This essay is an excerpt from my book The Way of The Karma Yogi .
Jocko Willink, a retired Navy SEAL commander, best-selling author and a well-known podcast host is an epitome of routine. When he was a commander of US Navy SEAL Team 3’s “Task Unit Bruiser”, the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War, Jocko Willink learned the fundamentals of what it takes to lead people in extremely dangerous and complex situations.
He coined the mantra ‘Discipline equals Freedom’ that he instilled into his men; it essentially reflects the notion that with a well-defined structure and an unwavering dedication to it, one can act with more efficiency and freedom. He further elaborated the relationship between Discipline and Freedom in his 2017 Forbes interview:
While Discipline and Freedom seem like they sit on opposite sides of the spectrum, they are actually very connected. Freedom is what everyone wants — to be able to act and live with freedom. But the only way to get to a place of freedom is through discipline. If you want financial freedom, you have to have financial discipline. If you want more free time, you have to follow a more disciplined time management system. You also have to have the discipline to say “No” to things that eat up your time with no payback—things like random YouTube videos, clickbait on the internet, and even events that you agree to attend when you know you won’t want to be there. Discipline equals freedom applies to every aspect of life: if you want more freedom, get more discipline.
In his book Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual, Jocko tells that he gets up at around 4.30 am every day. For him, it’s a simple way to start the day with a win — he’s not motivated to do it, but he’s disciplined. He also underlines the fact that waking up at 4.30 am may not work for everyone, but what matters the most is finding a consistent time that works for you and then committing to it. His core message is: Motivation is temporary, Discipline is everlasting.
He sets up three alarms to make sure that he sticks to his routine. Next, Jocko heads straight to the gym for an intense strength workout that lasts around one hour. He finishes his workout routine with a half an hour jog, and then hops in the shower at approximately 6 am to get ready for the day ahead. He credits this routine and consistency to his massive entrepreneurial success in life after retiring from the Navy SEAL.