Discipline – The link between ordinary and exceptional

Exceptional performance through discipline
Exceptional performance through discipline

No two people are the same, not even twins (I should know, my wife is one of twins!). When posed with the same challenge, big or small, each of us tackles it differently. A large fraction of very successful individuals did not start out with an innate ability in the area of their success. Some interest followed by repeated progression in the field is what did it for them. The 10,000 hour rule has been bandied about a fair bit especially after the brilliant book, Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. Few people know that there are academics that actually study experts. I’ll say that again – there are experts who study what make experts experts! And, what they report is that rather than just do something for 10,000 hours, what makes one person improve more than another is how those 10,000 hours of practice are spent.

In our era of internet search engines, knowledge should never be a barrier to individual achievement. Just about everything that you need to know to become significantly better at anything you enjoy is out there at zero cost.  If so, then, what creates the distinction between one person’s improvement and another’s?

Leaving aside luck, or acts of God, the improvement comes solely from one overarching factor – discipline!

Given that improvement comes from practice, and practice in areas of weaknesses, it is discipline that forms the key ingredient to success.

Discipline - the link between ordinary and exceptional
Discipline – the link between ordinary and exceptional

Look around you.  Whenever you see that someone has outshone themselves, it is self-discipline that got them there. In any sphere of human endeavour, whether in business, sport, science or in creative fields like music and art too.  Those gifted artists who got frustrated and stopped because they weren’t getting anywhere quickly never made it.  The ones, even if without much talent to begin with, who had the self-discipline to stick with it often ended up with success.

“Without discipline, there’s no life at all”, said Katharine Hepburn a leading lady in Hollywood for more than 60 years!  She died in 2003, but the truth in what she said never will.


Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.


  1. Nice words. Lots on this topic . Self Discipline in itself will not achieve happiness or success. There again definitions of the former two goals vary. I would recommend to you to pursue the cardinal virtues instead…prudence,fortitude , justice and temperance. The last being the closest to what you are referring to in discipline. Temperance refers to balance and self control which can lead to discipline. Also I must point out I have met some very disciplined people who I stay away from because essentially they are either too rigid or simply not likeable people. I recommend you use the Family Virtues Guide by Linda Popov that Andrea and I have used with our children. After 27 years of teaching, dealing with parents, admin and children 5-18, and beyond , I find this guide to bring virtues to an attainable level by everyone. Excellence as you know is a habit. What we repeated do is what we become. I hope this source helps you with your children and family. I also suggest to you to encourage growth in all 5 domains of life..SPICE which I can tell u about at a later date. Thanks for sharing,
    God Bless,
    Terry SQ


  2. […] Recognizing a weakness involves admitting some form of failure, and recognizing some failure in oneself causes some amount of mental anguish. And it is not in our basic nature to cause ourselves pain – thus making the self-identification of weaknesses a challenge. The problem is compounded even when we are fortunate enough to have someone, who cares about us, identify a weakness – but our ego gets in the way – we dig our heels in and hold on stubbornly to the weakness. Ultimately, however, being self-aware and recognizing a failure is often what is necessary to redirect our journey from ordinary to exceptional. […]


  3. […] Sometimes, to be an outlier is a good thing – it’s always nice to be one of the top performers in class, to be a high earner within your profession, or to win a race against many other participants. Of course, by definition, we can’t all be outliers. And, more importantly, those are examples of being an outlier in terms of outcome. For instance, I have also told you earlier why I don’t care much about your podium finish (or mine). That outcome is a combination of effort (what you did) and luck (who else turned up at the start line). So, let’s not think about that now. But let’s, instead, think about process rather than outcome. […]


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