The Foolproof Method to Continuous Leadership Growth

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  I spend a lot of time with college students. I absolutely love their energy, creativity, and ideas. I’m constantly amazed at their fearless approach to life.

It’s not uncommon for students to ask me questions about life, leadership, and vocation. I take these very seriously because I know they are listening closely to my answer. I don’t mean to suggest I have all the answers; I would never claim that. (Just ask my wife!) But I want to offer them a substantive and thoughtful response.

One of the most common questions I get is: how do I continue to learn and grow after I graduate from school? I love that question because of the intentionality behind it. Some students will go on to graduate school and some even post-graduate education after they finish their undergraduate studies. But what happens when you’ve earned your final degree, enter the workforce, and start the hard work of building a career? How do you continue to challenge yourself to grow?

Personal and professional growth is a choice you must make.

At that point, I usually get a little grin on my face and tell them I know the secret to personal and professional growth. In fact, this secret is so foolproof that I guarantee it will work for them no matter what direction their life takes.

It’s about that time when they get this look of surprise, their eyes open wide, and they lean in for me to tell them the secret. I then proceed to tell them I’ve written an entire book on this, and they should read it. Their look of excitement turns to confusion as they try to reconcile how they will find time to read one more.

I laugh and then offer to sum it up with one statement: If you want to keep growing and learning, you must learn to live a disciplined life. Discipline is less about following the rules as it is consistently being open to observing and reflecting on your experiences. The best athletes in the world have a disciplined approach to just about everything in their lives. It impacts how they eat, sleep, relate to themselves and others, and hone their skills. It’s not a quick fix but a lifelong commitment.

Growth is a Lifestyle, not a one-time decision.

There are five areas where I believe discipline is required to lead well, grow continuously, and fully activate your divine design:

  1. You must be disciplined about your faith. You were designed to have a relationship with God. Don’t neglect that.
  2. You must be disciplined about yourself. You need to pay attention to your body, soul, mind, and spirit.
  3. You must be disciplined about your relationships. This includes spouse, family, and community. Whether you’re married or not doesn’t matter. How you care for others in your life is important.
  4. You must be disciplined about mentorship. Never stop being mentored. Conversely, never stop looking for opportunities to mentor others.
  5. You must be disciplined about your craft. You don’t have to be an artist to have a craft. Whether you work with numbers, medicine, or public policy, you must approach your work with care, thoughtfulness, and be fully present. Do what you have to do to be the best at whatever you do.

All of these disciplines are equally available to everyone on the planet. It doesn’t matter how much money is in your bank account, what position you hold at a company, or what level of education is represented by the piece of paper framed on your wall. Discipline is a lifestyle choice that you must make for yourself.

Discipline is the path to new thinking.

There are a lot of unknowns about life. That means you’ll need to be ready to think in new ways to navigate the challenging waters ahead. That’s why I believe design thinking is a fantastic approach to the disciplined life.

Discipline doesn’t prevent you from living the “good life.” Rather, it protects you from the distractions that might delay the good things that are right in front of you.

CHALLENGE: Are you leading a disciplined life? What is your plan for continuous growth? How are you preparing yourself today for the obstacle or opportunity you will face tomorrow?