It is a crucial element for success in business and many other endeavors

By Jack Bobo

Former NBA great and now basketball analyst Charles Barkley, when questioned about his present lifestyle by talk show host Jay Leno, replied simply, “Work is overrated.” It is a line Barkley often uses, and it always gets a big laughbut there is not an ounce of truth in it. Barkley did not become one of the top players in the NBA by avoiding work. To compete in the big leagues requires an enormous amount of discipline, which always translates into work.

It is worth noting that it appears that since Barkley has given up the discipline of a player he has gained a substantial amount of weight. The unflattering weight offers mute testimony that there is, after all, merit in the idea and discipline of work.

Advertisements touting products for dental hygiene vie for the title of best in the field. The toothbrush, manual or electric, has its champions, whereas others consider flossing the most important in keeping teeth healthy. The water pic is favored by many, and an antiseptic gargle is preferred by people in a hurry and not wanting to spend a lot of time on the project.

But dental health professionals insist that in the final analysis the most important tool is discipline. None of the other tools are helpful unless used in a well-disciplined fashion.

Since retiring, my current passion is gardening. I have almost an acre of ground to care for and it gives me great pleasure to keep it well groomed. But gardening is not just a matter of planting seeds and watching them grow and turn into beautiful plants. The flower beds need to be tended, by weeding and providing adequate water and fertilizer. Insects need to be warded off and plants pruned at regular intervals. Occasionally someone is nice enough to offer a complimentary remark regarding my efforts, and they almost always end by saying, “You must have a green thumb.” But it is not the color of your thumb that makes the garden grow. Rather it is the discipline required to do the necessary maintenance that pays off in the end.

Discipline also is important in our business as well. One of the most important aspects of an agents business life is prospecting and certainly there are a variety of ways this can be done. Cold calls, though one of the least pleasant ways to prospect, nevertheless can be an effective way to produce prospects. Some agents prefer direct mail or pre-approach letters to flush out prospects. One also can purchase leads to prospects from commercial vendors. Usually the best leads come as referrals from satisfied clientsbut you have to ask for them. Socializing is a great prospecting tool that is used effectively by someparticularly by agents who are good at golf.

The question then is which of these systems really work. Absent the discipline to pursue the technique with vigor, and on a full-time basis, the answer is “none of the above.” However, pursued with regularity and unswerving discipline the answer is “all of the above.” I know people who have achieved great success in each of the foregoing prospecting categories. The common denominator in all instances was discipline.

When discipline becomes a habit, success is not far behind. Long ago Aristotle observed that habit is not a part of mans original nature, but through long practice (discipline) it becomes mans nature in the end. Instincts on the other hand are innate. One may be blessed by birth with good instincts, but habits must be acquired. Ive noticed that most of the successful people in our business are quite happy with their lot in life, and I believe it stems from the fact that work and discipline have become habit and thus no longer regarded as onerous.

But we also sell discipline. Cash value life insurance is often referred to as a form of “forced savings.” I believe that is a misnomer and that a better description is “disciplined savings.” Saving is hard to do and most people will jump on any excuse to justify avoiding it. The same people who buy a luxury automobile or season tickets to a sporting event quite often take the position that there simply is nothing left of their income to save. Others contend that taxes are so high they just dont have anything left to save. Interestingly, Denmark, one of the highest taxed countries in Europe, also has the worlds highest savings rate. Excuses, excuses, excuses!

Saving is one of the ultimate forms of discipline and also one of the most rewarding. The person who cannot afford to miss a single paycheck is an economic slave and can be freed only by the discipline of saving. That is our job and our responsibility to the people we serve.

There is no line of people outside our offices waiting be liberated from economic distress. Rather, we, by whatever technique we choose, have to go out and find them. This requires discipline, which at first is hard work, but when it becomes a habit, then life is good indeed.

Ive noticed that most of the successful people in our business are quite happy with their lot in life, and I believe it stems from the fact that work and discipline have become habit and thus no longer regarded as onerous.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 10, 2005. Copyright 2005 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.