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Discipline Is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control

Ryan Holiday

Personal Thoughts

Summary Notes

Two words should be taken to heart and obeyed when exerting ourselves for good and restraining ourselves from evil—words that will ensure a blameless and untroubled life: persist and resist. Epictetus


  • Doing the right thing almost always takes courage, just as discipline is impossible without the wisdom to know what is worth choosing.
  • Aristotle described virtue as a kind of craft, something to pursue just as one pursues the mastery of any profession or skill. “We become builders by building and we become harpists by playing the harp,” he wrote. “Similarly, then, we become just by doing just actions, temperate by doing temperate actions, brave by doing brave actions.”
  • Virtue is something we do. It’s something we choose.
  • Because we mistake liberty for license. Freedom, as Eisenhower famously said, is actually only the “opportunity for self-discipline.”
  • We must keep ourselves in check or risk ruin. Or imbalance. Or dysfunction. Or dependency.
  • We must master ourselves unless we’d prefer to be mastered by someone or something else.
  • Self-discipline—the virtue of temperance—is even more important, the ability to keep your ass in line. The ability . . . . . . to work hard . . . to say no . . . to practice good habits and set boundaries
  • Self-discipline is giving everything you have . . . and knowing what to hold back. Is there some contradiction in this? No, only balance. Some things we resist, some things we pursue; in all things, we proceed with moderation, intentionally, reasonably, without being consumed or carried away.
  • Discipline, then, is both predictive and deterministic. It makes it more likely you’ll be successful and it ensures, success or failure, that whatever happens, you are great.
  • The converse is also true: a lack of discipline puts you in danger; it also colors who and what you are.
  • It is through discipline that not only are all things possible, but also that all things are enhanced.
  • Freedom requires discipline. Discipline gives us freedom. Freedom and greatness. Your destiny is there.


  • It’s easy to be disciplined when you have nothing. What about when you have everything? What about when you’re so talented that you can get away with not giving everything?
  • “When a man can control his life, his physical needs, his lower self,” Muhammad Ali would later say, “he elevates himself.”
  • You have to do your best while you still have a chance. Life is short. You never know when the game, when your body, will be taken away from you. Don’t waste it!
  • We don’t have a coach or a trainer monitoring daily progress. There is no fighting weight for our profession. This actually makes our jobs, our lives harder—because we have to be our own manager, our own master.
  • We’re responsible for our own conditioning. We have to monitor our own intake, decide our own standards. Good.
  • Conquer your body before it conquers you.


  • Everyone has coping mechanisms, things that take the edge off . . . but soon enough, in enough quantities, they end up dulling our edge altogether. These things might comfort us, but they are not our friends. That’s what Lou Gehrig’s coach was trying to tell him when he caught Lou taking a nip before games for his nerves. You’re not going to like where this road ends, he was saying. And it always seems to end in the same place.
  • Whatever the bad habit is, whatever seems to be ruling your life—socially acceptable or not—you have to quit. Whether it’s cold turkey or with help, you’ve got to get off the stuff—whatever it is.
  • Everyone, no matter how powerful, has some bad habit they’re wrestling with, but also that it’s never too late to come back and beat it.

Discipline Is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control

Ryan Holiday
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