There is a famous book character by the name:- Arkad, also regarded as the Richest man in Ancient Babylon. If you are not familiar with him (as I believe we all should) I suggest you pause this reading and grab a copy of George S. Clason’s book, “The Richest Man in Babylon”.
I assume you didn’t, so I will expound on one part, among many, that I found interesting.
As the tale goes, Arkad was invited by the good King of Babylon, Sargon, to speak to his fellow countrymen and teach them about how they too would acquire wealth for themselves. In one of the opening sessions, he told them about how he started on his path to wealth by saving a tenth of his income after being advised to do so by Algamish, a money lender.
He further related to them how he lost all of his first year’s savings by trusting a brickmaker, Azmur, to buy him jewels from the Phoenicians. Unfortunately, Azmur was swindled and all he returned with were worthless pieces of glass that looked like gems. Arkad did not give up and for the next three years, he saved diligently and invested in well-thought-out projects that yielded small but consistent returns.
Algamish, the moneylender, was always watching Arkad’s growth closely and would evaluate his progress each year. After the fourth year, and on seeing that Arkad was faithfully following the lessons that would lead him to financial prosperity, Algamish invited Arkad to be his estate administrator. When he later departed from this life Arkad shared in his vast estate as Algamish had arranged under the law.
When Arkad had finished his tale, one of the men said, “You were very fortunate that Algamish made you an heir.”
“Would you call a fisherman lucky who for years has studied the habits of fish so that with each changing wind he could cast his nets about them?”, Arkad asked.
“You had strong willpower to keep on after you lost your first year’s savings. You are unusual in that way,” spoke up another.
“Willpower! What Nonsense.” Retorted Arkad, “Do you think willpower gives a man the strength to lift the burden which a camel cannot carry or draw a load the oxen cannot budge?”
“Willpower is but the unflinching purpose to carry out a task you set for yourself to fulfillment. If I set a task for myself, be it ever so trifling, I shall see it through. How else shall I have confidence in myself to do important things?”
Arkad then went on to give an illustration of how discipline can be developed.
“Should I say to myself, ‘For a hundred days as I walk across the bridge into the city, I will pick from the road a pebble and cast it into the stream,’ I would do it. If on the seventh day I passed by without remembering, I would not say to myself, ‘Tomorrow I will cast two pebbles which will do as well.’ ”
“Instead, I would retrace my steps and cast the pebble. Nor on the twentieth day would I say to myself, ‘This is useless. What does it avail you to cast a pebble every day? Throw in a handful and be done with it.’ No, I would not say that nor do it. When I set a task for myself, I complete it.”
Lessons to leaders and business owners
You may be thinking to yourself, “If what Arkad taught is true, and it does seem as you have put it, reasonable, then being so simple, why don’t we all do it? Why don’t we have the discipline and willpower to do the things we know we should?”
Here’s what I have observed over the years and if you learn and practise the same, you will build your self-discipline and do what you know you should do to reach your potential:
It takes time, so learn to be patient
Just as in Arkad’s tale, most things of great value take a long time to build. The beginning is often uneventful or riddled with misfortune. As you read through History, you will find that the majority of the success stories follow this same script. A slow and often painful start, followed by a long time wandering in a dark desert of uncertainty and doubt, slowly starting to see the light and then suddenly, success.
If you wish to grow your business or inspire others through your leadership, you must brace for the cold and dark night, when all your efforts seem to amount to nothing and remember, IT TAKES TIME.
Do what you CAN do.
Although we know what we need to do, many of us have formed a habit of neglect. If you run a business, for example, you may realize that one thing you can and should do to grow your business is reaching out to potential customers, by phone call, email, or even a face-to-face meeting. If you run a blog or vlog, you know you need to produce content regularly and share it with your community, however small.
Sometimes, we fail to do what we can since we do not see how it connects to the big picture. We continue to hope that the full path will somehow be miraculously revealed to us and only then do we hope to start.
Those who have succeeded in their quests before us started with what they had, did the little they could and moved as far as they could see. If you too can do that, the next step will be illuminated for you and if you are disciplined to keep at it, you too will get there.
Don’t rely on motivation.
All of us have been in a place of wanting to do something but we sit there waiting for a spark of brilliance, a surge of energy or some push to get us moving. More often than not, it doesn’t come and even when we start off motivated, the motivation soon dwindles and we are left running on fumes.
Mel Robbins, Author of ‘The 5 Second Rule’ says, “The fact about human beings is that we are not designed to do things that are uncomfortable or scary or difficult. Our brains are designed to protect us from those things. It’s because our brains are trying to keep us alive.”
“In order to change, in order to build a business, in order to be the best parent, best spouse, to do all those things you know you want to do with your life, with your work, with your dreams, you are going to have to do things that are difficult, uncertain and scary. This sets up this problem for all of us. You are never going to feel like it. MOTIVATION IS GARBAGE. You only feel motivated to do the things that are easy.”
In my quest to find out why it’s so hard to do the little things that would improve my life, I have seen from myself and others that we all have a habit of HESITATING. You may have an idea, seated at this incredible meeting and instead of just sharing it, you hesitate. You have a call to make to a client and instead of picking up the phone and dialing, you hesitate and the pattern goes on and on all day.
Mel Robbins advocates for a 5 Second countdown, 5 4 3 2 1 and you jump on the activity, whether you feel ready or not. This new habit of jumping on opportunities and doing things we are scared of will grow our resilience to the hesitation that occurs so naturally to us.
If we can do this, we will stop relying on motivation to start and slowly but surely, our lives will change for the better because we will do the small things that we need to do.
If you can have discipline, you can develop skills that can be magnified to touch the lives of others and help you leave a mark on the world. When I think of the most creative pursuits and careers such as painting, Sculpting, music, playing an instrument, architecture and other forms of art, I can’t help but notice that we call them ‘The Disciplines’
‘The disciplines’ gives us the indication that it doesn’t come except by discipline but more importantly, it also means that the discipline is the open door to the creative process, to turn nothing into something, and to turn imagination into reality.
Here are two questions to ask yourself as you reflect on your own discipline:
- What other discipline could I begin that would open up a whole new expression in my life of turning imagination into reality?
- What could I achieve if I had the discipline to do the things I know I should and can do?