stared off into space like he did often and suddenly, with a fury that surprised me banged his fist onto the tiny table.  I had to grab my wine glass to stop it from falling over.  Customers fifteen feet away stopped their conversation to see what was wrong.  I was stunned and couldn’t say a word.


That’s all he said in response to my question.  And he went back to his vodka as if nothing had happened.

As I reflect upon what success is and how success is achieved, it becomes abundantly clear that discipline is paramount.

Your life is to be what you want it to be if you have the discipline to do whatever is necessary to achieve your desired outcome.  Be less concerned about what it is you feel you should be doing and more concerned about becoming more of who you are.  I am oftentimes asked what my wife and I have done in raising our children, both of whom are doing well in their chosen pursuits.  My answer has always been simple.  I did whatever I could to help them become more of who they already are.  We continue to help them be more of who they already are.  Surprisingly simple, eh?  Check out the following quote:

“All people are called to be someone and to do things – it is part and parcel of human existence. Discovering and becoming who we are supposed to be, and what we are meant to do in the world is a life-long process of growth and change. This process involves certain commitments and these become revealed to us along the way. Informal educators can play a special part in encouraging these processes. Their role is to work so that people may shape and follow their calling.”

Reproduced from the encyclopedia of informal education [www.infed.org]

So where were we?  Ah yes, how to read a book a week…


Your Calling

There’s a piece of scrap paper I’ve been carrying around with the following thoughts on it:Try many things. Find what you love and do that. Then figure out how to make a living doing it. Work is transformed when we change our attitudes towards work.

I didn’t write these words ( and my deepest apologies to the original author whom I would credit if I could remember who it was ) but I want to preserve these thoughts and the ideas because they are powerful ideas. As time goes by, this simple approach towards work has been changing my attitudes about success. Lately, I’ve been listening a lot to the music of JJ Cale, an OKC native who seems to embody this simple yet powerful idea in his life and work. One of his songs which was rerecorded on his recent collaboration with Eric Clapton consists of one chord. One chord! And to top it all, the guys were winners of the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album “The Road to Escondido”.

One chord. Simple is good. Do what you do. Be good at what you do.

The author Thomas Moore has written:

“Power that comes from unexpected places. It comes from living close to the heart, not at odds with it. The soul appears in the gaps and holes of experience. We have all experienced moments when we’ve lost a job or endured an illness only to find unexpected inner strength. Be good at what you’re good at. Many of us spend time and energy trying to be something we are not. In considering who we are not we may find the surprising revelation of who we are.”

Several years ago I began to recognize what seemed to be a growing imbalance between underwriting supply and demand. I decided then to refocus on my underwriting skill set. I figured there would always be work and so far, I’ve been right.

Michael Novak is an esteemed theologian, author and former US ambassador who has written over 25 books. In one of his books titled Business as a Calling. Novak writes about the four characteristics of a calling. First, each calling is unique to each individual. Second, a calling has certain preconditions that involve more than just desires. A calling requires that the individual have talent. For the calling to be right for a particular person it must match and use his abilities. Third, a true calling reveals itself through enjoyment and a sense of renewed energies that engaging in the calling brings. Fourth, callings are not easy to discover. Many false paths are taken before the truth path is recognized.

It has taken a long time to be me.

B as in Books – How to Read a Book a Week

“You will always have your brain with you (until that time when brain transplants are done and you may have someone else’s brain).”

Dale Dubin MD

There is some advice that has been around for a long time. Great ideas stick around. (BAD IDEAS stick around too, but that’s another story). Today’s post is about a great idea that comes with a ironclad guarantee. The guarantee is this:

Read a book a week and you will achieve success in your work and your life.

Most of the people you know don’t have the motivation or discipline to read a book a week. Or they may regard this idea as a foundation for a better future and greater personal success as nonsense. I make this audacious guarantee because I know the answer to the following questions:

How many people do you know read a book a week?

Do you know of any successful individuals who don’t read a lot?

Most of the people who learn about my peculiar reading habit give me a handy excuse for not reading a book a week. Some even get a little defensive, others apologetic.

“I don’t have time. Who has the time anyway?”

Well kids, you make time for what is important. In this time starved society of ours you need just a little bit of creativity to find the time to read. Here’s a list of some practical strategies to read a book a week.

Always Have a Book

Think about the time you spend waiting in lines. If you had a book you could easily squeeze in 5 to 10 minutes of reading. Think of other situations where you could grab 10-15 minutes of reading time. I always bring a book to the barbershop. If you have a book, you can always squeeze in a few minutes of reading.

Watch Less Television…Play Less Video Games

Personally, I stopped playing video games because I was never any good at them. I don’t watch a lot of television. I read.

Be Selective in What You Read

Try to read with purpose. Are you reading for entertainment or to learn something? If you’re trying to learn something, what are you trying to learn? At any given time I am reading between 8 and 10 different books. What you choose to read is not only a function of your personality and interests but also of your mood. I tried to read and finish a complete book before starting another but failed. Quirky yes, but this reading style works for me. Try it.

Read What Interests YOU

At any given moment I am totally and completely unable to tell you which books are on any best seller list. I’m simply not interested in what is selling well. I’m much more interested in books that interest me. We often associate bad feelings with reading because while in school we were forced to read what we were told to read. Well, no one is telling you what to read anymore. Read something, anything you want to learn a little more about.

Listen to Audiobooks

Whether in your car or your iPod, audiobooks are a fantastic way to get more “reading” done in the time you have. Try listening to a book while on the treadmill. This is my kind of multi-tasking.

So where will all of this reading? If practiced with a little bit of passion and purpose your reading will bring a great deal of knowledge and a development of an awareness of the world we live in. When you read a new book every week, you condition your mind to continuously take in new knowledge. Your thinking remains fresh and sharp. Your brain is always churning on new ideas, looking for connections, and synthesizing the input.

Just this afternoon I finished half of Dr. Dubin’s classic Rapid Interpretation of EKG’s. I’m getting more out of this book now than the first time I read it.

Quirky, yes.
So what was the title of the last book you read? And how long ago was that?