Discipline is Destiny is a book on one of the four cardinal virtues of Stoic philosophy (aka Temperance). Ryan Holiday is one of my favorite authors (and book recommenders), so I grabbed this book from the New Materials section of the library right when it came out (along with the prequel, Courage Is Calling).
At first, I was skeptical that you could write an entire 250+ page book on a single, self-explanatory virtue. But I was wrong. This was one of those rare books I plan on purchasing, even though the library has plenty of copies.
What I Liked
The stories! Humans learn information through stories and mirror neurons. The book reminded me a bit of Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel, which, even though it provided fundamental, semi-obvious lessons on money, was soooo amazing because of the stories that made the boring math stick in my brain. Discipline is Destiny is the same way. I love, love the stories about people who built their lives around this single virtue.
I loved the pacing and structure of the book. The chapters were short and punchy. Yet, they always had interesting examples with real-life applications. I was skeptical that he could pull off a non-repetitive book about Discipline, but the author does. Each chapter addresses a different angle, application, or challenge to Discipline.
I liked how he dealt with the balance, tradeoffs, nuance, and moderation critical to all the Stoic virtues. Our stereotype of Discipline is of a human-turned-computer who never stops. That stereotype is wrong. Proper Discipline is more like mindfulness or self-awareness of your abilities, challenges, and tradeoffs. For example, he talked about the NBA coach Greg Popovich who exemplified discipline by knowing when to bench his best players to provide them with rest for games that truly mattered.
Most of all, I loved the Afterword, where the author wrote about the struggle to write this book on a hard deadline. He talked about how he had confused discipline with aggression, ambition, and raw, unending focus to overcome challenges. Instead, discipline turned out to be following his writing process consistently, resting during rest periods, and focusing during work periods.
What I Didn’t Like
Nothing – I plan to buy it and re-read it – in addition to the other books in this series.
Most all good things in life require discipline. However, you only acquire it with daily practice, and it is absolutely worth keeping front of mind.