You Can’t Succeed Without Discipline, Right? WRONG. Here’s Why.


Discipline is forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. Life is short, so why would you want to do that? Ah, to succeed, of course. You can’t succeed without discipline, right? Wrong.

“I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?” — Warren Buffett

Why do some people have it all? Free time, great relationships, plenty of money and a bright future — while others put their heads down, work harder than everyone else, put in overtime, take the tasks no one else wants and still don’t get anywhere. It’s because the latter has discipline.

We’ve been taught that if we just keep doing jobs we don’t like that one day we’ll get to where we want to be. Someone else will take care of us, give us that small check every month and the security of knowing that one day, if we live that long, if we never get laid off, if the company continues to do well for the next 20 years and if the stock market doesn’t have any problems, we’ll keep getting that small check and not be able to afford to do much. 

Your boss/company’s owners want you to have the discipline to give up whatever it is you want so the owners can continue to have the life they want. Translation: You skip going to your kids plays, you keep putting off that trip you always wanted to go on, you make your dreams smaller and smaller every year because you’re needed at work and just can’t afford it. That takes a lot of discipline to do.

Related: The 12 Best Ways to Increase Your Chances of Real Estate Success

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Still Want Discipline?

You know, I’ve never heard a successful person brag about having discipline or even how hard they work. Why? Because the successful focus on working less, being more efficient, and increasing their dollar per hour so they can spend their life doing the things they want. They lack the ability to do things they don’t want to do and focus on finding ways to not having to do them.

Have you ever made $20 an hour? How about $100? What about $1,000+ an hour? Will your job ever give you that? What will your job give you if you’re disciplined and give up what you want for them? Does someone at that company make $100+ an hour? Absolutely. Why is that? Because they hired disciplined people to give it to them. Do you want more so you can work less?

What Does it Take?

Making more per hour and/or working less requires giving up the notion of discipline and focusing on being efficient. How can I do ____ faster? If I can do that faster, how can I pay someone else to do it and keep the extra? That’s how you make $100-$1,000 for an hour of work.

How many hours of work does it take to manage a rental property on an average month? If you have good tenants, automatic rent collection and hire people to fix things, you should spend one hour per rental per month. How much can you make on a rental property? About $1,000-$1,500 a month gross in most places. That’s $500+ an hour if you include appreciation, pay down and profit.

Getting the future you want means making more per hour.

How Do I Get There?

Increasing your income per hour requires you set aside time every day to think and learn about how to do it. Does this mean adding hours to your already busy day? No. It means doing less of the other things so you have the time and energy to focus on your future. Few people spend even a minute a day figuring out how to get the future they want. It makes as much sense as striving to be a famous piano player by not practicing.

Did you know a lot of Japanese executives are required to spend two hours every day thinking about how to do things better? No work, no phones, just quiet contemplation about how their actions impact their success and what they can do better. Warren Buffett spends 80 percent of his day learning and only 20 percent doing. Do you think you could have the future you want if you blocked out time every day to think about what you could do better?

I want you to get out your phone right now. Make an appointment in your calendar that repeats every day with the message, “What am I doing today that will get me the life I want?” This is the only way I’ve been able to keep focused on what’s important.

Related: Why the Happiest, Most Successful People Say “No” to Almost Everything

When the Alarm Goes Off…

Below is a list of questions to think about when that alarm goes off. If some of them make you uncomfortable, then you should ask yourself, “Whose future is most important to me? Mine or someone else’s?”

  • “Am I working too hard? When I get home, do I still have enough energy to put towards getting the future I want? Can I put in less effort at work and free up some of my energy to put towards my future when I get home?”
  • “I have the most energy in the morning. Should I get up earlier and focus that high productivity time on my future, or give it to my job and let my future get what’s left at the end of the day?”
  • “Can I do my work more efficiently so I have extra time during the day to think/learn more about getting the future I want? Years ago, I was efficient enough to finish all of my work before lunch. Other people would get upset when I would spend the second half of the day working on personal things. While they were creating useless memos and rearranging the paperclip drawers, I doubled the income of my rental property and started a new business. They still have the pride of discipline, but I have the life I’ve always wanted.”
  • “Should I hire someone to do some of my work and free up time? If it’s repetitive and easy to do, I should hire someone else. While I lose money short term, it gives me the time required to figure out how to do better long term.”
  • “Can I automate tasks so I don’t have to do them anymore? Even saving a few minutes here and there on activities can lead to a reduction in stress, more time and more energy to focus on what’s important.”
  • “If I have to do mindless work or commute, can I listen to an audiobook or the weekly BiggerPockets podcast? The more you learn the closer you’ll be to your future.”

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” — Jim Rohn

Do YOU believe that discipline is necessary for success? How do you make time for furthering your goals?

Leave a comment below!

About Author

Brett Lee

Brett Lee is a licensed Real Estate Broker in Portland Oregon where he helps people achieve a better future so they can do the things that truly make them happy. Brett is also a buy-and-hold investor, property manager and investment advisor.


  1. james russell

    hi brett,
    this post is very near and dear to my heart because most of the to-dos on this list i am in the works of getting accomplished. i agree that if you just sit back and let your w-2 job literally suck the life and soul out of you, there most certainly will be nothing for you to build upon. and, you definitely will not have the spirit or focus once you get home to work on your own dreams. i took these things to heart and have slowly been implementing them. i have seen a huge impact on the things i want(starting my real estate business, having more time with my kids etc…) for my future. i love when posts like this come up and reiterate the new choices i have been making as smart ones.
    thank you sir!

  2. Anna Watkins

    Brett — I don’t disagree with anything you’ve written except your definition of “discipline.” Discipline, as I understand it, means doing what needs to be done even when it’s inconvenient, more expensive, takes longer, and even when your favorite show is on! Without discipline, an investor is likely to skimp on tenant screening when in a hurry, or skip an important meeting because of a mild headache, or spend too much time reading Real Estate websites instead of taking action. Success is impossible WITHOUT discipline — but it has to be applied to the right focus. You’ve written about focusing on the wrong things, not about playing Call of Duty when you should be looking for deals!

  3. Aleksandar P.

    Even though I love Brett’s articles I can’t agree with this post. Discipline and working smart instead of hard are not mutually exclusive qualities. Discipline is MUST HAVE for success and it’s the prerequisite for the qualities that Brett described in this article.

  4. Joel Rodriguez

    I am currently listening for first time to “The 4-Hour Work Week”, highly recommended for everyone specialy if you liked this article!
    Now, depending on what the reader understands for discipline this article can be contradictory. As my english is limited I research the word online.
    Here are some definitions of the word DISCIPLINE according to collinsdictionary:
    1- training or conditions imposed for the improvement of physical powers, self-control, etc
    2- systematic training in obedience to regulations and authority
    3- the state of improved behaviour, etc, resulting from such training or conditions
    4- punishment or chastisement
    5- a system of rules for behaviour, methods of practice, etc

  5. Jeff S.

    It takes discipline to do what you are talking about. Life is a series of habits. It takes discipline to create good habits and discipline to maintain them IMO.

    Everybody has to do those things they don’t want to do. Do you think top athletes lack discipline? They grind out hour after hour of practice.

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