Bottom Line Up Front: Discipline will take you to the first step and, in extremis, can help you keep moving forward. To get the higher benefits of what you seek, though, takes devotion. Apply these distinctions to your networking efforts.
The best definition of discipline I have ever heard was this: It’s doing what you don’t want to do when you don’t want to do it. The focus of discipline is interior. We can apply this definition to almost any aspect of our lives: nutrition, exercise, prayer, investing, time with our inner circle or planning. It definitely applies to networking, what we call deliberate ethical social interaction. If you apply AM’s other principles to your life, you know that if you discipline yourself to be faithful in small, daily actions (like making your bed), you will start to see the benefits of self-discipline in other aspects of your life. Now, there comes a point where you become habituated to certain disciplines. Once you have formed habits you begin to see a snowball effect. Momentum takes over. Many things become automatic. Good things happen and keep happening as you proceed. Discipline is good and without it you cannot grow. Period. One of the podcasts we at AM endorse is U.S. Navy Seal Jocko Willink’s podcast. Jocko says that discipline equals freedom. He sells great gear that can be found here.
Devotion, on the other hand, is entirely different. The focus of devotion is exterior. You are devoted to something else. You are devoted to someone else. You are devoted to a person, an idea, an ideal, a cause, a dream, a movement or an institution, like marriage. Devotion takes you out of yourself. At its most profound and most highly developed, devotion becomes love. One of the beauties of devotion is that it is humbling, empowering, and practical all at once. Whereas you can calculate the compounding benefits of daily discipline, the transformational benefits of shifting gears to devotion are much more difficult to calculate. Devotion carries you when discipline will not. Devotion does not cause resentment. Discipline, when taken to its extreme (and let’s face it, danger lies in the extremes), can cause you to resent what you are doing.
Resentment. It’s unmanly.
Resentment is poisonous. Resentment is when you become bitter for investing too much of yourself in something or someone. Frequently it is based on unrealistic expectations, fatigue, and sacrificial self-giving. Resentment is toxic. Resentment, gentlemen, is unmanly. I once had a friend who was a competitive swimmer. He was preparing for the Olympics and had a reasonable chance of competing at that level. When I commented on his remarkable self-discipline he replied, “The best swimmers always end up hating their sport.”
I don’t know if that is true, but it made sense to me as I thought about what it took for him to improve in those many small ways that would allow him to shave hundredths of a second off his own personal best.
Call to Action: Ask yourself—and our best thinking is done on paper, gentlemen— in what ways are you disciplined and to what are you devoted? Make a list and compare the two. Become deliberate and intentional in what you devote yourself to. Try devoting yourself to ethical networking. Bring value, look for the good in the other man, and open up first. Ask yourself in what other areas you would like to see transformational growth in your life, then apply your networking efforts to those areas. Become devoted to those areas and keep track of the changes you see as time passes.