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The Discipline Formula for Pro-Level People: Two Truths and a Lie to Master your Execution

Attribute or requirement?

By Whiskey Tango

The bottom line up front. Discipline is doing the boring basics over and over again until you become a master. The discipline formula is hard work over time equals pro-level execution.

My first Cut Away

I flew over Parris valley California at 12,000 feet, The light flashed red and the roller door of the twin otter aircraft was opened exposing the desert below. A rush of cold air came through the cabin and the one-minute call was lazily passed from the back of the aircraft. It was our 8th and final jump that day. I was exhausted. The sun was starting to set on the California skyline. My body was dead tired from the constant adrenaline dump of each jump. At this point in my career, I had well over a few hundred jumps. Despite this fact, jumping out of a plane still got me a little excited. I had two missions on the final jump. One, conduct a four-way freefall with front flips and two familiarize myself with the new advanced parachute system.

The standby call was given to our four-way group and I slapped bro high fives with the group. I dropped my visor and crawled outside the aircraft to take my position. The windspeed of the moving aircraft pressed against me and lightly threatened to knock me from the plane as I grabbed the handle. As I super manned on the outside of the plane I nodded to the exit crew that I was ready. They rocked in cadence. Out-In-Out. I beat their exit by a millisecond and fell in rhythm with the three pararescuemen. The group held their linked positions and stabilized in terminal velocity. I flattened my body to account for the slower speed of the group and flew into my slot to form the four-way. Once stable we shook our arms and broke formation. Backing away to make space we executed less-than-perfect flips. Our attitudes were disjointed and we worked to maneuver our bodies to regain formation. We repeated this maneuver until our break altitude of 6,000 feet. This was by far the best operational parachute team I had ever been a part of. At 5,000 feet we waved off. At 4,000 ft we pulled our parachutes. My Parachute slowly open as I reached for the risers. I checked my parachute. Square, Stable, and my slider was down. The Parachute looked good. I looked around the sky for other jumpers. I collapsed my parachute slider and cleared the pressure out of my ears. I checked the landing area and unstowed my brakes to fly my chute toward the drop zone. My right brake felt spongy and my smaller more advanced canopy began to spin violently.

Before each jump, you conduct several briefs. One of these briefs is labeled emergency procedures. The emergency procedures brief involves going over various types of emergency parachute situations and then going over the solutions to these problems. Parachute wrapped around your leg. Altimeter malfunction. Falling through a cloud. Getting entangled in power lines. The brief lasts about 30-40 minutes due to its thorough nature. This was the first day I was glad to sit through this boring ass brief.

The blood began to pool in my feet as the G-Forces of the spin began to weight upon me. I quickly reached up and yanked the left brake in the opposite direction of the spin. My canopy flew level as I breathed a sign of relief. For some reason, my right brake line was tangled. I fought to get it free but was unable to untangle the brake while flying with one hand at the full braking position. I checked my altimeter in order to understand how long I had to resolve this low-speed malfunction. My wrist computer registered 2500 ft above the ground. Then the emergency procedure shot through my head like a lightning bolt. “If above 2500 ft and more than 50% opposite toggle to counter a turn you must cut away from the main canopy”. I quickly calculated my situation knowing I was losing altitude by the second.

I was already having trouble steering the canopy where I wanted to go. I wasn't sure I would land the canopy in this wonky braking configuration. I could probably resolve the malfunction if I had more time, but that seemed like a big risk. If I cut away my main parachute and I had a bad reserve I was toast. I said a quick prayer to the man upstairs and made my decision. Cutaway. I reached for my cutaway pillow with my right hand and my reserve ripcord with my left. My parachute began its turn as I punched out my cutaway procedures. Arch your back. Look and grab the cutaway pillow. Look and grab the reserve handle. Pull and throw cutaway pillow. Pull and throw the reserve handle. I broke away from the main parachute and went back into freefall. My stomach lurched as I fell. I thought I would be under my next parachute immediately. I've made a mistake I thought. Within seconds my reserve opened with a snap. Relief flooded over me. I was alive and I owe my riggers a cold beer.

So What's The Point? Discipline feels like a dirty word. It feels like something we should hate. The hard mornings. The relentless effort. The slow and far-reaching reward. Discipline however is far from bad. It truly is the key component to pro-level execution. . Training my emergency procedures over and over again for the last 11 years of operating gave me a significant edge in a potentially fatal situation. It allowed me to orient to a very bad situation quickly and efficiently. I had sat through that 30 min brief no less than 150 hours in the last decade. The training and rhythm came to me exactly when I needed them. Let's look at another example. Let's say you want to master a complex skill like archery. Your instincts may tell you. Buy the best bow. Get the best instruction. Get the best arrows. Get a target. Yes, all these things will help you get started and set you up for success. However, it will not make you a professional archer. The same is true for golf, basketball, baseball, football, surfing, and the list could go on. So how do you become a master of the craft? How do you become a pro-level leader? A pro-level Problem solver. You have to discipline yourself. Discipline to learn and practice the science of leadership. Here are two truths and a lie.

The lie- "You can buy your way to becoming a professional." Actually, You cannot. Example. You can buy a sweet assault rifle in the hopes that it will make you shoot better. But if you don't practice your basic shooting fundamentals then you're just an asshole with a nice gun. It's a waste. Don't be an asshole. If your gonna buy a nice piece of hardware at least buy some lessons and hard work to go along with it.

Truth #1. Attain the ABCs. There are basic mechanics of any skill. In archery or shooting. There is a correct stance, there is a correct grip, an ideal draw sequence, proper sight alignment, a correct trigger pull, and on and on. The basics of a task or skill must first be learned correctly before they can be mastered. Find and learn the basics to attain pro-level skills.

Truth #2. Practice Perfection. Once you've learned the basic components you can begin to practice them over and over again. Nuances and isms will eventually come into place as you learn from your training. Fight the urge to be complacent and continue to raise the bar of training. But always fight to master the basics until your basic execution is perfect.

Bonus lie and point of contention. Talent is all you need to become a professional. Raw talent and genetics are helpful at becoming good at something quickly. They will also allow you to become the top .01% if it is paired with discipline. I would argue discipline will overcome talent if talent shows no hard work.

The Discipline equation Hard work over time equals black belt execution.

Hard Work(Basic Skills) = Black Belt level execution


A message to the readers- If you found my blog insightful, I recommend using it to develop the team you lead. If you don't lead a team consider passing it to someone who does or shoot me a message with your answers. Listed below is a team-building activity that works with the blog above. Don't be afraid to get personal.

Team Building Activity

Instructions: Choose one of the following ways.

  1. Have your team preread the above blog and schedule a time to drive the discussion questions below or check to see if a podcast is available and text it to them.

  2. Schedule a lunch and learn session where you carve out time to read the blog together and then review the discussion questions below.

  3. Have your team preread the blog and use the discussion questions as an opener for your weekly meetings.

Discussion questions: (select some or all of the questions below)

  1. What areas do you execute good discipline?

  2. What areas is your discipline slipping?

    1. Do you believe these areas to be fatal if left unchecked? IE health?

  3. What components of discipline is our organization lacking?

  4. In the areas that our/your discipline is short is it worth attaining the ABCs

    1. If yes, how will you practice them?

  5. How can we encourage a culture of embracing group discipline?


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