Discipline Equals Freedom

If this mantra sounds hardcore, maybe it’s because I heard it from Jocko Willink, SEAL commander of the most decorated unit of the Iraqi war, on Tim Ferriss’ podcast last year. But you don’t need a Silver Star for this idea to apply to you. In fact, the essence of this mantra can even be distilled into something very applicable to your financial life.

Now, even Willink will admit that this concept sounds counter intuitive—when we think of discipline, we think of rules and restrictions, not freedom. But he broke it down by explaining that while he was serving, his teams had standard operating procedures (SOPs) for everything. And while SOPs are essentially a list of strict guidelines for a given situation, they give everyone the freedom to act independently because they know exactly what everyone else is doing.

For example, he could tell four guys to take down a building, and because they were all highly trained and strictly followed SOPs, they knew exactly what he wanted them to do without explanation. Likewise, Willink knew exactly what they were going to do.  This understanding left both sides confident of what was about to happen and free to calmly perform the immediate task and concentrate on bigger things like, you know, staying alive.

The same can be said of your financial life. If you are disciplined with your finances, you will have the freedom to spend money where you want. Your budget defines SOPs, so within your budget, you establish how much you save and spend each month. Saving is always the priority, but if you have budgeted for an expensive vacation or new car, you have the freedom to spend that money guilt free.

Conversely, if you are not disciplined but spend impulsively, you will not have money left for the things you would truly enjoy. For example, if you budget for a much needed September vacation in Bora Bora but throw your budget out the window in March for an impulse bathroom renovation, you will not be free to enjoy the vacation you really wanted.

Long story short, in addition to being a decorated war veteran, Willink unknowingly gives some pretty good financial advice too. If you are disciplined with your budget, you will be free to truly enjoy your money.


Josh Norris is an Investment Advisory Representative of LeFleur Financial. Josh can be reached at josh@LeFleurFinancial.com.