20 Quotes from Discipline is Destiny by Ryan Holliday

Discipline is Destiny is one of my favorite books I’ve read in 2022 (along Burkeman’s excellent, Four Thousand Weeks). Ryan Holliday is an excellent writer and highly quotable. This is one of those books that I want to read yearly. Self-discipline is so essential and encompasses so much of our lives. There is a fine line between self-discipline and several vices such as obsession, perfectionism, self-absorption, and so on, but Holliday treads the line well throughout the book. Obviously, in a book like this, you can easily fall into a sense of hopelessness that you will not be able to achieve the ideals put forth in the book. But this book is aspirational. If you read it that way, you’ll be encouraged. I know that I was.

Here are 20 quotes that stood out to me from the book. I suggest you pick it up and give it a read as well.

  1. We don’t rise to the occasion, we fall to the level of our training.
  2. The person who has the upper hand of their soul, the person who can go without, the person who does not fear change or discomfort or a reversal of fortune? This person is harder to kill and harder to defeat. They are also happier, more well-balanced, and in better shape. We must practice temperance now, in times of plenty, because none of us know what the future holds—only that plenty never lasts.
  3. True self-control means moderation not just in what we do, but also how we think, how we feel, how we comport ourselves in a world of chaos and confusion.
  4. The fact is, the body keeps score. The decisions we make today and always are being recorded, daily, silently and not so silently, in who we are, what we look like, how we feel. Are you making good decisions? Are you in control . . . or is your body?
  5. Discipline isn’t just endurance and strength. It’s also finding the best, most economical way of doing something. It’s the commitment to evolving and improving so that the tasks get more efficient as you go.
  6. A weak mind must be constantly entertained and stimulated. A strong mind can occupy itself and, more important, be still and vigilant in moments that demand it.
  7. It is impossible to be committed to anything—professionally or personally—without the discipline to say no to all those other superfluous things. An interview request. A vibrant social media presence. A glamorous dinner party. An exotic trip. A lucrative side venture. An exciting new trend. No one is saying these things won’t be fun, that they don’t have potential benefits. It’s simply that they also carry with them opportunity costs, they require resources and energy that each person has only so much of. The secret to success in almost all fields is large, uninterrupted blocks of focused time. And yet, how many people organize their days or lives to make this possible? And then they wonder why they are frazzled, unproductive, overwhelmed, always behind.
  8. It feels like you’re free because you’re choosing, but if the answer is always yes, that’s not much of a choice.
  9. The graveyard of lost potential, we might say, is filled with people who just needed to do something else first. The time to do it is now.
  10. You don’t have to verbalize every thought. You don’t have to always give your opinion—especially when it’s not solicited. Just because there is a pause doesn’t mean you have to fill it. Just because everyone else is talking doesn’t mean you have to jump in. You can sit with the awkwardness. You can use the silence to your advantage. You can wait and see.
  11. If the first step is just showing up, committing to doing something each day, then the next step is finding something to focus on getting better at each day. And in this, where cumulative improvement meets compounding returns we can harness one of the most powerful forces on Earth.
  12. Think about it: Most people don’t even show up. Of the people who do, most don’t really push themselves. So to show up and be disciplined about daily improvement? You are the rarest of the rare. And if improvement sounds difficult, how about just making fewer mistakes?
  13. It takes discipline not to insist on doing everything yourself. Especially when you know how to do many of those things well.
  14. You always control whether you give your best or not. No one can stop you from that.
  15. Understand: Most of the people doing important work are people you’ve never heard of—they want it that way. Most happy people don’t need you to know how happy they are—they aren’t thinking about you at all.
  16. Be the adult in a world of emotional children.Be the adult in a world of emotional children.
  17. Because that’s what great leaders do: They do the right thing, even when—especially when—it costs them.
  18. While good discipline is contagious, we can also be strong enough to accept that we are the only one who must live with such a severe case of it. Discipline is our destiny.
  19. The self-disciplined don’t berate. They don’t ask for anything. They just do their job. They don’t shame either . . . except perhaps subtly by their own actions.
  20. Too often, we find people choosing to be great at their profession over being a great human being, believing that success or art or fame or power must be pursued to the exclusion of all else.

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