"The Power of Discipline!"
© 2003 Stuart Goldsmith
Before I fell asleep last night, I was staring at the ceiling and thinking about wealth.
Something had started me off...what was it? Ah yes, I read somewhere that 60% of the people
in the UK reach retirement with a net worth of zero, or less than zero.
I am often shocked by reading something like this statistic. It starts me thinking. My
mind reels at the enormity of the implications. Let's look at it again: Sixty percent of people
retire, after working for 40 or 50 years, and they have... nothing... not a single penny piece. In
fact most of them have less than nothing because they are in debt.
What this means is that if you add up the current value of everything they own (equity in
house, furniture, car, jewellery, TV, camera, washing machine, 'fridge, etc) and subtract it
from their debts (HP, bank loans, Visacard, mortgage outstanding, debts to family and
friends, overdrafts, etc.) then for 60% of people, the result is a minus figure.
No, really, truly astounding, don't you think?
This is what kept me awake. This is why I couldn't sleep. I just couldn't understand it.
It made me want to wave a magic wand and instantly change people's way of thinking so
that this didn't happen. Then I started to think that it wasn't so simple. It seemed so
complicated this 'making money' business. Don't you feel that sometimes? There are so many
elements and factors. So many different subjects to master. So many books, CDs and DVDs
to absorb. So many different 'gurus' telling you different things at their seminars. Is it really
transferable from me to you? Is there a single factor which I could seize upon and say: “This
is what you must have. This is the starting point. Without this, you can forget about wealth,
because it won't happen for you.”
How can someone work all their lives and end up with NOTHING?
How the hell can that happen? They must have made at least a quarter of a million in that
time; probably much more like half a million!
Then I realised that I was making the mistake of blaming older people and wondering
what was unique about them - what made them such idiots to retire broke. Of course! It
wasn't just older people. It's everyone (most people, I mean) of every age. It isn't unique to
retired folk. This is an arbitrary dividing line and one which obscures the real situation. Take
a cross-section of the population from eighteen to eighty-five and 60% (at least) of these
people have a net value of zero or less. I haven't seen the figures, but I strongly suspect that
as you move down the age range, towards the younger people, the percentage actually
worsens. You'll probably find 90% of 18-year olds, 75% of thirty year olds, and 65% of fifty
year olds are worth nothing. In other words, pensioners are actually better than the population
at large, even though this is not saying much. They've merely had longer to drag themselves
into solvency - even then, most don't make it.
So now I was onto something. If most people (of any age) are penniless paupers, then we
are just seeing these people grow older, and retire penniless - so no real surprises there. If
you're penniless at thirty, penniless at forty, and penniless at fifty, then it is not at all
surprising if you retire penniless at sixty-five (or whatever). It is merely a logical progression
So now the burning question in my mind was this: Why do most people in the country
have a net worth of zero or less? Was there a single factor? Bad luck? The system stacked
against them? They spent it all on a wonderful, fun-filled life? Nothing seemed to account for
the sheer scale of the problem, and certainly people were not having wonderful fun-filled
lives - the exact opposite, in fact. Most people live repetitious, miserable, joyless and trapped
And...most people are BROKE.
Then, suddenly, I had it. A true 'Eureka!' experience. It's not original. It's not even new. I
had read about it in countless books where it was always presented as 'one of' the factors
involved in success. I now think it is THE factor. Without this, you can't succeed. Period.
Friends, I'm talking about.... (swishhh CRACK!)....
I think the reason I hadn't realised the importance of this factor before was because I
dislike the word 'discipline'. There's something Dickensian about it - more than a whiff of the
workhouse and shades of 'honest toil for the bosses', etc. But there isn't a better single word.
'Will-power' is a close concept, but that's two words. Single words work better for concepts
like these, so we're stuck with discipline.
I became really excited when this word popped into my mind. A lot of things fell into
place. This was the key concept which differentiated the rich from the poor; the successful
from the failures.
Without it, you're one of the 60%+ - the failures
in life. (Whenever I talk about failure, I always mean
failure by your OWN standards, not someone else’s.)
With it, you've a good chance of rising above the
crowd. But first, why am I so damning and condemn
most people's lives as a failure? That's pretty harsh,
don't you think? The reason is that I like to talk
straight. These concepts are important and I'm not
going to tip-toe around them. Everything I write is
aimed at preventing you from reaching retirement
with nothing. Look, if you reach retirement, as a penniless pauper dependent upon charity,
having lived a life of quiet desperation, frustrated, never having achieved anything much of
note, not really having had a good time (apart from the odd 'high point'), never having
dreamed, never beaten a real challenge, in fact never done anything much, then your life is a
failure by any standards, but certainly by your own. Of course, if you're happy, then none of
this matters a finger snap.
Are you happy? Only you can answer. I merely pose the question...
When someone retains me for a consultation and I'm giving them a 'pep talk', I often say
something like this: There's nothing really special about me. I'm just an electronics engineer
made good. You could do what I have done. I say this to try and remove the 'guru factor'.
You can't get people to emulate you if they think you're the incarnation of a sun-god. So I tell
them I'm just this guy, you know... Anyway, to a certain extent I have been lying to these
people. Yes, I'm nothing special. I have an education and a certain amount of common-sense.
But I DO HAVE DISCIPLINE. Often, the people sitting opposite me do not have discipline,
or at least they haven't made it central to their lives because, heck, it takes discipline to be
disciplined! I can see the lack of discipline in the way they dress, the way they sit, and the
way they talk.
What IS Discipline?
Well, I guess one definition is being strict with yourself .
You know why discipline is important for a child or teenager, don't you? It's to help them
with the concept of reasonable boundaries. It's to stop them getting out of hand - getting away
with too much. Also, you discipline your children out of love, and not because you enjoy the
power-trip (I hope!). Often, you hate to discipline your kids because it spoils their immediate
gratification and enjoyment, doesn't it? But you do this because (and this is important, so pay
close attention) the long-term benefits and rewards vastly out-weigh the immediate
greedy, thoughtless and short-term gratification of their desires.
So another definition might be 'gratification postponement'. Not eating the whole bowl of
sweets right now. Eating some and saving the rest for the next few days. NOT because it's
'naughty' to eat all the sweets. NOT because it's 'wicked or sinful' to eat all the sweets and
God will slap your wrists. It's because if you eat ALL the sweets now, your enjoyment will be
10 units (8 for the first few sweets, plus 16 for the rest of the sweets, minus 6 for the sick
feeling, minus 8 for the realisation that you're a spineless worm with no will-power!). If you
have some now, some tomorrow, and some the next day, you get 8+8+8 = 24 units of
pleasure, PLUS 6 units for feeling smug about your strength of will-power. That's 30 units of
pleasure compared to 10 units.
I'm not fooling around with this sweets analogy. This is exactly the way it works.
The Savings Habit
Disciplined people save money. They don't spend every single penny they have in their
pockets on goodies to consume right now, as fast as possible. They don't then rush out and
borrow more money to buy more goodies to consume because they can't wait until next pay
day. Such people are eating all the sweets in one sitting, then
borrowing sweets from their friends so they can eat that too!
What would you say to a child who did that?
Why, what a spoilt and greedy child that would be, don't you
Disciplined people don't save money out of altruism or
because they are being good little boys or girls. They do it from a
position of 'enlightened self-interest'. Selfishness, by another
name. It's important that you realise this. You're doing it for you,
nobody else. They know that if they take some pleasure now(spend some money), then postpone the rest of the pleasure for a later day, they will get far
more pleasure (in total) than if they spent all the money in one go. Everyone knows this. It's
something we all learn at about age eight. It's part of the curriculum taught at the University
of the Bleedin' Obvious! Disciplined people apply this knowledge (it takes will-power not to
spend the lot right now), undisciplined people just can't keep their hands out of the
I've already talked about saving. Modest saving (10% of your wealth) means you can
retire with a quarter of a million in the bank. Nice. Not saving means you retire penniless and
with about $500 quid's worth of useless junk.
What a difference!
Disciplined people use their time and talents to create present and future wealth for
themselves. This means getting out of the armchair and doing something. This is hard. This
takes effort. This takes will-power. Undisciplined people watch soaps three times a week, go
down the pub all the time (a net outflow of money), go out for meals (ditto) or generally
fritter away their time and talents for thirty of forty years. Hey wow! HUGE surprise! They're
broke when they retire! Startling, huh?
Look, this hardly needs saying. There's nothing wrong with watching a bit of telly, going
down the pub now and then and having the odd meal out. These are pleasures. This is sweets
now. Then, you turn the TV off and get to work on projects which will make you wealthy.
You stay in several nights and work through until midnight on the same thing. This is
investing time in your future, and is an identical concept to investing (saving) money for your
A disciplined person does not 'spend' all his/her time now, in trivial pleasures, they 'save'
some for the future. Time is funny stuff. You can't put it in a box and 'save' it for a future day,
say the end of your life, and then haul it out and get extra days of life. The rule with time is
that you have to invest it straight away. It multiplies and produces money in the future. You
use this money to buy time from other people. For example, the money releases you from the
need to work, and so that gives you a whole lot of time (much more than your original
investment of time). Or, you use the money to pay someone to do your garden or your DIY,
and that frees up a whole lot of time for pleasurable things.
So the analogy is exact. Undisciplined people squander all their free time now on trivial
pleasures (eat all the sweets) and get, say, 100 units of pleasure. Disciplined people use a
little of their time for trivial pleasures (eat a few sweets now), then invest their time for the
future. This multiplies manyfold, and frees up vast amounts of time in the future. The net
result is that they get (say) 1,000 units of pleasure in total over the years. This is their reward
for being disciplined. I hope this makes sense.
Any failed or mediocre life is permeated through from top to bottom with lack of
discipline, and it starts early.
Failed at school because of lack of discipline (always mucked around instead of working;
always out with the mates instead of doing some homework). Due to poor school results, got
mediocre job. Never had a decent pay rise because lack of discipline meant they were often
late for work and never did the job properly; always clock-watching and never went the extra
mile. Never saved a penny - always spent the lot (and more) as soon as it came in. Never
invested time for a better future, 'spent' the lot on trivial pleasures. Always in debt, never
solvent (it takes discipline to control your finances). Retires - broke, bitter, disillusioned and
surprised at his poverty!
This needn't happen to you. Everyone has a sense of discipline. Heck, without it, you'd
never get out of bed in the morning. Discipline is exactly that voice which says to you after
the alarm has gone off: Right, come on, up you get!. Without that, you'd just lie in bed all
day. The trick is to start cultivating that sense of discipline - that small voice which nags
away at you. Don't suppress it. Listen to it and follow it. This is the difference between
success and failure. The 'secret magic formula' of getting wealthy (and hence free) can be
encapsulated in the quality of self-discipline. It's little more than that.
As an example, if you were disciplined enough to go out cleaning windows on a
Saturday (or a few evenings a week) instead of frittering away your time, then after ten years
of doing this (and saving the money) you would have $100,000 in the bank! I mention this to
prove that you don't need to start a stock-broking business, or open a chain of restaurants. A
simple piece of self-discipline in a lowly profession makes you a $100K in ten years, $300K
in twenty years! Imagine what would happen if you really applied your talents! The only
thing which stops people doing this is lack of self-discipline, or laziness by another name.
Your future life is governed by a series of choices which you make. Little choices.
Hourly, daily, weekly choices. Most people always choose the 'sweets now' option. This route
leads to failure, I promise you that. Every little choice they make is an 'instant gratification'
choice - to watch another hour of telly, to go down the pub again, to have some
entertainment, to sleep in at the weekend, to buy some more goodies on credit, to book a
holiday they can't afford, and so on. Successful people are disciplined. They choose some
pleasure now, but will then choose hard work and effort over further immediate pleasure -
this sows the seeds in order that they can reap a richer future harvest. They become
successful and even wealthy people.
Are you willing to give this route a try?
Clients pay $4500 a day to hear Stuart Goldsmith's hard-hitting marketing advice. Legendary copywriter Gary Halbert recently described him as "The second best copywriter on the planet!" His sales letters and adverts have made him many millions of dollars. In his startling free action guide "Double Your Way To A Million", Stuart shows how you can change nothing into $1,310,720 without any capital, simply using your wit, imagination and your natural abilities.
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