I know a six year old who is the most motivated golfer I have met. However it’s not Isaac’s motivation that makes him such a good little golfer, it’s something else and it is crucial to his success.
I don’t know Dave Berke but years ago my wife sent me something of his to read with a view to my encouragement and the encouragement of others. The content was something I would teach my children, coach into a football team, encourage students at a school to reflect on, that I would personally persist with and that is exemplified in my six year old golfing friend. Berke’s focus, “Discipline”.
As someone who often needs to be motivated I was struck by Berke’s opening statement, “I spent 23 years as an elite fighter pilot, and it taught me that motivation is meaningless.” Surely not I thought. I would have thought that being pursued by those who could shoot you out of the sky would make motivation seriously important. I am tempted to think that being the best golfer in the world would be a great motivation. But motivation doesn’t fly the plane or drive the ball straight down the fairway. Motivation doesn’t win the game, or pass the exam, or rightly handle setbacks and challenges. Success requires more than motivation. It demands years of discipline developing the skills and understanding that keep you from losing.
Berke went on to say, “There's no magic formula to get past your fears. I was scared a lot during my 23 years as a fighter pilot and forward air controller in the Marine Corps. I was scared of crashing, of being wounded, and of dying. I was scared of failing. I would love to tell you I developed a mantra, or a breathing ritual, or a magic formula that got me over those fears. But I didn't. When I led Marines in combat, they were scared, too. I would love to tell you that I offered some motivating words that pushed them into the fight. But I didn't.”
“In Hollywood, the home team wins the game thanks to the coach's inspirational speech, and the troops hold the line thanks to the general's heroic sermon. In real life, when fear, fatigue, and doubt set in, no speech can provide the motivation you need to keep going. The only thing you and your team can rely on is discipline.”
Motivation is a lot easier than discipline. When you ride simply on the back of motivation you can blame someone or something else for your failures but you can’t when it comes to your discipline.
“Discipline's value transcends the battlefield. Discipline drives you to do the work you don't enjoy, but is required. Discipline conquers fear. Discipline keeps you going when your curiosity, motivation, and excitement evaporate.”
Berke’s advice is simple:
If you want someone who will handle adversity, find someone who is disciplined.
If you want someone who will conquer fear, find someone who is disciplined.
If you want someone who will never lie, cheat, or steal, find someone who is disciplined.
If you want someone who will do the tedious, thankless, and essential work, find someone who is disciplined.
It’s why I follow Jesus Christ and encourage others to do the same. He handles adversity, conquers fear, never lies, cheats or steals, but will do the tedious, thankless and essential work, suffering through crucifixion to victory in resurrection. He shows the Discipline of God to secure our safety before God, to make us welcomed by God and at home with God for ever.
P.S. In a few weeks my young golfing friend, Isaac, will play in the Junior World championship at Pinehurst in North Carolina. All Armidale support you my little friend and it’s especially your discipline we applaud. Keep at it!