The lesson was simply this: that being on time doesn’t mean just walking in the door at the expected time. It means that you show up enough before then to be ready to go at the expected time. And, in his rehearsals, if you weren’t ready to go, he kicked you out for the day. No excuses, no exceptions.
For us teenagers, this was a shocking concept—with an even more shocking consequence. But it took only one person’s getting kicked out for showing up two minutes late for all of the actors in the show to realize that our director meant business, so we needed to pay attention. And it wasn’t long until we all discovered the rhythm of how long before call time we needed to be ready to go.
In case you’re curious, the average time it took for all of the actors to prepare themselves before call time was about 15 to 20 minutes.
The Magic of Innovation
Why am I telling you this story? Because there is a misconception out there that innovation is something that comes out of thin air or that you can call upon on demand. I’m sorry if I’m bursting your bubble here, but innovation doesn’t happen that way, and innovative thinkers are not magicians on another plane.
The reality is that there is a lot of habitual groundwork that goes into innovation. Innovation requires a toolbox that you can build up only through the habitual collection of creative stimuli and practice of the creative process. Only once you’ve formed those habits can you create the magic whenever you need to innovate. Habit is the rabbit you can pull out of the hat when you must come up with something that amazes people.
The Motivational Speaker
I was motivated to talk about this because of an annual company meeting that I attended recently. Our keynote speaker was a motivational speaker who talked about why successful people are successful. His main platform was the idea of discipline: that successful people do what is necessary—even if they don’t feel like doing it—and they don’t procrastinate.
The concepts that motivational speaker presented weren’t surprising or unique—especially to an actress. But what I found lacking in his talk were the concepts of how to maintain discipline—and do so in such a way that discipline attains the level of habit. Nothing worth achieving is easy to obtain, and without the right support, it is all too easy to fall off the discipline train. So, I’d like to share what I’ve learned about how to make discipline habitual.
The Path to Achieving Habitual Discipline
My experiences have taught me these things about habit:
- To form a habit, there has to be some real risk associated with the consequences of failing.
- For an individual, maintaining a habit is hard. Therefore, tying accountability to a group for a shared goal breeds success.
- Discipline or habit is not an intellectual concept. It is very much tied to the physical through the power of muscle memory.
- Passion plays a factor. There has to be some intangible emotional reward for achieving results for you to care enough to put in the effort.