You Play to Win the Game - Leadership Lessons Westside Toastmasters, in Santa Monica
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Demand Discipline

When I took over the Jets, I told them first off that we were going to do things a certain way, and if we didn't do it that way, it meant we were not disciplined, and that was unacceptable to me. You have to have discipline-in every area of your life-if you are to achieve any kind of goals.

You have to exercise if you want to lose weight, you have to pay attention if you want to stay married (not that that's a discipline, but sometimes I can see how it might be one), and you have to keep making discipline a priority.

The Jets had been last in the league in turnovers the season before I got there. They weren't even close to the second-worst team. They were plus 18 and now we were plus 18, and that wasn't going to work for me.

I told them, 'We are not going to beat ourselves. You start doing that, then I've got issues now. No, we are not turning this ball over, and we are not going to commit stupid penalties.'

I am a detailed guy, and we were going to pay attention to details like that. I let them know that that was one of my top priorities, and I didn't care how long it took on a certain day to get that part of the game fixed. And that came down to discipline-making your hands wrap around that ball, making sure you tuck it in before you get hit, little things that require mindset and effort. That's what discipline is.

And you teach that by practicing like that each and every day. You make sure they pay attention to details. If you say, 'Run from line to line,' you make sure they touch that line or they do it over. There's no getting close to the line; there's no one inch from the line. If you're supposed to touch the line, you touch the line. If you only get close to the line, you only get close to the victories. If you say, 'You will not cut corners running laps around the field,' then you've got to make sure they don't cut the corners because cutting corners only gets you close.

If you say, 'We will embrace diversity and each of you must come up with three candidates for our company who come from diverse backgrounds,' then you make sure you check the list. Unless you demand that they do what you want them to do-even if it's little, or maybe because it's little-you will not change the environment in which they operate.

There is a reason why our military units operate as they do: It works. There is a reason why my father, no matter where we were, stopped the car and we saluted the flag on the base-even if we couldn't see it-when it was being raised or lowered or on any other occasion when we were to salute it. I remember clearly being in the middle of some street somewhere not even close to where the flag was and my father pulling over and beckoning me out of the car to salute. It was the discipline that was taught to him and handed down to me, and it's something I absolutely believe needs to exist wherever there is structure, and that's just about everywhere.

You can't go out wild and spend money if it's not in your budget. You can't go buy that coat or those shoes if you haven't set up the structure to allow that. Now, I'm the worst about budgets because I am lucky enough to have a job where I am making a good salary and a wife who knows about budgets and a son on a football scholarship. But I do know that your mind can always justify undoing the discipline. You give in; you buy a shirt that originally was $100 but now it's $50. But you weren't supposed to spend the $50. Your mind thinks you've done a good job because you've saved $50 when, in fact, you weren't supposed to spend the $50 in the first place.

Unless you have self-discipline, whether it's eating or exercising or spending money, you're in trouble. Because there's always something there to tempt you. There's a bag of chips or a donut or a sweater or a suit or a big piece of chocolate cake. Unless you have the inner strength to say, 'No, I can't do that right now. That will take me off the road to achieving my goals,' then you're never going to achieve them.

Sure you have to allow for setbacks. We're only human, and setbacks are part of life. Hopefully, though, we get back on track. Don't let setbacks derail you. If you eat that cake, get back on that treadmill as soon as you can. If you buy that sweater, take your lunch to work the next week until you get back into the discipline mode.

My best players are the ones who understand that they need to do certain things religiously, even in the off-season, if they are to come back into camp in the kind of shape we need them to be in. They're the ones who are running extra steps and sand dunes when nobody is asking them to, or lifting weights or working on speed training when nobody is watching. They're the ones who have the self-discipline to see what they need to do and then do it; believe it or not, there aren't that many who do that, despite the rewards if they do.

It's human nature to get lazy. I hear all the time about kids who take college classes that inspire them at first but then become too easy, and they lose interest. They aren't challenged, and they don't have the discipline to understand that they need to see the class through to get the grade, to get the credit they need to eventually graduate.

I also hear all the time about people who make excuses why they can't do something, or find reasons to justify why they do something else. 'I'll do that report after I take a break,' when, in fact, they've just come off a break. Or 'I'll run twice as long tomorrow at the gym,' when they know they're not in the kind of shape yet to run for that length of time. There's always 'tomorrow.' There's always 'Monday.' There are so many influences around that threaten to derail your goals. What you have to focus on is the discipline and convince yourself, because it's usually true, that the reward of being disciplined is so much greater.

You Play to Win the Game - Leadership Lessons Westside Toastmasters, in Santa Monica
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